All characters belong to Fox Television, Mutant Enemies, and Joss Whedon. I'm just having fun.



Gravity

"Come on, put your back into it. A Watcher scoffs at gravity." - Giles to Spike, Restless

Chapter 1: Release

by Djinn



"I won't go! What if she comes back?"

Giles sighed. This was one of those nights he wished he had never come to Sunnydale, never become a watcher. It was bad enough dealing with his own grief over Buffy's death. But to have to help Dawn deal with hers was almost more than he could bear. And for her it wasn't just grief; it was guilt. She knew that she was the one that was supposed to have died. But Buffy had changed all that the only way she could. By taking her sister's place--the greatest gift she could give.

"I won't go to Spain." Dawn folded her arms as her face sank into a mask of sullen resolve.

"You will, Dawn. I'm afraid you have no choice."

"Why? Because you don't want me around anymore?"

"You know that's not true." He glared at her. "Your father is your legal guardian."

She looked even sulkier. "Well, why did you have to go and tell him?"

"You know why. Family services was already watching Buffy closely. If they had their doubts about leaving you with your sister, how do you think they feel about letting you stay with an unrelated male foreigner, hmm?"

Dawn didn't try to argue with that. "How'd you even find him?" She sat down, appearing resigned for now. "Buffy couldn't after Mom died."

Giles silently thanked the Council for their assistance in helping him track down Hank Summers. The man was well hidden in Spain, but not invisible to an organization with as long a reach as the Watcher's Council. And Summers hadn't actually been trying to hide, he had just been the victim of bureaucratic snafus at both his own company and the Spanish postal service. The man had been horrified to learn that Joyce had died and his daughters were alone.

Daughters, plural. Giles marveled at the power of the monks' spell. How far it had reached and how durable it appeared to be. He might know intellectually that the girl was a construct and the memories he had of her were false, but that didn't convince his heart. His memories felt real. They were real, and they weren't. The same strange contradiction that Dawn was herself.

At least Hank Summers would not have to struggle with that. And perhaps in a way it was a blessing that he had this other daughter to help him come to terms with the death of his oldest. Not that he deserved that much help, Giles thought angrily, as he remembered how he had been more of a father to Buffy than Hank had over the last five years. Hank hadn't had to watch as his daughter launched herself off a tower to save someone Dawn. Giles had known that she was dead before she hit the ground. Had somehow sensed when her life ended as she fell through the crackling energy of the portal. The body that hit the ground in front of him had held no soul. At that moment, he had wanted to follow her wherever she had gone. It had been too much.

He looked at Dawn. She was so young and innocent. So full of pain. He wasn't helping her, even though he was trying. Maybe being with her father would be the best thing. A complete break from all of this madness.

"They won't know what I am," she said, as if reading his mind.

"You're human, Dawn. That's why Buffy wanted so badly to save you. You truly are human."

"But I'm still the Key. I know. When I came down those stairs...after she was dead. Nothing had changed. The crazy people still saw it, the energy. They still knew what I was. They knew that I'm not real."

"I know it doesn't make much sense. But you are real. And you're still the Key. Both. You're special."

Her voice was very small. "I don't want to be special."

Neither did Buffy, he thought sadly.

-------------------------------

It was absurdly easy to sneak out of Giles' apartment. He was oblivious, snoring softly in his bed up in the loft. Dawn rose from the couch, dressed in the bathroom, and grabbed the backpack she had stashed earlier. The note she left in the kitchen was brief and to the point. "I'm not going."

"Good bye," she whispered as she closed the door behind her. "I'm sorry."

The streets of Sunnydale were deserted at this hour. She hurried to the cemetery. There was no place else to go. The others wouldn't help her. They really thought that it was best that she go with her father. There was only one person. She hadn't seen him since Buffy died. He had kept to himself. She knew why.

The crypt was dark when she arrived. "Spike?" He wasn't there. She checked in the underground room. He wasn't there either. She went back up.

She didn't like the look of the place. It was a mess. Liquor bottles everywhere, empty containers that once held blood littered the room. Ashtrays were overflowing. She wrinkled her nose at the combined smells.

She waited for an hour, but he didn't come back. She let herself out of the crypt.

"Spike, where are you?" she whispered desperately.

"What have we here?" A deep voice sounded, too close for comfort.

She turned and backed away quickly. A tall vampire stood in front of her.

"Don't run, sweet thing." He laughed at her. "I just love little girls."

"I bet," she replied, swinging the backpack hard. The blow took him by surprise and she took off through the trees. She could hear him behind her, could feel his arm reach out and touch her shoulder. As she burst through the clearing, she put on extra speed and was surprised to feel his hand fall away. She tore through the cemetery, could feel him right behind her. She suddenly realized where she was going, saw what lay ahead of her. Who lay ahead of her.

"Spike!" she screamed.

A blonde head poked up. His eyes were dazed but he leapt to his feet unsteadily. "Dawn?"

She ran to him, stopped at the headstone. Buffy's headstone. "Help me," she urged.

Spike looked at the vampire that stood just in front of him. "Get out." His words were slurred.

"Hey man, get your own. I saw her first." The bigger vampire pushed him out of the way.

Dawn felt real terror as she saw Spike stumble away from her. "Leave me alone," she said to the other vampire.

"Worked up an appetite with you, little girl. You sure can run." He leered and took another step toward her.

Spike looked up. "I wouldn't be stepping there, mate."

The other vampire ignored him. His foot came down on Buffy's grave.

Spike's expression changed. Dawn had never seen such pure rage. He didn't make a sound as he stalked over to the other vamp, who oblivious to the danger he was in took another step. Spike's fist caught his shoulder, spun him around. The first punch sent the bigger vampire sailing over her.

He recovered with a roar of anger. "What is your problem?" he yelled as he ran toward Spike.

Spike just smiled. It was the most dangerous thing she had ever seen.

His fists were blurs as he knocked the vampire down as fast as the other could get up. Finally, seeming to weary of the sport, Spike grabbed the vampire's head. "I said not to step there," he whispered as he gave a vicious twist.

Dawn barely saw the head come free before the vampire exploded into dust. "Wow." She said. "That was so cool." She sat down heavily. "And so gross."

He moved to her. "Are you all right?" He suddenly seemed perfectly sober.

She nodded. "I was scared."

He looked down at the grave. "You shouldn't come here at night, Dawn. You know that."

"I didn't come to see her. I was looking for you."

He started walking toward his crypt. "Don't know why. What the hell would you need with me?"

"Your help."

"Well you just got it."

"That wasn't about me." She held her ground when his head snapped around. She met his glare without flinching. "That was about Buffy. You don't care about me."

"That's not true." He turned back around, but didn't move away.

She walked up to him. Took his hand in her own, trying not to flinch at how cold it was. "Will you prove it?"

He pulled away, took out a small flask, started to unscrew the lid.

She grabbed it out of his hand.

"Hey!"

"You don't need it."

"Well maybe not, but I bloody well want it. Give it back."

She threw it far into the woods.

He stared at her angrily. "What is your problem, girl?"

"I need your help. Your sober help."

"For what?"

"To get me out of town." She pulled him to his crypt, retrieved her backpack as they went. Once inside, she pushed him into his chair, stood over him with her hands on her hips. Unaware of how completely like her sister she looked.

His expression softened. "How are you doing?"

"Not so good, Spike. See tomorrow, I'm supposed to get on a plane and leave here. They want to send me to my Dad. To Spain. But I don't want to go."

"Why not, Spain's nice this time of year."

"That's not the point."

He smiled sadly. "What is the point, Dawn? Why not go? There's nothing here for you."

"Yes there is. There's Willow and Tara, and Giles, and Xander, and even Anya. And there's you."

"We all came together, stayed together, because of Buffy. You watch. Everything will change."

"It doesn't have to."

He leaned back, pulled out his cigarettes. Lighting one, he looked at her. "I assume I can still do this?"

"Yes."

"Small mercies," he muttered sarcastically.

"So will you help me?"

"What good is running away going to do? You want to stay here, running away isn't going to accomplish that. Might as well go to Spain."

She was irritated at his logic; she knew her plan made no sense. She also knew she had to do this. "So you won't help me?"

"I just don't see the point."

"Buffy asked you to keep me safe, didn't she? How are you going to feel when something terrible happens to me?"

He closed his eyes. "Go to Spain, Dawn."

"She'd be pretty disappointed in you, wouldn't she?"

"Go to Spain and leave me alone."

"Boy, you sure are letting her down. Hope you didn't promise or anything...you know, to look out for me."

She knew she had won when she saw him flinch.

"You don't fight fair, Dawn."

"Not when it's this important, Spike. Will you help me?"

His weary groan as he stood up was all the answer she needed.

------------------------------

Giles woke with a start. The loft was quiet. Too quiet. Dawn liked to watch cartoons in the morning. Noisy cartoons.

He kicked the covers off and grabbed a robe. Running down the stairs to the main level, he called out, "Dawn?"

There was no answer.

Her suitcases were still placed neatly by the door. The blankets on the couch were rumpled. He hurried down the hall to the bathroom. It was empty.

He picked up the phone and hit speed dial. He barely heard Willow's sleepy voice before he asked, "Is Dawn there?"

"Giles? Do you know what time it is?"

"Is Dawn there, Willow?"

Her voice was more awake but still confused. "She's leaving for Spain today, right? Why would she be here?"

"She's gone."

"You mean she left already?"

"Missing. She's missing."

"Maybe she went to the grave. Do you want us to check it out?"

"The grave. Yes, of course. No, I'll go."

"Call us if you need anything."

He barely remembered to dress in his haste to find Dawn, but when he got to the grave there was no one to be seen. He stared down at the marker. Felt a surge of pain at the sight of it. His lost slayer haunted him.

He drove back to his apartment. Walked in and started some water to boil. He needed some tea. Then he saw the note. Picked it up, knowing what it would say but reading it anyway. She was gone.

The phone rang. He crossed the room slowly. "Yes?"

"Giles?" It was Xander. "Willow called me. Did you find Dawn?"

"She's run away."

There was a long silence. "We'll be right over."

Giles hung up the phone, stood staring at nothing. He felt as if someone had catapulted him back three years to that awful moment when he had found out that Buffy had run away. Only at least he had known that Buffy could take care of herself. She had been the slayer after all. But Dawn was just a young girl. No super powers to help her survive in a world she had barely had a chance to live in.

"Where are you, Dawn?" he whispered. "Where in god's name have you gone?"

------------------------------

Spike barely beat the daylight into the apartment. The place was small but serviceable. He had found it using an old scam, pretending to be a fellow traveler at the airport, looking for someone in the check in line whose address was easy to spot on the outside of his bag. A few minutes of chatting the unsuspecting young man up and he knew exactly how long they could stay at the place. This was their last night.

Dawn looked up as he ran inside. "Cutting it close, aren't you?"

"Yeah. But we've got everything we need now." He pulled out the cash he had taken off the Cikner demon. After he had killed him. The young woman he had saved had been exceedingly grateful. Spike smiled at just how surprised she'd been when he hadn't taken advantage of that gratitude.

Dawn was excited. "You found us a new place to stay? Where? Does it have a pool?"

"You know, that wasn't one of the first things I asked about. Oh wait, I didn't ask at all. Dawn, we're on the lam, you know. We're not going to rent a place up on Melrose and then hang about by the pool. In fact, we aren't going to rent a place at all. This is underground and free for the taking. Very safe." Cikner demons were fanatics about privacy.

Her smile faded.

"What?"

"I don't really like it underground."

He edged around the sunshine slipping through the closed blinds and went into the kitchen. "Well, I do. No sunshine is a bloody good thing."

"Yeah, I guess."

"You guess? Gonna be hard to be your minder if I've gone poof, now won't it?"

She was glum. "Yes."

He felt sorry for her. Maybe he had overdone it. "Dawn. I can't protect you when it's daylight. I know it's hard but you can't go out."

She just nodded.

"I'm sorry, kid. But this is what you chose when we ran. If you don't like it, I hear there's lots of sunshine and pools in Spain."

Her look hardened. "No, It's ok. I'll get used to it." She walked into the bathroom.

He pretended he couldn't hear her crying behind the closed door.

--------------------

"You understand we don't like this. Reactivating you wasn't our first choice. But she's enough of a loose cannon without adding a new watcher to the mix. We really have no choice." The British voice on the phone oozed disapproval.

"Of course." Giles was only mildly surprised at the news. "When shall I go get her, Quentin?"

"It will take us a fortnight or so to get her out."

That soon, he thought. The reach of the Council again. So long. So pervasive.

"She's asked for you. Wants to talk to you before she agrees."

"To me? Now?"

"Yes to you. I expect you to get over to Los Angeles at once. Faith's a stubborn girl. And quite unpleasant. I can't state enough my aversion to seeing her roaming free."

"I'm surprised you're letting her. Frankly, I expected you'd arrange some sort of fatal prison accident. You know her death would call a new slayer."

"How droll, Rupert. And on an unsecured line, no less. Suffice it to say that the girl appears to have changed. Just the fact that she remained in prison speaks volumes. Even if it hasn't improved her disposition." Travers sighed. "You'll go to see her then?"

"I'll leave now."

The drive to LA was a blur. His thoughts alternated between Dawn and how he was going to find her now that she'd been missing for a week, and Faith who was going to become his responsibility. Before he knew it, he was pulling up to the prison. It took some time to get through the security measures but finally he was waiting for her in the visiting room. He watched as she was led in and took a seat across from him.

She picked up the phone, and he followed suit. Studying her through the glass, he thought she looked older. But her voice was the same as he remembered.

"I'm glad you came."

"They said you wouldn't agree to this till you talked to me."

She looked at him, studying him as steadily as he had done to her. "You look like shit."

He laughed, a short burst of sound. "I rather feel like it as well."

"Angel told me about Buffy."

He nodded.

"Are you sure you're up to this?"

He frowned. "Do you not want me to do this, Faith?"

"No, I want you to. But I know how it is. I mean Angel had to take off for a while to deal. Maybe you do, too? Maybe the last thing you need is me."

He thought about that. "Maybe the last thing you need is a watcher as damaged as I feel. You'll be free again. Perhaps some fresh blood would do you good."

"I don't trust the Council." She smiled tightly. "They may need me out now. But some things have gone down in here that I'd swear they had a hand in. I don't think I was meant to survive this sentence. And if they ever do find that other slayer, I know I don't want one of their people with me."

He decided not to lie to her. "Probably not."

"That's why I want you to be my watcher. I know you'll be straight with me. And I won't have to watch my back." She flashed him the devil-may- care grin he remembered. "We can be damaged together."

He nodded, his expression serious. "Perhaps we can heal together too."

"I wouldn't bet against us." Her grin faded. "So tell me what I can expect when I get back in town."

---------------------

Spike and Dawn had been in the demon's lair for two weeks and it was clear that she was not going to adapt. She seemed to lose every ounce of her normal vivacity. It was as if the very life was being sucked out of her.

Spike felt frantic. He didn't know what to do. He brought her anything she wanted. The previous owner had enjoyed the finer things in life, even by non-demon standards. There was a gameboy, video games, television. He brought her movies and books. They even played games.

All she wanted to do lately was talk. About Buffy.

He had to get her out to the sunshine. But how? Maybe it would be all right if she went out alone.

He turned the TV on. It was the news. He was about to flip the channel with he saw a picture of a young girl flash on the screen. At first, he thought it was Dawn. But her hair was darker.

"Police are asking for your help in the Kelly Manners murder. Anyone who saw the red sedan that has been reported around Canyon Ridge Junior High School at the time of her disappearance, or any other unusual happenings is encouraged to call KSTV's crime stoppers at..."

He flipped off the TV. "Come on."

She looked up at him in surprise.

"Come on," he held his hand out, unwilling to admit how spooked he was by the report. The girl had looked so much like Dawn. He could imagine what had happened to her. He knew the mind of a killer, because he had been one. Maybe still was, but for a piece of metal in his brain. "It's a full moon, let's go admire it."

She didn't move. "I'm ok"

"Well, I'm not. Come on." He finally had to walk over and pick her up.

"Put me down!" she yelled at him.

"Can you walk?"

"I'm not a baby."

He snorted as he set her back on her feet. "Then prove it."

"Fine. Let's go." She grabbed her jacket and walked out of the room.

He caught up with her easily. Watched as her mood lightened as they walked in the cool night air. She's been cooped up too much, he thought guiltily.

They walked for hours. He worried that she was overdoing it, but she didn't seem at all tired. And she seemed to be enjoying the night as much as he was.

They were nearing the entrance to their hideaway when he heard a familiar voice. Cordelia Chase. She was walking toward them, a man he didn't recognize next to her. Spike pulled Dawn into a doorway and listened to their conversation as they got closer.

"I still can't believe it, Wesley. They're really just going to let her go tomorrow?"

"The Council pulled strings." The voice was English. Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, Spike guessed.

"Why? She's a psycho." Cordelia's voice was strained. "I haven't forgotten what she did to you."

The man's voice was cold. "Nor I. But I'm not her watcher anymore. Giles will be. And perhaps he can help her."

"Yeah. Look how much he did for Buffy."

There was a long silence.

"They really can't find the new slayer?"

"It's a big planet. She could be anywhere." Wesley sounded defensive.

"Well tell them to look harder. They need to find her. Preferably before Faith flips out again."

"Angel says she's changed."

"Uh huh, and he thought Darla had too." Cordelia's voice was scornful. "Angel gives homicidal maniacs way too much benefit of the doubt, if you ask me."

"Well, I'm inclined to agree with you on that one. Between him and Fred, it's tolerance all around these days."

The voices moved away as the two crossed the street. It was harder for Spike to hear Cordelia's reply. "Oh, don't even get me started on her."

He waited a few minutes then stepped out to watch them disappear around the corner. "Very interesting."

"You learned something from that?"

"Uh huh." He smiled. "Come on."

He led her past a park to the bus stop. He grinned again thinking of the conversation he had just overheard. He reached into his coat, pulled out a new flask. He didn't expect to have it yanked out of his hands. "Dawn, no!" But it was too late; she had thrown it into the woods.

"I thought we were clear that you didn't need that stuff." Her eyes were very fierce.

"Well this stuff I do happen to need. You just threw away my dinner."

She gulped audibly. "That was blood?" At his nod, she grimaced. "Not booze?"

"Nice fresh blood."

She was already moving. "I'll get it. You just wait there. I'll be right back." She ran toward the woods, turning around to make sure he wasn't following. "Just stay there. Don't move."

"Yeah, and make it fast. I'm hungry." He managed to hold in his laughter until she was out of range.

When she came running back with the flask, he was all stern displeasure.

"Here," she said as she handed it over.

He opened it, took a deep drink. "Come on, then, we're wasting moonlight."

"Where are we going?"

"We need help. And I know just the person."

------------------------

Faith followed the guard to the visiting room. She was curious who would visit her this late. Angel had already been here to wish her luck and she knew that Giles would be coming in the morning to pick her up when she was released.

"You know the rules." The guard said sternly.

Faith just smirked.

"Don't push it. I don't care what tomorrow is."

"Right." She dialed down her attitude a notch. No need to piss off one of the few guards that was nice to her. "Don't worry, I'll behave."

When she saw who was sitting on the other side of the glass, she almost laughed. "Spike?" she said neutrally as she sat down and picked up the phone. "William the Bloody here to see me off?"

Then she realized that Dawn was sitting in the next seat. Buffy's sister moved to share the stool and the earpiece with the vampire. "William the babysitter," Faith corrected disbelievingly.

"He's my bodyguard," Dawn corrected with bravado. "And my friend."

"For real? Betcha big sister is spinning in her grave over that."

Spike's eyes never left her. "Buffy is the one that asked me to take care of her."

"Whoa, points off for judgment." She suddenly had a bad feeling. "You didn't make her into a...?"

Dawn made a face. "No. He's not evil."

Faith did laugh out loud this time. "Hate to correct you, midget, but that's exactly what he is."

"Buffy trusted me." Spike said with quiet dignity.

"And look where that got her." Faith studied the two. They looked miserable. "Hey, as much fun as trading insults with you two is, I've got things to do, you know."

Dawn opened her mouth.

"Yeah, we heard." Spike interrupted whatever Dawn had been about to say.

"Amazing, isn't it? I'm locked up in here for a good long time. I think the technical term was 'till you rot.' But then they need a slayer, and hey presto, I'm set free."

Dawn stared at her with hatred. "Only till they find the new one."

Faith met her gaze evenly. "Yeah, well that's the funny thing. See, they can't find that new slayer. Anywhere. It's just possible that since Buffy already died once, this latest death won't call some new girl to join the ranks of the cursed."

"They should just kill you then. Bet that would work."

Faith could see a spark of Dawn's sister in the teenager. "Wow, guess you've been taking charm lessons from Buffy? Wicked harsh, kid. Good thing I'm past letting that kind of thing bother me." She leaned forward, smiled nastily. "See, all hell is breaking loose out there. And the Council, well, they need a slayer. A trained one. And whether it's obvious to you or not, I've changed."

Dawn looked dubious.

"I have. Inside. But that doesn't mean I have to like you, or the Council, or anyone that was against me. I may have to die for you. But I don't have to care for you."

Dawn looked away.

"So who told you I was getting out?"

Spike's lip quirked into a small sneer. "I wouldn't say anyone told us. But we overheard your old watcher and Cordelia talking."

"Wesley." Faith felt a twinge, she hated the guilt she felt when she thought of how she had hurt him.

The vampire's sneer grew. "He's really not happy that you are being let out. Nobody is."

She thought of Giles, hoped that wasn't true of him. "You know that's what I don't get. Angel tortures Giles, everybody's favorite watcher, and all is forgiven. But I do maybe half as bad to the watcher nobody liked and I never hear the end of it."

Spike's face fell a bit as he muttered, "Different rules for Angel. Always have been."

"Yeah, I guess." Faith was suddenly tired of sparring with them. "Why are you here?"

Dawn looked at Spike and shook her head solemnly. He nodded back as if arguing with her.

"Look this is loads of fun, really."

Spike's voice was soft in her ear. "We need your help."

"What? You want me to stake you and take her back to Giles?" She leaned back. "Cuz the way he told it to me, the Council is wanting her back but bad. Papa Summers is not one of the initiated, and well he's wicked pissed that his baby has gone missing. I could make some major points if I were the one that brought her home. In fact, they'd never need to know I killed you. That could just be for my own happy memories." She grinned.

Dawn rose to leave but Spike pulled her back down. "I have to protect her. I promised. But I can't. Not during the day. And not when they're looking for her."

Faith was amazed at the emotion she read on the vampire's face. He really meant it. "So don't go out in the day. You can protect her at night."

"She's not like us. She needs the sunlight."

Faith didn't like the way he included her in his night, then she saw Dawn's expression. Lost, utterly lost. She recognized the look. She turned to meet Spike's eyes. "Take her back. Give her to the Council. Let her grow up away from all this, away from things like us."

Dawn's voice was broken. "I am a thing like you."

Faith was confused. "What?"

"Green, glowy energy that a psycho god wanted to turn into a portal to hell. That's what I am. Not a girl. Not a human. Not really."

Faith looked at Spike. He nodded slowly. She felt suddenly helpless. "I can't help you. Giles believes in me. And the council..."

"Leave them."

Faith shook her head. "I can't. I have a duty that I need to see through. I'd like to help you, but if I do there won't be anyone left to fight the evil. I'd let everyone else down just to help one girl. I can't do that."

Dawn stared at her angrily. "Why not? Because I'm Buffy's sister."

Faith shook her head. Was startled to hear herself say, "Because it would be wrong."

Spike seemed to accept her words. "So are you going to tell them you saw us?"

She shook her head, gave him a lopsided grin. "Tell who I saw what?"

Spike nodded in understanding and stood up. "Let's go, Little Bit." He looked at Faith. "Good luck with the slayer gig. Hope you get it right, this time."

"Best you can hope for is a little more time." Faith saw something spark in his eyes. Identified it as grief. She suddenly knew that he was remembering Buffy.

"And love," he whispered.

Dawn grabbed the phone from him. "I don't get it. You fell too. Got all smashed up. How come you get to live?"

Faith looked at the girl, saw her anger, her rage. Understood it. In a gentle voice she answered, "Maybe, because I've still got a lot to learn about being a slayer."

Their eyes met and held. Dawn's gaze grew fiercer even as Faith let her own grow soft.

"I'm sorry, Dawn. Buffy tried to be my friend before it all went bad. I'm sorry I wasn't there to help her."

"Me, too." Dawn let her lids close as she tried to hide the pain.

Faith nodded to Spike and turned away quickly. She wanted to be out of that room before Buffy's sister opened those accusing eyes again. On the other side of the door, she angrily wiped a tear away.

"You ok?" the guard seemed surprised to see this small sign of weakness.

Faith shook her head. "Not even close."

----------------------------------

Spike and Dawn stood out on the street. The bus was long in coming.

"So what now?" she asked.

"Don't know." Spike's voice sounded defeated.

Dawn felt a new resolve fill her. "You didn't really think she'd help us, did you? I mean, come on." She took his hand in hers. Didn't even notice the cold skin that used to bother her. "We don't need her."

"Yes, we do. Dawn, don't you get it. I can't protect you."

"You're a vampire, Spike. If you can't, then who can?"

He closed his eyes and shook his head. "I can fight demons. And gods. But I can't fight humans, Dawn. And that's what the threat is now to you. Regular people. With just enough of the evil in them to want to hurt a young girl. I can't stop them."

She suddenly understood. Remembered the newscast they had been watching. The way he had paid attention. She had not comprehended. Now she did. "Nothing bad is going to happen to me."

Spike didn't answer as a bus pulled up and they boarded. She went to sit behind the driver, but the vampire pulled her over to the other side. "No mirrors," he hissed.

Stupid, she realized. Things she didn't have to think about in Sunnydale were suddenly crucial here. So much to learn. But she could learn. If he taught her.

They sat in silence for a minute. Then she turned to him. "You could teach me to fight. Like Buffy fought. I mean I know I'm not her, but I could learn. Some of it anyway. You could make me tougher to hurt."

He was looking out the window. "Should just take you back," he muttered.

"Spike, no, I want to stay with you."

He didn't answer.

She realized that he was about to give up. "Let's just try, ok? Give me a week. Train me to fight back. If I don't get it in that time, you can take me back to Giles. I'll tell them I ran away and you came after me. They'll never know."

He looked down at her.

She put every ounce of persuasion she could into her voice. "One week? Please?"

He sighed. Then he nodded tiredly. "One week, Dawn. And that's it."

She squeezed his hand and leaned her head on his shoulder. "Thank you, Spike."

--------------------------------------

"Again." Spike rushed her, felt her flip him easily over her back. He landed hard on one of the mats they had spread all over the room.

"Sorry."

He stood up gingerly. She was learning fast. Almost too fast.

"What?" Dawn looked at him in confusion. "Did I do that wrong?"

"No. You're doing it perfectly. And after only seeing it once. Perfect."

She beamed.

"Just like you did the ten other throws perfectly." He walked to the table, picked up the judo videotape. "Have you seen this before, Dawn? Maybe Buffy was watching it?"

"No. Buffy didn't like to learn from tapes. She got bored really quick."

Spike frowned. "You're sure you never took martial arts? In school maybe? Or maybe Buffy showed you some things. You just don't remember."

She was clearly mystified. "I don't understand? I'm doing ok, aren't I? What's the big deal? Why are you acting like it's some sort of crime?"

He thought of her, that night he had seen her running toward him in the graveyard fleeing the vampire. He had been drunk. That was what he told himself. He hadn't really seen her moving like that. No human could outrun a vampire over any kind of distance. No normal human.

"No," he moaned, as he felt his heart drop. "No."

She moved closer to him. "What is it?"

"They can't find her anywhere."

"Huh?"

"They can't find her because she's with me."

Dawn still didn't understand.

He whispered, "One girl in all the world..."

She backed away. "No."

"Dawn..." He didn't know what to say.

"That is the stupidest thing." She began to pace. "We're just tired is all. And this judo stuff, well I just have natural ability."

"Did you before?" He asked, remembering how she used to complain about her gym classes.

"Well, no. But I've never done judo before. I guess it's what I'm good at and I just didn't know. But I mean, I still totally suck at gymnastics."

Fast as lightning he was at her side, lifting her high before throwing her across the room. His chip didn't flare. That alone told him he was right. He didn't need to see her fall into a perfect back handspring, push herself up to a faultless landing.

"Damn."

"Oh no," she said, tears filling her eyes. She sat down hard on the mats.

"One girl in all the world," he repeated sadly. He slammed his hand down on the table, felt it jump. "Damn it. It's not fair. Not both of you."

"She said I was made from her." She looked up at him, got up and moved behind him. He felt her arms go around him. "It's ok, Spike. We'll figure this out."

He turned around. Held her tightly. She started to cry. Through her sobs, he heard her say something. "What? Dawn, what did you say?"

"Promise me," she gulped. "Promise me, we'll figure it out together."

"Love, I'm a vampire. You're a slayer."

She was still crying but it was a quieter, less desperate sound. She pulled away from him. "No. Not good enough. I don't have a choice. And it's the one way I can pay Buffy back, don't you see. But I do have a choice on who helps me. And I say it's not going to be some old watcher guy. It's just not."

"Giles..."

"Will have his hands full with Faith."

Spike couldn't believe what she was suggesting. "They'll never go for it."

"Why not? If I say you're my watcher, who are they to argue. And we won't go back until we're ready. We'll hunt here. Nobody'll notice. They'll think it's Angel. We can do it, Spike. We can be so strong when we go back that they won't be able to say anything. And you'll be the first watcher that can go hand to hand with vampires." She grinned at him. "We can do it."

He looked at her. At the earnestness and certainty blazing out of her eyes. And at the terror. He couldn't leave her alone. Buffy had charged him with caring for Dawn. Now he could walk away now with a clear conscience. A slayer didn't need him. But Dawn, the lost little girl, still needed him. And he needed her. Not in the way he had wanted Buffy. Never like that. But in a way that mattered, because no one had ever needed him before the way Dawn did. He looked at the eyes shining up at him. He grinned and saw her answering smile. "Bloody right, Dawn. We can do it."

---------------------------------------

"Yes. Yes, I see. No, I'll tell her. Yes, at once." Giles hung up the phone, his face expressionless.

"What did they say?"

He looked over at Faith. "They want me to come back to England."

Her face fell.

"Both of us are to go, Faith."

Her look was happier, but skeptical. "Me too?"

He nodded. A few months ago, he couldn't imagine taking her with him to the supermarket, much less back to England. But now, something had happened. She had hit Sunnydale like a meteor, taking out the vampires that had moved back in, exterminating whole tribes of demons. Her energy seemed limitless. And he had been there to help her. She had brought him back to life.

He studied her as she processed the news. She had kicked off her shoes and lay sprawled on the couch. He tried not to notice how attractive she was. The fact that she had turned into a woman since the last time he had seen her should be of no real interest to him. She was a slayer. He had a sacred charge to watch over her.

He smiled as he thought of her in England. His colleagues were in for a shock. She may have turned over a new leaf, but she was far from tame. He knew that Willow and the others weren't entirely comfortable with her even after all the good she had done. Of course, Faith hadn't helped matters by being as arrogant and rude as she could be to the Scoobies. The original Scoobies anyway. She seemed to get along fine with Tara and Anya. And with him. In fact, to him she had been gentle, polite. Or as polite as she could get. He smiled.

"What?" Her voice was only mildly irritated. He considered that an excellent sign.

"You haven't been what I'd call civil to Willow and Xander, but you've shown me nothing but respect. Why?"

She considered his question, her eyes meeting his fearlessly. "You were always nice to me, Giles. You never tried to hurt me, or lock me up. You might have been able to help me if Wesley hadn't screwed everything up." She stopped as if unsure.

"What?"

"And you're so miserable. I get sad just looking at you." She shrugged. "Call me a big softie. Don't tell anyone that though."

He smiled at her.

She grinned back. He was again struck by how attractive she was.

"So when do they want us to leave."

"In a week."

She laughed. "No problem for me. Not like I have much to my name. I assume the Council has sent you a passport for me?" At his nod, she nodded knowingly. "Figures. What about you? Can you be ready that fast?"

He nodded. "I can sell the magic shop to Anya. She can afford it. Made a killing in the stock market and got out before the downturn."

"Demons have great self preservation instincts," Faith teased.

"Well, and she's Anya."

"I was trying to be nice."

"And it almost worked."

They shared a smile. Then he sobered again. "I just wish we could find her."

"Dawn?"

He felt the same despair he always did when he thought of her. They had looked for her, Hank Summers had flown over from Spain, the police had tracked her to an apartment in LA. Then the trail had gone cold. She could be anywhere. Or nowhere. Sometimes he dreamed that she was dead. That he was trying to explain to Buffy how it happened. Or that he had to tell Joyce that he had lost both of her girls.

"Giles." Faith was standing close. Her hand was on his shoulder. "She ran away. It wasn't your fault."

"But it was. I mean..." He felt something threatening to tear loose inside him, something heavy and dangerous. Guilt. Blame. Pain. He felt her hand move to his neck. It was comforting but did not stop the feelings inside. "I let her down again, you see. I was supposed to make sure Dawn was ok, to make the sacrifice mean something. But what did I do? I lost her. She could be dead. And that would mean I killed them both."

"You didn't kill Buffy." Faith's voice was harsh as she pulled his face up, forced him to meet her gaze.

He didn't look away. Tried to find blame or hate in her dark eyes. Found only understanding. "I did. I told her so many things about killing Dawn. About how to stop Glory. I practically pushed her off. I should have been there for her. But I wasn't. I killed her."

"No!" Faith shook him, not gently, but not using enough of her strength to hurt him either. "I don't care what you told her. Buffy decided to swan dive off that tower all on her own. That wasn't you. I know."

"You weren't there."

"But I've talked to the others. They were."

"You don't even like the others."

"So? I needed to understand what happened. Why you were so sad. So I asked them. They told me."

"Why did you need to understand?" He realized her hands were still on his neck. They felt good.

"Because I care about you. Not because I think that you care about me. But because I know that you loved her. You would never have done anything to hurt Buffy. You would have thrown yourself off that tower if you could have taken her place. You loved her that much. I've never known that, Giles. Well, except from the Mayor," she saw his look, "but let's not go there. Anyway, you've been really good to me since I've been here. Given me a chance. A real chance. I didn't expect that. You've treated me the best I've ever been treated. But not like a father. You treat me like an adult. An equal. I like that.

" I don't care about very many things. But you better get used to me caring for you." She swallowed, then continued. "And not like a father."

He watched, as her face got closer to his. Mustn't do this, he thought hazily, even as her lips touched his. Very wrong, he objected, as his arms tightened around her and he pulled her onto his lap.

A voice he had never thought to hear again commented, "Ok, I think this is definitely grosser than when you twisted that vampire's head off."

"I don't know, niblet. That was pretty disgusting."

Both he and Faith turned to look at the two.

"Dawn." He said rather stupidly, not sure if it was caused by what had just happened with Faith--and a part of his mind noted that neither of them had let go of the other--or by Dawn's sudden and rather different appearance.

"Dawn," Faith repeated. He realized she didn't sound surprised to see the girl. "Nice threads."

"Thanks." Dawn dropped the gym bag on the floor and grinned at them both.

She seemed taller to him, then he saw that she was wearing boots, the kind Buffy used to wear. Suddenly he realized that everything about her was different. She seemed older, tougher. He got up in rush, nearly dumping Faith on the floor. "Dear God, Spike. What have you done?" He was already rushing the vampire when Dawn got between them.

"Giles, no. It's not him. He didn't do anything to me."

He stopped, uncertain what she meant.

"I think I understand." Faith stalked by him, a strange smile on her face. He saw Spike back up as the two women began to circle each other.

"Faith, no!" Giles was suddenly very afraid.

"Leave them," Spike's voice had an unfamiliar ring of authority.

"It's ok, Giles." Faith's voice was utterly calm as she launched herself at Dawn.

Giles watched, comprehension coming quickly as he watched the two spar. They were evenly matched. When they finally separated, both slayers were breathing hard.

Faith grinned at him. "I must have lost my touch in prison." She held out her hand to Dawn. "Welcome to the club, you poor thing."

Dawn returned the grip firmly. "Thanks. And you didn't lose your touch. You're the hardest fight I've had so far."

"We think it is that whole key thing," Spike explained helpfully. "We noticed it first in training. But bugger, you should see her when she hunts. Just amazing. Has this whole otherworldly psychic thing going. Very effective. Hybrid slayers may be the answer."

Giles gave him an odd look.

Dawn moved to Spike's side. "A slayer needs her watcher, right?"

Faith started to laugh.

Giles glared at her. He was still trying to process that she had known all along that Dawn was with Spike and hadn't told him.

She seemed to read his mind, her expression turned serious. "I made a promise. I wanted to tell you. I probably would have just now. Or later anyway." Her grin returned. "If we hadn't been interrupted."

He realized that trying to stay mad at her was a losing proposition.

She stepped to his side. "Giles, it's perfect. Can't you just see their faces when you tell the Council that a vampire is their newest watcher?"

Her amusement was contagious. He didn't want to, but he found himself grinning. Not just at the irony of an undead watcher. He knew that Dawn's new status would change everything. There would be no move to England. And the Council would have to find a way to convince Hank Summers to let his daughter stay in Sunnydale. Where she belonged. Where they all belonged.

Spike came up, put an arm around his shoulder. "I feel like we're brothers already, Rupert, what with me being chained in your bathtub for all that time.

Faith raised an eyebrow at him.

"It's not what it sounds like."

She laughed. "I'm sure you'll tell me all about it...later."

The look she gave him was pure evil. Giles suddenly wished desperately that they were alone.

"So," Spike said, as he pulled out a flask and headed for the microwave. "Got any wheatabix?"



TBC