This is written for a challenge on the Hero Awards. As far as spoilers and time line it's totally messed but here's the information you need to know. Dawn is 17. Spike doesn't have a soul just his chip and his good (?) intentions. Spuffy never happened (thank god) however Spike does still have a crush on Buffy. Buffy doesn't know Spike's crypt has a basement. Due to challenge requirements and my own decisions, Spike's basement/crypt has been drastically redecorated.

Summary: Dawn is discovering there are benefits to being the key. D/S


Chapter One

Dawn ambled through the cemetery. She took a deep breath. She had never realized before that night had an almost tangible smell, dark, cool and earthy. She meandered between the headstones. It had become easy to hide from Buffy. Her big sis didn't realize it but she had a schedule, 12 cemeteries in 7 nights. She never hit the same one in the same week unless there was trouble a brewing. Dawn saw the newborn's hand thrust through the dirt. She sat down on the headstone across from the grave and waited for him to claw up out of the grave. She staked him cleanly through the heart while his legs were still trapped below the ground.

"Hey! You can't just do that! You staked Robbie!" An indignant female voice shrieked behind her. Dawn turned quickly coming face to face with a female vamp. As a human, she had been a college student, maybe 21 with long red gold hair. "He was my fiancé." The girl held up a hand with a tiny diamond engagement ring on it. "We were going to spend forever together but no people like you have to come along and ruin it, Bitch."

Dawn rolled her eyes. "Oh you called me a bitch, I'm scared now."

The vamp growled and rushed her. Dawn held up a hand and whispered "Anamoria." The female vamp hit the shimmering shield and flew backwards.

"What the hell? You're a witch." The vamp said kicking up to her feet.

"Not exactly," Dawn said.

The vampire stalked warily around her.

"It's dropped you know." Dawn said. "The shield, I can't actually hold it, more of a defensive maneuver really." She knew she was taunting the vamp, but it got old watching them stalk around her, trying to decide if the shield was still up or not.

The vampire grinned and rushed her again. This time Dawn struck out with her right hand and knocked the vampire to the ground with a clothesline. The female vamp landed with a whoof as the air was forced out of her lungs. She got up more slowly backing off from Dawn. She sniffed the air.

"You're not human, but you're not a demon or a slayer either." The vamp said.

"You know, it's never really been determined what I am. I guess the best title for me is The Key." Dawn twirled a stake casually in her hand.

"It doesn't matter what you are. You killed Robbie so I have to kill you." The female vamp snarled and rushed at Dawn again. She attacked with a series of punches, jab, roundhouse, hook. She shoved the palm of her hand into Dawn's chin, snapping her head back. Dawn staggered back and caught herself against a headstone.

"Ok, that hurt." Dawn said as she launched a spinning hook kick at the vamp's head. The vampire was more aware now. She knew she was fighting an able opponent and ducked. Dawn's foot sailed over her head and Dawn caught herself in a crouch. She swept her legs at the vampire's feet and managed to send her to the ground. Dawn pounced on her, straddling the female vampire's body. She shoved the stake into her chest and the vamp exploded beneath her. Dawn got up and dusted her hands off.

"You were just playing with her, weren't you Niblet." A British voice came from the shadows.

Dawn grinned in the direction of the voice and shrugged. "Yeah, but it's no fun if you take them too easy." She leaned against a headstone and waited for the platinum blond to show himself. The shadows swirled and he seemed to materialize from them. He walked over and leaned against the stone with her. He crossed his ankles, black Doc Martens planted against the ground. He fumbled a cigarette from the pack and lit it. Dawn raked her eyes over him. He was dressed in his customary outfit, black jeans, black tee shirt with a red shirt thrown over it. A long black leather duster topped it all off. Dawn smiled. It should have made him look like a Matrix reject, instead Spike made the coat look really good.

"Not about fun, it's about staying alive." Spike said.

"Did I look like I was having a problem staying alive?" Dawn asked.

"She got some good hits in to you, might bruise on the chin there."

Dawn shrugged. "Won't be the first."

"Big Sis is gonna figure it out eventually you know." Spike said breathing out a puff of smoke.

"Nah, Buffy is all tied up in slaying and doing the mom thing, not to mention the constant Angel mopage." Dawn said. There was hint of resentment in her voice.

Spike chuckled. "You'd think that gig would get old after awhile. She's been up to it what 5 years now?"

"I guess." Dawn said noncommittally.

"Still, she's not stupid. You turn up with enough bruises and scrapes she's gonna put two and two together." Spike insisted.

Dawn rolled her eyes. "She thinks I get into fights at school."

Spike laughed sardonically. "Come on Niblet, you've never gotten in a fight with anything in your life, supernatural excluded."

"Have so! I mean there was Molly Paxton in the fourth grade. I totally kicked her ass." Dawn shot back.

Spike sucked hard on his cigarette to keep from laughing out loud. Dawn wouldn't appreciate it. "I beg your pardon then, you're a regular rounder."

"So are you gonna tell her or not Spike?" Dawn said standing up. She brushed vamp dust off her black leather jacket and black jeans.

"Relax; I'll keep your secret from Big Sis. Just don't go getting yourself killed. She'd stake me right and proper if you did." Spike said as he stood up.

"I'm careful. Walk me home?" Dawn asked sounding like a little girl instead of the 17 year old she was.

"If I show up 'round your house the Slayer is gonna get her vamp hackles in a rise." Spike said.

"So, she'll think you're stalking." Dawn shot back. She rolled her eyes. It wasn't like Spike hadn't spent every single night out in front of their house for the last couple of years anyway.

Spike put his hand over his heart. "I'm wounded, really. Alright, let's go." He stood up and beckoned to Dawn.

The walk back to the house on Revello drive was a short one, to short in Dawn's estimation.

"Thanks for walking me home, and for being my guardian-well I don't want to say angel." Dawn said.

"Oh, bollocks no, let's not go there. Evil Undead Savior is an acceptable title." Spike said with a smirk.

"Alright, goodnight Evil Undead Savior." Dawn said as she scrambled up the same tree Buffy had climbed for so many years. She ducked through the open window into Buffy's old room, her room now. Dawn put on her pajamas and sat on the bed to brush out her long brown hair. She was just snuggling down into the bed when she heard Buffy come in the front door. She closed her eyes quickly and feigned sleep. Buffy cracked open her door and peeked in, like she did every night after she came home from slaying. She shut the door silently. Dawn heard her footsteps as she walked down the hall to Mom's old room.

Buffy didn't have a clue about Dawn's extracurricular activities. It had started several months ago. Dawn was sixteen and seven months old when she discovered there were benefits to being the key, the kind of benefits that weren't someone trying to use you to open a portal to a hell dimension. When she had turned seventeen the powers had really kicked up a notch. She had a theory that she'd just get stronger as she got older, which was pretty exciting really. It had started with super strength maybe not slayer strength but much stronger then your average almost seventeen year old girl. The speed had come next. She was wicked fast. Dawn had started to experiment with her new found powers. She discovered the shield by accident really. A vamp had rushed her in the graveyard and she'd thrown up her hand, uttering a word she didn't recall ever hearing or knowing. It had happened purely by instinct.

After that she'd hung out in the magic shop some and talked to Anya a lot about magic. She'd done a lot of research, trying to figure out if what she'd done was magic or not. She never did find a spell like the one she could use. In secret she'd tried some magic and while she could do the little things, she didn't have an affinity for it, not like Willow or Tara had.

The latest benefit of her key powers she had just discovered a few weeks ago when she'd cut her arm during a night of slaying. She healed quicker then your average human, maybe not quite like a slayer and certainly not like a vampire but the cut on her arm had healed in half the time it normally would have.

She had considered telling Buffy but it was nice keeping her superhero status to herself, besides she didn't know what all her powers were yet. Knowing Buffy she'd go ballistic if she ever found out. She'd have this whole rampage where she yelled about Dawn having a normal life and the Powers that be were not going to do this to her little sister and she'd completely miss the part where Dawn liked having super powers sort of like where she'd missed the part where Dawn wasn't fourteen anymore. So for now it was her secret, well hers and Spike's.

Spike had found out by accident one night too. He had snuck up on her while she was taking out a vampire. She had begged him not tell Buffy. He'd agreed but he had kept a close eye on her since that night. Every night when she went out to play with her powers, Spike somehow found her. Sometimes he'd stick to the shadows and lurk, just watching her. Sometimes he'd come out of the shadows and they talked. Dawn liked those nights best.

She had almost drifted off when she awoke with a start. She hadn't written in her diary today. She always wrote in her diary. The Dawn Chronicles had started sometime when she was eight or so. Dawn flipped the bedside lamp on and got out of bed. She padded over to the closet and rummaged in the back. She found the bright pink raincoat that she never wore and snagged the diary from the inside pocket of it. Then she walked over to the small pile of stuffed animals she kept and took the bear she'd made at Adopt a Bear, Rufus was his name. Rufus had a tear along his seam. Dawn took her diary keys out of the tear in the seam and sat back down on the bed. She unlocked the diary and set the keys to the side. She was paranoid Buffy would find her diary and read it thus finding out all about her secret life.

Dear Me,

Today was, well pretty uneventful. The counselors are all going whacko trying to get everyone to start thinking about college already. I'll wait until closer to graduation to contemplate my future. Who knows, the way things go in Sunnydale, the world could end before senior year so really whats the point of contemplating a future I might not have. Besides Superheroes don't go to college, do they? Unless it's Professor X's college and I think maybe that's just a high school.

Ben Hatfield asked me out today. It's funny a year ago I would have jumped at the chance to go out with him. I mean he is a total muffin and cupcake and lots of other yummy pastries, but I don't know. I just didn't want to. It sounds dumb but I'd much rather hang out in the cemeteries with Spike. He's been so many places and seen so many things and besides have you seen him? Muffin doesn't even begin to describe Spike. He's got these washboard abs, sometimes I go to his crypt early just I can wake him up and he'll answer the door without a shirt on, just his jeans and they kind of ride low on his hips and he's got a great ass and his eyes, to die for, I didn't know eyes came in that shade of blue. Ok, back on track, Ben just seems like a kid when compared to Spike. And okay, I know technically Spike is evil. I shouldn't like him, only he's not evil. He just likes to pretend. I've never seen him do even one evil thing. Sure Buffy has told me stories but I think she exaggerates. Besides if he were really truly evil, she'd stake him. It's sort of her destiny.

I killed two more vampires tonight. One was a newborn, so I'm not sure I'm going to add him to my kill count. I mean I didn't even let him get out of the grave before I staked him but the other one was his girlfriend and she was pretty good. I totally dusted her, of course, but she got in some good punches. I might actually have a bruise on my chin tomorrow, which means lying to Buffy and making up a school fight. Spike says one of these days Buffy will wise up but I don't think so. The thing about Buffy is she's pretty self involved with herself and how she's going to save the world, or Sunnydale or whatever the current crisis seems to be. If it's not a crisis then it's Angel. If she ever gets suspicious and starts to grill me all I have to do is mention him and its instant mopage. She totally forgets whatever it was that she was reaming me for. Honestly though, I don't like to do that very often. It throws her into a funk for days.

Anyway, if I'm gonna pay attention in class tomorrow, yeah that's going to happen. I better sleep. Maybe I'll have dreams about Spike. Night!