Reviews are most welcome, folks.

Buffy was at a loss for words. The Witchblade had attached itself to Dawn. She thought about that for a moment. The Witchblade, a sentient object of immense power and a fierce bloodlust, was now on her little sister's wrist. Suddenly shock turned into anger and she grabbed Dawn's wrist, futilely trying to rip the object off.

"No," she said. "You're not getting her." Before Dawn could react, a tendril from the Witchblade lashed out and cut Buffy on the arm, causing her to jump back. As she clutched the bleeding wound, the tendril moved around like a cobra, poised and ready to strike again.

"Dawn, stop it," Buffy ordered.

"I didn't do it," she replied. She then cocked her head to the side, as if someone were speaking to her. "Yes," she said. "Yes, I understand."

"What?" Buffy asked angrily. "What do you understand?"

"There's a way to revive Sara."

"How?" Willow asked.

"The Witchblade wants to use me as a conduit. There's still a link between them. It wants to use my energy to restore her and the only way to do that was attach to itself to me."

"Why you?" Tina asked.

"Because you're the Key," Willow replied, answering the question.

"I thought that whatever power she had could only be used to opened the portal near Sunnydale," Giles remarked.

Dawn paused for a moment. "The Witchblade says that no matter what, I'm still made of that energy. I can't use it, but it can."

"How?" Xander asked.

"By siphoning off some of my energy little by little, the Witchblade can bring Sara back."

"Siphoning your energy?" Buffy repeated. "No, Dawn. It's too dangerous."

"Buffy, if I don't Sara will die. This is my choice, mine alone, and I'm choosing to help Sara."

"Dawn, do you realize how many women have tried to wear that thing that weren't chosen as Bladewielders?" Buffy protested. "Those 'Pretenders' Sara talked about? She said the last one was obsessed with it. If you're not a Bladewielder, you'll be one of them."

"No, I won't," Dawn replied. "Nothing like this has ever happened before. I'll be something different. As soon as Sara wakes up, she'll get it back."

"And how long will that take?"

The Witchblade whispered to Dawn again. "I don't know. The Witchblade can't speed up the process or it could end up killing her. It could be weeks, months... even years." Buffy stared at her sister and pursed her lips in anger. That answer didn't satisfy her in the least.

"Guys," Xander interjected, "as fascinating as all of this is, we've got injured out there. I think we should get back to the city and figure out what to do from there."

"Agreed," Giles said as he scooped up Sara.

The group gathered up their wounded and headed back to the boat. As Giles started it up and revved off, Dawn wore her armor with a slight confident smile on her face as the wind blew her hair. A perturbed Buffy looked at her sister and said in a sharp tone, "Dawn, maybe you should be a little less conspicuous with the armor. Might be a little unnerving to the locals."

"Sorry," Dawn replied. The armor retreated back into a small unassuming bracelet. "I gotta admit, it feels really cool."

"This is not a toy," Buffy remarked, lifting up Dawn's wrist. "We're going to have to be smart about this. There's a lot of danger that comes with that thing."

"I know. But I think I can do some good with it. Maybe I can help you guys patrol and..."

"Slow down," Buffy interjected. "You are not patrolling with that thing until we have a clear plan on dealing with this, including training you. And that's something I'm not budging on, Dawn."


"End of discussion."

Some of the Slayers looked at the two siblings arguing, while some pretended not to listen, making the boat ride seem a lot longer than it was. As soon as they got to port, they loaded into the vans and headed off to the hospital.

Danny sat at his desk staring a the empty spot in front of him. He was beyond worried now. No phone call, no email, not even a text message from his partner in the last twenty-four hours, give or take. While she had a habit of doing things her way, she was never like this. He took another swig of his coffee when his phone rang.

"Detective Woo..." he replied. He listened to what the male voice on the other end was saying. Jake soon walked in and saw Danny on the phone.

"What?!" Danny replied in surprise.

"What is it?" Jake asked in an anxious voice.

"It's Pez," he replied. "She's in the hospital at NYU." The two detectives stared at each other for a moment before quickly heading out.

Giles looked through the observation window. It had been an hour since Sara was admitted. Most of the Slayers who had minor injuries had gone home. Some, like Stacy and Kennedy, had been were currently being treated. As Giles looked at his ex-girlfriend lying in a coma, Danny and Jake approached.

Jake looked in the window and then at Giles. "What happened?"

Giles was silent.

Danny moved closer and repeated Jake's question, "What happened, Mr. Giles?"

"I'm not at liberty to say," replied Giles.

"You're not at liberty to say?" Jake repeated in an astounded voice. "A perfectly healthy woman in her thirties just happens to find herself in a coma and you're not at liberty to say." Jake grabbed Giles by the collar. "You got three seconds to tell me exactly what happened."

"Get your hands off of me, Detective," Giles retorted as he forced Jake's hands away. "I owe you nothing."

That was spark that lit Jake's fuse. "You arrogant... !" He threw a punch so fast Danny barely saw it. It hit Giles square in the mouth. Recovering, Giles punched back and hit Jake in the jaw. Buffy had arrived just in time to see it and ran up to the both of them, Danny already pulling Jake back. Setting herself in between them she reprimanded them both.

"What is the matter with you two?! You think you can help Sara by punching each other's lights out?"

"You two know far more than you're telling and I'm holding both of you responsible for this," Jake replied. "Ever since she hooked up with you and your little group, she's gotten far more distant and far more stressed than ever. And don't think I didn't notice all the weird injuries and bruises. I'm gonna get to the bottom of this, and when I do, both of you will be rotting in prison. I promise." And with that, he and Danny left.

"Why'd you go nuclear on him, man?" Danny asked. "That's a police brutality complaint waiting to happen."

"It's the only thing I could think of."

"You know we'll get to the bottom of this, right?"

"Yeah, I do," Jake replied. Despite his threat to Giles and Buffy, great uncertainty filled his mind and he was left wondering if he could follow through with his promise.

Buffy looked at Giles with a weathered look on her face as the two detectives left. His threat was more trouble they didn't need.

A few days had passed since the battle on Hart Island and everyone was recuperating well. Sara still lay in her coma and Giles had begun visiting her every day, hoping for some sign of improvement. The Slayers had started getting back into their routine and relaxed a bit, enjoying each other's company more as they realized how close they had all came dying that night.

Xander filled the time telling old war stories from Sunnydale, while simultaneously fending off a few advances from some of the older Slayers. He also had to contend with an uneasy curiosity from Illyria, who seemed take an interest in him that was odd and, at times, disturbing. Stacy was recovering well from her injury, taking caution not to do too much too fast. The doctors that had stitched her up insisted on it. The Slayers had helped her a lot, practically waiting on her hand and feet to get her back to fighting form. Though she chafed at it publicly, privately she was touched. No one since her dad had ever really treated her like she mattered. It was almost like they were turning into a family...

After five days of relaxing, recuperating, and good times, the original Scooby Gang parted ways. That morning, Buffy and Giles drove Xander, Willow and Kennedy to the airport. Willow and Kennedy had decided a while ago that they were going to leave New York after they defeated Amy and, conveniently, thought that they could be of help down in South America. Xander was making a stop in the UK before going back to Africa. The moment at the security juncture for departing flights was somewhat somber, given that they weren't going to see each other for a while, but they laughed and hugged each other before separating.

As the three left for their terminals, Buffy was a little envious. She was eager to get back to Italy, to relax in Venice or Tuscany for a while. But there was no way she was leaving New York City while Dawn was wielding the Witchblade. She knew what Sara went through to try and control it and was determined to make sure her sister wouldn't suffer through the same ordeal.

As the two were driving back to base in the van, Buffy looked out the window watching the planes take off. "It's weird," she said. "I didn't think we'd actually be in this spot. We beat Amy."

"Yes," Giles replied. "I myself had doubted at times that we would win, but we did. However, we still have to deal with the repercussions. And by 'we' I mean the city as well. Her short time in power shook up things, criminal or otherwise. Her second, Sean, is still out there and he could make trouble for us, although I suspect he'll be watching his own back. The other families will want blood for what she did and they'll be perfectly willing to take his. Then there's Detective McCartey..."

"Giles!" Buffy cried out. "You know, when I'm basking in a win, I would really like for you to bask with me, even for a moment. I'm trying to imagine myself in Italy right now, enjoying some bruschetta in Rome, sipping a little Frascati wine. And I can't do that with you reminding me of everything we might have to handle here."

"Then why don't you go back?" Giles asked. "The girls and I can handle things here."

"You know perfectly well that I am not leaving my sister here alone while she has that thing on her wrist."

"She won't be alone, Buffy," Giles corrected.

"I know, Giles, but I'm staying regardless," she replied. "It's not that I don't trust you guys or think you can't handle it. It's just that this is new for Dawn and I want to make sure she understands the consequences. Most of all, I'm going to try and keep her safe."

"Buffy, she's your sister. Her life has never been exactly a safe one."

"And it's gonna be less so now," she replied. "Giles, she's a Bladewielder, more or less. That responsibility entails fighting evil, which also means she's gonna have more people gunning for her. And from what Sara told me, they don't all take the bull-in-a-china-shop approach Glory took. I want us to be ready for anything."

Giles sighed. "I trust your judgment, Buffy. Just remember that your sister needs to become her own woman and you can't protect her from that. You push too hard and she might become more distant." Buffy nodded her head slightly in agreement. "Now, I can't give you an evening in Rome, but I can treat you out to lunch in Little Italy."

"It's not the same," Buffy pouted.

Giles sighed. "I'll even have them throw in a little violin. What do you say?"

Buffy smiled a bit at her former mentor. "It's a start." And though the moment was a little jovial, she couldn't help but feel like there was something off. Not with Giles, but with the new challenge that had come their way. There was something wrong with the whole Dawn/Witchblade thing, something that made Buffy on edge. She could feel it. It wasn't like a Slayer feeling. No, this was deep-down gut feeling telling her that though they made it out of a big storm relatively intact, a smaller storm was brewing, one closer to home and heart. One that would test them in ways that she could not imagine. One that had the possibility of being a hundred times more devastating. In all honesty, she wasn't sure if she could be ready.

It was one of the few times in her life since being a Slayer that Buffy was truly afraid.

End Urbs Belli

I have one more story planned out for this series before it's done. Hope you'll like it.