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Heart's Desire

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This story is No. 3 in the series "Swords of Light". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: (2nd in SL trilogy, sequel to ImmGift) Dawn is now 18, and her Immortality's kicked in, leaving her in shock. So Buffy and Angel send her with Spike to Methos for a time. While there, they encounter some old acquaintances.... *CoA Nominated*

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Highlander > Multiple PairingsTwilightUnicornFR182884,51924225,24923 May 0619 Aug 06Yes

NOTE: This chapter is rated FR13

Part 28

Part 28

Sunnydale: Main Underground Cavern, 5:46am, Day 13

After a long night of searching, dawn was soon to come, yet that was unknown by those traversing the utter blackness of the caves they were in—except instinctively.

Within a vast cavern Dora lay upon the ground, lifeless in a pool of her own blood. Upon a slight protrusion of rock jutting up from the ground beside her, a small mouse continued to keep a diligent watch over the last of Pandora’s Daughters. Weary, the small creature rested its head on its paws, near asleep after many days of constant watching, despite its good intentions to keep vigil over the fallen Slayer and what she had carried. As its eyes closed in exhaustion—sleep at last claiming it, a figure of pearlescent light shimmered into existence, before solidifying into physical form to reveal Flidhais.

Smiling fondly upon the little creature, the goddess knelt down beside the mouse, and softly breathed a silvery-blue mist over it. In an instant, the mouse changed into a man much in appearance to Raven Coyote; but older, more mature, and wearing traditional Native American clothing. Stirring slightly as he awoke, the man cracked open one eye to look at the one beside him, and smiled faintly, before saying sleepily, “Hello, Mother. It's good to see you again.”

The elder shapeshifter's eyes lit with joy, as she smiled warmly and said, "And I you, mine son. Proud am I, with thine work here. Not to another wouldst I trust what thou hast done. To protect Pandora's Box 'tis a heavy burden, and not taken lightly. Well rewarded wilt thou be by the Higher Powers."

Sitting up to face his mother fully, Coyote – now wide awake – asked seriously, "But I failed: Pandora's line is gone, and the Box is somewhere else with someone else now. How can that be a success?"

Gently cupping one side of her son's face, Flidhais replied soothingly, "Thou didst succeed, mine son. The Box hast not been destroyed, nor taken and used directly by Evil's hand. The purity of its keeper hast kept it so."

"Yet a Dark Slayer has been created," came the subdued response as he took his mother's hand into his own.

"Aye, but thou didst do as thou wast instructed, and for this wilt thou be rewarded. What transpires after this is not of our concern...unless mine Champion doth call upon me once more."

Coyote sighed heavily, then said in complaint as he stood and released her hand, "It just doesn't feel right. We are gods, are we not? Why can't we do more?"

Flidhais stood as well while saying matter-of-factly, "When the Old Ones were banished, our place in this dimension wast no more that of Champions, but of Warriors, givers of aid and counsel. We art not needed, for our power is too great. Thou dost know this! Evil and Good made an absolute pact, and to this agreement must we follow until the end of times. Only if we art called forth by they of this world, mayst we take part."

"So many have forgotten us, though, how can they summon us if they don't know us," came the despondent response to Flidhais' words.

Taking her son's hands into her own, the formally imprisoned goddess answered soothingly, "For many long years have we lived in the shadows of man's memory—nothing more than fairytale and myth, yet there have always been those who truly kept us in their hearts, and left clues to our existence for those whom desired to know. We're summoned by those whom believed and knew the truth once brought forth: we art real."

Coyote smiled wanly, then looked down and over to Dora's body. Solemnly, he murmured, "I understand, Mother, but it doesn't change what my heart feels."

Drawing her son into her arms to embrace him, Flidhais said with fond exasperation, "Thou wast always the most passionate of mine children, Coyote. Always didst thou follow thine heart and break the rules when thou needed, nay: wanted a thing!"

A wary chuckle was the only response, before Coyote commented as he pulled back from his mother's embrace, "Isn't that the truth! My latest child is the product of one of my 'wants'."

A knowing look in her eyes, the goddess said humorously, "That was more desire than want, mine son!" She then grew serious as she inquired, "Thou hast shown unusual interest in thine latest born, why this sudden awareness when all thine other progeny have been left alone?"

Running a hand nervously through his hair, the god answered bluntly, "Raven is my heir. I fell in love with his mother, and when she died in a car crash when he was young I promised her I would watch over him for her."

"'Tis well thou hast, for he hast taken much after thee, from that which I have seen."

A quick grin of pleasure and pride crossed Coyote's face as he said, "I know, and plan to give him some formal training soon."

"That 'tis good. He will need to know the laws of his status," Flidhais said, before looking away. After a moment, she observed, "Thine heir draws nigh."

Sighing heavily, the Native American god responded, "And I do not yet intend for him to see me. Come, let us go. Our reasons for being here are no more.”

Flidhais nodded her agreement, and said, "Agreed, yet one more task in this land do I have, before I will return to mine home."

It was her son's turn to look at her knowingly, as he commented, "You go to visit your Champion and those he loves then?"

"Aye, 'tis with them that mine task lies," the goddess acceded, then ordered, "Depart, mine son, I wilt converse with thee anon."

Shaking his head, the shapeshifting god took a step sideways and seemed to disappear into thin air, the howl of a coyote in the distance briefly filling the cave. Sighing inaudibly, Flidhais turned a somber expression towards Dora, knelt down by the slain Slayer, said softly as light started to swirl around her, "Much sorrow wilt there be when they do find thee, Young One. Regret do I feel for what hast happened to thee, and what shall come. Fare thee well, Child-Warrior, mayst thou find joy in reuniting with thy kin," and then was gone.

Minutes later, a coyote and sand-hued wolf – both of average size – came loping into the vast cavern, followed at a much slower pace by an Immortal thief, a half-demon seer, and two engaged Watchers. Slowing down to a more cautious speed, the two animals followed a scent they alone could smell, and the further the two went into the cave, the more agitated and tense they became. As both crested a hillock within the cavern, they stopped. Immediately, the coyote threw back its head and howled in aguish, as the wolf shifted and changed into human form to reveal Connor MacLeod. The Immortal cursed viciously once as Rave changed from coyote to human. The Native American bowed his head as he fought to control his emotions, while the others hurriedly caught up with the two shapeshifters.

"What is it? What's...oh, God!" Cordelia asked worriedly, then exclaimed in horror, before turning away while holding her stomach, a hand pressed over her mouth.

"Damn," Amanda said heartfeltly as she put away her sword, then slid effortlessly down the steep incline to reach Dora's body.

As the oldest Immortal present knelt by the Slayer, Wesley and Fred came less than gracefully over and down the hill to stand by Amanda. While the Watcher handed the blanket he had been carrying to the kneeling woman, Fred murmured, "I knew she was dead, 'cause of Cordy's vision, but this! It's worse, but better than I thought it'd be."

"Death is never what you expect it to be," Amanda responded absently as she carefully picked up the body and placed it on the now spread out blanket. As the Immortal and Watchers securely wrapped the cloth over the Slayer, Cordelia joined them while the two shapeshifters remained upon the hillock.

(I) (I) (I) (I) (I) (I) (I) (I) (I) (I)

"Do you smell her," Rave asked quietly to the man beside him.

"Aye, and another as well," Conner answered and observed.

"Yeah, I know the scent, but not who it belongs to. I'll catch a whiff of it every once in awhile wherever I happen to be. I'd like to know who it is, though," came the calm, then semi-frustrated response to the Immortal's words.

The older man chuckled quietly, incredulously, before asking, "You really don't know who it is? I thought you'd recognize one of your blood easier than that!"

Perplexed, Raven asked, "What're you talking about?"

The amusement was clear in Connor's voice as he answered simply, "You're smelling your father, pup."

"Bu—Wha—I—" the dual shapeshifter sputtered, then exclaimed, stunned, as he passed a hand over his eyes in disbelief an amazement followed by ire, "Crap! No wonder I never feel wary when I catch that scent. Next time I smell it, I'm going to have to confront him, and find out what the hell he's doing stalking me!"

A smirk was on the Immortal's face, but it quickly left as he saw the others coming up from where they had collected Dora's now shrouded remains. As one, the group left the caves to give their grim report.

(I) (I) (I) (I) (I) (I) (I) (I) (I) (I)

LA: Wolfram & Hart, Lindsey's Office, 10:45am, Day 13

"It’s been confirmed," Gavin said as he closed his cell phone and looked at Lindsey, "D'Hoffryn's plan worked. A Dark Slayer has been created."

"Then we will need to make sure he goes through with his part of the contract with us," the Head of Special Projects muttered to himself, then inquired as he leaned back in his seat, "Still no word from your contact in Seacouver about the Key?"

"No, but I have my people looking into it. We should have news any moment now. I told them to send their report directly here, along with a copy for you."

"Good." Lindsey glanced at the computer screen to his left as he fiddled with the mouse, and said casually, "While we're waiting, there's something I'd like to discuss with you." Off of Gavin's attentive and inquisitive expression, he continued, saying, "Even though it's not necessary now, I've been working on those titles given to us for the Taraka Order. I have a feeling that it will prove important, but I know not how or why, as of yet."

Gavin quickly flipped through the notes he had brought with him and stopped as he found what he was looking for. Frowning, he observed, then inquired, “From what I have written, we realized who the Twice-Lived Slayer was, as well as the Key, but had not yet figured out Death and this Archangel person. I'm guessing you've made some headway on them, if you are mentioning this?”

A slow almost predatory smile graced the higher raking lawyer’s lips as he said smugly, “Yes, I have, Gavin. I believe I have identified one of them, and hope to find the other with your aid from the clues we have, as well as what these four are meant for.”

Flipping to a clean page in his notebook, the lower raking lawyer asked simply, “Which one have you found?”

“The Archangel of Darkness and Light Combined,” Lindsey replied, then added, “I believe it to be Angel…’though we’ll have to run some tests on him to be sure.”

“Interesting. How did you come to that conclusion, Sir, and how is it connected to the others?”

Leaning forward in his seat, Lindsey opened a few files in his computer to reference as he spoke, and said, “For several reasons: one, we know Angel's demon is an Old One. It would be ridiculous for us to think his soul is not as powerful as the demon. Otherwise, we'd've been able to turn him to our cause long ago. Two, when the vampire and Slayer came to me to find out about the Taraka Order, they knew who the people on the list were immediately, and their reactions were far more protective than it should have been if they were only casual acquaintances. Third, I do not believe this to be just any ordinary list, but one of great importance. Remember that it was two Seers of undeniable claim and skill that gave us these titles to be targeted. And last of all, that bit of prophecy Drusilla gave us before she left for Seacouver was not incidental. She came to purposefully give it to us.”

“So the vampire is the Archangel, for all intents and purposes at this moment. That leaves this Death person, and the meaning of this group of four individuals, then?”

“Precisely. But I believe we’d have better luck finding out what this group is for, before we can find the fourth member.”

"How so, Sir?"

Lindsey once more leaned back in his seat, and said as he began ticking off points on his fingers, "One: All the people on the list are familial, and-or connected. Two: again, the titles were all instantly recognizable to the Slayer and vampire. Three: Drusilla's prophecy before she left. 'Four Dark Warriors were there. Three destroyed, one lost. One from the Dark Four brought to the Light. One from warriors true Called, bound to the Night hunting. One from the Night-made-Light. One from the ether Formed. These are they the Light would choose.' This is our best, and largest, clue to what this quartet is. No doubt once we figure that out, we'll know the rest easily."

Quickly jotting down notes as he talked, Gavin said, "Very well, Sir. How do we connect those mentioned in the list with the seer's prophecy? They're pretty vague."

"I've already made some inroads on this," the Head of Special Projects replied. "This is what I have: the first person mentioned, I don't have, nor the four dark warriors spoken of before that. The warrior called is probably the Slayer. I believe the next one to be Angel, and the one formed is likely the Key. What do you say?"

Nodding his head in agreement as he looked up briefly, the other lawyer then said, "It makes sense, and if we go along with this theory: the first one mentioned and Death are the same person. Which makes me ask: what quartet on our side was destroyed, with only one of the group remaining, and how is this one connected to the other three?"

Lindsey stilled, his expression one of surprised realization, before he blurted out, "The Horsemen," and snatched up his phone, said hurriedly after pressing some numbers, "Harmony, call Files and Records, and ask them to send me all the pertinent information we have on the Four Horsemen, specifically on the one that's still alive, immediately," then hung up. Turning to the other man, Lindsey smirked in satisfaction, and stated, "I do believe you've just solved our riddle, Gavin."

"Sir," came the unsure and questioning response.

Standing and going over to a side panel of the office, Lindsey pushed a certain portion of the wall, and watched it slide open to reveal several large filing cabinets. Opening one of the drawers and quickly shuffling through the files within, he replied with some excitement, "If it is who I think it is...then I believe we'll have our answer as to what this quartet is supposed to be and do! And believe me when I say that the Senior Partners will be particularly interested in this group, as it is something they've been trying to find out for a very long time."

He slammed the door shut, and walked back to his desk just as the phone began to ring, while the wall panel returned to its normal position behind him. Picking up the phone and placing the folder on top of the desk simultaneously, Lindsey answered as he sat in his chair and opened the file to flip through it. The lawyer responded in the affirmative, before putting the phone back down and turning to his computer. He opened his email, clicked on the message he wanted, and quickly perused through it until he came to a jpeg attachment. Selecting the image and hitting print, Lindsey went back to the file on his desk, paused on a full page-sized photograph, then reached beside him to snag the paper he had just printed, then laid it side-by-side with the image in the manila folder.

Turning the pictures so that they were facing Gavin, he asked, "Tell me: are these two people one and the same...if you discount the time period differences, as well as the mediums used?"

The images bore the same face, but beyond that, they were completely different. The one that had just been printed was a drawing, depicting a time long lost to history, the figure dressed in white and some sort of leather vest and bracers, a strip of some dark color covering one side of his face, with long unkempt hair. The person's eyes were dead. The other image was a modern photograph, only a few years old, the face the same, but without the strip of color, with short hair, and wearing jeans and a sweater, with a trench coat over it all.

After perhaps a half-minute study, Gavin nodded, then said and asked, "Yes, they are the same person. Who is this? His face seems familiar."

"It should, as this person became fast friends with Angel a little over three years ago while he was in Sunnydale collecting his wife and daughter. They've visited each other once in awhile since then, and both keep in regular phone contact. He goes by Adam Pierson right now, but we know him as Methos. He was one of the Four Horsemen, specifically the Horsemen Death, over three millennia ago," Lindsey explained.

Startled, Gavin looked up, then asked, "He's Immortal, then?"

"Yes."

Looking thoughtful, the lower ranking lawyer murmured, "Then three out of four are immortal in their own way, which means the Key should be or soon will be immortal in some manner as well!"

There was a stunned lull in the conversation as both lawyers contemplated the meaning of those just spoken words.

It was Lindsey who spoke next as another realization came to him, saying, "The Slayer has one of the Swords of Light. The Water Element, if I remember correctly, and received it not long after her Immortality kicked in. As well, the sword for Earth was activated almost three centuries ago. Methos no doubt has that one."

"And my sources say that Air was triggered sometime last week, in this city," Gavin added, "which corresponds to Angel's miraculous healing after the Taraka Order got him. I wouldn't be surprised if he is now in possession of that sword."

"Which means that Fire has not yet been claimed...at least to our knowledge. But if we are going off of the basis that the four listed are the same that will become the Champions for the Powers That Be, then that means that the Sword of Light of the Element of Fire will belong to the Key!"

Shocked, both lawyers stared at each other, realizing the implications of what had just been revealed. They both silently thought the same thing: The Senior Partners are not going to be happy with this!

For a couple of minutes, they continued to stare, neither daring to speak for fear of what they might inadvertently discover next, when there was a perfunctory nock on the door, followed by it opening. Harmony stood in the doorway, one hand on the doorknob, while the other held two file folders.

Looking at the two dazed and unresponsive men, she rolled her eyes, and said as she walked over to Lindsey's desk and slapped the folders on them, "These came for you from Mr. Park's office, Boss. They said it was important," then left, slamming the door closed behind her with a muttered and exasperated, "Men!"

It took another moment before either could shake off their stupor enough to look towards the just delivered files as if they were the bell tolling that marked the beginning of the end of the world.

Blowing out a heavy breath, the Head of Special Projects snagged one of the folders and silently handed it to the Head of Special Project Angel while taking the other for himself. Both read the contents within the files through once with growing dread without speaking for several minutes, the only sound being the turning of pages. When both were finished, they looked at each other.

In an uneasy tone, Gavin said, "It seems we were right."

"The Key is now a Champion in possession of the Fire sword, and has full access to her powers...as well as being Immortal," Lindsey stated numbly, clearly not wanting to voice what they both now knew. "We're too late. Once a Champion receives one of those swords, they can't be swayed to our side. It's against the rules of the Pact made on both sides."

"The Senior Partners will have to be notified," came the reluctant response to those words.

"I know," was the glum and ominous reply.

"Perhaps if we go tell them together, they won't kill us," Gavin suggested semi-hopefully.

Lindsey threw back his head in an abrupt and harsh sounding laugh, then stood and gestured the other to follow, both knowing that they would probably not see the end of the day as they started to head out of the office. As they reached the door, an elderly male voice spoke nonchalantly behind them.

"You don't need to tell them, they already know."

Both lawyers froze, then turned around to see Holland Manners sitting in Lindsey McDonald's office, slouched back in said lawyer's chair, fingers intertwined and resting on his stomach. Glancing around, Holland smiled and said disarmingly, "Love what you've done with the place, Lindsey."

"Holland," was all that the Head of Special Projects said in a flat voice, "what are you doing here? Shouldn't you be tormenting some lost soul in Purgatory?"

Sitting up straighter, Holland leaned forward, placed his arms on the desk before him, and said seriously, "Usually: yes, but today is an exception. You see, the Senior Partners have been studying your division with special interest, and placed me as the lead supervisor. When you began your little bit of speculating about the four Champions of Light, they themselves began watching, and sent me down here with a proposition once you figured everything out."

"What proposition," Lindsey asked as he leaned against the door behind him while crossing his arms.

Standing, Holland moved around the desk and sat against the front edge, before saying casually yet seriously, "The Senior Partners want to disband the Angel division of Special Projects, and all those connected to that division, and make a new one...one that you would lead, Mr. McDonald. This department would supervise and watch over all that the Champions of Light and their allies would do, as well as stop what we can of their plans. What do you say to this?"

Looking down for a moment, nodding, then looking up, Lindsey said, then asked, "Is see no problem with this, and would willingly accept such an assignment. I only wonder what will happen now to Mr. Parks here. Will he be loosing a job?"

"Not at all," Holland exclaimed with an agreeable and pleased expression on his face, and a wicked gleam in his eyes. "He will become your second-in-command; to watch over the allies of the Champions, while you study the Champions directly."

Lindsey chanced a glance at Gavin to see an expression of surprised but relieved shock on the man's face. A smirk now covering the higher ranking lawyer's face, Lindsey said, "I believe I speak for both of us, when I say: We accept the Senior Partner's proposal."

(I) (I) (I) (I) (I) (I) (I) (I) (I) (I)

Sunnydale: Willow and Tara's Apartment, Noon, Day 13

Willow, Tara, and Oz all wearily walked into the witches’ apartment, grief-stricken and exhausted beyond all thought and comprehension. So much had happened in such a sort amount of time.

Immediately after D’Hoffryn had left, those still conscious had assessed the situation and divvied up tasks. The group that was cognizant and relatively uninjured had gone to get the vehicles, whilst those that were injured but still walking had examined injuries and woke those that they could that were out cold—either from magical exhaustion or physical wounding, and the two eldest Immortals present that had just revived were trying to figure out if they had forgotten anything while helping out with the wounded. As they had been loading the most severely injured into the largest vehicle for transportation to the hospital, the Immortal thief remembered what they had neglected: the Harris’s.

Almost instantly, a cell phone was passed to the one whom remembered, just as another cell phone rang. Cordelia had received a vision of what had just happened to Dora, and was coming down with the few that had remained in LA to help. With that news, and knowledge that Koren Mark Harris was now in D’Hoffryn’s hands, those that were injured enough to need treatment were taken to the hospital, while those that were comatose – but unhurt – were taken to the Magic Box until they could wake, and those that remained that were unhurt, awake, and strong enough to move on their own went to the rendezvous point to meet Cordelia, Wesley, and Fred.

Once the Slayer’s body had been recovered, and the injured taken care of and brought to the Magic Box where everyone from the battle had gathered, Flidhais then announced that she was leaving to tend to her own children’s corpses as they took care of Dora’s. Directly after the goddess had vanished, Amanda and Connor volunteered to handle what was needed with the fallen Slayer before departing from Sunnydale. They promised to leave information with Giles, and suggested that someone should go to the Harris’s to offer whatever aid they could, and the rest ought to head home and get some sleep, then they left with their self-appointed task.

A brief argument followed about who should go where, before Gunn let out a piercing whistle, and said that his own group was leaving, as they needed to get home to make sure that LA wasn’t overrun without any Warriors there to protect the city. Bethany and Gwen volunteered to go as well; one to see her husband, the other to help and hang out with them for a time. This left Whistler, Giles, Buffy and Angel—whom had both just awoken, Eve, Oz, Willow, Tara, Cordelia, Wesley, and Fred to deal with things in Sunnydale.

In the end, Oz, Willow, and Tara volunteered to go and stay awhile with Xander an Anya. When they arrived at the Harris's residence, the trio split up: Oz pulling Xander aside, even as Willow and Tara took Anya into the master bedroom for solace and comfort. They had stayed until just before noon, when Buffy and Angel had swung by to pick up the brokenhearted couple and take them to the Magic Box. The two Champions had then ordered the triad to go back to their place and rest, and that they would take care of everything else for the day.

They had been too drained to argue—nor did they want to, and were extremely glad that they were now at there destination: home.

The trio were putting away their coats when they all heard the distinctive sounding double-thump that cats sometimes make when they land after jumping down from a high place, and heard a masculine voice say relieved within their minds clearly, "It's about time you guys showed up. When all the activity I was sensing from you three for awhile suddenly stopped, I got worried!"

All three froze, then turned and looked down to see the resident feline gazing up at them with luminous golden eyes, its tail swishing back and forth. After a long moment of simply staring, Willow asked hesitantly, "Blackgold, h-how can you speak to us, when you couldn't before?"

"Your Circle of Power wasn't complete," came the simple, yet complex response, "but it is now with the werewolf's inclusion."

"But I thought you need four for a true Circle," Tara asked, baffled.

The cat seemed to sneeze—'though it was more like a snort, before answering, "Usually, yes, but due to the werewolf's dual nature, he can claim two places in a Circle while you and Willow summon your normal Elements."

"But, how is this possible," the red-headed Wiccan asked, bewildered.

"'Tis possible, for 'twas destined to be," Flidhais said, as she strolled gracefully into the hallway where the others were.

Tara jumped, wide-eyed, as Willow “eeped” in startlement at the sudden appearance of the powerful shapeshifter. After a moment of study, Oz inclined his head, and then inquired curiously, “Flidhais, why the sudden appearance?”

"The need of thine hearts summoned me hither," the goddess responded seriously. "I have come to dispel the conflict amongst thee."

Drawing in a breath to steady herself, Tara asked, fear of the answer evident in her eyes, "How?"

Flidhais stepped towards the natural born witch, and gently cupped one side of Tara's face, saying softly, soothingly, "Fear not, child of the gods, thou art essential to this union," then stepped back and turned to face all three. She waved a hand before her, and an image appeared in front of each of the triad. The image was of themselves, and as Flidhais spoke, each image changed—though the face remained the same, going back into the past. "Through time, there hast always been Champions, yet there cannot be Champions without Warriors for them to lead. Thou art such Warriors, chosen to come forth in time's greatest need to aid the Champions, for as long as thy spirits endure. Time and again, thou hast come together to face the Darkness, joined not just in spirit but in mind and body, thou hast always been. Yet Evil knows of thee, and endeavors to hinder thee, when it can. This, then, is what hast brought about thy present quandary."

Silence descended as the images faded away. Her brow furrowed in heavy thought, Willow asked, "Is this why Oz became a werewolf, then? 'Cause I have the feeling that if he hadn't've been when I met Tara, there wouldn't of been such a problem of all of us being together...or, or him even leaving in the first place!"

This last thought clearly startled the fire-haired witch as she gazed a little wild-eyed at her two companions, then to the goddess before her for confirmation. At Flidhais' slow nod of agreement, Willow closed her eyes as her face lost all color, pressed her hands to her stomach, and muttered weakly, "I think I'm going to be sick."

A body each embraced a different side of Willow in comfort, as a third took her hands. The Wiccan opened her eyes to see Flidhais gazing at her in kindness and understanding as she said, "Thou hast always been the focus of this bond, their love almost greater for thee alone than each other. Yet love each other they do. Time wilt show thee and they this. As well: the bond between thee and thine is not just physical, but magical. Thou art each powerful in thy own right, but together: greater still. The joining thou didst feel during the battle should tell thee so."

Unconsciously, all three nodded simultaneously.

Flidhais released Willow's hands as she then said while looking at Oz—yet still speaking to the red-head, "Thou wast partially true in thy realization, young one. The wolf is an integral part of mine Champion, for his spirit wast that of one of mine firstborn children—lost in battle against Evil and brought back to me by Good's assent, and must have his dual-nature be brought forth by magical means. Thus, he is commonly born to they whom can do this."

The werewolf looked thoughtful as the goddess turned away from him to face Tara. A sad yet joyful smile upon her lips, the shapeshifter said to the shy Wiccan, "Thou dost come from a noble line, one which thy father's people have long tried to dominate and suppress for their own purposes, child of the gods. Thou art descended from Epona, a goddess of the Celts, thy spirit like unto mine Champion's: one of her fallen firstborn that didst perish in Good's first battles against Evil. Never doubt thy worthiness to be by thy loves' sides!"

Turning back to Willow, Flidhais said, "Thou, as well, were born of a goddess before thine first death, child of time. Thou didst know the mysteries of life itself before thy death. Morrigan's spirit-daughter art thou! What nobler heritage canst thou possess? Thy knowledge and love brought these two to thee, and to thee have they held fast! Cherish them, love them, and rejoice in thy union evermore."

With those words, the goddess stepped back, concluded in parting as she slowly disappeared in a cloud of light, "Thy familiar is a gift from me to thee. Know that he wilt serve thee faithfully. Know as well, that thou mayst call upon me shouldst thou ever needst mine aid. Fair thee well, noble Warriors," and was gone.

Stunned silence filled the apartment, to then be broken by the familiar just spoken of by Flidhais.

"So, are you guys just going to stand there all day, or will you go sit down and work out your differences enough to be together in all things magical and mundane?"

The three looked at each other, Flidhais' words echoing in their minds at their familiar's question. They knew now that they had no choice but to be together. If not for just their own sake, then for the sake of their Champions, the battle between Good and Evil depended on it. As one, the triad went into the living room to begin the long and challenging process of reconciling their differences in order to live and love together in this lifetime.

(I) (I) (I) (I) (I) (I) (I) (I) (I) (I)

Sunnydale: Magic Box (Main Shop), 4:11pm, Day 13

Giles stood beside the phone he had hung up a second ago, his expression grave, then turned to the person behind him that had just spoken his name to garner his attention. He sighed heavily as he took off his glasses to clean them while gazing blurrily at his Slayer.

"Giles, what did Quinton say about the new Slayer to replace Dora," Buffy asked in concern and some alarm, due to her favorite Watcher's expression.

Putting his glasses back on while averting his eyes, the man answered bluntly yet softly, knowing there was no proper way to say what he was about to say, "There is no new Slayer."

The shock the Immortal Slayer felt was evident upon her face as she processed what Giles had spoken. After several long moments, she asked intensely, seriously, then menacingly, "Why? Quinton's not just pulling our chain, is he? 'Cause if he is, human or not: I'll kill him."

A faint humorless smile graced his lips, before Giles replied, "I'm afraid not, Buffy. It seems that the dual event of Pandora's line ending, and the creation of a Dark Slayer, has officially terminated the original Slayer line. It appears that only as long as Pandora's heirs lived, so too would the line they created. With Dora's death, that legacy is irrevocably broken. Thus, Eve, you, and Dawn are the last Slayers, and when Eve passes on: you and your daughter will be all that remains. I am sorry."

"Why should you be sorry," Buffy said heatedly, pain and anger in her eyes. "It wasn't you who screwed with our lives! How did that bastard know about this and not you anyway? This sounds like something all Watchers should've known."

Chuckling mirthlessly at the truth of the young Immortal's words, he began escorting the Slayer to the Training Room where everyone else was as the Watcher supplied in feigned light-heartedness, "Apparently, I wasn't high enough in the hierarchy to know this, but due to the situation, I had to be told."

Buffy barked out a laugh in disbelief at the continued audacity of the Watcher's Council while they climbed the stairs, as raised voices could suddenly be heard from above.

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Sunnydale: Magic Box (Training Room), Roughly Same Time As Above, Day 13

Within the Training Room, Angel and Eve were sparing in an effort to relieve their boredom, as well as to ignore the growing gloom coming from the conference area of the floor. Whistler would occasionally glance at them as he paced length-wise across the floor, making sure to avoid the training area in the process. Upon a couch Wesley and Fred were curled up asleep, while Cordelia was sprawled out in a nearby chair, snoring quietly. In the loveseat across from the couch, Xander and Anya huddled together for comfort, both exhausted. Occasionally the ex-demon would shake as a silent sob would rake through her unusually still form, and clutch convulsively at a baby blanket she held. At those times, Xander would hold his wife tighter, and murmur calm nothings in her ear, while a slowly growing anger simmered unchecked within his eyes. Anya's own eyes were haunted with the knowledge of her child's life lived without her, which only fueled her grief and irrational guilt.

Minutes passed in near silence in this manner. As Whistler finished making another round of the floor, Xander snapped as he glared at the demon passing him, "Will you quit pacing already? You're giving me a headache!"

Whistler stopped immediately, his expression cross, then walked over to stand in front of the fuming man. In a clipped voice, the demon said, "You know, I'm trying to think of some sort of loophole in all the pacts and promises made over the eons to find a way to get you your son back and undo some of the damage here. So give me a break! I'm not the Powers That Be's Head Messenger and clean-up guy for nothin'."

Xander surged up to his feet from beside his wife to glare down upon the ancient yet young-looking demon, and hissed out, "It's because of you that my son's gone!"

His eyes showing his annoyance as he crossed his arms, Whistler retorted waspishly, "It's Quinton's fault, not mine, kid. He knew better than to bring Pandora's Box to a Hellmouth!"

Fury blazing in his eyes, Xander reared back, and punched the demon square in the face. As Whistler landed on his back on the floor from the force of the unexpected rage induced strike, his attacker bellowed accusingly, "YOU LIE," and began to fall down beside the balance demon to hit him further, only to be stopped by Angel and Eve grabbing him. Pulling ineffectively away from the two supernatural Warriors, he screamed, "LET ME GO! I'M GONNA KILL HIM," then continued to fight against his captors as he cursed at the one he felt responsible for his son's kidnapping.

The two grimly held on, and began pulling him away from the fallen demon, as Cordelia and Wesley – whom had just woken – helped Whistler up. Fred knelt by Anya where she had fallen when Xander had stood so suddenly, concerned. The distraught mother was hyperventilating, and holding a hand to her chest as though pained, tears falling heedlessly down her face. At a particularly loud wordless shout of rage from her husband, Anya's head snapped up, her expression wild.

Swiftly rising to her own feet, Anya moved quickly towards Xander, shaking the entire way. Once in front of him, she yelled, "STOP IT! STOP IT, STOP IT, STOP IT! JUST STOP IT," and began hitting Xander against the chest with her fists as she openly wept, while Angel and Eve let the man go so that he could fend off his wife's assault. Between gasping breaths, the hysterical mother cried and choked out, "He's not coming back. Koren's gone, Xander. He's gone! I can't, I can't breath! My baby's gone, oh God! I can't bear it!"

A sharp agonized wail of grief came forth from Anya as she began to collapse to the floor, only to be caught by her now crying husband. Together they fell down to the floor as the others looked helplessly on.

A tense stillness prevailed over the group, to only be broken a moment later as they all turned to gaze at Buffy as she asked sharply in displeasure from behind them, "What's going on here? I leave you guys alone for a few minutes, and when I come back: this is what I find!"

No one spoke, all too intimidated by the Slayer's ire as she stood there scowling, hands on her hips. It was Fred who finally spoke timidly, saying while wringing her hands, "W-well, from what I saw: Xander and Whistler were arguing, then X-Xander punched Whistler, th-then Anya stopped him, and, and, well, this was the end result."

The Slayer swung her piercing gaze to her husband for confirmation, and saw him slowly nod his head once in agreement. Blowing out a breath as she suppressed her anger, Buffy looked past the group to the grieving couple, and felt her heart clench in sympathy. Grimacing, the Immortal suggested in a calm voice as she pressed a hand to her brow to fend off a headache, "Why don't we get these two back to their home. It'd probably be a good idea to get Xander away from Whistler for awhile."

"We'll take them," Cordelia said while gesturing to Wesley and Fred to include them in volunteering for the trip, which they nodded in agreement to.

"I'll go, too," Eve added. "I've got nothin' else ta do 'ere while ye all talk. If there's anythin' that I needed ta know, I'll learn it later."

"A good idea," Giles supplied, then suggested meaningfully, "Why don't you all go now?"

Those involved nodded, then, after some coaxing, got their self-appointed charges up off the floor and out the door. As the tension left the room, Buffy blew out a gust of air, walked over to the conference area, and collapsed into a chair with a groan. Angel followed to settle down at his wife's feet, leaving Giles and Whistler to tag along and find their own seats. Several minutes passed in silence as all thought about the events of the past two weeks. Jiggling one leg as she fiddled with the necklace about her neck, Buffy asked dispiritedly, "What do we do now?"

Placing his hat in his lap, Whistler answered in a monotone as he leaned his head back against the headrest on his chair, "We wait. It's all we can do, Slayer."

"That sucks," came the doleful response, which caused the demon to chuckle tiredly in understanding and agreement.

Dropping the necklace, Buffy rubbed a hand against one side of her neck as she gazed unseeing in the direction of the street outside of the building they were in. After a moment, the Slayer's hand stilled as she realized that it was more than just tension and fatigue making her rub her neck, and sat up straighter in startlement.

Noticing his wife's sudden change of mood, Angel asked, "Buffy, what is it?"

Drawing in a quick breath, the Slayer's eyes widened in surprise and joy, before she breathed out, "Dawnie," and then quickly rushed out the door, then out of the building. Angel followed a moment later as he realized what was happening, while the other two remained behind, puzzled.

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Sunnydale: Magic Box (Street), Roughly Same Time As Above, Day 13

Methos pulled into a parking space in front of the magic shop, then turned off the engine. In the silence that followed, Dawn asked to no one in particular, "Was it just me, or did you guys see Cordy peel out of here in Xander and Anya's car?"

"Our two Watchers were with them as well," the ancient Immortal added in agreement as he gazed up towards the second story of the building, his Immortal sense telling him another of his kind was near.

"Demon-girl and Harris were in the back seat," Spike included, looking off in the direction the group they were talking about had gone. "They didn't look good."

"That's not surprising, especially with all that's happened," the young Slayer murmured quietly, her heart sinking in unease as she rubbed her neck for a moment.

"Agreed," Methos commented, before opening his door and stepping out of the car, the others quickly following.

They had all just shut the doors and locked the car when the door to the Magic Box flew open, and a pale golden blur rushed out. The blur resolved itself into Buffy as she stopped after colliding with Dawn and clung to her daughter as a relieved sob escaped her. The younger as well as taller Slayer stood stunned, before her expression turned dark, and then roughly pushed her mother away with a low growl, glaring with a look of one betrayed in her eyes.

Her face showing her confusion, Buffy asked softly, timidly, "Dawn," just as another darker blur flew out of the shop. Stopping just in front of his daughter, Angel stared for a long moment, then slowly raised his hands to cup Dawn's face, love and concern shining in his eyes for her alone. A whimper escaped the young Slayer as she saw for herself that the souled vampire was alright, before she threw herself into her father's embrace, and clung to him tightly, comforted by his presence. Instantly, Angel wrapped his arms around her and held her. For long moments they remained like this, then pulled back from each other.

Wiping away the tears that had fallen down her face, Dawn stated gruffly, "I missed you."

"And we, you, Dawnie," Buffy said quietly from beside Angel.

Her expression hardening, Dawn slowly turned towards her mother. The younger Immortal Slayer's voice shaking as she spoke, Dawn said forcefully, angrily, "You have no right to say that, Buffy Anne Summers," then raised a finger to point it accusingly at her mother, who backed away in alarm. Her words occasionally cracking with the intensity of her emotions, she continued, saying, "Don't you dare say that after what you did! I know exactly who it was that said I shouldn't be here to help. Don't think I don't know who it was that said I shouldn't come! You're so frickin' predictable. God! I'm a Slayer, Buffy, and Immortal! Do you honestly think I can't do anything? How many times will it take to get through that thick skull of yours that I'm not helpless or a child? I haven't been those things since everything with Glory! The Powers That Be, the Monks who made me, and the Watchers Council saw to that! And news flash, Mom: I'm a Champion, just like you, Dad and Uncle, now! I can't be kept in the dark anymore. You do that, and Evil wins!"

Silence fell as Dawn finished ranting. The young Slayer's hands were now fisted at her sides, while her body was rigid and shaking with suppressed fury. She breathed heavily, her face white and taut due to her emotions. Resentment was in her narrowed cobalt eyes.

Deeply shaken, Buffy gazed mutely at her daughter with tear-bright eyes, then whispered brokenly and hoarsely, "I was just protecting you."

With a wordlessly wrathful growl, Dawn lunged towards the older Slayer, only to be stopped by Spike and Angel, while Methos pulled a stunned Buffy away from his student. In a voice that commanded attention to what he was saying, the ancient Immortal snapped, "Dawn. Calm down. Now! You aren't doing anyone any good acting like this. Let's get inside before we draw attention to ourselves."

Snarling, Dawn jerked out of her father and husband's hold, then stalked into the shop. Spike followed a few steps behind, while the others trailed after at a slightly slower pace, Angel putting his arm around Buffy in consolation. Methos closed the shop door once everyone was inside after glancing around, certain that he had seen a shadow of something moving a block or so away for a moment.

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Sunnydale: Magic Box (Training Room), Roughly Same Time As Above, Day 13

Giles and Whistler were talking, discussing the possible ramifications of the original Slayer line ending, when they heard a single set of feet stomping up the stairs, along with muttered cursing from a voice they hadn't heard in awhile. They paused in their speculation, and turned to watch Dawn Summers gloomily enter the room, walk over to them, and flop down in the loveseat near to where they were sitting, then saw as she crossed her arms and glared. Spike entered a moment later as Giles shook his head knowingly.

Looking at the younger Summers' bonded, Giles inquired, "I take it they argued?"

He had no need to say who had argued.

The vampire nodded as Dawn muttered darkly, "I'm right here, you know," just as Buffy, Angel, and Methos arrived.

"Hasn't stopped us before, love," Spike said matter-of-factly while settling down beside his wife.

The only response he had to that was her eyes rolling in exasperation, some of her fury leaving her...which had been the vampire's goal. Smirking with an idea, he kissed her soundly to finish the job. She melted into his arms, her anger completely fading away as though it had never been. Angel clearing his throat pointedly pulled them apart seconds later.

Dawn blushed brightly once she realized what had just occurred, and fiddled with her wedding ring, looking down, as Spike stretched out beside her, his expression unrepentant and smug as he gazed at his grandsire. Shaking his head, Angel steered his wife to sit down with him on the couch beside Giles. Methos followed suite, and took the chair opposite Whistler, before saying seriously, "Cordelia filled us in on what's happened around here before she came down here after her vision. So what I'm going to ask is what can we do now to help, as well as what we should expect to happen next?"

Whistler sighed heavily as he rubbed a hand over his face, then took his hat off, playing with it, before answering, "There's several things that need to be done now...the first being Pandora’s Box."

Methos’ gaze sharpened as he demanded, “What about Pandora’s Box, and why are you even mentioning it?”

“Pandora’s Daughters are no more, Adam,” Giles answered. “The last of her line became a Slayer, and Quinton sent her to us, supposedly for protection. As for what her line safeguarded: Buffy is now in possession of it. It’s the necklace she’s wearing.”

The ancient Immortal glanced at that which Buffy wore, and saw the eldest Slayer grimace at the reminder of what she now carried. Frowning, Methos asked, “When was the contents transferred to that?”

“This month,” the Watcher answered. “The original container is now housed in a Watcher vault; I’m not sure which one, though.”

“What I want to know,” Buffy said somewhat impatiently, “is why the blasted thing came to me! I don’t want it.”

“No one ever did,” Whistler informed. “That’s why Pandora’s Daughters always had charge of it, until now. The Box was never meant for those who wanted it. The power’s just too great. Evil won’t even intentionally mess with it.”

“Then why the Hell did D’Hoffryn do what he did, if it’s so dangerous?” the Slayer exclaimed angrily.

“He didn’t touch it,” the demon stated. “Dora was the one who actually created the Dark Slayer. D’Hoffryn merely manipulated her into doing the spell.”

“Which means…what exactly,” Dawn inquired uneasily.

Whistler winced, before saying, “Meaning Anyanka’s child’s a demon now, and has a very long lifespan ahead of him.”

Into the horrified silence that followed, Spike hissed out, “Bloody Hell,” as the young Slayer beside him beseeched, “Tell me I did not just hear that! Please tell me I did not just hear that!”

Putting on his hat as he stood, the Messenger said reluctantly, “I’m afraid so, kid.”

“No wonder Anya was so messed up today about whatever it was she saw in her sleep about her son,” Buffy whispered, appalled.

“That, and the fact that he’s in Quortoth doesn’t help,” Whistler supplied grimly. “The kid’ll get plenty of practice in fighting while there, I can tell you that.”

"Isn't there any way to get him out of there," Dawn asked desperately of the demon as she perched on the edge of her seat with dread. "We're talking about a baby here, for God's sake!"

"Not for long. In less than a month, he'll be a full grown adult. Time moves faster there than here."

"Dear Lord," Giles murmured, as Angel asked, "Is there any way to get there and back?"

Whistler looked down, then up, his expression the most serious they’d ever seen as he said, “There’s a way, but the one capable of opening a portal there doesn’t have the skills to do it...yet.”

“Who,” Buffy asked anxiously.

“Dawn,” came the demon’s answer.

“Me?” squeaked said person in shock as everyone turned and stared at her.

“Think about what you are, Key, and say that again,” the Messenger responded dryly.

There was a moment of silence as the younger Immortal Slayer contemplated what Whistler was implying, then said timidly, “Oh.”

“Whistler, why is she unable to open a portal to Quortoth now,” inquired Methos.

“She’s nothing but raw power at this time,” came the response. “She could probably do it, if that dimension actually had a gateway for us to go through. But there isn’t one, and it will take more finesse and ability than what Dawn can do right now.”

“So ‘ow does she get the skills she needs to get demon-girl’s kid out of there, and ‘ow long will it take,” asked Spike as he held his wife’s hand.

Whistler uncomfortably cleared his throat, before saying with a sigh, “There’s actually two answers to that: one year Earth-time, and a whole Hell of a lot where she needs to go for training. The Powers That Be are going to directly teach her what she needs to know. That’s how powerful she is.”

“What is her power-ranking,” queried Giles.

Taking off his hat to play with the brim, the demon said uneasily, “Ah, the answer’s twofold. One: right now she’s at avatar, two: when she’s finished with her training she’ll be at god-level.”

“Dear Lord!”

“Exactly.”

“Isn’t Dawn being that powerful against the Pact,” asked Methos, frowning.

Shaking his head briefly, Whistler responded, “Normally: yes. But because of certain events you guys aren’t even aware of that Evil manipulated: no. They have no say whatsoever on her being a fully active participant on our side.”

“Again: I’m right here, you know,” Dawn said tensely. “What are you all talking about, and where am I going for this training-thing?”

“You’ll learn that with your training if you’re going where I think you’re going, Dawn,” Angel said quietly to his daughter. “They’ll be able to explain it to you properly there.”

“And where’s she goin’,” Spike asked with some impatience.

“To the Ethereal Planes, where the Powers That Be live,” replied Whistler matter-of-factly.

“But, only non-corporeal people or things can go there,” Dawn exclaimed. “How’m I supposed to be there if I'm corporal?”

The Messenger looked the Key directly in the eyes as he said, “Kid, remember the deal you made with Them when you became Their Champion? Do you remember what you became when your powers awoke? You can have a solid physical form or not whenever you want it. You just don’t know how to yet.”

All color drained from Dawn’s face.

“When does she need to go, Whistler,” Buffy asked tensely into the heavy silence that had now descended.

“Right now.”

Pandemonium ensued as all but one stood up and protested Whistler’s announcement, that is, until Giles let out an ear-piercing whistle that drew all attention to him. In a curt tone of voice the Watcher said, “Does it truly matter when Dawn must go, or even how long? You are all immortal. Time has no true hold on you! I suggest that you take this moment to say your farewells, and look forward to when you will meet again.”

“I don’t want to do this,” Dawn said tearfully as she gazed at Whistler as she was held protectively by an indignant Spike.

“You don’t have much choice, kid,” the demon answered bluntly. “A lot’s going to happen soon, and you need to be prepared to pull your weight, or Evil will win with no other chances for us to take back this world. We’re on the verge of the End of Days here.”

“How soon,” Angel asked as he kept a firm hand on his wife’s shoulder to keep her from punching the Messenger.

“Too soon,” Whistler admitted. “We have one to two years before the appointed time. So you can understand why I’m trying to get things going now.”

Dread filled every heart there.

Drawing in a steadying breath, Dawn nodded tersely with newfound understanding and acceptance, and said as she turned to face her kin, “I don’t like it, but he’s right. So let’s forget everything for a moment, and just be a family, alright? I want my memories to be happy ones whenever I think of the last time I saw you guys while I’m learning whatever I need to learn.”

Suppressing a sob, Buffy was the first to respond to the Key’s words as she threw her arms around her daughter while whispering a shaky “I love you, Dawnie.” This prompted the others to fall into a group hug—even if they would not normally do such a thing, along with heartfelt words of parting.

The only thing that pulled them apart was Whistler’s reluctant “It’s time” after a few minutes.

Slowly pulling away from the others while wiping the tears from her face, Dawn asked Whistler thickly, “So how do we do this?”

“You basically step through the portal that’ll appear any second before you,” the Messenger instructed as he put on his hat. “Just know when you return that you’ll be making your own gateway here. It’ll be the proof They’ll need that you’ve learned what They taught you...and how well.”

The Key nodded swiftly once, then fidgeted as she waited, occasionally glancing worriedly towards her parents and husband. Less than a minute had passed when a sense of something powerful filled the air. Dawn stilled as she recognized what she was sensing, and looked anxiously towards Whistler for confirmation. The demon nodded. Her expression resolute, the Key faced forward...just in time to catch the first faint flicker of light in the air that signaled a portal opening.

As all present watched, the flickers rapidly grew and appeared for longer periods of time. With each following flash, an ever growing swirling vortex of pale and dark white light was seen. After three minutes, the portal stopped growing and was complete.

Nervously, Dawn glanced towards Whistler. The demon offered a faint smile, and said, “There’s your ticket, kid. Step right through there, and you’ll meet your teachers. Don’t worry about the transition between your current state and becoming the Key. It’ll just happen.”

Dawn nodded, then looked over at her family. She gave them a faint, weak, tremulous smile, silently said, “I love you guys,” and quickly stepped through the portal without looking back. The vortex turned green then fiery-red for a second, and then in a blinding flash was gone.

For nearly a minute no one moved. It was Buffy who broke the moment as she shifted her feet and said numbly, “I guess we’ll see her in a year, then.”

Spike laughed harshly once, before turning away to stalk over to the training area to pummel one of the punching bags there. Angel uneasily followed and watched the younger vampire with his eyes as he murmured almost to himself, “He’s going to have a rough time of it until she returns. They haven’t been apart since their bonding.”

Buffy snorted, emotion coming back to her after the shocks of the past half hour, and commented dryly, “They’ve technically never been apart since she was first created. He’s loved and protected her even better than I have over the years.”

“Which is as it should be, Slayer,” Whistler said. Off of Buffy’s questioning and confused look, the demon explained, “When the monks created her and the Powers That Be intervened, she was sent to you, yes: but not to be protected. The Key was always meant to take on physical form, and you and Angel were chosen to be the lucky benefactors of her DNA when the time came. Truthfully, they would’ve pulled your gene makeup through time, space, and even dimensions to make her physical form what they wanted it to be. The reason I’m saying all this is because you need to understand that you never were meant to guard her, but to train her in the ways of a Warrior and eventual Champion so that she could be your equal. So the way you’ve been shielding her all this time has really been a hindrance to her progression. What you should really be focused on safeguarding is what you’re wearing now: Pandora’s Box.”

Buffy's lips were thin with displeasure at hearing these words, and she said darkly, "I'll take care of Dawn how I wish, Messenger, and why did this thing come to me anyway? Shouldn't it have gone to one of Dora's relations instead?"

The Messenger shook his head, and answered, "The Box would always go to those directly connected to it, namely: Pandora's firstborn descendents, and if not them, then to the Slayer it would go."

"How can that be, if it was known that if Pandora's line failed, so would the Slayer line," Giles inquired, his confusion evident.

Ignoring Angel's shocked expression, and the sudden silence from the training area, Whistler replied, "It could happen, because the Powers That Be knew that this was probably going to happen at some point, and had Their most powerful Seers look into the matter, and saw what would happen. With this knowledge, They set up a failsafe: when the appointed time arrived for Pandora's last Daughter to die, the last two most powerful Slayers would be immortal in some fashion. Buffy and Dawn were the lucky recipients."

"But," Buffy said, perplexed, "what do I do with it? What can it do?"

"For the first question: protect it. That object may very well be the deciding factor in the End of Days of who wins," the demon said as his looked at the watch he was wearing. "As for the second: Quinton has that answer in a book. Tell him to give it to you, as he has no further use for it now."

"What is this book," Angel asked as he rested reassuring hands on his wife's shoulders, and as Spike came to stand between him and Giles.

"It's Pandora's Book of Shadows, you could say," Whistler answered simply, preoccupied. He then looked at the five remaining people in the room, and said quickly, then suggested, "Look: I need to go. I've done what I can here, and the Higher Ups are now calling me back to do other work. Live your lives as normal. I'll most likely be seeing you in a year, and pray to whatever deity you believe in that it's not before that."

As the small group was about to protest the Messenger's sudden announcement, another vortex – this one golden – suddenly opened unexpectedly behind the demon. There was a knowing look in Whistler's eyes as he tipped his hat in parting to the group, and stepped backwards into the portal, which immediately closed once he was through.

After a moment of stunned silence, Buffy growled low in her throat with frustration, and turned to look at Spike with a dangerous gleam in her eyes to say, "Feel like going out to pummel something near to death, then kill it?"

An answering light entered the younger vampire's eyes as he grinned evilly, and said in anticipation, "You bet, Slayer!"

While the two supernatural warriors went to get weapons, Angel commented dryly to Giles and Methos, "I doubt they'll find anything tonight, after everything that's happened recently."

The Watcher chuckled humorlessly as he remarked, "This shall be a most interesting year without Dawn to keep those two in line."

As Buffy and Spike began to squabble over a weapon both wanted to use, Methos murmured softly in agreement to the souled vampire and Watcher's words, "You don't know the half of it, my friends. You don't know the half of it!"

(I) (I) (I) (I) (I) (I) (I) (I) (I) (I)

And from a distance, an Immortal watched the Magic Box, his expression thoughtful.

 

THE END...hehehe...for now!

The End

You have reached the end of "Heart's Desire". This story is complete.

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