Disclaimer: All "Angel" and "Buffy" characters and concepts belong to Joss Whedon et al

Disclaimer: All "Angel" and "Buffy" characters and concepts belong to Joss Whedon et al. Rebecca Martin-Pryce, Sandra, Sarah Anne, Thia Matsoukis, and the Order of the White belong to me.

Note 1: This is a direct sequel to my previous fic "Elegy for a Fallen Heroine" and a loose follow-up to "Dawn and the Dead." You don't need to read those two to understand this one (though I'd love it if you did). Important things: In "Dawn and the Dead," Dawn visited the Fang Gang and became good friends with them all. In "Elegy," Angel, Wesley, and Cordelia came to Sunnydale for Buffy's funeral. Angst and comfort was had by all, and the Fang Gang volunteered to look after Dawn for a week while Giles is in England. Got all that?

Note 2: Thanks again to Tanja, Angst Girl Extraordinaire, and Gyrus, Action Guy Extraordinaire, my darling betas. Love you guys!

Note 3: Thanks to Godiva, Leah Rosenthal, and JoMadge for the Bloody Awful Poems. You guys are both the best and the worst.

Ties That Bind

by

HonorH

Prologue

A woman stood by a dark window, looking out on the city of Los Angeles. Her entire aspect was tense, that of someone watching and waiting.

Kate Lockley stepped quietly to her side and offered her a steaming mug. "How are you doing tonight, Sandra?" the ex-cop asked gently.

Sandra shook her head, accepting the mug of chamomile tea. "I think we're going to have to leave soon. We're never safe for long."

"You've only been here a week," Kate argued, voice still gentle as she gestured vaguely at the rest of the women's shelter they were standing in. "How could he have found you so soon?"

Sandra looked at the former cop through dark, haunted eyes. "He has ways. He can do things nobody else can. You don't know . . . if I told you, you'd never believe me."

Kate considered this, setting down her cup of tea, and followed an instinct. "I think you'd be surprised at what I'd believe." With that, she lifted her hair away from the right side of her neck, revealing the scar Angel had given her.

The other woman started, then leaned forward to examine and touch the vampire bite. Her eyes met Kate's, and Kate nodded once, confirming Sandra's realization.

"Why don't you tell me everything, Sandra? Start from the beginning."

For the next hour, Sandra did just that. Kate listened, occasionally asking a question for clarification. Finally, the story wound to a halt.

"This is where you tell me I'm nuts," Sandra concluded.

Kate shook her head. "No, Sandra. This is where I tell you I believe everything you told me." The other woman's eyes filled with tears of relief at being believed. Kate set a hand on her shoulder. "And this is also where I tell you I think I know someone who can help you."

***

Chapter 1: Monday Arrivals

Dear Buffy,

I don't know why I'm writing to you instead of my diary. It's not like you can read this. Or can you? I don't know. Maybe Angel would. I wrote to Mom, too, after she died. I sort of think I might be a little crazy. It sure feels that way.

I'm going to L.A. with the Fang Gang. We're all in Angel's car right now. It's hard to write in a car, even with my booklight. Giles and Wesley decided I should go with them, since Giles isn't sure I'm really safe, even though Glory's dead. Did you know that? Ben died the night you did. Giles said something fell on him. I don't think I'm sorry.

Anyway, Angel's going to be my bodyguard while Giles is in England asking the Council if they know anything about me, you know, what I am. Spike says you asked him to protect me, but Giles doesn't trust him. I think that's a little unfair, since he got hurt so bad trying to save me, but you know Giles. So I get Angel. I don't mind that, though. I think I get why you loved him so much. How much do you want to bet I'll cry all over him again sometime this week? It's getting to be a habit.

I miss you so bad, Buffy. I'm scared. I don't know what's going to happen to me, and I have the worst nightmares. I feel Doc cutting me, and you're already dead, so you can't make it stop.

***

Dawn looked at the words she'd just written, then re-capped her pen, turned off her booklight, and closed her diary. She put all three away in her duffel bag.

Gentle fingers brushed through her hair. Dawn turned to look at Cordelia.

"You okay, sweetie?" asked the Seer.

Dawn shrugged, not trusting her voice. Feeling the need for physical contact, she took off her seatbelt, moved into the middle seat, re-belted herself in, and leaned on Cordelia's shoulder. Cordelia put an arm around the girl and squeezed her tight.

Wesley watched them in the mirror. "This will be an interesting week," the ex-Watcher noted.

Angel nodded, eyes on the road. "Dawn's got a lot of healing to do." He spoke too softly for anyone but Wesley to hear.

Wesley flicked him a glance. "So do you."

Angel didn't deny it. Neither spoke again until they pulled up outside the Hyperion an hour later.

As he turned the car off, Angel turned around to speak to Cordelia.

"Cordy, are you planning to stay here this week?"

Cordelia looked down at Dawn, leaning against her shoulder and staring at nothing. "Yeah, I am."

"Want to take my car to your place?"

"Yeah. I'll need a few things, and I'll need to let Dennis know where I am before he starts to worry. Thanks, Angel."

All four unloaded from the car. Cordelia handed off Dawn to Angel, who put a protective arm around the girl's shoulders, and then the Seer got behind the wheel and drove off to her apartment. Wesley, Angel, and Dawn headed into the Hyperion.

Gunn greeted them as soon as they entered. "Glad you guys are back." He looked at Dawn.

"She's staying with us this week, as Giles is in England," explained Wesley.

"That's cool. Hey, Squirt. You doing okay?" Dawn shrugged. "No problem. I get it." Gunn turned his attention to Angel and Wesley. "Three things. First: Wolfram & Hart didn't come by, but they did send Angel a love note. It's in the office." Angel rolled his eyes with an impatient sigh. "Second: Kate Lockley has a new job and thinks she's got a case for us. I told her you'd be back tomorrow. Third . . ."

"Uncle Wesley!"

Gunn jerked a thumb in the direction of the office, where the hail had come from. "That's the third thing."

Angel looked at Wesley, whose jaw was on the floor, then at the office door. A young woman of perhaps eighteen or nineteen was just emerging. She was tall, nearly as tall as Angel himself, and very slim. Her hair was light brown, her skin fair, and her eyes the same blue-gray as Wesley's. She wasn't exactly pretty, but her features were fine-boned and aristocratic, which lent her a sort of attractiveness. Her clothes—slim-fitting camel-colored slacks and a navy blue silk blouse—were tailored and professional. She was also projecting near-frightening enthusiasm.

"Dear Lord in Heaven," breathed Wesley. "Rebecca?"

The girl walked over, her movements swift and athletically graceful. "Am I a surprise, Uncle Wesley?" She had exactly the same accent as Wesley once had, before a few years of Americanization had blunted it.

"To say the least." Wesley shook his head as if to clear a hallucination. "Angel, this is my niece, Rebecca Martin-Pryce. Rebecca, this is Angel and . . ."

"You're Angel?" Rebecca interrupted before Wesley could introduce Dawn. She made for the vampire, holding out a hand. Angel took it, a little unsure of what to make of her. "It's such a privilege to meet you. I've learned everything, absolutely everything I could about you. Would you spar with me sometime? I've never been tested against an actual vampire, let alone one of your age and skill. I did beg Madeleine, my Watcher, to let me, but she never allowed it."

"Your Watcher? Don't only Slayers get those?" asked Dawn.

Rebecca started, as if she'd been unaware of Dawn's presence. "Not precisely. I was a Slayer-in-Waiting. We get our own Watchers, too."

Dawn's forehead crinkled. "What's a Slayer-in-Waiting?"

Rebecca pulled herself up proudly. "The Council of Watchers seeks out girls with the potential to be Slayers and trains them against the possibility one of them will be Called when the current Slayer dies. I was trained from the time I was eleven until my eighteenth birthday. It's common knowledge that a Slayer who's been trained before her Calling lives far longer than one who hasn't."

"Buffy was never a Slayer-in-Waiting," Dawn argued. She knew for a fact that Buffy had never even suspected there were vampires until Merrick had accosted her outside Hemery High on her fifteenth birthday.

"Buffy Summers? Well, there are always exceptions." Rebecca shrugged. "Personally, I think it's a miracle she's lasted as long as she has."

Angel and Dawn both flinched visibly, and Angel's arm tightened around the girl. Wesley cringed.

"Rebecca," he said quietly, "Buffy Summers just died. This is Dawn, her sister."

"Oh." The British girl blinked. "Hard luck, that."

After a moment of awkward silence, Angel steered Dawn toward the stairwell. "I'm going to get Dawn settled into her room," he said as they left.

Rebecca turned to her uncle as soon as they were gone. She seemed to sense she'd stuck her foot in it, but plunged gamely on. "I'll bet you can't guess what I'm doing here, Uncle Wesley."

"As a matter of fact, I've no idea. When did you arrive, anyway?"

"Just this afternoon. Mr. Gunn said he didn't know when you'd be back, so I decided to wait here." Rebecca leaned in, lowering her voice. "There's a very strange girl about."

"Yes, we're aware of Fred."

"She's positively bizarre." Rebecca shook herself. "But can you guess why I'm here?"

Wesley was beginning to tire of this. The past few days had been emotionally exhausting, to say the least. "As I said, Rebecca, I've no idea. I had no idea the Martins were even acknowledging my existence since I was kicked out of the Watchers."

"The Martins aren't. Some of the Pryces still mention your name, though." Wesley winced. "It was at a dinner party a few months back that Courtland Pryce mentioned what you're doing. It was almost my birthday, and I knew that if I wasn't Chosen, I'd be removed from the rolls of the Slayers-in-Waiting. I'd been considering taking training as a Watcher—Madeleine told me she'd sponsor me—but when I heard about you working with Angel, the vampire with a soul, here in Los Angeles, just two hours away from the Hellmouth—why, Uncle Wesley, it was like fate."

Wesley had a sinking feeling. "Fate?"

Rebecca threw her arms wide, beaming. "I'm here to join you, Uncle Wesley. I want to fight evil—just like you!"

***

As Angel and Dawn gained the top of the stairs, a slim, small figure emerged from the darkness. It was Fred. She was wearing the same skirt she'd come back from Pylea in, but paired with one of Angel's shirts. Her long brown hair was flowing loosely over her shoulders, looking a bit damp. One sniff told Angel she'd recently showered. The young woman was fidgeting unconsciously, playing with her own fingers.

"Hi," she said. "I was wondering when you'd come back. I mean, Gunn told me you'd be back, but I wasn't sure when, and time's so hard to tell. There's that girl downstairs, and my, but can she chatter."

Angel took the abrupt change of subject in stride. He knew it would be some time before Fred's social skills reasserted themselves—if they ever would. Five years in Pylea had left her a little unhinged. Only time would tell if her mind could heal.

"Fred, I'd like you to meet Dawn," he said. "Dawn, this is Fred. Dawn's going to be staying with us for a week."

Fred waved with a few fingers. "Sweet little thing. Why's she flickering in and out, though?"

"I'm not real," Dawn said quietly.

"Oh!" Fred giggled nervously. "I didn't know. I try not to talk to people that aren't there, but it happens all the same. Least you're honest about it."

"Dawn's real," Angel corrected hastily. "She's real, and very special."

"I guess that makes it better." Fred nodded. "There she is again."

"How are you doing, Fred?" asked Angel.

"I'm good as gold. I took a lot of showers, and slept in a bed, and Gunn got me tacos. He's real nice. And no monsters. That's nice, too." She squinted at Dawn. "Did you know she sparkles?"

Angel decided it was time to break this off. "Actually, I didn't. Dawn's tired, so . . ."

"She needs to get to bed. Just when she was getting solid, too. G'night, sweet thing." Fred wandered off down the hall. Dawn watched her go, then turned to Angel.

"She's crazy, isn't she?"

Angel resumed walking, his arm still loosely around Dawn. "She spent five years in a demon dimension. It'll take her awhile to recover."

Dawn took this in. "Crazy people can see me. I mean, what I really am."

They reached the room Dawn had stayed in last time she'd been in L.A. Angel went and found some bedding, and when he returned to the room, he helped Dawn make the bed. As soon as the task was finished, Dawn turned and looked out the window, her face pensive and sad. Angel joined her.

"I feel like things aren't going to get better," she said after a moment, eyes filled with tears. "Not ever."

Angel cupped her face with one hand and brushed back her hair with the other, forcing her to look at him. "I know how it feels, Dawn." He looked into her eyes, allowing her to see the pain in his own. "It will get better, though. Not right away, but it will." He leaned forward, brushing her forehead with his cool lips. "Sleep now. Everything will be all right. I promise."

***

In an alley near the Hyperion, a hotwired car came to a stop. Its occupant lit a cigarette and looked up at the imposing structure.

"Everything's gonna be fine, Little Bit," he said. "Spikey's here."

***

Cordelia entered the Hyperion and was surprised to find Wesley in the middle of a discussion with a tall, skinny, rather plain girl.

"Do your parents know you're here?" the ex-Watcher was asking.

"They . . . know I'm in America," the girl hedged in an English accent. Under Wesley's stare, she caved. "They think I'm staying with a friend and visiting Disneyland and perhaps doing some hiking." The words came out in a rush.

"Rebecca . . ." Wesley pinched the bridge of his nose like he was developing a bad migraine. "You should have at least called before just dropping in."

"I did call," the apparent Rebecca protested. "I tried calling several times, as a matter of fact, but I didn't get anyone, and time was running short, so I decided to simply show up and take my chances. Don't make me go back to England, Uncle Wesley."

Uncle Wesley? Cordelia was suddenly very much looking forward to the explanation for all this. She cleared her throat. Wesley and Rebecca looked at her.

"Hello," greeted the British girl cheerfully. "Are you Uncle Wesley's girlfriend?"

Cordelia snorted. "As if."

"Rebecca, this is Cordelia Chase," Wesley interjected. "Cordelia, this is Rebecca Martin-Pryce, my niece."

Angel chose that moment to re-enter the lobby. Cordelia spotted Gunn, who rolled his eyes and shook his head, pointing at Rebecca. Cordelia nodded her agreement. The British girl failed to notice the by-play.

"So what's happening?" asked the vampire

"I'm going to be working with you," announced Rebecca.

Wesley choked. Angel grunted. Gunn coughed to cover a laugh. Cordelia frowned.

"Excuse me?" The Seer eyed Wesley. "Isn't my paycheck small enough without the nepotism?"

"There's no nepotism!" Wesley turned to his niece, frazzled. "Rebecca, Cordelia is quite correct. We simply haven't the resources to take on another employee at this juncture."

Rebecca made a brushing-off gesture. "Oh, don't worry about that. I've got my own money. You could take me on as an intern for now. We can discuss a permanent position later."

"But University," argued Wesley. "Your parents. Your whole life is in England."

"Like any good English girl, I'm taking a year off before going to University," Rebecca replied. "As for my life in England, it's going to be profoundly boring now that I'm no longer a Slayer-in-Waiting. I want adventure, Uncle Wesley. I want to fight the good fight, combat the forces of evil, kill demons and vampires—present company excepted, of course—and I want to do it in America. Or anyplace outside of England. Please let me stay, Uncle Wesley. I swear I'll make myself useful."

Wesley looked at Angel, who shrugged. Gunn had the aspect of one who wouldn't touch the current discussion with a ten-foot pole. The ex-Watcher's pleading eyes found Cordelia next.

Cordelia shook her head. "Whatever is fine with me. I'm going upstairs to settle in and check on Dawn." She shouldered her duffel.

"You going to bed?" asked Gunn.

"Not even," said Cordelia. "Angel and I slept all day."

Gunn turned that one over in his brain. "You and Angel slept together?"

Rebecca looked puzzled. "I was given to believe Angel was a eunuch."

"What?!" Angel let out an explosive breath. "Why does everyone think sex has something to do with my curse?"

Wesley groaned. "Now you've gotten him started."

Cordelia looked at Gunn. "In a strictly platonic, too-tired-to-do-anything sense, gutterbrain."

"Sex has nothing at all to do with it," Angel continued to protest.

Rebecca winced. "Sorry. I just heard a rumor . . ."

Gunn glanced from Cordelia to Angel. "Huh. Having a mental image here."

"Don't do that," Cordelia begged.

"Does everyone here really think I spent an entire century celibate?" Angel demanded.

"It's one of those things I prefer not to contemplate," said Wesley tiredly.

"In full agreement here," added Cordelia.

"I'll third that," said Gunn.

Angel, unfortunately, was in full rant mode. "I mean, what kind of sick mind thinks sex is ultimate happiness?"

"Every guy in America?" offered Gunn.

"I think Angel's point has been made." Cordelia turned and headed away. "You people can finish this. I'm going." She started up the stairs.

Angel flopped on the couch, muttering, "Not a eunuch. Not by half."

Rebecca turned back to Wesley, forcing a smile. "So. Can I stay?"

***

Cordelia shook her head as she reached the top of the stairs. To think she'd thought things would get less crazy once they got home after their adventures in Pylea . . .

"Dawn?" She knocked on the door once, then turned the knob. "It's just me, Cordy. I'm coming in. Hope you're not naked."

The door swung inward, revealing the room, and Cordelia entered. Then stopped dead. Dawn was sitting on the room sofa, chatting happily . . . with Spike.

"Miss Cordelia!" The blond vampire seemed delighted to see her. "Do come in. Wish you were naked."

"Spike!" Dawn chided, and giggled.

Cordelia considered her options and settled on what she thought was the best course of action.

"Angel!" she shouted.

She'd only meant to call up Angel and perhaps Gunn, as Wesley seemed preoccupied. However, the room was promptly invaded by literally everyone in the hotel, including Fred and Rebecca.

"Who's he?" asked Fred.

"Spike." Angel's voice was low and deadly.

"Peaches!" Spike seemed even more delighted to see his sire.

"Spike's here," announced Dawn, rather unnecessarily.

"Who's Bleach Boy?" asked Gunn.

"Dear Lord in Heaven," murmured Wesley for the second time that night.

"Spike? As in William the Bloody?" asked Rebecca. "How amazing! Leandra Taylor wrote her thesis on him. Fascinating reading. 'Slayer of Slayers: the Lives of William the Bloody.'"

Spike looked flattered. "Want me to autograph your copy, luv?"

"Spike says he's going to stay here, too," said Dawn.

"Is that so?" Angel was leveling a force-five glare at his grandchilde.

"No. No. No. No way," said Cordelia.

"Cordy!" Dawn was put out. "I want him to stay."

"Wow," commented Fred, looking around.

"Dawn wants me to stay," noted Spike smugly.

Cordelia folded her arms. "Dawn wasn't here during your last visit. Remember what happened then?"

Spike grinned wolfishly. "Just a little family bondage."

That did it for Angel. He strode forward and grabbed Spike's arm. "Excuse me. I need to have a word or two with this young man. Come along, William." He pushed his way out of the room, Spike in tow. Wesley, whose headache was now visible, resignedly followed, Rebecca close on his heels.

Gunn looked at Cordelia. "Who is this guy, anyway?"

"He's my friend," insisted Dawn. She turned on Cordelia. "I want him here. Why'd you have to say no?"

Cordelia set a hand on Dawn's shoulder. "Look, I know he helped you and everything, but the last time Spike was in town, things got really ugly, and it was completely his fault." She sighed. "I'll go with whatever Angel and Wesley say, though. Okay?"

Dawn seemed mollified. "Okay."

Gunn was getting tired of being ignored. "I repeat: who is this guy?"

"Spike's a vampire," Cordelia explained. "He was turned by Drusilla. Remember her?"

"I thought we were finished with this Vamp Brady Bunch crap. Why aren't we staking him?"

"Gunn!" Dawn was horrified.

"Calm down, Dawn. We're not staking Spike because some government ya-yas put a microchip in his brain that keeps him from eating humans. Besides, he tried to help Dawn because he fell for Buffy and . . ." Cordelia trailed off with a gesture. "Really complicated story."

Gunn stared at her, uncomprehending, for several moments, then shook his head and turned around to leave. He found himself face-to-face with Fred.

"Sometimes, you just can't stop it from raining on a Sunday," the young woman observed sagely.

Gunn had to laugh. "Makes about as much sense as the rest of it. How about some hot cocoa, Fred?"

Fred eagerly assented, and Gunn guided her from the room.

***

Angel more or less dragged a protesting Spike downstairs to the lobby, then shoved him up against the wall and glared at him for a solid minute.

One question finally won out among the multitude running through Angel's head. "How'd you get here, Spike?"

Spike shrugged, no easy task as he was pinned against the wall. "Stole a car."

"About what I expected. And then you what, climbed in Dawn's window?"

"Don't be ridiculous," scoffed Spike. "I climbed in yours."

He was thumped against the wall again for that. "Next question: Why are you here?"

Spike went dead serious. "I'm here to protect Little Bit. Just like I said I would."

"I can do that myself, Spike," Angel ground out. "You're not needed. You're not wanted."

"Really? Tell me, what's going to happen to her when you're hiring off on one of your heroic quests? One of your friends—your human friends—is gonna protect her against all the nasties in this city?" Spike shook his head. "Doesn't work that way, Peaches. You know it, I know it."

"They're better than you know. Like I said, Spike—you're not needed."

"Oh, but I am," Spike contradicted. "And I'm staying. Now, I can either stay here, or I can lurk about where you can't keep an eye on me. Which will it be?"

"How do you know I won't just stake you now?"

"Because you wouldn't stake me just for wanting to protect Dawn."

Angel knew that was the truth—and a very good point. He sighed, looking at Spike, then turned to look at Wesley (and Rebecca, hovering just behind him). Wesley spread his hands wide.

"Do I look like I'm in control of the situation?" asked the ex-Watcher, exasperated. "If you're willing to keep an eye on him, he can stay."

Angel turned back to Spike, leaning even closer. "All right, Spike. You can stay. Let's discuss the ground rules." He pointed at Wesley. "Wesley is your boss this week. He tells you to jump, you need to be in the air before you even ask him how high. You will not make us guess where you are. You will let someone here know where you're going if you leave the hotel. You will be issued a cell phone, which you will keep charged and turned on, and you will answer it when we call you. You will not, however, use it to make any calls of your own unless they are to us.

"Now to your personal behavior. No telling Dawn scary stories. No swearing around Dawn. No smoking around Dawn. No smoking in the lobby. No smoking around anything flammable. No drinking all the blood in the fridge. No getting drunk. No playing of mind games. No making of lewd suggestions to Cordelia. No spooking of Fred. You will be unfailingly polite to all employees and clients of Angel Investigations. You will be on whatever passes for your best behavior." Angel leaned in until his lips brushed Spike's ear. "Or I will make what you did to me last time you were in town look like foreplay. Understood, me boyo?"

The last words were spoken in a soft Irish lilt that made Spike's skin crawl. Not that he was about to show any kind of fear.

"Perfectly," sneered the younger vampire.

Angel let him go. He turned to find Wesley at the lobby coffee table, doing something with a crossbow that had been lying on it.

"Spike," said the ex-Watcher, "I'd like to reiterate what Angel said, but I'm tired of talking."

With one smooth motion, Wesley lifted and fired the crossbow. Spike did a double-take as he realized the bolt had pinned a cockroach to the wall only a few feet from where the vampire was standing—and Wesley was a good twenty feet away.

"Jolly good shot, Uncle Wesley," cheered Rebecca.

Wesley's flinty eyes were still on Spike. "Do I make myself understood?"

"Perfectly," repeated Spike. Only this time, his voice held a good deal more respect.

Angel smirked at Spike, then walked over to Wesley. "Dawn's here. Your niece is here. Spike's here. And Kate's got a case for us. Remember what you said about this being an interesting week?" the vampire murmured just loud enough for Wesley to hear.

Wesley nodded tiredly. "It looks like it will be—in the finest Chinese curse sense of the word."