This is my fourth and final story in the Ian/Dawn series. It began with 'The Seraph', continued with 'Hearts in Darkness' and then 'Through an Angel's Eyes. If you haven't read any of those stories, then you will have some questions about this one. For those who love the characters, they will probably appear again, but in a crossover (possibly Stargate SG-1). I hope that all of you have enjoyed reading these stories as much as I have in writing them. I am always surprised at where the story will end up, as opposed to where I wanted it to go. The usual disclaimers apply, of course; several of the characters are mine, so use only with permission please. The rest are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and a host of corporate suits and lawyers (maybe that could be a new series, Buffy the Lawyer Slayer: have her tackle some real evil). As always, thanks to Peaches, Banadar and Cathode for their always helpful beta reading and criticism. Thanks to Katie, for all her reviews, and thank you anonymous reader; I hope you are able to take something from this story that makes things just a bit better. Thank you for letting me into your lives for just a little bit.









"Where the heck are they" Buffy raged "they should have been here yesterday. I know that they're stuck somewhere dangerous, or worse, somewhere romantic."

"Chill B; you know that the job comes first, just like it does for us. They'll be here, just be patient."

"But the others are going to be here today, and it just won't be right if everyone's not together for Christmas."

"Wow, I heard stories about how you become unhinged at holidays; like Thanksgiving, I just didn't believe it till now. Listen, everyone that can make it, will, and it'll be cool; no, it won't be perfect, but life never is."

"Jeez Faith, what's with the Tony Robbins act."

"What can I say B, some of us grow. Now, if you wanna make something of that, I'll be in the training room."

Faith wandered off, leaving Buffy just sputtering in the middle of the room. Reluctantly she admitted, to herself only, that Faith was right; but a little sparring to take out frustrations was an excellent remedy. "OOOOOH Faith, I'm so gonna kick your ass for that."

She burst into the training room, just in time to catch the practice sword that the dark slayer had chucked at her. She heard a chuckle and then Faith's voice saying "Come on Blondie, I'll take it easy on you, so you don't break a nail or something."

Not being able to allow that kind of dis, Buffy readied herself, and charged her sister slayer, with a huge grin on her face.


Assignments like this always seem to chap my butt. We had to deal with a Father and Son who were not speaking to each other. The son won't live to see another Christmas; so we need to facilitate the reconciliation. Unfortunately I'm not allowed to deal with it the way I'd like to. Whack em both on the head, tell em that they're behaving like imbeciles, and lock em in a room until they understand that. Nooooooo, I've got to get them talking from their own free will, I can't use force, even if that means we're late for Christmas. Dawn was surprisingly unflustered by the whole thing.

"Buffy always goes berserk when she's in charge of holidays; we're not missing anything by being late."

I know that she's right; it's just that Calumet on Michigan's Upper Peninsula is like being nowhere at all; literally. Unless you happen to like cold, ice, snow, and getting so drunk that you can't see straight. We had been there two days, (which in my opinion was a day and a half too much) and although our opening play had worked, it hadn't worked well enough. The two had met without killing each other but they seemed unwilling to finish the journey. We were hoping the 'dog for the grandson' ploy would seal the deal. We were watching and Dawn was supplying this half baked commentary, like she was a play by play announcer. I wanted to laugh, but I didn't want to distract the two men, and be forced to stay here longer. The father was explaining about the dog he had bought for his grandson, when the son took a picture out of his wallet and said the words "remember when". Pretty soon, there was laughing and hugging and two very satisfied people, oh, and the father and son were cool too.

We left the bar, and walked down the road to 'Honest Wally's Tree Emporium' and bought the largest Frasier Fir that they had left. Checking that we had everything, especially presents, we caught 'the express' to Spain.

We came to ourselves in the front room, and no-one was around. It took a second, but then we heard the distinct yelling and cracking of a practice session going on. Dawn looked at me, and with a wicked grin said "wanna go say hello properly"? We stashed the tree and presents and pulled out a pair of practice swords and went to the training room. We stood outside and listened to Faith taunt Buffy and Buffy call Faith several unflattering names; then on the count of three we burst through the doors and into the room. Both slayers froze at the sound of the doors opening, and in that instant of silence Dawn said, with a boatload of sarcasm, "wow, that slayer vigilance sure is something, no way anyone could sneak up on them."

Stung by the verbal jab, the slayers just looked at each other, and then with matching grins, attacked the two of us. It was a very memorable encounter, as my bruises will attest to; in the end we all stopped by mutual accord. We were just standing there, trying to catch our breath, when Buffy asked why we were late. Dawn proceeded to tell and amusing version of our last mission, and the other things that had happened since our Cleveland adventure. I was surprised again at how different our perceptions were of events. She had seen things in ways that I had not, and I was forcefully reminded of how lucky I was to have her.

We put our stuff away in our usual room and showered; we didn't even delay too much, then went to help decorate the tree. We got it together pretty quickly, and were just sitting there enjoying the tree and listening to one of 'Manheim Steamroller's' Christmas albums when the phone rang. It was Giles. He said that their plane had just landed and he wanted to know if there was anything that they needed to pick up on the way. Buffy told him no, and said for all of them to hurry up. It was funny to watch her, she so wanted to see to every detail and that was fighting against everyone's advice to just chill.

Dawn and I went to the kitchen to knock some dinner together, we decided on broiled fish and stir fried veggies. Despite my lack of free time, I do enjoy cooking and so does Dawn, so we take every opportunity to do so. Anyway, dinner was about half an hour away, when the group from England showed up. Giles was there, with Olivia, Xander, Willow and Dawn's friend Allana. Dawn ran out to greet her friends, while I remained behind in the kitchen. They shared a past that I was not a part of, and I felt it best to let them bask in that for a while. Dawn was hilarious, talking to three different people at a mile a minute; at times it didn't seem like the girl needed to breathe.

Everyone was talking and hugging in the front room, while I put the finishing touches on dinner. I was surprised when Willow came back to help me. I guess she was feeling a bit like a fifth wheel, and just needed some company. That was fine with me; hey I could use the help and I really liked the red headed witch. Her sense of humor and play really complimented mine. At first I was so intent on dinner, that I did not even sense her presence.

"Hey there, stud muffin" she said.

I jerked so hard that I almost burned myself on the wok. "Just scare a couple of years out of me there Will" I teased back, and she just laughed.

We compared notes on how things had gone since we last talked. I could tell that she loved her work with the coven, but I also could tell she was lonely. When you're in a position of authority, you are set apart from everyone else; that can take a lot out of you. So we talked while finishing up; actually she talked and I listened. She was always fun to listen to, because she would drift into babble mode every now and again. We talked about serious stuff, but it was tough no to laugh at times.

At dinner, everyone was planning on finishing their shopping tomorrow; everyone except me. My shopping was done. I just keep my eyes open all year and when I see something that I think is perfect, I buy it. That way, I just sit back and relax instead of running myself ragged during the holidays.

The after dinner conversation was a little awkward. There was the original four, and then you had the rest of us. It's not that we were ignored, we simply didn't have the depth of history that they did. The conversation took a turn to holidays past, and everyone had fun twitting Buffy on her holiday spazz fest. It was funny to hear, but I could tell that some of us felt a little out of the loop. It got late and we all went to bed. Lying there, with my arms around dawn, I wondered what it would be like to have friends that were that true for that long. I had Dawn and Faith, but that was pretty much it. To have that kind of network, and to have it survive everything that they had gone through was miraculous.

The next morning everyone headed to town, or so I thought. I had a leisurely breakfast and was in the training room, doing some Tai – Chi, when the door opened. There was Allana. I suppose that she didn't need to shop either, but I felt that there was something wrong. Being what I was, I couldn't just let that go, so I motioned her over.

"I don't want to interrupt" she said.

"You're not" I answered, "but I think that this would help right now."

She came over and I showed her some of the basic moves and then told her to just follow my lead. She was a fast learner. I could feel the tension leaving her as she moved through the exercise. When we finished, I asked her what was wrong.

"How do you cope with all of the past that they have?"

"I just keep in mind that the past is what shaped Dawn into the person I love. Remember that Xander's past both created and refined those qualities that attracted you and keep you with him. Yeah, sometimes it's painful to hear them go on about things you don't know and weren't a part of; but remember, you have a past as well that doesn't include him. My guess is he's just as intimidated by that as you are by his. If you want me to I'll talk to him about excluding you from the conversation, just don't ask him to ignore his past.

"It's just that there are times when I feel like it's not just a few rooms, but a whole wing that I'm just supposed to keep out of, and if I ask about it, he just shuts down."

"It may be because he's embarrassed, I mean, some of the things that I've heard about his past, you just don't open up to everyone about. Hey, ask him about the time he became a hyena. The way he tells it, it's a hoot."

"He became a hyena? What else do you know?"

"Quite a bit, but those are his stories to tell; just ask him, you might be surprised. Do keep in mind, that he truly does love you. I haven't seen him much, but I can at least tell that."

"Thanks, I appreciate that. Total subject change, you and Dawn, still together?"

"Yeah we are, a bit over two years now."

"Can I ask you something a bit touchy?"

"Sure, I mean there's no guarantee that I'll answer it, but feel free to ask."

"Fair enough, Dawn isn't human, is she?" I started a bit and she quickly went on, "Xander sometimes tells me these wild stories about Vampires and Demons and Apocolypses, and in a couple he mentions Dawn like she's not human, so is she?"

"In your studies, did you ever learn about an artifact known only as 'The Key'?"

"Yeah, it's supposed to be this dimensional gate opening 'all possible worlds', whatever that means."

"Well, up until six years ago, Dawn was 'The Key'; literally this globe of energy. Then a moderately powerful Hell goddess got loose and tried to find 'The Key' so she could return to her dimension. Well, the guardians of 'The Key' turned it human so the goddess wouldn't be able to find it, and they sent it to the slayer (Buffy) as her sister so she would protect it. And thus, Dawn Summers came into being."

"That's pretty out there."

"Yeah, but it's true."

"How do I know, you could be lying."

"I can't lie."

"Why not?"

I looked at her deeply for a second, she really didn't know. "Because I'm an angel, a Seraph to be precise, and if I lie, I forfeit all my powers and become mortal. So it's a pretty safe bet to say that you can trust me."

"Right, you're an angel; I would get stuck with some nut here in the middle of nowhere."

I just rolled my eyes, "why is it so easy to believe in demons and not angels. Honestly, is it that hard to believe?"

"Hey, I'm still not too sure about demons, OK."

"Ok, hang on a sec", I removed my shirt and grew my wings for her. "See, angel."

She just stood there for a second and then started stroking them and looking at where they attached to my body. "Well, I gotta say, I'm more open to the idea now. So, if I ask you a question you have to tell the truth?"

"Yeah, if it falls under general knowledge I will. If I think you're being to personal, I'll just not answer."

She thought that one over; "again, fair enough; so the stuff that Xander and the council folks talk about, monsters and demons, they're all real?"

"Pretty much, yeah."

"God, I thought that he was just being mysterious to cover some boring job, can I trust him?"

"With your life."

She looked pleased to hear that, and then we fell to discussing demons and why they were here and the whole hidden world that existed. She had just asked about benign demons when the band returned from a mini tour that they had been on. I observed that they were a few weeks early, and was told that they had to cut it off because the Fyarl demons that handled stage security had gotten a little over enthusiastic. Most of them left, not being that comfortable around me, but Oz and Clem came over to talk. Allana couldn't seem to take her eyes off Clem, and the gregarious demon was becoming a little tongue tied. She finally loosened up and started asking him about his life and things he had done. Oz just sat there quietly absorbing the conversation; I guess he probably had not had much of this for a while. After wearing out Clem, Allana turned to Oz and asked, "so, what kind of demon are you?"

He looked taken aback, like he couldn't believe someone was speaking to him; he cleared his throat "I'm not."

She looked surprised, "so, you're normal?"

"I guess."

"Are you human?"


"On what?"

"Time, mood, stuff"

I could see that Allana was getting frustrated, so I broke in; "Oz is a werewolf."

"You mean werewolves are real too?"

"Yep" Oz answered.

"So are there any regular human beings at this place."

"Just you, Xander, Giles, Olivia and Willy; although Willy used to run a bar for demons and Giles uses magic on occasion."

I could see that she was trying to take all of this in, when the shopping party returned. They all came in talking to each other in a crowd, there must have been six different conversations going on at once. Dawn came over to speak to us, but then caught sight of Clem and jumped into his arms with a yell. She hadn't seen her friend in some time and so she proceeded to catch up. The rest of the shoppers were still talking about what they had seen, and Faith breaking a pickpocket's hand; when silence descended on the room. I suppose that they first thought it was Whistler sitting there with us, after all there was some superficial resemblance, but when the reality set in, everyone from England froze.

No-one seemed to know what to do until Faith cleared her throat "I guess you all remember Oz."

Once the spell of silence was broken; both Xander and Giles started asking questions at the same time. Oz probably didn't even hear them; his attention was focused entirely upon Willow. His eyes appeared luminous and seemed to drink in her essence; to me he looked truly alive for the first time that I had known him.

He flashed a little half smile and wave "hi guys" he muttered, "hey Will."

For her part, Willow's mouth moved, but no sound seemed to come out. "Oz, what are you doing here?"

"They needed a bass player, and I needed a gig" he answered.

They fell silent again and just stared at each other. Finally Xander broke the silence, "so, who's fixing dinner?"

Dawn, Allana and I went in to put some dinner together while the 'Scoobies' caught up with Oz and vice versa. We put together a pretty descent meal, but again there were a few of us who wee definitely out of the conversational loop. Dawn and Allana did some catching up with each other, kind of reawakening their friendship, so I spoke to Olivia during dinner. She was a very pleasant woman, but she seemed out of her depth. I noticed a ring on her finger and was surprised to discover that Giles had finally proposed. I guess he finally felt that he had a bit of security. After dinner, we were relaxing around a fire when Allana asked; "how did you become a Hyena?" There was a sudden explosion of laughter as Xander was encouraged to tell the story, but anytime he started to skip over the details, the others would chip in with the whole story.

After the story was told, the evening turned into a funny story fest, with everyone sharing their most amusing stories. Like the Halloween experiences, the Band Candy incident, a very funny Valentines Day, and the Indian attack at Thanksgiving. Dawn kicked in a few of our sillier escapades; and the night dissolved in laughter and love. Personally, I could not stop laughing about the time all the girls fell in love with a guy because of his jacket. Eventually everyone called it a night. Dawn and I were just about the last to turn in, but there were Willow and Oz, not speaking but just sharing the fire. I thought it was a pretty good development.