Disclaimer: Buffy and all characters related belong to Fox/UPN. Red Dwarf and its attendant characters are the BBC's. No money is being made, nor is it desired.

Rating: PGish.

Notes: This is set pretty much directly after Meltdown in the fourth season of Red Dwarf (well, not directly directly), and right in the middle of Blood Ties during the fifth season of Buffy. Spoilers therein. It was originally intended as a serious, Kill Dawn story. As you'll see shortly, it ain't. Further notes at the end.

Dedication: This one's for Oberon, who said he'd worship me. I hope I've done them justice. ;)

Melted Ties
by Ana Lyssie Cotton

Sunnydale Hospital was bustling with activity. People came and went, doctors diagnosed, nurses dosed, and patients tried to get better. Most paid no attention to X-Ray Lab 3. It was a little-used lab, the technicians treating it as their own private getaway closet more often than not. It contained the usual accoutrements, bright lights, glass containers, counters. A bench or two.

And two people. One was a slim blonde woman, red highlights in her hair and an atrocious red dress covering her lush figure. The other a small teenaged girl, her dark brown hair hanging lankly down her back.

They were having a friendly chat.

"You know," The woman said, irritation in her gaze as she turned away from the girl, "I'm thinking you don't know where my Key is, either."

"I--"

"Not that it matters, kid." Glory reached out and caught hold of a handful of Dawn's hair. "You'll be so useful anyway. After all, I did tell your sister the next time I saw you you'd die."

"But--"

"Don't worry, it only hurts a little." Reaching out another hand, the goddess wrapped her fingers around Dawn's throat. "Such a pretty little girl. Too bad your sister's a meanie."

Her hands tightened, one pulling one way, the other twisting slightly. There was the sound of muscles and bones straining, then failing, a crack that echoed sickeningly through the room. Glory gave a soft giggle. "Now wasn't that fun, Dawnie?"

Green light flared into existance, dancing along the skin of the girl, then spreading outwards, turning the scene grey where it collided. Glory gave a shocked gasp, "My Key!"

And the door behind her burst inwards, spilling the Slayer and her friends into the room.

"DAWN!"

Turning, Glory glared, "Your sister was my Key! All this time, you've been hiding her from me!"

Buffy Summers didn't have time to care, Dawn's eyes were glazing, the emptiness in them echoing a hundred other eyes before she'd staked the vampire owning them. She ran at Glory, getting slammed into the wall for her troubles. And then Giles and Xander were there, and Tara threw something.

Willow's voice crescendoed, and there was a flash of green light.

--

A soft popping sound echoed through the mining ship the Red Dwarf. It went generally unnoticed, since the main crew had been killed long ago in a radiation leak. The sole survivor was a man named Dave Lister. He was entertained and annoyed by the hologram of his dead bunkmate, Arnold Rimmer. And along the way back to Earth (a three million year absence must be explained for in some way, after all), he'd found a lifeform evolved from his cat, and a lonely mechanoid named Kryten.

Currently, he was lunching on a bowl of curry with a side of toast and curry sauce.

A blonde head appeared on the screen to his left. This was the ship's computer, Holly. She had the same IQ as 6,000 PE teachers.

"What is it, Hol?"

"I... D'you know, I can't remember." She looked at him, puzzled.

"Go away and maybe it'll come to ya."

"No--wait. I've got it. There's an intruder."

"Intruder, where?"

"Deck 134. Where the Polymorph was in stasis."

Lister paused before taking another mouthful of curry and chewing thoughtfully. The Polymorph had terrorised the crew some months back. It ate emotions, leaving the victims changed in strange ways. Hazily, he could recall wanting to napalm it. Of course, that Polymorph had been blown up, but there'd been another in the capsule they'd found. That one had been knocked out and shoved into a stasis pod, in case they found some use for it later.

So far, no one had thought of anything. "Is it the Polymorph, then?"

"No. It's human." Holly wrinkled her nose, "She's human, anyway."

"She?!" Lister put down his curry. He hadn't seen a woman for 3 million years, give or take a few months. This could be an unprecedented occurrence.

"Yeah. She seems to be stationary for now. You might want to get down there, rea--" The computer stopped talking as Lister disappeared out the door. "Humans."

--

The small X-Ray lab was filled with coughing people. Slowly, the haze that surrounded their lungs cleared. Buffy was the first on her feet, and her frantic search didn't find her sister. "Dawn?"

"She's not here, Buffy." Xander caught her arm as she walked past, "Luckily for us, neither is Glory."

Rupert Giles took off his glasses and cleaned them, "Yes. Where did you send her, Willow?"

"Not sure." The redheaded witch replied shortly as she leaned against Tara. "That's one of the parts needing work." She winced, "I don't think I'll be working on perfecting it any time soon."

"Aw, baby." Carefully, Tara rubbed Willow's temples. "Let's get you home for some aspirin and codeine."

"Oooh. Codeine."

Buffy watched them begin to file out, and tried to decide if she was tired or worried or both. As the Slayer she was used to being in danger. But not her little sister. Of course, Dawn wasn't really her sister. The monks had just sent her. Sent her. Like a little package they didn't want. But Buffy was now fiercely protective of her sister.

So were the rest of her friends. Xander Harris and Willow Rosenberg had been there first. Way back in the dark ages, when high school was nothign but unending horror. Rupert Giles had shown up next, all tweed and glasses. He'd been her Watcher and then her friend. And now... closer than her own father. Tara McClay had snuck in under everyone's radar, loving Willow more than any of them were ready for.

And Spike? He used to be a bad, evil vampire. Now... Now he had a chip in his head that prevented him from killing anything human.

They left the room, Buffy vaguely wondering if they should go apologise to someone for the state it was in.

As the door closed, something small and white bounced out behind them. It paused in the corridor, its little pink nose twitching cutely. And then it hopped after them.

--

Arnold J. Rimmer was not a brave man. He occasionally liked to think that he was a good man, but the jury was really still out on that. What he really was, was a fastidious man. Order was his watchword, neatness his life. Up at exactly the same time every morning, revisions at the same time, lunch at the same time. It would drive an obsessive-compulsive insane.

Since he'd died, Rimmer had found himself slowly beginning to slack off, until it seemed he rarely got up at the same hour much less the same millisecond.

This was disconcerting to him, especially since he didn't actually sleep.

"Rimmer?"

He shook himself from his thoughts, and glared at Lister. "What?"

"We have an intruder on board."

"Aliens?" He enquired hopefully.

"Holly says she's human."

"Ah. She." Rimmer raised a hand, "As in, the female of the species?"

"Yeh."

"Well, then." He straightened, "Holly, give me a starchy, dress uniform with lots of gold braid."

"Are you sure?" Came the question from the nearby vis-screen.

"Yes."

There was a vworping sound, and Rimmer found himself attired and constrained within a starched-up dress uniform. The excessive gold braid made his neck itch. "Well, Lister, lead the way, laddo."

Along the way to the deck, they collected Kryten and the Cat. Both were suitably intrigued, although the Cat was lamenting the lack of time for proper preperation in his dress. "After all, she might be ready and willing to--"

"She might also be the Polymorph," Lister interrupted him.

The silence lasted for thirty seconds, before the Cat discarded this notion as ridiculous, and continued his comment.

Rimmer found himself wishing the lift would speed up.

Their destination was reached shortly, and Lister stepped out, "Look, I'll--"

"No, Listy, dear, I should lead. As the highest ranking officer onship--"

"Yeh, because everybody else's dead."

"*I* should be the first to greet this vision of loveliness." The Cat pointed out, "As the most beautiful person."

"Er, might I suggest, sir--"

"Stow it, Kryten." Rimmer snapped, "I'm leading."

"Whoa, Big Man," Lister mocked softly.

"Now, Holly, you said she was by the stasis pods, yes?"

"Yeah."

Rimmer started down the corridor, a swagger in his stride. It was a bad swagger, as if he'd once practiced while watching old Elvis videos.

They turned the corner, and stopped dead. Kryten, who couldn't quite see anything yet, tapped Lister on the shoulder, "Sir? What is it?"

Visions of horrible creatures danced through his mechanoid brain before Lister slowly turned to look at him, "It's a teenager."

--

Anya was cheerfully making a list of everything she'd like to ever own. There was the Dolci and Gabanna handbag, the skin of Xander's father, the... she paused in her enumerating to frown. There had been a sound nearby. It was not a happy sound. It was a sound that reminded her of terror, and fear.

The others had come back earlier that evening, upset that Dawn was gone. Anya was less worried about Dawn than she was about Xander's bruises.

The sound came again, a soft, hopping, noise.

She turned slowly, to face this terror.

A small white bunny wriggled its nose at her.

Before she could do more than draw in a lungful of air, the bunny *changed*, and a thick ropy protruberance clamped wetly onto her forehead. Lights danced before her eyes, and Anya, Ex-Vengeance Demon, Terror of Man, Revenger of Scorned Women, fainted.

--

"Who are you? Where am I?"

Rimmer stared at the apparition in front of himself, mouth agape. "You're a.... You're a..."

"A girl." Lister supplied, amusement in his voice. He'd gotten over the disappointement quickly.

"I'm *not* a girl!" The girl snapped, stamping a foot. "I'm an adult, and who are you?"

"Uh..."

"Dave Lister." Lister pointed as he named his crewmates, "Arnold Rimmer, Cat, and Kryten. Who are you?"

"Dawn Summers." She sniffed, "And if you don't let me use your phone, my sister will kick your asses."

"Are you even old enough to say that word?" Cat demanded.

She glared. "Telephone. Or don't you understand what that is?"

"Um... Look," Lister started, "Why don't you come with us, sit down, and, we'll explain things."

"No. Explain them now."

"Sir, it might be better to ask her where she's come from," Kryten suggested carefully.

"Come from?" Dawn frowned, "I'm still in Sunnydale, aren't I?"

"Sunny-wha?"

"Sunny*dale*. Y'know, California? Sun?" She stared at them, her eyes widening, "I'm still in the US, though, right?"

Lister half-coughed, half-laughed. "Uh, no. Look, yer on the mining ship Red Dwarf. We're three million years from Earth in deep space."

"Deep space. Riiiight. Look, dude, I wasn't born yesterday." She paused, "Okay, probably, I wasn't."

Lister let that slide, "I'm tellin' you the truth."

She shrugged, "Prove it."

"If you'll just come with us, miss," Kryten took her arm, "I'm sure Holly's read-outs on the flight deck will prove we're right."

There was a discreet cough from the computer screen. "Slight problem, guys."

"What is it, Hol?" Lister asked, his voice exasperated.

"The Polymorph is missing."

--

Walking into the basement of his parent's house, Xander was startled to see Anya perched on his bed. She was carrying a razor-wire-wrapped baseball bat. And, unless he was mistaken, there were dabs of camouflage paint on her cheeks. "Um, Anya?"

"Did you see it?" She hissed, something strange in her eyes.

"What it?"

"The bunny. It hippity-hops, but I've been stalking it."

"Um... Anya, honey, have you been drinking a little too much?"

She thwacked his pillow with the bat, sending bits of fluff into the air, "Don't be silly, Xander. I mean to track it and kill it."

"Yeah." He stepped towards her, "Are you sure you're all right?"

"Very. Now let's find Buffy. I'm sure it must be after her, since after me, she's the strongest."

He frowned, "What?"

"Well, it makes sense, doesn't it? You attack the strongest, first. That's why it got me. But it didn't injure me, so, it must be after Buffy now."

Xander blinked. She sounded like she was being perfectly reasonable, but her words did not make sense.

"They do, too!" She snapped, and he winced, realising he must have spoken aloud.

"Anya, why don't we go see Buffy."

"Yes. We should make sure she's all right."

--

As a rule, Buffy Summers tried not to dwell on things. Unfortunately, there were times when it was all just too much, and she found herself buried in depressing thought. Now was one of those times as she relived the scene in the hospital and tried to figure out where she went wrong. How she could have saved her sister.

"It's all your fault, you know."

Giles.

She didn't look at him as she landed another punch on the bag. Bits of stuffing were beginning to show. "Is it?"

"All you had to do was keep her safe. And you couldn't."

"No. I let Glory kill her." *thunk*

"Yes. As you've always let people die. Jenny, your classmates, Snyder, Faith..."

"Faith." She turned to him, "Faith was not my fault."

"Wasn't she?"

"She isn't even dead."

"No, instead she's in jail."

"That's not my fault." She repeated, wishing she could believe it.

"Riley left, and you're still not blaming yourself."

"I tried to stop him."

"Not hard enough, obviously."

She swiped at the tear sliding down her cheek. "I did, Giles, but he wouldn't--"

"Love you? Why should he, you're nothing but a failure as a Slayer. Kendra died, Spike lives, and little boys were gutted by Adam."

It was as if Giles were tapped into her very soul, pulling out the thoughts that she had shied away from for so long, thought she'd dealt with. "But I stopped Adam."

"Like you stopped Angel. What was it, Buffy, sword through his heart?"

Guilt engulfed her, and she stared at him, something inside struggling to break out, to point out something.

Before it could, Giles' head split, and a long ropy thing with a suction cup slapped onto her forehead. Light and heat touched her and then the world went black.

--

They had removed to the flight deck, both to prove to Dawn their spaceboundness, and so Lister could try tracking the Polymorph. Both ventures had limited success.

"But if we're in space, how did I get here?"

"I don't know, m'girl," Rimmer said pompously, "But you're here now, and I'm your captain."

"Oh, right. I'm so sure." Dawn rolled her eyes.

"Rimmer, shut up." Advised Lister as he turned back from the scanner screen. "Holly says she thinks that Dawn and the Polymorph traded places."

Dawn blinked, "So that thing is back in Sunnydale?"

"Yes."

"Well, what does it do?"

"It causes its victims to react emotionally, and then sucks the emotion from them," Kryten supplied, "It can shapeshift as well."

"So?"

"Well, without certain emotions, humans--and droids--react differently."

"How differently?"

"Well, last time, Cat lost his cool," Lister supplied, "And he sat around all filthy and uncombed. Was really grotty."

"Ew. But that only happens to people with a lot of emotion, right? I mean, like, my sister doesn't have emotions, so I don't think it'll get her."

--

"Buffy?" Xander glanced around the Magic Shop as he called for the Slayer, worry lacing his words slightly.

"Maybe she's home," Anya suggested.

"Joyce said she came here."

"Well, maybe she's going home. We should stalk the mean streets and keep her safe."

"She's the Slayer, An, I think she'll be fine on her own."

"You never know."

A figure appeared from the back of the shop, and Xander blinked. "Buffy?"

"Oh, hey, Xan." She yawned, "I'm bored. You wanna go to a movie?"

"Buffy, we were worried--"

"That's nice." She looked at Anya, "That colour is *so* you, Anya. It makes you look like a dilapidated Christmas tree."

"Bite me." The Ex-Demon replied. "We have a rabbit to chase."

"That sounds like such fun. Too bad I'm booked for the evening."

"Buffy," Xander began, confused.

"Why don't you ask Giles. I'm sure Tweedman would be thrilled."

--

Rupert Giles used to think of himself as only a librarian. And then had come the day when that knowledge had proved blindingly useful in defeating demons and witches and sundry other supernatural things. As a result, he now considered himself rather superior to most individuals.

The Magic Shop had come to him after the death of the previous owner. He thought he was doing a good job with it, despite the occasional demon trashing it.

It was almost his pride and joy, he reflected as he walked towards it down the alley.

Normally, he wouldn't take this back way, but he was feeling a need to avoid the public entrance. Perhaps it was the loss of Dawn.

A sound came from behind him, and he turned carefully.

Nothing.

With a shrug, he turned back and found a woman standing in front of him. "Um. Hello."

"Hi." She smiled, "I was wondering. You own the Magic Shop, right?"

"Yes."

"Well, then you must know *everything* about magic."

"Not everything," he quickly corrected.

"Almost, then." She reached out and touched his shoulder, "It must be simply amazing, the knowledge you have in your brain."

He coughed. "Quite."

"I'd love to be able to know as much as you. I'm sure you could spend centuries teaching me."

Giles fought a blush, and shifted his feet, "Um, Miss--"

"You're so smart, after all--"

"Yes, um--"

"Smarter even than the president, the prime minister, the mayor--" She paused, hand on his arm tightening. "But not quite smart enough."

"Huh?"

With a splooching sound, the sucker lashed out and plopped onto his forehead. Giles had only time to note that he'd never seen anything like *this* demon at all, before the world faded away.

--

"You're sure, Holly?"

"Very. I've double and quadruple-checked. The Polymorph is definitely where Dawn was."

Lister scratched his chin, "Well, how do we get it back?"

"Why don't we just kill it?" The Cat demanded, having finished his midmorning snack and snooze. It was almost time to change into his midmidmorning nap clothes.

"Good plan. Except, how do we get to it?"

"Sir, I have an idea," Kryten said. "We could use the matter-panel. I could read Dawn's wavelength, calibrate it to that, and then it should take us to her home."

"You could do all that?" Dawn was suitably impressed. This was almost cooler than Xander with a hammer.

"It will take a little while," the droid replied modestly.

"Get to it, then, miladdo." directed Rimmer, feeling that he, as senior officer, should have some sort of roll here.

Kryten glanced at Lister, who nodded. "Very well, sirs."

--

Xander blinked at Giles as he shuffled into the shop. There was a marked change in the man's appearance. For one thing, he didn't normally carry around a bottle of whiskey in a bag. Or wear--well, he wore twead, but it was usually more impeccable-looking. On top of Buffy's uncaringness and Anya's Gung-Ho, he was beginning to feel that something was seriously wrong.

"Uh, Giles?"

"Hnh? Go 'way."

"I don't know why we're wasting our time here, Xander, there's lots to do. Demons to kill, people to save.--"

"Oh, shut up, Anya," Buffy interrupted, "I almost broke a nail."

"See, Xander? The Slayer's about as useful as a piece of squash."

"Whatever."

It was enough to make a man want to tear out his hair. Luckily, he was saved from this course of action by the arrival of Willow and Tara. "Will! Tara! Hi. Please tell me nothing wierd has happened to you!"

The redhead grinned, "Calm down, Xander, we're fine."

"We've even recovered from the spell--earlier." Tara said softly.

"Oh, look, it's Witchie Two-Shoes and her Playmate." Buffy announced, setting her nailfile down. "Well, girls, I'm sure you'll have a solution to any problem soon. Right?"

"Uh, Xander?"

"Yes, Willow, I know. I don't know what's wrong, though."

"What could possibly be wrong, Xander? I'm sure you, Mr. Construction Expert, would know."

"Hey!" Anya snapped, glaring at Buffy, "No mocking my boyfriend."

"Whatever, demon-girl."

"Ladies, ladies," Giles interjected. "N'need t'fight. 's all good."

Tara stared at him, then looked at Willow and Xander, "We need help."

--

Pacing the floor of her room, Glory wondered where that minion had gotten to. All she'd done was send her for a little bit of food. Even a toddler would do, at this point. The little witch's spell had left her hovering several hundred feet above a construction yard. The damage to the steel girders would be costly, most likely. She didn't care, more interested in finding her Key.

And here she'd almost left the Slayer with a dead little sister. How irritating to be interrupted before artistic entrail expression could take place.

The door opened, and she whirled, "It's about time!"

"Sorry, your most beauteous and magnificent."

"Yeah, whatever." She threw herself into a chair, "What'd you bring me?"

"A rabbit."

"What?!" Glory stomped a heel, hearing it break, and sighed. "You idiot!"

"O Most Munificent and Maleficent One, it was all I could find!"

"Not good enough!"

The minion cowered, grovelling. Glory felt anger welling her, and refused to relent. First the loss of a nice kill, and now no food! It was enough to make a God pissed off.

A strange sound came from the minion, and a ropy vine thing shot out and clamped onto Glory's forehead.

She blinked. "What the hell is this?"

Lights quivered in the air.

"Oh, I get it. You're trying to siphon an emotion from me." She stood, broken heel gouging into the minion's side. "Well, it won't work. I'm a God, you know. Now, let's see."

She reached over and picked the thing up as it shifted rapidly through shapes, ending in a snake. "I've always wanted a snakeskin belt, do you think you could do a violet and yellow pattern?"

It hissed at her, and she tightened her grip on its neck, "Of course, you have to be dead. I'm not fond of live snakebelts." She tilted her head to the side, "Although it could be an interesting trend."

Applying more pressure, she yelped in dismay as thick blood-like fluid began flowing out between her fingers, "Drat. I think I've killed a new toy."

Releasing one hand, she let the now limp snake dangle, and sighed, "And it isn't even a good colour." Then she raised her voice, "MINION! Get in here!"

--

"Never again, Lister!"

"Fine, I'll put you in Cat's pocket next time."

"Oh, no, I'm not having Goalposthead ruin MY image!"

"No. I'm never going anywhere with you again, Listy."

Dawn stamped a foot impatiently. "Can't you ever shut up?"

"I should clean your mouth out with soap!"

She sneered at Rimmer, "You can't even touch me!"

"Children!" Lister snapped, "Dawn, where would your sister be?"

"The Magic Shop, most likely. It's where she goes to be all angsty and depressed. Plus, there's a punching bag she likes destroying."

Several minutes later, the five of them entered the shop. There was apparently an on-going discussion inside. They watched for a moment before Lister nudged Dawn, "Sounds like they've already killed the Polymorph."

"DAWN!"

Silence fell for a second, and then Buffy hugged her sister, the others following. "I thought you were--"

"Where have you been--"

"Dawnie!"

Finally, it quieted down some, and Dawn introduced everyone. The Cat was eyeing Anya with a Look, while Lister sorrowfully reflected that they were all way too young for him. And Rimmer was staring at Buffy.

"That's your sister?"

"Yes." Dawn snapped back.

Rimmer snorted, "I could take her."

"I'd like to see you try," the teenager goaded.

"You will!" Rimmer turned to Buffy, "Kay-yi-yi!" He cried, throwing himself forward, arms awkwardly held in a pseudo-karate stance.

Buffy looked vaguely startled, then amused as the man ran right through her. "Dawn, you meet the strangest people."

-finis?-

Further Note: I had NOT intended to echo Polymorph, but once I realised (after Buffy's), it was too late. And, besides, it's an amusing image.... And, no, I haven't spellchecked. Go away.