Ian is mine, the rest belong to Joss and Mutant Enemy, so hands off him.

Thanks to Banadar and Peaches my faithful Beta readers, you guys are 'freakin awesome'.

Angels and ministers of grace, defend us – William Shakespeare

THE SERAPH VI

"You all stay here; I don't want to have to bury anyone else". With that she headed out the door. I had already slipped out the back and was only a few steps behind her. She froze. "What do you think you're doing?"

"My job", I replied. "I'm a guardian, and right now you need guarding." She turned to argue, but I spoke up first "any idea where to find some answers?"

She frowned, "not really, any suggestions."

"Sure" I replied, "I can take you there".

"Just tell me, then leave me alone."

So I told her where to find the old woman; then I turned and left. Needless to say, I got ahead of her, and cleared the route. Several of the eyeless guys had set up an ambush, they just weren't expecting me. I ran two of them through, even before they knew I was there. What can I say, I'm used to working in the shadows. The others turned to attack, but I was already moving. I decapitated two with my right and remove the arms of another with my left. The one remaining decided to run, but I threw my right hand sword and it pierced him through. He made a bit of noise dieing as I finished off his armless companion. I quickly disposed of the bodies so Buffy would be unaware of my presence. I went on ahead, and could feel the old woman. I could also feel a minion of evil. I knew Buffy would have to handle this herself, so I stayed back, and hoped that my presence would distract her opponent. I was surprised that not one, but two vampires showed up during the action. One she did not know about, it was Spike, and I was glad that I did not have to deal with him. After successfully dealing with the evil; I would have taken the axe to Faith if she had not, Buffy came out with the other vampire. He spoke for a while with Buffy and left her a powerful talisman. As she was walking back to the house, I made her aware of my presence again.

"I thought I said to leave me alone."

"Sometimes I have to ignore the wishes of others in order to do what is needed", I replied.

"Angel said that this is for a champion, someone who is more than mortal", she swung around to face me, "is it for you"?

I just shook my head, "I cannot wear that, besides, you know who your champion is". She just nodded and continued on, while I followed. Two blocks later I stopped her. "There are several minions of evil ahead of us, considering your condition, do you want them, do you want me to take them or do you just want to go around?"

A feral smile lit her face, "come on, let's see what you've got".

I sighed and went ahead to face them. There were two of the eyeless guys (I was told that they were called bringers) and a tera'k-khan. My swords were out, and in the presence of the demon, they were glowing. The bringers charged. I blocked, and in a whirling attack, gutted one and cut through the neck of the other. The uber-vamp took several swings at me, while advancing. I gave a little ground and then feinting with the left, went in low with the right and removed its legs at the knees. With its mobility so reduced, removing the head was a trivial exercise. As I looked around, I was surprised to hear applause from more than one source.

A voice called over my shoulder, "what did I tell you B, the kid has skills".

"He does indeed" was all she said in reply, but the look she gave me spoke volumes more.

I stretched my awareness out a bit. I could see bits of the path ahead and the best was through it. While Buffy was talking with Faith, I quickly planted the seeds of some possibilities in her mind.

Suddenly, she turned and looked at me "did you just say something"? I shook my head. She gave me a bit more of a look and then turned back to her conversation. Silently I walked the two of them back to the house and then went to the church for some rest. I was glad she hadn't asked a better question.

THE SERAPH VII

When I awoke, I was bathed in all the colors. The sun was up, and shining through the rather large stained glass window. I was suddenly aware of two people who were in the church with me. They were not near, but I could feel them getting closer.

"You sure he's here?"

"Duh, this is the church I brought him to."

"What the heck is a 'Disciple of Christ', anyway."

From directly behind them, I spoke. "They are a protestant group that believes that all churches should be one, so they tried to keep uniting with other denominations. They're a lot closer to the truth than most."

Both Dawn, and her companion jumped at the sound of my voice. Looking at me, Dawn glared; but the young man with the eye-patch gave a crooked grin and quipped, "knowing everything about religions, occupational hazard, I suppose".

Dawn fired a look at him and hissed "shut up Xander".

I just laughed a bit and then asked "so, what brings you to me".

Xander looked a bit embarrassed, so Dawn spoke up "can you help Xander's eye"?

I felt bad, but answered bluntly, "no, a more powerful being than me would be needed to do something like that". Their shoulders slumped in defeat, so I quickly added "the next time I see Raphael or one of the other archangels, I'll put in a word". This earned a pair of smiles. "Anything else?"

"Yeah" Xander answered, "could you help us train? It's gonna be bad, and we both need to brush up."

"Sure" I told them, "here, take the practice blades…" An hour later, they were pretty ragged. I had worked on supporting tactics, so they could help each other in a fight. It was hard for me to conceal my joy, here were just two regular people; and yet they were willing to sacrifice themselves for a world that had no idea who they were. How could evil overcome such virtue? "Not bad" was all I said out loud. But they could tell that I was pleased with their performance.

Xander was putting away the practice equipment and said "we should be getting back to the house".

"Could I speak to Dawn alone for a bit? I'll bring her back myself".

Xander just looked at Dawn with a bit of a grin and a raised eyebrow. Dawn nodded slightly, and Xander turned to me and said "sure, I'll tell Buffy that you'll be there shortly". He shot a smirk at Dawn and left the church.

I approached her, and she looked a bit scared.

"What?" was all she said.

"Have you ever tried tapping into the well of power within you?" She looked shaken

"God no!"

"Would you allow me to help you?" I asked.

"Will it hurt?" was her reply.

"At first, yes, but only at first; you will be reopening channels that have been dammed, removing the dams will not be easy."

She looked curious "will it help with what's coming"? I nodded "Even more importantly, it will help you to become all that you are".

"OK then, no time like the present", she said as she assumed the classic meditative position.

I kneeled next to her and taking her hand said "no time".

Half an hour later, we were walking back to her house. She acted a though she had a hangover. "I so cannot believe you didn't have any aspirin".

"Sorry" I said, "I don't need it and I cannot heal you without undoing what's been done".

She stole a glance at me, "did I really raise that altar with my mind?"

"Yes, you really did, how did it feel".

"Great" she said, "and a little scary".

"Don't fear it" I replied "remember, it is just a tool". "After all of this is over, Giles should be able to help you expand your control and your ability".

She looked up sharply "what about you?"

"It depends on whether or not I'm still around". "Assuming we live through this, I could be off to anywhere in the world; as Xander said 'occupational hazard'".

She started to reply, but we were at the house. I could tell that she was upset about my possible absence. It bothered me that I was the cause of pain, but I was flattered that she cared for me. Quickly, we went through the door and into the living room, where the meeting was just starting.

THE SERAPH VIII

Buffy explained her plan to turn all of the potentials into slayers. I smiled inwardly, my seeds had indeed grown. Buffy looked over at me, "can you go with us"?

Reluctantly I shook my head "I cannot go down there for two reasons; one, my presence would instantly attract attention so any surprise would be gone, two, my presence could attract beings who could destroy us all with a thought. I cannot go into Hell." I hated saying this, I felt like a coward, but I also knew that what I was saying was true.

Spike, of course, chimed in "what a surprise, you bugger off when the chips are down". Faith smacked him in the back of his head, this made me feel better, without having to respond.

I looked at all of them, "after Willow sends the axe down, she will be the first target of anything that gets past you all. That's where I will be; guarding her and anyone else that I can".

Buffy nodded, and Faith gave me a thumbs-up. "OK" Buffy said, "we know what we have to do and where we have to be. You all get some rest, tomorrow is gonna be quite a day".

I sidled up to Faith, "can you keep Kennedy busy for a while? I need to talk to Willow alone."

Faith didn't acknowledge me in any way, but the next words out of her mouth were "hey Ken, help me inventory the weapons huh". Kennedy happily went with the brunet and I was free to pursue Willow up into her room. As I entered the room, she spoke without turning "I'm not comfortable with you being involved".

"I'm sorry, if I could spare you the discomfort, I would; but you will need to be guarded. Those things are ugly and stupid, but they go for power like a hog to slop." (Sorry about the barnyard analogy, but I was born in the South) "They will find you, and in your weak state, they will tear you apart without breaking a sweat."

"I know" she sighed, "Its just that I gave up on God a long time ago, it's tough having you as a reminder of just how wrong I was."

I laughed quietly "you weren't wrong". She looked confused "how's that?"

I quoted "'a rose by any other name', etcetera, etcetera".

"So all gods are really God?"

I replied "no" I paused looking for a good analogy. "Do you eat beef?" "Ugh, no" she said. "But you do eat protein, don't you?"

"Well of course, you have to have protein, or you aren't healthy."

"So, Faith gets protein from Beef and you from Fish, ultimately protein is protein, right; the light is the light"

"OK, I get that now, but how can you guard me, knowing what I did; knowing the pain that I caused? How could you find me worthy of your best?"

"Sorry" I replied, "I'm not the 'Acme Judgment Company' you'll need to find a different Angel for that. I'm just going to do my best to make sure you live, how you deal with your past is up to you."

She looked into my eyes, rather deeply actually, and finally flung herself forward and hugged me tightly. I've got to admit, she fit pretty well in my arms. She loosened her grip a bit, and looking up at me said "thanks".

"All part of the service ma'am", I said in a lame Texas drawl. We held on to each other for a moment or two, until a rather sarcastic voice interrupted "so Red, you switching sides, or robbing cradles"?

"Both" she said, without even looking at Faith. We all had a good laugh, and reluctantly (on my part) we separated. Faith spoke up "don't worry Red, the kid's got wicked skills, he'll keep your cute little caboose safe, right kid".

"Scouts honor", I said, firing off a boy scout salute. They both laughed as I left the room.

"So, what's the laughter about kid?"

I turned to Kennedy, "just making sure Willow was kosher with me watching her back."

"You better do a good job", she glared at me.

I gave her a hard grin "you should worry about your backside, girly". With that I was off and down the stairs. As I was moving toward the back of the house I heard some voices ahead.

"I don't like it, your sis likes that twit (cool, I thought Dawn likes me); can I hit him, just a little, please."

I heard Giles reply, "Well if you want my opinion, who better to watch someone you love than someone like Ian."

"Bloody sissy boy" Spike sneered.

"Considering how much he and Dawn have in common, it is not surprising," said Giles. "I mean, they both have parts of them that are mystical and ancient, they are coping with being human, and they're teenagers."

"Well, he better do a good job" was all I heard of Buffy's reply.

Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, I waded through the sea of potentials and out the front door. Nothing bothered me on my way to the church; but I could tell that someone was inside. I didn't need any special senses to tell this either, I could hear the music out in the street. Someone in the church was blasting out Evanesence. I walked in and saw Dawn just sitting there, soaking in the music.

I walked up behind her "depress much"?

She jumped up and whipped around, throwing a pretty good backhand at my head. I could tell that she had improved on tapping her essence to increase her speed and strength, but I was still more than fast enough to catch her arm without having to move my head. "Don't scare me like that" she yelled.

I gave her a hard look "I've been working to keep you safe, I don't want to see your life thrown away in a moment of carelessness".

She looked abashed, "sorry".

"No worries, missy" I said in my best Australian (which is pretty good). She gave a little laugh. "Can we listen to something a bit less sad" I asked.

"What have you got" she asked. The answer was not much. I've always loved music, but there were only two groups/performers that I loved enough to collect. One was George Winston, the other was Dire Straits. I used to be classical kid, even before the whole guardian angel thing, but one day I read a review that said 'Mark Knopfler can make a guitar hoot and sing like a bunch of Angels whooping it up in a bar on a Friday night 'cause they're tired of having to be good all week'. That was such a great metaphor that I just had to go out and give it a try. I bought 'Making Movies', and was hooked. Anyway, I replaced Evanescence with George Winston's tribute to Vince Guaraldi; I also managed to turn down the volume.

Unfortunately, Dawn still looked miserable. "Why so sad?"

She faked a studious look "perhaps because we will all meet a rather gruesome demise on the morrow". She delivered this in a dead-on Giles impersonation that had me doubled over with laughter. "I wasn't trying to be that funny" she said; but she was having a tough time keeping a straight face. When my laughter died down she asked "aren't you afraid of what's coming"?

THE SERAPH IX

I gave that one a few seconds, while I figured out my answer. "I don't want to die, but if it happens, ah well; what I'm really afraid of is screwing up. I mean, if I die, then I'm at peace, sure, I'll miss some great stuff down here, but ultimately, I'm at peace. But if I screw up, then others die, that's a lot tougher to handle".

She continued to look somber, "I'm not ready to leave here yet".

"Why not", I asked.

She finally looked up "because there is so much that I wanted to do and see. I mean, I spent years as a ball of mystical energy, and now that I'm gonna die, I realize that I wanted to see more of this place and now I never will." She was crying, but quietly, the tears running down her cheeks as she talked.

I took her hands in mine, I shivered, but not from cold. "If you want to see the world, than that is something I can help with." I stood up, "hang on a second" I asked. I replaced the CD with 'Autumn', which would be better for what was going to happen, and brought up some pew covers so we would be comfortable. I spread them out and sat down. "Come here" I asked.

She sat down, a bit confused. "What, you're wanting to fool around?"

"No, gutter mind; I want to show you the world, literally." So we sat, facing each other, hand in hand. "Close your eyes, and tap in" I said. She did, and when I felt that the connection was good I asked "first, could you tell your sister where you are, I don't want her worrying tonight".

She nodded, and I could feel the power flow out of her. It was like watching a guide missile, home in on a target. I felt, rather than heard her say "got her". It was awkward, listening in on their conversation, but it also taught me about the depth of the relationship between Buffy and Dawn.

She finally came back and I said, "so, what would you like to see first"?

"The Grand Canyon" she instantly replied, "have you ever been there?" I had, and I began describing it, the smells, the sounds, the sights, and as I was describing it, she was feeling it, seeing it, loving it. "So, where to next," I asked. "How about Italy", she said, I hope you've been there. I just snorted a laugh; Rome was what passed for a home base of my kind. So I started again, and again, she lived it, and I lived it again through her. After a few more, I turned the tables on her "You tell me about High School, after all, I never got to go." She frowned a bit, but nodded.

"Well" she said "It's like this . . . ." We carried on for hours, trading memories and learning about each other. Eventually we fell asleep that way, holding hands and side by side.

"Wow junior, you sure got it bad", Faith whispered in my ear. Moving slowly, I turned to her. For once she looked solemn, which surprised me, and she was almost crying, which really surprised me.

I looked back at Dawn. The sun had come up and she was bathed in a shower of multicolored light, and I knew Faith was right, I had it bad. I disconnected our hands and stood up. Turning to Faith, I asked, "what am I gonna do?"

THE SERAPH X

She just shook her head.

"I know" I said "all of this is assuming that we are still alive tomorrow, but I care more for her than any one else in the world"; I shot her a shy smile, "even you". She faked a hurt expression, but then her trademark smile broke through. "I know that she can't come with me when I'm done here, I know that she wouldn't be able to let all of this go, I know that she and I can't be together now; but I also know that right now, I don't care. She is all I want, all I need." I finished and just stood there, looking down at her.

"Wow" Faith said, "you really are screwed". "My track record with relationships sucks" she continued, "so all I'll tell you is 'do your best'; got that Boy Scout." I mimed a punch at her but nodded. She continued "I just wish someone cared for me that much".

I knew that this was Faith at her most vulnerable, exposing her deepest fear, that no-one cared for her. I put an arm out to her and brushed her cheek. "Someone does" I said.

She looked up with swimming eyes "really, you swear."

"Yeah, I swear" I answered. "You'll find each other sooner or later." She beamed a smile, and headed towards the doors, "thanks Ian" she said, "wake up Dawnee and get it in gear, were out of here in 15 minutes". I just nodded and waved. When I turned back to wake Dawn, I found myself looking into two sky blue eyes, almost as pale as mine.

"Did you mean it?"

I thought for a second, "yeah" I nodded "there's someone out there for Faith."

"No dummy", she punched me in the arm "what you said about caring for me". I could only nod. "But if we both live, we can't be together". Again I nodded. "Why?" Her question had more rue and anguish than I had heard in a long time.

I looked at those amazing windows that were her eyes and said "our lives are going in different directions, I can't be in your world, and you can't be in mine."

"So that's it?"

"For now" I replied. "I cannot see my own future, no-one can."

"So, maybe later" she sounded hopeful.

"How about we worry about making sure there is a later" I said.

She nodded, and then stuck out her tongue; "party pooper".

We packed my few possessions, but I stopped her. Reaching into my weapons, I pulled out a sword; identical to the two I was now wearing. "Here" I said, "I want you to have this".

Her eyes widened as she gripped it, "it feels alive".

"To you, it would" I said, "the blade is silver that has been blessed by the Pope and it was tempered in holy water. It will glow in the presence of demons, and look", I pointed to a raised spot on the quillion, "press that". She did, and a wooden spike shot out of the hilt.

"Cool" she said, sounding like a kid on Christmas morning.

"Just a little insurance" I said, "I want you to see tomorrow; so we have a chance to worry about 'what if'."

She smiled at me, "thanks for caring".

I blushed a bit "my pleasure; now you head on, I need to finish up here."

She nodded, and picking up my pack, headed towards the doors. Suddenly she turned and said "you're not alone, you know; with being in love I mean".

I smiled, "thanks" was all I said, but I sent her a message of gratitude. Her rising blush told me that she had felt it, and she turned and left. I turned to face the altar and prayed, for all of us; but for one of us in particular.

THE SERAPH XI

Wood stopped the school bus in front of Sunnydale High School, and said "here we are". I could feel the opening, like a twisting wound in my gut. We all got out and were heading up towards the front doors. Suddenly I felt Spike next to me, he was holding the talisman.

"You sure this isn't meant for you?"

I nodded "I'm sure; you are our champion."

He looked shocked "we're in a right state if that's the case" he laughed. He looked at me again. "You put in a fix with the man upstairs this morning, didn't you. I could feel it" he continued "bloody uncomfortable having that kind of attention".

"Sorry" I said, "I figured that we could use the help"

"Ain't that too bloody right" he said and moved on.

Everyone was moving with a grim purpose, almost robotic. Faith spoke up, "So, anyone wanna catch a flick after all this".

"Sounds like a plan" one of the potentials answered. Everyone started to loosen up, and I shot Faith a look of gratitude. The slayers and potentials went to open the Hellmouth.

Willow, with Kennedy and Dawn help set up a room for the ritual and I proceeded to meditate. I wanted to be in a state where there was no hesitation, but also, no thoughtless action. I wanted deed to move instantly with thought. That's not an easy state to achieve. I felt them divide up, to keep anyone from escaping. I felt the earth energy rise as Willow began her spell. I felt the fear and anxiety of the potentials. And I felt the slayers love of battle. I felt the energy rise, brighter than any I had experienced from a human. It built to the point that I had to shut down some of my senses. Finally, it was released, like a dam letting go. The power surged over and around me. I could tell that Willow had achieved an extremely high level of ability, unfortunately, any being with any sense would know this as well. I heard Kennedy head for the battle with the axe. I could feel the striving and slaying that was going on below me. I was beginning to bring my senses back up to snuff, when I was surprised. I could feel several of the bringers moving on this level, the six guardians would have to take care of them; because I found myself facing 6 of the tera'k-khan. I brought my mind to readiness. My inner sense was screaming at me to attack. Here was evil that I could remove. A small part of my mind wondered if they were surprised to find one of my kind here, but the tera'k-khan were never known as deep thinkers. They were attempting to split my attention, so some could get past me to Willow. I waited, even though I yearned for this battle, and they waited, looking for an opening. One rushed me, but I simply bisected him without giving ground. I could feel the conflicts around me, the wounds and the death. Preventing these things is my reason for being, but right now, guarding this one person was the most important thing. Two more tired of waiting and came at me from opposite sides. The one on my left got a blade through his head while I was able to decapitate the one on the right. Finally, being sick of waiting myself, I attacked the final three. I was moving faster than I ever had, and it felt great. Suddenly I was alone, and there was only ash around me. My swords lost their glow, no demons in the area.

"Wow" said a voice behind me "you looked like a human blender".

I turned to Willow, "thanks" I said, "you up to guarding yourself?" She just nodded, so I dashed off to protect as many as I could and avenge those I could not.

THE SERAPH XII

Needless to say, I went towards Dawn first. I found her fighting brilliantly holding off two bringers at the same time. Xander was holding of another bringer and guarding Dawn's back. I could see where they had set a trap for the Tera'k-khan, a simple hole in the ceiling, and the piles of ash told of its success. I came in from the left rear quarter and ran both my swords through the bringer on the left. Dawn took the opportunity to finish off the one on the right with a long, fluid slash that cut through most of his chest. We both turned and helped Xander finish off his. While he was catching his breath, I gave Dawn a quick hug, and whispered, "keep safe" in her ear.

"I will if you will" she replied.

I just nodded and moved towards the two men. I helped them finish off their opponents and was healing Wood, who had been badly wounded, when I felt disaster. Buffy was wounded, and badly. I realized that without her, all of the girls, except Faith, would break and run. I dropped to the ground, and yelled at Giles to guard me for a moment. He nodded, I closed my eyes, and my angelic self disconnected from me and went to heal her. This is not something that I enjoy. First, it is very draining; second, it feels a lot like dieing, third, if it lasts too long, I really do die. Fortunately, I was able to heal her from a bit of a distance, so the attention that I drew was minimal. My two selves reconnected, and I came awake, feeling like I had been drowning.

I realized that I was late, so I moved off to the other pair of guardians. Indeed, I was just a bit too late. I arrived at the hallway just in time to see Anya stabbed and killed, while Andrew was struggling with a bringer. I let loose my grief and anger, and charged them with no subtlety at all. I was in amongst them, tears pouring from my eyes, killing everything that moved, twisting, cutting and screaming like a lost soul. At that moment, I both loved and hated what I was. Very soon, it was just Andrew and I standing there. He looked shocked, and I was covered in blood. I sent a thought to him and woke him up, so that he could guard himself, and went to the opening from which all who got past the slayers were emerging.

They would go no further. I realized that the bringers were servants of pure evil, but I also realized that they had been human. That they had started out in the same way that I did. Destroying the tools of evil brought me joy; killing what had once been human, brought me self loathing. I do not know how long I stood there, I was not even aware of fighting. But when I came to myself, there were bringers all around me, in various states of dismemberment and numerous piles of ash. I was covered in blood and gore and ash from top to bottom, I imagined that I looked like a being from Hell, instead of Heaven.

What brought me around was a sudden surge in power that made what Willow had done seem like the working of a half trained amature. I could feel a connection directly to the Sun, and that is a very tricky thing to do. I then knew what the talisman was, and what would happen. I shouted in the minds of the slayers to get out, if not they would be buried where they stood.

I turned to shout to the remaining guardians to get to the bus, but Dawn was standing there, staring at me. She had heard my mental shout, and simply nodded and ran off to gather the others. The slayers began to emerge from the ground, too few, way too few. I told them to get to the bus, and to begin caring for the wounded. Finally, Faith came out. Since I was called, she has been my personal project.

I cared for her greatly, to see her come out of that inferno alive lifted my aching heart. "B, come on", she yelled down the hole. She glanced at me and then back down.

"Go on" I said, "I'll get her out, you make sure everyone else is OK". She shot me a smile and headed off. I sent a message to Spike, telling him what he would have to say to get Buffy to leave him. It was odd touching his mind, because the demon was being transmuted into something else entirely. He acknowledged my advice and told me to 'bugger off'. So I did.

I ran down to the bus and told Wood to fire it up. He just looked at me for a second, then he nodded and go the bus moving. I had removed my shirt, and used it to clean the worst of the battle remnants off of me. I started, with the help of Dawn and Giles to treat the worst of the wounded. Most looked shell shocked, and I couldn't blame them. I felt Buffy emerge from the school as the working continued. I willed the bus faster, and made Buffy move faster, because we were still too close. I was healing Rona when I felt Buffy jump off of a building, trying for the bus. I knew that there was no way she would make it. So I caught her. Considering all that I was doing, there was a bit of luck involved; never-the-less, I caught her and landed her on the bus. I was still healing others and willing the bus faster, handling Buffy just pushed the dials to overload. I could feel the power surging, and could feel my humanity begin to burn away. I could not continue as I was, but I could not stop either. Reluctantly, I took my only remaining option, and put out a call, for one of the big guns.

THE SERAPH XIII

A greater being, whether good or evil, is an intimidating thing. Not the kind of thing that you just page for no particular reason. Your need had better be dire or, in the words of Desi Arnaz "you got some 'splainin to do". I was both scared and relieved when Uriel showed up.

"Release little brother", was all he/she said, but I instantly released all of my power and collapsed on the floor. None of the others could see the Arch-Angel, except maybe Willow, but I believe that all could feel her/him. I relaxed, knowing that we were safe, finally. After insuring that and healing the serious wounds Uriel turned his/her attention to me. "How are you" I heard in my head. I poured out all that had happened, all of my fears and doubts and second guesses; I held my soul up for her/him to examine. I hid nothing. Finally, that burning glance turned to me. I flinched, power such as he/she had was simply awe inspiring.

"This was very well done, Ian, you kept the world safe and you were a tribute to your calling." I relaxed, just a bit.

"Uriel, could you restore the sight of this person", I asked, indicating Xander. She/he simply nodded, "anything else?"

"Yes" I answered, "what am I to do about Dawn?" "I know that I am supposed to love all mankind and serve them, and I do; but I truly feel that I am 'in Love' with her."

The golden being laughed and began to fade "there are times that I envy you your humanity little brother, but all beings must learn patience".

Then he/she was gone, and I realized that I was having trouble breathing. That was because I was still prone on the floor of the bus, where I had collapsed, and that Dawn was laying on me yelling my name. I opened by eyes and looked into her incredible sky blue orbs, "I'm still among the living" I said.

"God you scared me" she said around tears, "you weren't breathing and I couldn't find a pulse'". "Just 'occupational hazards' as Xander would say, I'm here and alive and so are you, and so are we all".

She collapsed into my arms and I held her for a sweet eternity. The bus had stopped and everyone was moving to get off. Some looked elated, some shocked, some sad, and some just like today had been a normal day. Everyone brightened when Buffy jumped down off the roof, I suppose most of them thought that she was dead. We all looked back at the crater that had been Sunnydale, and just marveled at the destruction that Spike had caused.

"He'll be back" I spoke up, "trust me, he'll be back." They all looked at me, some weren't to sure but Buffy smiled.

"So" Dawn asked, "what do we do now?"

Surprisingly, I answered. "You all will do what you can, and I will go to those who need my help." Dawn looked stricken "no, we still need your help."

"No" I corrected, "you need each others help, not mine." I turned from her and went to Andrew, "she died to protect you, do not waste this gift, become more than what you are." He nodded weakly, so I moved on. I came to Xander, and told him "your eye will heal in time."

"Thanks", he said but I saw that he was devastated by Anya's death. So, I leaned forward and whispered a name in his ear. "I don't know anyone with that name."

"Don't worry" I answered, "you will, when you are ready, you will." I went to Buffy. "You will find your true purpose" I said; "and you will know it when you do." Giles knew what needed to be done, the reconstruction of the Watchers council, so I merely nodded to him and spoke to Willow. "Serve the light" was all I said, but she understood what I meant. I then turned to Faith. "Know that I'll be watching you, missy" I said in my best 'deep and impressive voice'.

"Thanks" she said.

"You know, there's lots of bands that would love to have a vocalist of your talents" I said. "Give you a chance to tour the country, find confused girls, teach em what you know". "Think about it." We hugged and I turned to face Dawn.

"I don't want you to go" she said.

"And I don't want to go, but I must." Then, taking her hands in mine, I looked into her eyes; "we will meet again" I promised, "when we have both grown up a bit, we'll meet again". I leaned forward and kissed her, and she was in my arms and we kissed and cried and promised; but all too soon it ended. I let her go, and backing up said "Bless you all". I bowed to them, and embracing my angelic being, my wings came out, and I faded from view.

P.S. Two years later

The Spanish Steps were known throughout Rome as the place for young people to mix and mingle. I was not surprised to find her here, especially since I had watched her there many times before. Surrounded by friends and boys who were hoping for something more. I'm not sure if she felt me or not, she glanced in my direction once, but did not see me. Suddenly, music began pouring out of a boom-box somewhere. Good old classic Rock and Roll. The lot of them began dancing, but I just watched, dazzled by her. Someone changed the music and laughing, she sat down to take a breather. I moved closer, just taking in her presence. Standing right behind her I said "bravisima, bella alba", pitching my voice low.

She turned towards me, "graz….." She looked at me as though I was some kind of alien. Not being able to stand it any longer, I knelt down in front of her.

"Hello Dawn", I said tenderly. Her mouth moved but no sound came out. Her eyes were swimming, but mine were as well. Then she lunged into my arms. Supernatural strength or not, I wasn't expecting this. I went over backwards into the fountain, and took her with me. She shrieked and held me tight. For the first time since Sunnydale, I was truly happy. We just sat in the fountain, holding each other like two drowning victims.

Finally, one of her friends asked "so, is this the mysterious Ian that you casually mention 20 or 30 times a day."

Dawn answered; while not taking her eyes away from mine, "no, this is the Ian that I love."

"And this is the Ian that loves Dawn" I replied.

The End, for now