AN: I've had a really bad couple of years which left me uninspired and unhappy about my writing. But, recently I've become inspired again and I'm trying to pick up where I left off. I've started writing new chapters for this and I'm also rewriting previous chapters. Chapter One has been rewritten and uploaded and I'm working on changes to the rest of the chapters. It's a process made slower by the fact that every time I read over what I think is the final version I find something else I want to change. Enjoy, and please tell me what you think of the new and hopefully improved chapters.

Part 11

Connor watched Dawn with worried eyes. She had seemed so driven, almost desperate lately, more so than anyone else here. He knew she had been avoiding him, shutting herself up in her room to read. It seemed that was all she did lately was research. She had stopped talking to him too, other than to tell him how busy she was and that she really needed to finish reading whatever the book of the moment was.

Yesterday, after the battle planning session in the courtyard he had come in to find the desperate, driven look gone from her tightly drawn features with a new one in its place. Fear. He didn't like seeing it. Even though he knew they were all scared about the situation they currently found themselves embroiled in he wasn't sure that was the source of her fear.

It bothered him. He wished she would talk to him about it. No great conversationalist himself, his bumbling attempts to get her to talk had met with failure. They had shared so much in conversation before so why wouldn't she share this with him? He just didn't understand girls.

He needed help, and while his relationship with his father was getting better, there was someone else he would rather talk to.

Wesley's concentration gradually focused back on the real world instead of the dusty tomes in front of him when he realized someone was trying to get his attention.

He was unsurprised to see it was Connor. Even though Connor's relationship with Angel was improving he still sought out Wes often to talk or keep each other company. They had both screwed up badly and were trying to make up for it. And though they were no longer alienated and loathed, neither had the good relationships they had once had with the rest of the AI team. They both stood on the fringes of the group. These common bonds all went a long way towards the friendship Wesley and Connor were building. And Wesley genuinely liked Connor. If things had worked out as he had intended instead of leaving him with a scar around his neck and shattered friendships, Wesley would have raised Connor himself. He imagined that he would have been proud to call Connor son.

He marked his place within the book then shifted his full attention to the teenager. Having gotten to know Connor better than the rest of the group he could easily see the signs that something was bothering him. Though his face was showing the familiar mask Connor used when he wanted to hide his feelings, his eyes were truly the window to his troubled soul.

"What's wrong?" Wesley asked.

At his words, his companions at the table lifted their heads. Cordelia and Willow briefly noted Connor's presence before dropping back to the books they were reading. Dawn's glance was wary as she noticed the new arrival. She shut the book she was reading and laid her hands over it as she pulled it closer. Wesley noted the actions with puzzlement. If he didn't know better he'd think she was hiding something.

Connor ignored the others' reactions and spoke solely to Wesley. "I need to talk to you about something. In private," he added as Dawn stilled at his words.

"Sure," Wesley said. "Why don't we go to my room?" He grabbed the book he had been studying and a few others from his stack then led the way upstairs.

Connor followed him without a word, a fact that was only noticed and worried about by one of the people left at the table.

Dawn tried to cast her attention back toward the book she was reading without much success. She had a bad feeling she knew what Connor was talking to Wesley about. Connor might not be as well versed in communicating or understanding people from this dimension, but she knew he was very perceptive to moods and telling whether someone was hiding something. And she was, unfortunately, which only made the tension inside her ratchet up another notch. Connor was a regular bloodhound when it came to sniffing out deceit.

It wasn't that she didn't want him to find out what was going on. She just wanted to be ready first! She hadn't found out everything she needed to know yet, nor was she anywhere near to dealing with the knowledge of what was required of her. She wanted all the meager control she could get over this horrid situation. And now, Connor was discussing his concerns with Wesley, she knew he was, and Wes wasn't exactly the dullest blade in the weapons chest. He was very intelligent. Wesley would figure it all out soon, she knew. And if he went to anyone else with his concerns…well there was no way she'd be able to keep the cat in the bag. She sighed. She might as well learn all she could before chaos erupted. Buffy was sure to have a cow when she found out what Dawn would have to do.

She reluctantly set to reading again. So far, it was pretty dry stuff. There were mentions of places the Key had been hidden and a long list of its caretakers. Her interest perked up when she read of someone in the Order named Bartemus who had tried to steal the Key, believing that it should be destroyed instead of safeguarded by the others. He had named the rest of the Order fools that endangered the world with their insistence on guarding the Key. Bartemus' attempted theft had been thwarted by a monk named Simon who had arrived early to relieve another monk named, Philip, of his guard duty. He had found Philip on the floor with his throat slit and Bartemus making his way through the wards that guarded the Key. Simon had sounded the alarm and a magical battle had ensued. Though Simon had previously been Bartemus' superior in magical power and skill, he was taken off guard by the Dark Magic Bartemus had wielded that day. Fortunately, help had arrived quickly. Unfortunately, Bartemus had escaped and soon formed the Knights of Byzantium with support from wealthy relatives and benefactors.

While the story was interesting it still didn't offer any help with her current problem. She started skimming through passages and skipping ahead. It was at the last few pages of the journal that she hit the jackpot.

The final three entries depicted the last days the monks had held the Key. Fear and desperation colored the news that the Beast was close on their trail and they would make just one last attempt at protecting the Key. What that attempt had been wasn't given though it was noted that it failed. The next entry revealed that one of the monks had been visited by a powerful messenger of light with the tools of their salvation. The monk had been gifted with the blood of the Chosen Guardian and another Champion, again Dawn was frustrated when it didn't say who, that would form the base of their spell to transfer the Key to human form. The spell had been found long ago, but the requirements had been deemed impossible to meet until that moment. The monk's relief was visible in the excited, barely legible scrawl.

Frustratingly, Dawn was left to wonder what all the requirements of the spell were though it did make an abbreviated reference to the book it could be found in. Figuring out which book that referred to was going to be very difficult, but not impossible she hoped. There was so much more she wanted to know about her origins. Did she have a soul? Was the change permanent? Would she return to the previous form of the Key when she died? Could she go to Heaven with Buffy? Would the Key disappear when she died or could it be passed on to anyone? Would her kids have the abilities of the Key? And just who was this other Champion they had made her human body from?

In a way, it was a relief that she hadn't been formed from Hank. It made the knowledge of his abandonment slightly less painful. Could he have known deep inside that she wasn't his? Was that why he had left her? But Joyce hadn't known Dawn wasn't hers and still loved her…

Dawn still missed her mother with a grief she knew time would never erase completely. It was all so confusing. Her emotions rolled and tumbled around inside her like clothes in a dryer.

The knowledge of her physical origins was mind boggling. Buffy was actually her mother! She was only a few years younger than her mother. Did Buffy realize? What would she say? Could Buffy know who her father was?

She was beginning to get an idea of how disorienting it was for Connor to look at Angel and know Angel was his father. While Angel actually was hundreds of years older than Connor, he appeared only a few years older. It was all so weird.

She had been sure that this book would hold the answers to her questions and it was so aggravating that it only brought up more questions. Typical. It was just typical of the Powers That Be to drop a book into her hands that promised knowledge and only gave confusion. Stupid PTB's.

She irritably turned the page and read on. The final entry was only five sentences with a brief spell written underneath in Latin. 'Final task accomplished. Key sent into hiding with Guardian. Have encoded Key with knowledge of its use in hopes of foiling Beast's ritual. Am sending chronicle to Guardian. May the Lord protect us all.

The spell looked pretty simple which was lucky for her since she had only cast one spell before in her life. She looked around the table at her companions. Cordelia and Willow were heavily absorbed in the books they were reading at their end. They likely wouldn't notice if she were to slip away and perform the spell. Dawn quietly closed the book and carefully eased back her chair from the table. She casually rose from her seat with the book held tight in her hands and stealthily crept away from the table, leaving the room so silently that Willow and Cordelia never even looked up.

Upstairs, in Wesley's room, Wesley laid the books he had carried with him on the desk, pushing aside careful notes and translations along with the other books that were currently sprawled across the desk's surface.

"What's on your mind, Connor?" Wesley asked taking a seat in one of the room's wing back chairs. Connor declined the offer to sit in the other chair and instead began pacing.

"You know how to talk to girls, right?" Connor asked.

Wesley's eyebrows rose in surprise. From Connor's tense manner he had expected something more serious than girl trouble. The way Connor was acting Wesley had been expecting him to talk about the current Apocalypse they were trying to avert. "Well, yes." On further reflection of his past love life he amended, "in theory, anyway."

Connor stopped pacing to stare at Wesley with worried eyes and a tense face. All of him was tense actually; he looked like one tug in the wrong direction would cause him to explode. "How do you get a girl to talk to you? Tell you what's wrong?"

"Something's bothering Dawn?" Wesley asked. "This is a rather tense situation we're dealing with, Connor. Everyone handles an apocalypse differently."

Connor shook his head, irritably swiping the hair that fell into his eyes out of the way. "No, it's more than that. She's acting odd, lately." He started pacing the room again, a worried frown spreading over his face.

Wesley's mind flashed back to the way Dawn had seemed to hide the book she was reading downstairs when Connor had shown up. No, he was probably just imagining things. It was just the stress getting to them all; the desperate need to find a solution that was making them edgy and appear to be acting strange. It was nothing more than that, but it appeared that way to Connor. To ease the boy's mind he began to question him, ready to reassure him that it was nothing more than stress getting to Dawn and when they had beaten this apocalypse things would get back to normal. Well, as normal as any of their lives seemed to get anyway. "Acting odd in what way?"

Connor ran a hand through his hair, the disheveled hairstyle leading Wesley to suspect this wasn't the first time he had done so. "She's been so…" he searched for words. "Obsessed," he finally settled upon. "She researches all the time."

"She's just worried. We're running out of time, and we all want to find the way out of this as soon as possible," Wesley reassured him.

"No," Connor denied. "I mean all the time. She rarely sleeps. Even though her light is off I can hear her moving around in her room, turning pages and closing books."

"Well, that's not so unusual," Wes said. "I've pulled a few all-nighters myself lately."

Connor turned back to Wes. "Every night?" He shot back.

Wesley blinked, surprised. "Well, no."

"That's not everything," Connor added. "Have you noticed how she hoards certain books?"

Thinking back to their research sessions Wesley was startled to realize that was true. There were books Dawn had kept back for herself, claiming she was in the middle of reading them. Other books went missing only to mysteriously return later. A worried frown appeared on his face. It looked like Connor wasn't mistaking the usual apocalyptic stress for something more after all.

"She always looks so desperate, except today. Today the look changed to fear, more fearful than I've ever seen her. Something's wrong with her Wes, and she won't talk to me. I've tried to get her to talk. We've never had a problem talking before," his hands rose in frustration. "And now," he gestured with his right hand to make his point, "she won't talk to me at all." His voice rose. "She's avoiding me and everyone else in this house!"

This was a lot more serious than he had first thought, Wesley realized. Something was clearly up with Dawn and they needed to find out what.

Dawn avoided the bedrooms upstairs since Connor and Wesley had headed for the former Watcher's to talk privately. She didn't want to chance running into them. Instead, she headed away from the bedrooms and down. Dawn headed down into the basement after a brief detour to gather what she needed.

The well built steps into the basement didn't even creak as she carefully descended, though she expected them to since she was trying to be so quiet. Her luck usually didn't run this good. She headed straight for one of the storage rooms off to the side.

She paused in the doorway and juggled the items in her arms to free a hand for the light switch. Light flooded the room illuminating the shelves lining the walls and also the freestanding storage shelves carefully spaced within the room to create aisles.

She turned around and locked the door, not that it would stop Buffy, Angel, Willow, or Connor for long, but it would at least buy her some time if it was anyone else who came looking for her and tried to stop what she was about to do. She headed for the back of the room to set up. Candles were arranged and lit, her circle was drawn, and the herbs she'd brought to help her with meditating into the trance the spell required were set aflame.

She was as ready as she could be.

Dawn inhaled the scents slowly filling the room and began the process of relaxing her body. In and out, the sound of her breathing fell into a steady rhythm.





Minutes passed by without her knowing. As she fell into a trance all sense of time slipped away. She was only aware of her mission and what she had to do.

Dawn focused her attention inward. She found herself immersed in memories that passed by in a series of flashes. They played like movies where she and her family were the stars as events rewound back to the beginning. First what was real, the memories of her life after the monks sent her to Buffy.

There were memories of kisses and conversation with Connor, their arrival in Monstropolis, Sully's appearance in the hotel, mysterious vampire killings in the news, Willow's arrival in Sunnydale, watching Buffy and Xander slowly realize they were in love, taking out a vampire in a cemetery while Buffy watched, training with Buffy in the backyard, fighting alongside her in the hole in the ground last spring, Tara's death, Willow's descent into the dark magics, all of Sunnydale singing with Sweet's arrival and the night they all lost their memories because of Willow's spell.

Faster and faster the memories tumbled by, counting down to the beginning inexorably drawing her to the heart of her existence as the Key.

Buffy's resurrection, the summer spent grieving with Spike, her sister's death, her kidnapping, running from Glory in a stolen RV, her mother's death… On and on it went.

Soon all her real memories had flashed by and the false ones appeared in a dizzying whirl of double vision. Laid alongside the false memories the monks had gifted her and everyone with to smooth the way for her arrival in human form was knowledge of how events had really happened. She could see just how pervasive the spell of the monks really had been and she felt a little sick that her existence had messed with everyone's lives and had stolen their rightful memories. She couldn't help comparing the spell of the monks to Willow's memory spells that had backfired so miserably last year as she watched the revelation of the true events of the timeline before her arrival.

Finally there were no more memories and Dawn found herself standing in front of a locked door. A bright green glow shimmered through the gaps in the frame. Chains and a padlock bound the door shut.

This was it.

Behind that door lay knowledge of what she really was and what she could do. Here was the answer to how to stop the apocalypse.

Dawn felt both trepidation and excitement about opening that door. Finally she would have answers to all her questions; she would truly know what it meant to be the Key. All the mysteries would be solved. And yet, she was also very scared of what answers she might find. Stopping the end of the world never came without a price she knew. Sometimes, ignorance could be bliss.

But, not this time.

She had to know.

Dawn squared her shoulders and spoke the words of the spell the book had given for this moment.

As the last syllable dropped from her lips, the padlock laid across the door exploded in a shower of sparks like a firework had exploded. The chains fell from the door with a clatter and clink of metal upon metal then they too disappeared in a profusion of bursting lights.

Dawn reached her hand forward and gently turned the knob.

The door gave a soft click then slowly swung outward. And Dawn stared in astonishment at the bright green glow filling the chamber. She looked into the heart of the Key, because even now she still thought of herself and her powers of the Key as two separate things.

As she stood there, the bright green light began to spread through the open doorway, and between one moment and the next Dawn was enveloped in light and warmth.

Willow slammed her book shut and threw it in the discard pile with the others in the middle of the table.

"I can't find anything," she huffed in frustration. "There is absolutely no magical means to keep someone from opening a portal or leaving a dimension. At least not a means we can use to prevent something of this scale," she qualified. "We'd need the power of a god or something pretty close to it." Willow rested her glum face in both hands and sighed in defeat.

"What about you, Willow?" Cordelia asked. "You're Buffy's big gun. You took on Glory and survived. I don't mean to bring up bad memories, but you almost ended the world last spring. Seems to me like you've got plenty of power."

Willow shook her head. "But that wasn't all me last spring," Willow denied. "I took in a lot of power. I stole magic to do it. I almost turned Dawn back into the Key's original form just so I could use her to boost my power," she said in a shame-filled voice gesturing to Dawn.

The redhead's hand suddenly stopped mid-gesture when she realized she was pointing at no one. She stared in confusion at Dawn's empty chair. "Wait a minute. Where's Dawn?"

Cordelia tried to remember when Dawn had left and couldn't. "She was here a minute ago, wasn't she?"

"You lost her?" Connor's voice accused from the doorway. Wesley stood beside him and laid a calming hand on Connor's shoulder. It was a measure of just how close Connor had grown to the elder Englishman in such a short time that the teenager accepted the comforting touch and didn't shrug it away uncomfortably like he used to do when he had first arrived in this dimension and Cordelia or Angel had attempted to hug him. Holtz had never been all that generous with affectionate hugs or the like. Generally, the only time Holtz made physical contact with Connor when he was growing up was during training where he never worried about pulling his punches or when he attempted to beat out the demonic influence of Connor having two vampires for parents. He had never let Connor forget that it was Angelus who had murdered his family and his blood that ran in Connor's veins. He hadn't even known what a hug was until he came to this dimension much less the quiet support that Wesley conveyed every time he laid his hand on Connor's shoulder.

Willow winced at Connor's harshly spoken words, feeling slightly guilty for not even noticing Dawn's departure. Maybe the discussion had driven Dawn away. She remembered that Dawn had spent hours with Tara's body after the shooting besides facing Willow's murder attempts last May. Those weren't comfortable memories to bring up in conversation no matter that Dawn had said she forgave Willow. Until the day she died Willow knew she would always regret everything she had done or attempted to do to Dawn in the last year. She had a lot to atone for.

In contrast to Willow's chastened reaction, Cordelia bristled at Connor and was about to reply in Queen C fashion, but she was cut off by Wesley's interruption before she could even begin.

"Do you have any idea where she might have gone?" Wesley questioned. "It's very important we talk to her. Something is bothering Dawn. Whatever it is she's dealing with she's been hiding it and I have suspicions it directly affects the situation we face now."

Willow thought back to Dawn's behavior the last few days and little pieces clicked together to form a bigger picture. Now that she wasn't so distracted the signs were clear. Wesley's worry was contagious. "He's right. I've been too distracted to pay attention, but I should have been." Willow's face drew into a frown of concern. "I didn't even notice her leave."

"I didn't either," Cordelia added guiltily. "Who knows how long she's been missing?"

All of a sudden Willow's eyes widened then bled to black and she shot up out of her chair in alarm as a wave of incredible power swept through the house. She nearly staggered under the weight of it. So much power. Willow's hair started to streak with black as she fought the temptation to take in all that power. It would be so easy to touch it, to just take in a little. No one would know…

No! Willow would know, and she wasn't walking that path anymore. She tried shielding against the magic, but the enormous amount of power being generated was too much to block out completely and against her will she absorbed some of it. Concerned, Wesley abandoned his post by the door and nearly flew to Willow's side to catch her when it looked as if she might fall. Wesley's arm came around her waist and Willow clutched at him as her knees threatened to collapse. A smaller part of her mind that wasn't freaking out about the current crisis amazedly noted how good it felt to be pressed up against the ex-watcher and held in his arms. Who knew?

"Uh, guys?" Willow's voice trembled slightly. Streaks of black appeared and disappeared within her hair as her battle with temptation raged on. Her companions stared at the visible signs of her struggle with mixed reactions of concern, alarm, and surprise. "Something's happening and whatever it is is generating massive amounts of magic. We need to find Dawn now." Unsaid, was how much the power felt like the Key. Every being that possessed magic in some form or another from other witches to the Key and even the Slayer had a magical aura, something that was unique to every individual. Having spent so much time with Dawn in the past Willow was well aware what the magic that came with being a Key felt like and this was all too similar. Whatever Dawn was doing had loosened the bindings that kept her power restrained.

"Go," Wesley ordered Connor and Cordelia. "Alert the others then meet back here."

Cordelia and Connor nodded in acknowledgement and quickly scattered from the room each heading in separate directions.

Wesley looked down at the witch in his arms whose eyes showed no signs of returning to their natural color in reaction to the magic they could both feel steadily building in the air. "Any idea what's going on or if Dawn may be a part of it? Could there be intruders?"

Willow slowly nodded as she continued to battle against the part of herself that wanted to seize all this power and mold it to her own use. Her head lowered to rest against Wesley's shoulder and she breathed in his scent and focused on it to anchor herself. "I don't sense anyone else's presence. No idea what exactly is going on," she murmured into his neck, "but I'd say it's a sure bet Dawn's involved. That's the energy of the Key we're feeling and it's coming from the basement."

Wesley's eyes widened at her words as everyone rushed into the room in a babble of voices demanding to know what was going on.

Deep in the basement, the storage room began to fill with an unearthly glow of green light. The source was Dawn still sitting in her meditative pose for the spell. Her skin shimmered with a green sheen as everything that made the Key what it was unfurled inside her and expanded from within, leaking into the room as it became too much for her body to hold. She had never realized before just how separate from herself her powers as the Key were until she felt them take control at that moment.

The light grew brighter and brighter as an unseen breeze whispering of her magic began to gently swirl around the room.

The wind grew stronger, building in power as it centered on Dawn like a cyclone, whipping her hair about and ruffling her clothes. It lifted her from the floor drawing her out of her meditative pose until Dawn was standing then levitated her further until her feet no longer touched the floor. Dawn was held in the power's embrace in mid-air. Her arms spread, taking in the change that was happening as the power worked on finishing the transformation of the Key the monks had begun when they first gave it human form so many months ago. All her earlier fear and anxiety had vanished as if it had never been as she felt herself becoming so much more than she had ever been before.

Unable to speak above the voices raised in panic Willow mentally shouted in all of their minds. 'QUIET!'

Everyone's hands but Willow's and Wesley's, who she had left out of the command, raised to heads wincing in pain at the force of Willow's order. It was much stronger than usual as she put the force of the excess magic she had absorbed behind it in an effort to cleanse her system of it.

"Thank you," Willow nodded, satisfied at the ensuing silence, no one even daring to speak at the sight of her glare.

"No, I don't know what's going on," Willow continued. "Yes, it involves Dawn and her powers as the Key. More than that, I cannot say." Though she had a few suspicions from the feel of the magic. "Now we've gotta get to the basement and stop her before it's too late."

A stampede ensued in the direction of the basement that briefly bottlenecked in the doorway when too many bodies tried to exit through it at once. Using their extra strength Connor, Angel, and Buffy extricated themselves first and took the lead in the mad dash to the basement.

In the now empty room, Willow sighed in worry that they would be too late. It might be left to her to stop Dawn and right now she wasn't very confident that she could do so. The temptation to take all that power was constant and overwhelming and she knew it would only get worse the closer she got to ground zero. Unfortunately, she didn't have a choice. She looked up at the ex-Watcher who was still supporting her weight though she knew he was just as anxious to get to the basement in a hurry. "Help me down the stairs?"

"Of course," Wesley murmured, and the two of them left the room together.

Connor and Buffy reached the basement first and unerringly headed toward the door of the storage room. Frustrated at finding it locked, Buffy and Connor backed up as one, their movements in unison as they each raised a leg and kicked the door in.

The door shattered, exploding inward at the combined force of the Destroyer and the Slayer, the strength of their movements increased by the desperate panic riding the two of them.

Behind them, Angel's eyes widened at the sight now before them.

A clatter of pounding feet then the slower steps of Willow and Wesley announced the arrival of the others.

"Oh my god," Cordelia murmured.

"Willow, what's happening to her?" Buffy's voice raised in fear.

Willow stared at the sight of Dawn suspended in midair. Utter fear for Dawn gave her the control she needed and her hair and eyes reverted to their normal state. She was able to let go of Wesley and his arms slid from her waist as she stepped closer to the doorway.

A globe of green energy surrounded Dawn like a shield of solid jade holding the group at bay while smaller bolts arced across Dawn's body like lightning. Her hair had bled to a deep emerald color and Dawn's eyes were no longer normal. Instead they glowed and swirled with a play of colors, first Dawn's normal blue, then flickers of Buffy's hazel eyes that turned to a jade green before the cycle started all over again.

"I can't say for sure but I think," Willow paused carefully, "that Dawn has somehow awakened the Key and it's trying to take her over."

"Can we stop it?" Buffy asked, staring at her baby sister anxiously. "Why would she do such a thing?"

"I don't know," Willow answered helplessly to both questions. She had a feeling she knew the answer to the second all too well but she wasn't going to say anything until she talked to Dawn. If she could talk to Dawn again. Willow tentatively reached her out with her power to Dawn and attempted to break the shield. If she could just get to Dawn she might be able to interrupt the magic and channel it away from Dawn.

Willow's attempt was vehemently rejected and the force of it blasted her out of the doorway taking Wesley and Cordelia with her to the floor. "Oww," Willow moaned in pain.

"Well that answers that question," Xander grimly stated as Cordelia carefully extricated herself from beneath Willow with Wesley's help.

Willow held a hand to her head and moaned with pain. Wesley eased into position behind her on the floor and let her lean back against him. The magical backlash had given her quite a headache and her face was pale and etched with lines of pain.

"Why do her eyes keep changing color like that?" Connor spoke up for the first time. His eyes had never left Dawn.

Wesley answered, "I suspect that the different sides of Dawn are symbolic of deciding who will be dominant. The blue is the human side of Dawn, the hazel the essence of the Slayer the monks formed Dawn from, and the green her powers as the Key."

"Willow, can't you suck the power of the Key right out of her?" Xander asked in desperation.

"I tried," she answered weakly. There's no other way to do it without losing Dawn completely now," Willow answered unhappily. "It's too much power. I'd kill her."

While they debated options the energy seemed to reach some kind of crescendo that nearly blinded them all with the glare.

Heads ducked and eyes were covered with cries of dismay.

Unseen by the group the energy imploded inward on Dawn and disappeared inside her. Her form dropped out of the air and crumpled to the floor. The items previously swept around the room like a cyclone clattered to the floor as well.

Eyes quickly adjusted to the now dim room, Connor rushed to kneel at his girlfriend's side and carefully turned her over pulling her into his arms as he did so.

Buffy knelt at his side, and brushed her sister's now dark emerald hair away from her face. "Dawn? Dawn?"

Dawn's eyelids fluttered as the rest of the group gathered around in concern.

"That's right, Dawnie!" Xander cried excitedly. "Open up those beautiful eyes."

Connor looked up and glared jealously at Xander. What was he doing even noticing Dawn's eyes?

Buffy reached over and smacked the back of Connor's head. "Cool it. He loves her like a sister."

Connor flushed, embarrassed and turned back to Dawn in time to see her eyes open slightly.

Dawn stared up at him in confusion through pale jade eyes. "Connor, what are you doing here?"

"The better question is what have you been doing, Dawn?" Buffy interrupted.

Dawn turned to stare in alarm at her sister whose face matched her angry voice.

"I can explain," Dawn started.

"You bet you'll explain!" Buffy glared. "You scared ten years off of my already short lifespan!"

"Perhaps we should move this discussion someplace more comfortable?" Wesley suggested. "Dawn and Willow look to be in need of rest and recovery time that would be better spent somewhere other than the basement floor."

"Fine," Buffy agreed. "But don't think you've gotten out of explaining anything, Dawn."

"Believe me, I don't," Dawn answered tiredly.

Connor stood up carefully with his girlfriend's slender form cradled in his arms.

Dawn sighed in exhaustion and laid her head on Connor's shoulder closing her jade eyes. She was so tired…

Moments later she was asleep as the group made their way back upstairs.

End Part 11