Buffy and Her Friends are owned by Joss Whedon and a bunch of suits. I'm altering their realities for fun, not profit, as I own nothing and have the credit report to prove it.
We rejoin our heroines right where we left them at the end of part 1, sitting around the table in the Magic Box.

Dawn ended the silence between the adults with enthusiastic applause, as if Giles had just finished a particularly exciting story.

"What else did the Council tell you?" Tara asked.

"Nothing. They are trying to find out exactly what happened then. Willow, one of the younger Watchers wants to get in touch with you." Giles pulled a small piece of paper from his shirt pocket. "This is his information."

"How bad is this, really? Like on a scale of one to ten, with 10 being the end of the world," Faith asked.

"This would be a 12 or so, the end of many worlds in addition to ours."

"Why do the knights think we know anything about the Key to Everything or whatever it is?" Faith asked.

"Apparently, they have a prophecy that is quite similar to the one we discussed earlier."

"No way," Willow said softly.

Everyone turned to look at her. Willow stood up. "There is no freakin' way." She turned toward Giles and stabbed her finger emphatically. "No. Way."

"Will?" Buffy said.

"You don't get it, do you, Buffy?" Willow demanded. "Dawn is the Key to All Worlds. So the Knights of Byzantium are right. We guard the Key the Beast is looking for. It's just a matter of who kills her first, and I'm not playing the game. Not with Dawn."

Buffy looked to Giles for confirmation. "Willow is correct."

Buffy got to her feet immediately, and put her hands on Willow's shoulders. She waited for Willow to meet her eyes. "We're not going to let anything happen."

"No. Let them find some other supernatural love child to play with." Willow's tone was angry, and Dawn looked curiously at them.

"We will protect her. I promise. And you know how prophecies are. I mean, they said I would die, but they left out the part about me coming back," Buffy said reassuringly. "And who can protect her better? Look around. We're down two and we still have enough firepower to handle almost anything."

"There's an army camped outside of town ready to try that theory, Buffy," Willow answered. "An army that has a history of destroying towns. This is not good."

"We're fine right now. We'll figure out what we need to do, and we'll do it," Buffy said, and looked to Giles. "There's something we can do, right?"

"If we can find it," Giles agreed.

"See? We can research," Buffy said.

"I don't believe this," Willow said.

"Where will she be safer?" Faith asked. "This way, the battle stays on our turf. Gives us the first advantage."

Willow glared at Faith and bit her tongue. She glared next at Buffy. "This is your plan? Just sit here and wait for something to happen."

Buffy lowered her voice. "Willow, sweetheart, we both know that running leads to being chased. Here, we know where to duck down for cover."

"This is insane. You know that, right?" Willow asked desperately, and Buffy stepped forward and pulled Willow toward her.

"It's going to be all right," Buffy said quietly.

The others looked away, except for Dawn, who asked uncertainly, "Mommy?"

Buffy dropped one hand toward her daughter, and repeated, "It's going to be all right."

After a few moments, both of them realized what Dawn had said and looked at her. "Say it again," Willow demanded.

Dawn happily complied while reaching up. "Mommy."

Buffy let Willow go so she could kneel beside the stroller. While she unfastened the safety belt, she asked Dawn, "Who's Mommy?"

"Mommy," Dawn repeated, and grabbed a handful of Willow's hair. She didn't pull, just held on, while Willow lifted her from the stroller and stood up. Dawn looked at Buffy and announced, "Mom."

Buffy smiled hugely. "You're a smart girl, aren't you?" She reached for her daughter, but Willow backed away.

"No," Willow said stubbornly. "We're not doing this, Buffy."

"We don't have a choice."

"Mom?" Dawn asked uncertainly, and looked from one mother to the other. The others remained absolutely still.

Buffy looked from Dawn to Willow, and waited for Willow to look back. "I swear we will keep her safe. I'll die to protect both of you."

Willow didn't answer. She sank to her knees, her heart falling at twice the speed of her body. She buried her face in Dawn's hair, and shook. Buffy had cursed them, had offered her life for their daughter's, and someone was always listening when those promises were made.

Dawn patted her awkwardly. She was getting overloaded by the emotions of all of the adults around her, Willow's panicked rage, Buffy's stoic resolve, Giles' mixture of sorrow and determination, Faith's anger, Tara's calm curiosity, Joyce's confusion as she tried to make sense of what the others said. They always seemed to talk in shorthand about whatever was happening, and Joyce honestly preferred not to know more. Things were always far, far worse than she imagined.

Buffy wrapped herself around Willow and Dawn. While she waited for the storm to pass, she kept her eyes closed. Willow and Dawn were everything to her. It was hard to believe all that happened in the past months, not even a year since the first time she dreamed of Dawn. Buffy summoned that joy, and all the other moments she had with Willow and infused her voice with emotion. She said, "I love you. We will beat this thing."

They stayed on the floor for several minutes while the others remained silent. The bell over the door alerted them to Anya and Xander's arrival. Xander took one quick look across the room, and reached behind himself to turn the lock.

"Xander, something's wrong," Anya said with a frown. She looked from the table to Xander.

"Yup," he agreed, and moved them forward after Giles' slight nod.

"You told them about the prophecy," Anya guessed.

"They've known about the prophecy for weeks," Giles protested.

"Uh huh," Anya said skeptically. She looked at Tara.

"It got specific," Tara said.

"Great," Anya answered unenthusiastically, and joined the silence while they waited for Buffy and Willow to rejoin them.

"And Dawn said Mommy," Faith added.

Willow's face was dry and her eyes clear when she returned to her seat. Buffy followed her with Dawn seconds later. To turn attention from Willow, Buffy asked, "Giles, what's with the table?"

"Beg pardon?"

"The carvings. What do they mean?"

"You get a buzz from them, B?"

"Yeah, nothing specific, just more than static." Buffy brushed one hand over them en route to Willow's leg. The tension in the redhead's thigh told Buffy that they were far from finished with their discussion.

"I'll look into when I get an opportunity," Giles answered distractedly. He looked around the table and sighed as he removed his glasses. They had been lucky so many times, and he knew he should be more confident in their ability, but he couldn't stop the low voice in the back of his mind that said this time was different. "You should stay in tonight, all of you. Do not go anywhere alone, and do not, under any circumstances, leave Dawn without a Slayer to guard her."

Willow threw Giles another filthy look, and he felt it, even though he was looking at Faith. He couldn't meet Willow's eyes right now, not while he despaired of their survival.

"Mr. Giles, is there anything else we can do?" Tara asked.

"Reinforce the spells around the places we spend the most time, I suppose. Continue to research."

"We got nothin', in other words," Xander said.

"We'll find something," Buffy answered evenly. "Mom, can you take us home, please?"

"Certainly, honey."

Buffy stood up and maneuvered away from the table. She pushed the stroller with the other hand, and followed her mother from the shop. As soon as they were gone, Willow pushed away from the table. She made her exit silently, all eyes following as she walked away.

There was no more discussion after that. Giles directed the others toward various chores, and after an hour of work, sent Xander and Anya on their way. He gave Faith and Tara a ride to Revello Drive before going to his own home.

Joyce was playing with Dawn, and Tara was immediately aware that Willow had invoked the silence spell. She and Faith exchanged a look that said both doubted the other couple was making up.

"I don't expect to see them tonight," Joyce said.

"Didja have dinner?" Faith asked.

"Dawn did, but I was waiting for you. Yummy Spaghetti-Os."

"Geddi ohs," Dawn yelled gleefully.

"Ooo, I love the ones with meatballs," Faith said. "Those are even good cold."

Both Tara and Joyce shuddered. "I think we can do a little better than that," Tara said.

Faith rolled her eyes and held her hands out toward Dawn, who squirmed toward her. Faith picked Dawn up. "Geddi ohs!" Dawn shouted again.

"Tell 'em, Dawnie."

Upstairs, Buffy paced beside the bed. Willow stared at the wall, her jaw set to resolve. "We can't run. They will find us. You think they don't have big magic at their disposal? You think they can't track us? They can. They found us right here, and they'll find us no matter where we go," Buffy explained again.

"I'm not doing this, Buffy. I'm not going to sit here and wait for people or things to come and get her."

Buffy clenched and unclenched her hands. Willow was being as stubborn as she had ever been. This time, she wasn't even being logical. Buffy took a deep breath and knelt in front of Willow. "I love you. I love Dawn. I won't let anything happen to either of you."

"You can't promise that."

"I can. I do."

"Stop it."

"I can't stop it. I don't want to stop. I want our family to be happy and safe and well, and that's my job, to make sure we are. Especially the safe part. Especially you and Dawn."

"Stop it," Willow repeated in a lower tone.

"No." Buffy covered Willow's hand and refused to let her pull away. "Do you love me, Willow?"

Willow, surprised, met Buffy's eyes for the first time. "You know I do."

"Do you trust me?"

Willow nodded.

"Will you trust me about this for a little while, so we can figure out what to do?"

Willow blinked slowly while she weighed Buffy's request. She wanted to scream again, to break something, to beat on Buffy until she changed her mind. "You don't decide on your own what to do," Willow said firmly.

Buffy nodded without answering. She leaned forward and slid her arms around Willow's waist, then breathed a huge sigh of relief. Buffy knew how close Willow had been to bolting, taking Dawn and trying to disappear. She relaxed a little more when she felt Willow's fingers moving over her hair.

"Look at me, Buffy."

Buffy raised her head.

"If the Knights aren't gone by the end of the week, we are taking Dawn and we are leaving Sunnydale."

"Will," Buffy started.

"It's not a question, Buffy. We can't live like this, and we don't have to. Let Faith take care of the damn Hellmouth for a while. I cannot sit here and wait for one of you or both of you to die because you're pigheaded."

Buffy hesitated a moment before answering. "All right."

"You promise?"

Buffy raised her right hand. "I promise."

She and Willow watched each other for nearly a minute before Willow tugged Buffy up. Buffy ignored the pins and needles in her legs while Willow stood. They wrapped their arms around each other and stood there silently for several minutes, each lost in her thoughts.

Noise from downstairs drew their attention, and they separated. Buffy held on to Willow's hand as they went to investigate. They followed the sound to the kitchen, where Dawn beat on the tray to her high chair while Faith sat in a chair and rubbed her head. Tara was at the freezer, getting ice, while Joyce struggled to look sympathetic.

"What happened?" Buffy asked, and Joyce burst into giggles.

"Oh yeah, nothin' like sympathy," Faith muttered. She flinched when Tara put ice on her head.

"You'll be all right," Tara said, amusement obvious in her voice. She looked at Buffy and Willow. "Your daughter bounced a can of Spaghetti-os off Faith's head," she said, smiling, then returned her attention to Faith. "I told you to put them in a bowl."

"Geddi ohs!"

"I will next time," Faith said, and glared at Dawn, who laughed.

"Are you hungry?" Tara asked. "I made plenty."

"Thanks," Willow said, and pulled away from Buffy to get plates, cutlery and glasses. Buffy got milk from the refrigerator and filled the glasses before sliding into a chair beside Willow.

The others stayed at the table and talked around them while they ate. When they finished, Buffy removed Dawn from her high chair and took her upstairs to prepare for bed while Willow, Faith, and Tara cleared up the mess in the kitchen. Joyce followed Buffy upstairs.

Joyce stood in the bathroom and watched Buffy bathe Dawn. "Hey," she said softly, to let Buffy know she was there.

"Hey," Buffy answered without turning. She finished rinsing the soap from Dawn's hair and removed the stopper. Buffy stood, raising Dawn with her, and when she turned around, Joyce draped a towel over Dawn. "Thanks."

The three of them went to the nursery. Joyce sat in the rocker and watched Buffy dry, diaper, and dress Dawn. Then she handed Dawn to Joyce, who rocked while studying her daughter.

"What?" Buffy asked finally.

"Are you all right?"

"Yeah," Buffy answered unconvincingly.

"And Willow?"

"I don't know."

"What's going on?"

"You heard what Giles said." Buffy went and stood beside one of the windows and looked out into the back yard. "We got crazies lined up to kill Dawn and end the world."

"There must be a way to stop them."

"I hope so." She saw a glint of metal and swore softly. "Stay here," Buffy instructed. She turned out the light, and the hall light. From the top of the stairs, she yelled, "Faith! Check the back yard!" and charged down the stairs. She used the newel post to turn the corner on the stairway and skidded to a stop in front of the weapons chest. She grabbed the first two swords she saw. "Willow!"

"Right here," Willow answered softly from behind her.

Buffy stood and turned. She offered the short sword to Willow. "Mom and Dawn are in the nursery."

Willow nodded and took the sword. "Be careful." She kissed Buffy quickly before heading upstairs.

Buffy opened the front door. Three of the knights stood on the sidewalk. They stared at each other for nearly a minute before one of them said, "We are here for the Key."

"One," Buffy said angrily, "I don't have your stupid key. Two, I told you to leave us alone."

The knights turned their attention away from Buffy as Faith and Tara appeared from the side of the house, dragging another knight by the feet. They pulled him to the sidewalk and joined Buffy on the porch.

"Take your friend and leave," Buffy ordered.

"We will send as many as it takes."

"And we'll whip all of them," Faith answered. "Now get the hell outta here before I lose my temper."

The showdown continued for several more seconds. The silence was broken by the arrival of Sunnydale police cruisers from either end of the block. Four officers got out of the vehicles. They stayed behind the open vehicle doors and drew their weapons, aiming them at the knights.

"Ladies, go inside. We'll handle this," one of the officers called.

Buffy, Faith, and Tara were happy to oblige. Faith and Tara blocked the officers' view of Buffy, so they didn't see the long sword. Once they were inside, Buffy thrust the sword toward Faith and tore up the stairs.

Both Joyce and Willow were looking at the door when Buffy appeared. She stopped in the doorway and looked from Dawn to Willow.

"Buffy?" Willow asked.

"You're right, Will. I'm sorry." Buffy entered the room and took Dawn from Joyce. She settled her on her shoulder, then wheeled around and picked up the diaper bag before heading for the hallway.

Willow laid the sword on the floor and followed Buffy to their room. Joyce trailed behind them. Buffy lay Dawn on their bed and went to the window. There were more lights outside now. Two additional squad cars and an ambulance had joined the confusion. She watched as the three conscious knights were handcuffed and placed into separate cars, which quickly pulled away.

Buffy heard the knock on the door and decided to let Tara and Faith handle the police. She watched the ambulance pull away before closing the bedroom door softly.

"Buffy, what's going on?" Joyce asked.

Buffy looked past her mother to Willow. "The knights were here." Buffy looked back to her mother. "We have to leave tonight. When Faith and Tara are finished, I'll get them to drive us to the airport."

"You can't just leave," Joyce said.

"We can, and we are." Buffy went to the bed, where Willow sat beside Dawn. "What can't you live without?"

Willow looked up at her. "You. Dawn."

"Computer?" Buffy asked.

"Tara will need it to research. I can get another one."

Buffy nodded. She heard the front door open and close, and a few moments later, the swirling red and blue lights disappeared. There was rapping on the door just before it opened.

"Neighbors called the cops," Faith reported.

Buffy nodded. "We're taking off for a while."

"I figured." Faith answered.

"We'll hide in the back of the Jeep, and you guys take us to LA. We'll take the first flight we can get away from here." Buffy looked back to Willow for confirmation.

"Lemme know when you're ready to roll," Faith said, and followed Tara from the room. They went to the kitchen, where Faith calmly prepared half a dozen bottles. She gathered food and snacks for Dawn, then jogged upstairs to get another diaper bag. She threw in extra diapers, wipes, and three changes of clothes, then hurried back to the kitchen and finished packing it. She put the bag by the door, and passed Tara, who sat quietly at the kitchen table, her eyes closed, on the way to the basement.

Faith brought two extra quilts and a blanket up from the basement and put them with the diaper bag. Then she joined Tara in the kitchen. Faith put one hand on Tara's and realized she was doing some kind of magic, and sat without talking until Tara finished.

Upstairs, Willow gathered a change of clothes for both of them and the envelope that held documents she thought they might need. Their keys went into the bag along with a light jacket for each of them. Willow put her wallet in one hip pocket and slid Buffy's in the other one.

Across the hall, Joyce handed Buffy all the cash she had on hand and hugged her tightly. "Be careful, honey, and come home soon."

"As soon as we can, Mom." Buffy kissed Joyce's cheek. "Love you."

"Love you, too, honey." Joyce squeezed her one more time before letting go.

Buffy and Willow came downstairs moments after Tara finished. Buffy carried Dawn and the diaper bag. Willow followed with a backpack. "Faith," Buffy called.

Tara and Faith came in from the kitchen. "You ready?"


"C'mon, then." Faith picked up the diaper bag and blankets. Tara grabbed her bag on the way past the couch.

They entered the garage through the back door. While Tara adjusted the seat and mirrors, Willow put the bags in the floor behind the front seats. Faith spread the quilts in the back of the Jeep. Willow climbed in first, and took Dawn from Buffy, who scrambled in. They lay facing each other, Dawn, between them, and Faith spread the blanket over them. She closed the lift gate and got into the passenger seat.

Tara drove carefully while Faith watched to be certain they weren't being followed. In the back, Buffy and Willow talked in low tones, trying to decide where to go.

"B, you might hang at Fang's for a day or two," Faith suggested. "He oughta be able to suggest some good places."

Buffy and Willow talked about it, and Buffy said, "All right, take us there."

"I don't know where his place is."

"Call him and get directions."

"Phone's in my purse," Tara said.

Faith's conversation with Wesley was brief. She jotted down directions on a pad Tara handed her, then closed the phone. She glanced casually behind them. "How long's that cop been back there?"

"Since the last exit."

Just then, the lights and siren came on, and Tara pulled over. "Leave the engine running," Faith said.

Tara nodded and put the Jeep into park. She lowered the window just enough to hear and be heard. At first, everything seemed routine. Then he asked to search the vehicle. When he left the window to open the lift gate, Faith told Tara, "Go, now."

Tara didn't ask any questions. She didn't like the officer, who seemed uncomfortable in the CHP uniform. Tara floored the accelerator, driving faster than she had since fleeing her hometown.

"Willow, can you put a glamour on the car?" Tara asked.

"No problem," Willow answered, and after a few seconds of composing her thoughts, began to chant quietly. Tara felt the magic begin, and slowed down to just over the speed limit. Moments later, the patrol car flew by, lights and siren activated.

It was still dark when they reached the Hyperion, and Faith was glad Wesley had mentioned the underground garage. They parked next to the only other vehicle there, and everyone got out. Buffy stretched before picking up Dawn. Faith grabbed the bags with one hand and held the garage door with the other. They filed in behind Buffy and followed the signs to the lobby.

Angel jumped up from the couch when he heard their footsteps. He moved toward Buffy but stopped when he saw Dawn. He looked at her for a few seconds, then shrugged. He hugged her gently, then Willow, and gestured for them to take a seat.

"What's going on?" he asked.

Buffy groaned. "Hellmouth crazies."