Here goes. This is the big finish. I really didn't plan it out, it just sort of happened by itself. Now that it's done, I wonder a bit about my direction with the Key. I have tried to keep this fic grounded in semi- reality. Hopefully, you will enjoy it. I appreciate all of your comments and good thoughts. I have kind-of left this open for a "what happens now?" fic. I don't know. Let me know what you think, if you think it can be done and if you would be interested. Obviously it would be 100% AU.

Thanks to all of you - I apologize right off the bat if I miss somebody. To those of you who have checked in time and again! Melian (I may do a short Anya/Andrew fic -what do you think?) RobClark (thanks for the regular comments - you must be one dependable fellow!) WBH21C (hope Spuffy was lite enough for you), Halcyon (keep the suggestions coming), FaItHFUL (hope this last part was funny enough for you), Kristy Marie (hope the R scene was enough R) AND dannyboy (I appreciate your words, what about the sequel?)

More thanks to Aurora Snowstorm, Ghostrider, Sk8erGrl, SparkingDiamond, Wolf31, Hal, Calamity, rainbowdinky, Casper, dlord, Dunthonien, Steve, rainrose, Malaskor, Xanderette43 and Samantha, cOffee, Silversonnet, David, Christa, Jacey925 and THECrazeeBunny (up for an Anya fic?)

Have a wonderful summer, I'm going to finish up my other fic here, if you want to check it was kind of in limbo but I had a brain storm and I promise some goodness to come!


Chapter 16

Buffy wishes that she could claim surprise when she turns the corner to go up the stairs and finds Dawn and Xander sitting on the steps rather woodenly. But, truth be told, she figured that her plan had about a 50/50 chance of working to begin with.

As soon as the sisters lock eyes, Xander quickly excuses himself, inching up the stairs.

Dawn doesn't flinch as she looks up at Buffy. Her unwavering gaze seems to take some of the air out of Buffy's sails. Buffy breaks off first and with a heavy sigh, takes Xander's recently vacated seat. Leaning against the wall, she faces Dawn again. This time, she has a wry smile on her face.

"Hey, it was worth a try." She says matter-of-factly.

"Yeah, I get it but I'm back. You don't have to do your sisterly duty again. I'm staying, 'K?"

Buffy reaches out and grasps her hand, conceding defeat, "'K ---". She gathers her breath for her next meaningful speech, when Dawn interrupts.

"Don't' --- don't say anything. Anything you say will sound like goodbye, so don't."

Buffy smiles again and squeezes her hand. Leaning heavily against the wall, she closes her eyes. She is at once energized and weary. Most of all, she is ready.

Dawn searches for something to say. Her mouth is open and words are coming out before she can really even think through her words. "So what about Spike?"

The question rouses Buffy and her eyes open, "Spike?"

"Well, with tomorrow and all I thought --- well, never mind."

Buffy releases her hand and stands. "No, you're right. I'm going to go, umm, to talk to him, I mean." Buffy searches her head for a better explanation for herself and for Dawn. "Battle plans and all ---." Upon hearing her lame comment aloud, Buffy smiles, realizing that neither of them believe it.

Dawns smiles back. "Yeah, battle plans --- have fun." She calls out as she stands and turns to head up the stairs. Buffy's voice stops her.

With a mixture of hesitancy and mischievousness, Buffy quips "And you - you and Xander. Battle plans too, I imagine?"

The question stops Dawn in her tracks. She knows. Buffy knows. And she's OK. She's really OK. Dawn accepts the gift as gracefully as she can. Now is not the time for sisterly talks, they are both heading off to the ones they love. This new kinship warms them both more than either would have imagined.

Their eyes met a final time, each on a new footing. Dawn smiles, her eyes misting, "Yeah, battle plans, here, definitely."

"Well, have fun." Buffy says, mimicking Dawn's earlier words.

"You too." Dawn says bounding up the stairs in search of Xander.


Dawn walks into her room to find that Xander has lit a few candles that were left over from the last time the power went out. Some soft, Celtic- sounding music is playing - so obviously Willow's with its witchy-sound. At some point, he has even managed to change the sheets. Soft white cotton is turned down on the bed, replacing her familiar Hello Kitty ones. Some of Willow's incense is burning somewhere, scenting the room with lavender and sage.

Her heart beats uncomfortably as she takes in his obvious efforts. She is suddenly unsure how to handle the attention. She has adored him for so long and since they have become involved - she has firmly been in the driver's seat. He has allowed her to call the shots. And now, she feels a little out of her element. She should have guessed that this would happen at some point. That Xander would heal to a greater degree inside and out and become the less vulnerable party in this relationship.

She briefly wonders if she would have ever had the courage to initiate their relationship if it hadn't been for his injury. She stifles this train of thought feeling guilty that something so terrible could bring her something so cherished. She is too practical to dwell on fate too much. She is here, he is here - somewhere and he loves her. The rest will come.

But first she has to navigate this night and then tomorrow somehow. If they can get through tomorrow, they will be home free. She sends up a silent prayer that things will turn out for the good tomorrow and turns her thoughts to finding Xander.

She jumps when he enters the bedroom behind her.

"Opps, sorry. I was just ah, doing the eye stuff. Figured it wouldn't be too sexy to clean a wound and then well, you know." He laughs a little self consciously.

Awkwardly, they both look down like two people on a blind date.

"Ahh, do you like the room? I mean, believe or not Willow did most of it. She said that after she finished her mo-jo for tomorrow, she had some kind of inkling that we'd be back."

Looking around again, Dawn nods, "It's nice".

Xander catches something in her voice, "A little too much, huh?"

"Well yeah, now that you mention it."

Suddenly all of the stresses and crises of day catch up with them and they find themselves laughing in each other's arms until tears begin to fall. Bracing away from each other by an inch or two, both have tears in their eyes.

"Oh God, crying again. Label me 'Mr. Masculinity'; no make that - 'Mr. One- eyed Masculinity'. Are you sure, you know what you're getting into?"

In all seriousness, Dawn answers. "Yes, I do. I want you. You're my hero." With that, she initiates a kiss.

The kiss turns from gentle to intense in seconds. Their earlier anger, the uncertainty of tomorrow - all of the energy they possess is poured into this kiss.

Xander is more sure of himself now, less worried over her innocence. His only focus is her, to devour her. She is both more and less than herself to him now. She is comfort. She is salvation. She is life. And he is simply a man. No longer an invalid, no longer a caregiver, a friend.

As man and woman, they tumble onto the cool, white sheets. Each rejoicing in the other. His touch is sure and firm. He undresses her quickly without asking permission over and over, her consent implicit. She moves her body to aid his quest and returns the favor as she undresses him. There is urgency to their movements, a tacit agreement to surge forward.

He rolls her under his weight, her body making a cradle for his own. There are no tentative touches or small whispers this time. He pushes into her relishing the friction her tight passage provides. His hands catch in hers, fingers clasping to the strong and steady rhythm he has begun.

In these first moments, she is satisfied to lie still as he moves. She keeps her eyes on his beloved face, fighting the urge to close them as intense feelings wash over her. She has never seen this look on his face before. It isn't a soft look at all but the fierceness of it kindles her blood like nothing else. It assures her that he sees her as a woman, his equal, his goal and not a child or a silly little girl. He is beautiful to her. The patch only signifying his sacrifice for everything that is good. His dark hair curling around his face as he looks at her as if he wishes to etch her into his mind.

With these thoughts running through her head, she begins to answer his demands with her own. Experimenting until she finds a movement that suits her. Every time they meet, the pressure building inside her increases and begins to throb. It's as if she is glowing with the energy she feel pulsating between them.

Looking into her vivid eyes, Xander realizes that little bursts of golden light seem to be swirling in her eyes. Somehow, the movements of these tiny lights draw him to her as nothing else ever has before. While there is a distant part of him that acknowledges that what is occurring between them is unusual, he is too captured by the moment to do anything but feel.

Xander's movements become even more forceful than before and Dawn tilts so that she can take him as deeply as she can. She must get closer, she must. She continues to look at his face, his eyes. She can't look away. It's as if his eyes are glowing. Every second or so, the chocolate brown twinkles with gold as if the friction they are causing is about to spark.

They rise toward each other as if they will somehow shed their skins and merge into one being. To an observer, if there were an observer, the two figures would seem to be glowing, first she then both of them. The glow increasing with every thrust.

Bright golden sparks begin to float between them as if bouncing from one being to the other and back. They begin to move even more furiously if possible. Keeping her in his sight, he raises up on his arms until he is on his knees in front of her as she lies on her back with her legs clasped around his waist. At the feel of this new pressure, she lets out a cry and she feels tremor after tremor begin. He reacts to the intimate feel of his body in hers and he too begins to explode over and over again.

As they arch together a final time, the golden glow encompasses them totally. They are awash with intense pleasure but more than that - they are one being in this moment. Something flows between them - this incredible golden energy - mixing and flowing until ever so slowly, it retreats in waves back into each body. The energy that returns on this tide carries the essence of the other in a way that no human word can fully explain. As if the emotional and physical tides have overwhelmed these mere mortals, they fall into a deep and dreamless sleep.


Dawn awakes to the morning light shining through the window. For all of Willow's preparations, she managed to leave the window shade up. Pragmatic as always, Dawn figures that she might as well get up since this might be her last chance ever.

As soon as she sits up, she is hit by the memory of her time with Xander. She turns to find him sleeping peacefully on his side, a smile curled on his lips. She thinks to herself that he finally looks healthy again - really healthy. His hair shines in the morning light and it's like his whole body is humming with waiting energy.

The mere thought of the word - energy - shakes her. She knows she's new at this but. she knows that what they shared last night was not normal - fantastic but not normal. It occurs to her that whatever is making Xander look so good - not that he doesn't always look good - might have something to do with last night.

"Xander, wake up!"

"Uh?" he murmurs and he turns away from her.

She shakes him a little, "I said wake up! This is important. Wake up."

He turns and sits up, stretching as he does. The sight of him all bare- chested and yummy in her bed is more than little distracting for her.

"Umm?" he utters as he cocks a dark brow her way.

"Xander, think - last night, when we were together. Was it like all glowy and supernatural for awhile?"

"I'd like to think that it's always all super." He replies with a smile.

He is not helping matters at all. "No, seriously, last night, think - it was - it was like for a minute, I was inside of you. Part of you - that glowy part." She rolls of eyes in frustration trying to put what she felt into words.

His smile fades and it's obvious that he's remembering too. It's like his remembering, is making her memory of last night stronger too. Their eyes meet of their own accord and suddenly the feeling, the hum - is back a little. Neither try to draw away as the energy pulls them into the vortex for a second time.

For some undefined reason, they raise their palms to the other and touch. Immediately a shock runs through both of them and the glow returns in full. While last night, they were together physically, this melding; this joining is on another plane all together. The tides of energy sweep through them again. Dawn's head comes forward to lean on Xander's shoulder and he clasps her to her as they roll into a ball of warm, pulsating flesh on the bed.

************************** How long it takes for them to come to consciousness is an unknown. They awake to find themselves twisted together in the sheets. Neither speaks. This second time was just as profound as the first but both were alert this time - at least for part of it.

Xander finally speaks, "I feel you, here and here." Gesturing to his heart and his head. "And when we touched, I felt you - maybe your soul, your spirit - run into me all at once and then leave again but it's as if part of you is still with me, in me."

He shakes his head before continuing, "It's changed me somehow. I feel different. Not like a 'grrr' different but maybe 'ah-ha' different?"

Dawn listens. She feels pretty much the same as usual, except for a part of Xander is anchored inside of her. It is a concrete part of him, not just a feeling or a sentiment but a part that she can almost touch. She closes her eyes and thinks.

"It's like knowing you know the answer to a question but you just can't think of it." Suddenly, an idea pops in her head, she waves her hand furiously. "Here, grab my hand."

Xander grins ruefully, whatever is going on, he is way too happy to get too worried. He knows intrinsically that this thing - this energy they have shared is good. "Whoa, I don't know if I'm up to another brain orgasm quite yet."

Looking more like Buffy than usual, she frowns at his joke.

"OK, OK, here." He says as he puts out his hand to her."

She takes it and closes her eyes. Immediately, they are both pulled under to wherever she is going. It's like they are looking together into her mind's eye. Just as suddenly as they are pulled in and they rush back out - dizzy but not unconscious.

They utter the words together - "The Key". Both are clear as to the meaning and implication of the words. The golden energy they have released is the Key. They have somehow unleashed the Key and it now flows through and in both of them equally. As far as the Key is concerned, they are truly one being now and forever.

Dawn smiles her crooked little girl smile, "So, guess you're stuck with me, huh?"

He smiles back, glad to have the honor of sharing her destiny in such an intimate way. "Guess so. But, if Glory comes back, can we just move to Montana or something?" He says with a wink.


Downstairs, everybody is readying to go. Most have slept through as much of the day as they could - with whoever gave them the most comfort. Dawn and Xander have decided not to tell anyone about what has taken place between them until after. There really isn't any evidence to indicate that anything would be impacted one way or the other if they tried to explain the whole thing right now. Anyway, there was a real possibility that it would just distract people. And other than feeling even more connected to the other, there really isn't anything else different - no superpowers - just a cosmic marriage of sorts that they haven't expected.

Holding hands, they leave to face the next bend in the road - together.