HEARTS IN DARKNESS XI

We knocked on Buffy's door, and were not surprised to hear Faiths voice yell "come in".

I opened the door and heard something rushing at me. I ducked the pillow; unfortunately it smacked Dawn square in the face. She picked it up, and charged into the room swearing vengeance while smacking me in the head and saying "some protector" on her way past. I just sat back and watched the ensuing pillow fight. There was a lot of laughter and eventually the fight wound down.

I could see that Buffy and Faith were still wearing their clothes from the concert; they had obviously been up all night. "Catch up on a bit of conversation, did we?" I asked.

They just looked at each other and nodded. Buffy gave me a glare and asked "how did you set last night up."

"I didn't, well not all of it. I set up the U2 song, but other than that, you all did it yourselves."

"So the fight with Dawn, and you, my song; all just happened?"

I nodded, "I had planned on giving you what for, but Dawn got to you first; I just put the icing on the cake." I leaned forward "Faith, I've known you for quite a while, and I know that the happiest you ever were in your life was when you were with Buffy. As soon as I saw you two years ago, I knew that you two belonged together, the instant I saw you. I just couldn't stand by and let that be lost if I could help it. Think about it, you fight better; you think better; you both function on a much higher level when you're together."

They just looked at each other, and I could tell that they had figured most of this out already, I was just supplying confirmation.

Dawn picked that moment to speak up "anyone for breakfast." Since none of us had eaten, it sounded like a good idea. We walked out of the hotel and headed for a diner that was just up the road. Along the way, we chatted about things in our lives; Faith was gripping about how the record deal was on hold, but then she would tell some hilarious story about life on the road. Dawn twitted Buffy about her rotten Italian; Buffy fired right back about Dawn's spazzy boyfriends. Being with all of them just felt right, they felt right.

We got to the diner and ordered. It was clear that performing takes it out of you; we ordered a huge amount of food. The waitress kept giving us funny looks; we weren't acting up, so I couldn't figure it out. Finally I saw here steel herself and walk over to our table.

She held out a copy of the paper, opened to the picture of Buffy and Faith. "Angels of Light and Darkness, huh; could I get your autograph. At first they looked surprised and then both got these goofy grins on their faces; "sure" they said together and signed the picture.

Unfortunately; after that, everyone who came in had either been to the concert or had seen the picture in the paper. It was tough to eat, between Buffy and Faith signing stuff or me and Dawn laughing at them. The capper was the guy with the sharpie who wanted them to sign his butt. It was all Buffy could do to keep Faith from sticking the sharpie through him.

We finally got out of there and headed back to the hotel. The bits of conversation that occurred during breakfast had pretty much centered around the 'Academy'. The big question was where to locate it. They considered England, Cleveland and even Paris. It still hadn't been resolved when we got back to the hotel.

I asked the girls to step over to a table, I had a possibility. "How about Spain" I suggested, tossing a map and deed onto the table. "There's a monestary outside of Mondoniedo Spain that's being shut down. It's fairly modern, remote and close to the ocean and airports."

They had been looking at the map and pictures. They looked at me and said "how much?" "One Euro, just to keep the lawyers satisfied; and you'll be asked to do favors for the Vatican on a rare occasion; nothing that will conflict with your slaying or your autonomy."

They glanced at each other, then at me "do we have time to check this out" Buffy asked.

"Take your time", I answered "the offers not going away anytime soon."

I left them talking about calling Giles, and went looking for Dawn. She was curled up on a bench outside the hotel; just looking at the town. "You're leaving tomorrow, aren't you?"

"Yeah" I answered "time to dig back in."

"I'm just so happy; I don't want to loose you now."

"You will never loose me."

"But we won't be together."

I couldn't say anything; I just looked at the floor.

"What am I gonna do Ian?"

"Darn near anything, I answered. You could help your sister set up the 'Academy', you could go to Scotland and work with the council, you could stay in Italy and be the council rep there or go back to school or….." I faded out.

"What"

"Or you could come with me." I said, meeting her eyes.

"Really" she said, nearly strangling me with her hug.

"I won't lie to you Dawn; the work is tedious or dangerous or both, and the 'thank yous' are few and far between. This is the life that I have chosen, it is my purpose. I'm and angel, at least partly, and sometimes this gig knocks me for a loop. You're way too human; it would be a lot to handle. I'll love you always, and I wouldn't blame you for saying no. Talk to Buffy and Faith, see what they think."

Still smiling, she got up and bounced into the hotel. I just sat there on the bench, soaking up the sun. It was peaceful, and I just sat there, soaking it in. I felt the two slayers come up behind me.

"Dawns up packing" Buffy said; "do you know why?"

"Because she's in love and wants to be with you" Faith supplied.

I didn't react, I wasn't surprised.

"If she says 'I want out', she's out; agreed" Faith asks me.

I just nod.

"If anything happens to her. . ."

I held up my hand "I know what you're gonna say Buffy, but if something happens to her, I will be beyond caring what you do to me."

She saw that I was completely serious and understood what I meant. Anything would only get to Dawn through me. And if it did, I would be darn near suicidal with guilt. Buffy gave me a tight smile and nodded. Dawn came out of the hotel, almost bouncing with happiness. She had a small backpack and her weapons.

"I'm ready" she said.

Dawn and the slayers hugged.

"I love you" Buffy said.

"Kick ass, kid" Faith said.

Then, surprisingly, I got a hug and kiss on the cheek from each slayer.

"Here, I said; just my way of saying thanks." I handed each of them a necklace. Each one was half of the yin-yang symbol. Needless to say, Buffy got the white one and Faith the black. "Have Xander get in touch with the cardinal about the monastery" I said.

They nodded and stepped back as I took Dawn's hand.

"Now, this will be a bit tricky; just merge your power with mine and think 'away'. I could feel the connection, it was seamless. I closed my eyes and could feel us being pulled as we were off to. . . . .

THE END, for now