"Where were you when their mother died?" Giles demanded, angrily. "Where were you when they were all alone?"
Hank looked him right back in the eye. "Where were you when they took their first steps? Where were you when I held them in my arms the day they were born?"
Giles contemplated for a moment then stood aside. Dawn went to her father, wrapping her arms around his waist. Hank held out his hand to Buffy who still sheltered behind Giles.
"Dawnie don't!" she yelled. "He abandoned us, he left us all alone. Come back here! Giles, make her come back!"
Giles took her hand and led her to her father. She broke into sobs.
"I can't, I can't, you left us all alone daddy, you left us! It was so hard without you! Mommy died and we were all alone. I missed you so! We were all alone!"
Hank and Dawn took her in their embrace. "It's ok baby" he told her, "I'm back now, it's all going to be ok. I'll never leave you again"
Giles looked on at the reunion, watching Buffy bury her head in her father's chest, knowing in this moment he was losing something very special but gaining infinitely more.

"Relax Dawn, I knew I wasn't the long term guy"

Dawn breathed a sigh of relief as The Immortal continued. "I'm going to live forever, Buffy will age. She deserves someone she can grow old with. I'll go away for a while, climb Everest again. She'll move on. They always do"

Dawn nodded. God, this was hard. But it was her job to take care of Buffy now that mom was gone. No, not gone, she corrected herself, waiting for them patiently on the other side. Once again she was thankful for her unique and certain knowledge of the afterlife.

"Where is she tonight anyway?" The Immortal asked her.

"She's looking after Luke" Tomorrow it was her turn to care for their new brother, their father and new step mother still on their honeymoon. They both adored their new sibling, loved spending time with him, doing ordinary, girly things instead of nightly risking their lives. Hell, they even liked their stepmother.

She stood up and kissed him on the lips. He looked at her, stunned.

Dawn winked at him. "So far I'm aging normally. If that ever changes, let me give you a call"

He was still sitting there stunned as she let herself out.

"How the blazes did you do that, Dawnie?" Spike asked in wonder as the portal closed around Wolfram and Hart's army, trapping them in the Quor-toth.
"My Key powers really kicked in when I turned 18" she explained. She couldn't help staring at Ilyria who was cradling a still bleeding Gunn. Around her Buffy and her army of Slayers looked almost disappointed that they wouldn't have to fight.
"Why didn't you tell us you'd called her?" Spike asked Angel.
"Couldn't risk one of you being captured. Besides it was fun to watch your expression"
Spike snorted. "Where's Wes?" asked Buffy.
"Dead" Spike replied simply. Buffy and Dawn both looked slightly saddened, the triumph of victory marred by loss and regret. But there'd be time to mourn later.
"Let's get Gunn to a hospital" Angel suggested. Dawn nodded and created another portal, the trio stepping through to the emergency room.
Angel watched her go, looking over her maturing figure. "She sure grew up" he observed.
Buffy took his arm, then Spike's. "We all did"

And there on the ground before them was Mohra demon. Angel took it for a sign.

"Time to choose" he told her.

Harmony finished watching Wolfram and Hart's Headquarters Collapse. She figured that meant either Angel had won or they'd wiped each other out in the fight and brought the house down. Oh well.
She squinted at the piece of paper Angel had given her. It wasn't a reference at all, it looked like some form of spell printed in some foreign language.
She read it aloud, struggling with the Latin pronunciation. "Ipse….incendie…sic….bearaba…voca"
The paper suddenly burst into flame. Then so did Harmony.
She crumbled to ashes, mixing with those of the paper as they drifted lightly in the breeze.

"Spike!" she took him in her arms and embraced him. "Oh Spikey, oh Spikey, I had such a lovely day today, they let me walk out in the grounds this morning and feed the birds, the sun was shining, the trees were singing in the wind!"
He smiled, "I wish I could have been there pet". He looked around her room, colourful, cosy, bars on the windows, stripped of anything she could use to hurt herself but covered in flowers and dolls and the bright, happy, pictures she had drawn, pictures of children playing in Victorian dress, stars and fairies flitting through green pastures.
He felt her tense, felt her manner change abruptly. When she spoke her voice had a brittle, anguished edge to it. "I have terrible dreams Spike, dreams of blood and screaming and I'm in the middle of it all, I'm causing it".
He patted Drusilla's hair. "There, there pet, they're only dreams, they can't hurt you, you would never hurt anyone, you know that"
She smiled again. For a moment her envied her, her madness allowing her great comfort from the burning guilt that followed the restoration of a vampires' soul. He still heard the screams and he would never be able to convince himself that they weren't real, they would torture him forever. But she deserved to be happy, to be able to write the horrors off as no more than asingsing trick of her subconscious. He had long since made friends with the faces of his victims. Now it was just a matter of making it up to them. Helping the Watcher's Council was a good start.
"I have a new friend" she whispered. "Do you want to see her?"
She led him to the metal mirror, firmly attached to the whitewashed wall of the asylum. She put her fingers up to her own reflection. "There she is, isn't she pretty?"
Spike nodded "She's the prettiest girl I've ever seen"
She looked vainly in the mirror for Spike's reflection. "Where's your friend Spike?"
He circled his arms around her waist. "I've got you pet, who else do I need?"

She babbled. She shook. She struggled. She cried. Buffy, Faith, Vi, Rhona and Chao Anh hung on to her firmly, not releasing their embrace for a moment, their supernatural strength keeping the insane Slayer within the all-consuming hug.
Vi leaned in and whispered in her ear "It's OK, it's all OK, we look after our own"
Her fragile sanity gradually restored itself.

"I do" Dawn replied.
Buffy totally lost it and began crying as Connor kissed his new wife. Her little sister was all grown up. And married.
In front of her she saw Willow weeping openly into Xander's sleeve. Kennedy stood beside them, vainly trying not to join her.
Hank, Angel and Giles all offered her a simultaneous hankie. She took her dad's, Angel giving his to an equally needful Faith, Kennedy taking her cue from them and finally accepting Giles' as she gave up her impossible struggle. Aunt Arlene had thoughtfully brought her own. Oz almost formed an expression.
"I wish mom could have been here" she remarked to Hank, recovering a little.
"So do I baby, so do I" he replied. He took her hand and she leaned against her father's shoulder.
"There are lot's of people I wish were here today" she whispered to herself as the happy couple swept down the aisle. Little Jesse walked in front as a pageboy, his sisters, Tara and Amanda carrying the hem of Dawn's bridal gown. Xander winked affectionately at the children he had fathered with Willow and Kennedy as they passed. Maybe they'd call the next one Cordelia?
Spike and Gunn had their hands full trying to explain everything to Illyria. Buffy was glad they'd convinced her to use her Fred disguise, all eyes should be on Dawn this day.
Angel nodded benignly to Connor. "At last he's cut his hair" he thought.
Dawn beamed at Buffy and Hank, sharing her smile with Giles, then Xander, then each of the Scoobies in turn, finding it returned in every instance.
Buffy smiled at them and subconsciously ran her hand down her own swollen abdomen, her twins resting contentedly in their very special mother's womb.
A brother and sister Connor would always call niece and nephew.

She lit a candle and turned to Faith, lighting her candle with her the flame. Faith turned to Vi and lit hers', Vi turned to Rhona and continued the ritual until each and every Slayer gathered in the circle bore a light.
"To those Slayers who came before us" Buffy softly intoned, "Know that we are grateful and your bravery and sacrifice are never forgotten. And that we remember not only for what you were and what you did, but who you were and how you loved. As you are loved, evermore"
They stood in silent contemplation, the candles flickering in the darkness.

"May I help you my lady?" Groo asked.
Gwen ran an appreciative hand over his muscles. Just like his swimsuit calender. "Oh yeah,I think you can..."

Angel sucked hard on the blood, feeling it trickle down his throat.
"Bloody roses!" he swore.
"Literally" Buffy pointed out. She handed him a tissue and he used it to staunch the flow from his cut. He straightened up and enjoyed a few moments in the glorious Neopolitan sun. He missed his vampire healing but the benefits of being human again far outweighed them.
Dawn and Connor approached them accompanied by Angel and Buffy's children, each trailing a new rose bush to be planted in the grounds of their villa. Dawn bore her son Stephen in her arms.
They looked at the cut on Angel's finger and traded glances.
"Time they knew" Connor told her.
Dawn nodded. She whispered to the toddler she held before her. "Stephen, do you want to show your grandad your new trick?"
Luke reached out and touched Angels cut. It glowed a little then was gone.
Angel held up his miraculously healed hand for all to see. Stephen, the son of the Key and grandson of two vampires gurgled happily as his mother fussed and petted him for his cleverness.
"I think our little man is going to change the world" Angel observed.
Buffy reached out and stroked Dawn's swollen abdomen.
"I wonder what his sister is going to be capable off?" she asked aloud.

It didn't matter.
None of it did. Not here, not now.
She'd never asked for this, never asked for any of it. All she'd ever wanted to be was an ordinary girl. She'd been chosen out of all the millions of girls in the world. It was an honour she could do without.
She thought of all she'd suffered. The violence, torture, rape, impregnation, enslavement, death. She'd never wanted any of it.
Yet she survived, she overcame, she escaped, she triumphed over it all. She always escaped, always overcame the odds. No spell that couldn't be overcome. No prison, bonds or walls, no hypnotism, chains, webbing or dimensions could hold her. She would never be defeated, she'd even overcome being transformed into a vampire. Hell incarnate. And death itself.
She always found a way. That or she was rescued, by her friends (hell, they had a telepathic connection!), the Watcher's Council, the government's supernatural organisation, someone from school. Evil could never prevail against her.
Nothing physical would ever harm her. Whatever injuries she sustained, maiming, even supernatural impregnation, she would get over. Magic, Slayer healing, the Initiative's (or whatever had replaced them) surgeons, those psychic healers' they'd discovered in LA. She was beginning to think she could cure a rainy day. Her body was always flawless.
But her mind and soul were battered beyond belief.
Her suffering was so great, sometimes she couldn't bear it. All the pain she'd endured, all those people she'd loved and lost. That's what really hurt, that's what really cut her to the core. Sometimes she still felt the Slayer deathwish. It still haunted her. To make it all end.
She thought of all she had lost, all that being the Slayer had taken away from her. She felt like weeping.
But she always ended up here, here in the arms of those who loved her. And they were always there, whomever she lost there were always more to replace them. She couldn't imagine why, couldn't comprehend who could love her, the girl who brought such misery and destruction in her wake.
But they always did.
And it didn't matter, not here, not now. She would always end up in the arms of those who loved her. And in that place all that she had suffered seem to fade to nothingness.
They stirred in their sleep. Buffy nestled in beside them all the closer, wrapping her arms a little closer around them.