Props to Joss, Marti, Mutant Enemy and UPN! They own these characters, I'm just visiting their planet. Oh, and if you catch sight of a big purple winged dude, he's owned by Disney.

Rating; PG

Author's note; This is the second chapter of my alternate sixth season series, Defenders of the Night. Not much Gargoyle action in this one, but in the next episode Buffy and the Scoobs will meet Goliath and Xanatos, pinky-swear. Oh, and this one has Spike in it.

Archives; you got my past chapters, go for it.

Feedback; it's like tin roof sundae ice cream for the soul. JDMeans@aol.com

Dawn's been keeping something from her sister. Buffy finds out. She doesn't take it well. And Tara is dreaming...

Her Little Secret
By Kirayoshi

(Voiceover by Michelle Tractenberg) Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer;

BUFFY: Are you okay? Did she hurt you?
DAWN: Why do you care?
BUFFY: Because I love you. You're my sister.
DAWN: No I'm not.
BUFFY: Yes you are. Look, it's blood. It's Summers blood. It's just like mine. It doesn't matter where you came from, or, or how you got here. You are my sister. There's no way you could annoy me so much if you weren't.
--Blood Ties

"My life?" Dawn harrumphed. "No one lives in Sunnydale, Giles. They just die here. Mom died here. Buffy died here. I don't want to die here."

"Hey, Dawnie," Buffy's voice called for her just as Dawn was about to open the window. Dawn shucked her denim jacket, glanced at her mirror, straightened out her hair, pulled up her chair and cracked open her homework.
--Along Came a Spider

"You're so much like her, Willow," Tara whispered. "And I wish with all my heart I could be more like you. But I'm not. I'm not a hero, I think we proved that with Glory. I just want to live. I want us to be alive, together. And I can't spend the rest of my life living in her shadow." She shook her head, wishing the tears could stop flowing. "She gave up her life to save Dawn, to save us, to save the world. How the hell can I compete with that?"

"I never looked at the Arthurian myths that way before," Tara enthused.

"Thank you," Miss Lafayette answered. "But that's not a surprise; most variations of the legend of Arthur were told through a male, Christian perspective."

"Yeah, I guess," Tara demurred. "But the thing that surprised me was that Morgan wasn't treated like the villain in this version."

"Of course not," Lafayette nodded. "After all, it was her story more than Arthur's. By her lights, she was doing what she felt was necessary for survival of her people and her faith." She glanced at her watch, adding, "But perhaps we should table this discussion until the next time. I look forward to seeing you here next week, child."
--Along Came a Spider

Chapter one;
Summers Blood

"If my fist clenches, crack it open
Before I use it and lose my cool.
If I smile, tell me some bad news
Before I laugh and act like a fool.
And if I swallow anything evil,
Stick your fingers down my throat.
If I shiver, please give me a blanket,
Keep me warm, let me wear your coat."
--The Who
"Behind Blue Eyes"

Missing people. Lost spouses, sons and daughters. This was a sad fact of life in Sunnydale, California. All too often, such cases ended with the discovery of a mutilated body, and the grieving of the survivors. Sometimes, bodies escaped the notice of the law. Of course this wasn't much of a surprise, as many things tended to escape the notice of the Sunnydale police department. It has been said that the police department as a whole was 'deeply stupid'.

Of course, ultimately, a dead body will be discovered, if for no other reason than the fact of decomposition. That is, if the body remains dead. In Sunnydale there is no such certainty.

It was in one of the back-alleys of Sunnydale where she located such a body. A newly undead figure, who hadn't been educated in the proper methods of feeding. Having gone without his first feeding since being turned, the new vampire suffered from insanity, governed by his bloodlust.

"Uh, hey," she asked the thing in as innocent a voice as she could muster, getting the fiend's attention. "Could you help me? I seem to have gotten myself turned around. You know which way I go to get to the Bronze?" The shambling thing that had been a homeless person snarled, his face contorting to that of a vampire. "Ssslayer!" he slurred through decayed, uneven teeth.

She shrugged her shoulders sweetly. "I'll take that as a 'no'." She then crouched low for a brief second, and leapt forward, kicking her feet ahead of her. Her right foot impacted with the vampire's jaw, knocking him to the ground with a loud thud. She managed to land safely on her feet, but was slow to turn around, thinking her enemy defeated. Over-confidence, her mentor had warned her before. You can't have that and live long as the Slayer. Before she could regroup, her opponent landed a hard left to her back.

She tried to scramble to her feet, only to be knocked back down repeatedly by the fiend's blows. She struggled to block his attacks, but the vampire managed to hit her hard upside the head. She tasted blood in her mouth, and felt a sickening knot of fear in the pit of her stomach. "Now, Slayer," the vampire glared, "you die!"

"N-no way, scuzzo.." the girl shouted through her pain. "I'm not letting some newbie like you clock me!

The vampire's laughter echoed hollowly through the graveyard. "Look at yourself, child! You're on the ropes! What can you do to stop me?"

"I'd watch out for her," a bright voice called out from behind the vamp. "She's a hair-puller, that one!"

The vamp spun on his heel, turning to face the speaker. Her charcoal gray eyes flashed an angry fire, her brow was furrowed in grim determination, and her posture spoke of a seasoned fighter, ready for the kill.

"Slayer?" the monster growled.

"An annoying peroxide blond calls me 'Slayer'," she announced, almost casually. "My friends call me Buffy. You're neither." Without further warning, she leapt forward, her foot connecting with the vamp's jaw in a flying scissor-kick. The dark haired younger girl shivered as she witnessed the tableau before her. She wasn't sure which fate would be preferable; becoming a late-night snack for a newbie vampire, or whatever the Slayer had in mind for her.

The newly sired vamp lasted less than ten seconds against the seasoned Slayer. Two swift kicks and a forward thrust with a stake and the outclassed monster was dispatched easily. The Slayer then turned to the vamp's intended victim, angry lightning flashing in her eyes.

"Dawn," she spoke in an unsettling monotone, "what the hell are you doing out here, alone, at night?"

The Slayer's sister gulped hard, knowing that whatever story she cooked up to explain her presence in the danger-zone wouldn't be acceptable to Buffy. "I-I was out.." she stammered, grasping for some quick, convenient lie to tell Buffy, but one look in her darkening eyes told her that whatever story she had prepared wouldn't work. Defeated, she lowered her eyes and whispered, "I was slaying."

Buffy's brow pinched just above her nose into a hard scowl. "Slaying?"

"Yeah," Dawn admitted. "I mean, I'm your sister, I've got your blood in me, shouldn't I have some sort of Slaying power by now?"

"So you decided to test that theory tonight?" Buffy accused her sister, before another thought entered her mind. "Or have you been doing this before?" Dawn looked away, and Buffy snarled loudly at her; "How long have you been sneaking out on me?"

"Since a month or so after you died!" Dawn blurted out in fear. "I asked Spike to teach me some fighting moves, and-"

"That's all I need to know," Buffy snarled at her sister, taking her wrist in her hand and dragging her alongside her. "You have the right to remain silent, Dawn," she informed her as she headed for home. "And right now it'll go down easier for you if I don't hear your voice for the rest of the night." They walked in silence the rest of the way.

Willow had finished composing a romantic e-mail to Tara, and had just closed her online connection, when she heard the door slam. She left her computer and poked her head out of her bedroom window, witnessing Buffy barking orders at her sister downstairs; "Dawn Marie Summers, I want you in your bedroom, and in bed in ten seconds. Tomorrow, we will discuss the terms of your grounding. There will be no negotiation on this point." She pointed her arm to the stairs, the way her mother had done for her so many times before. "March!"

Dawn slowly ascended the stairs to the bedroom, her head held low, then stopped at the top step. She turned to her sister, and said simply, "You told me to be strong."

"GO!" Buffy shouted. Dawn disappeared into her room, slamming the door behind her.

Buffy then looked upstairs, catching Willow's eye. The hard glare that Willow received from Buffy convinced her not to pursue the matter any further.

"I gotta go see a vamp about a staking," Buffy informed Willow as she headed out the front door. "Don't wait up."

Willow slowly returned to her computer, wisely deciding not to interfere with this squabble between her best friend and her sister. She would respect Buffy's wishes in this matter, but if the opportunity to play the favorite aunt to Dawn arose, she wouldn't turn it down either.

She just hoped that it wasn't as serious as she feared it might be.

The bodies of a hundred knights littered the mist-shrouded landscape. Nothing but ruined towers and crumbled stones stood among the remains of the dread war, the final battle for a kingdom, now only a site of devastation and waste. Neither side won this day, nor did the kingdom that was the prize of battle survive.

A lone figure stood beside two of the fallen, two mortal enemies who slew each other, the last of the many who died this terrible day. Amid the ruin of battle, the woman shed bitter tears. The tears of a mother who lost a son. The tears of a sister whose brother lay dead at her feet. The tears of a woman who witnessed the total destruction of man's last best hope for unity and peace.

The young golden-haired girl watched as the raven-haired woman knelt at the body of the slain king. The girl didn't know how she was aware of his royal lineage, but his kingliness was certain. She witnessed as the older woman chanted in a lilting voice. She recognized the chant as a lost Celtic dialect. She knew the chant as a plea to the Goddess to accept the soul of the fallen king.

The kingdom had fallen. And the girl could do nothing but weep for its loss.

Suddenly, she saw herself aboard a small boat. A simple skiff, alone on a mist-shrouded lake. But not adrift, she knew that for certain. Glancing around, she saw the king's body at her feet. She turned to the rear of the skiff, and saw the priestess, her hands at the rudder, her face a mask of grim determination.

Suddenly, the priestess left her place at the rudder. She passed the observer by as though she were nothing but an afterthought, and stood beside the fallen king. She looked forward, into the gray nothingness, and rose her arms high above her head. She stood serenely for a second, then lowered her arms slowly.

For a bleak moment, it seemed as though the world itself was holding its breath in anticipation. Then a bright gap appeared in the mists. The fog parted, curtain-like, and shafts of pure sunlight and pristine blue sky flooded out of the gap. As the fog parted further, an island could be seen. Its shape was still not clearly defined, but its beauty could not be masked. Even the most faded colors of its shores were so vivid and beautiful it made the eyes ache to see them.

The priestess stooped down and cradled the king in her arms. "See, brother," she announced joyfully. "I've brought you home. To Avalon."

She awoke suddenly, her hair matted to her face, slick with sweat. Tara struggled to recite the proper meditations to help still her breathing and slower her heartbeat, as half-remembered shards of her dream made themselves known to her.

She stood at the fall of a kingdom, that much she was certain of. She witnessed a priestess praying to the Goddess for the safety of the king's soul.

She needed to know why she dreamed of this ancient king's fall. Why was the dream so real to her? Why did she feel sorrow at the fall of men dead for longer than a millennium?

And why did the Priestess look so much like Miss Lafayette?


The vampire stirred hesitantly from his sleep at the irate voice that shouted at him. He opened his eyes for only a second, only to have them shut again, by a fist flying hard at his face. He reeled back in his coffin, more fully awake and increasingly angry.

"Here now," he stammered to his unseen assailant, "what's the brouhaha?"

"Just lie still and let me beat the tar out of you for a while," the enraged voice demanded, as another fist impacted hard with his jaw. "It'll go down faster that way!"

Spike groaned briefly, then opened his eyes, seeing Buffy standing over his coffin, a stake in her hand, her face bearing the attitude of an avenging angel. Spike knew that expression all too well; she had a mad on and was looking to take it out on him. He sat up slowly, trying to maintain his regular level of snarkiness. Which was difficult to do, considering that he his only apparel at the time was a pair of white boxers. "Hey, Slayer, you miss me?"

"I won't miss tonight," she glared. Her eyes were hard stones, and they bored down into Spike like drills. "I caught Dawn trying to slay a vampire tonight."

"Niblet, out slaying?" Spike chuckled. "Good for her. Kids today, they grow up so fast--" A hard right to the temple silenced him. "Here now, let me get up before tenderizing me, willya?"

"SHUT UP!" Buffy howled. In that moment, Spike realized that he was in trouble. When Buffy was this enraged, there was no force on this Earth that could stop her. He remembered how determined she was before her final bout with Angelus, or her last stands against Adam and Glory. And now she was channelling that anger at him.

"Hey now," Spike protested as he grabbed a ratty maroon bathrobe and dove behind his coffin. He hastily donned the garment before standing again, and kept a respectable distance from the Slayer. He attempted to maintain an air of cold calm, of being unaffected by Buffy's attack, but in his black heart he sensed that whatever leeway he had enjoyed with Buffy, he had just lost. "Next time you wanna play rugby with my head, at least have the courtesy to let me get dressed!"

"You've been teaching Dawn how to fight while I was dead," she snarled. "How to slay. How to kill. What was the plan, Spike? Couldn't have me so you'd remake my sister into my image?"

"'Ere now," Spike scrambled out of his coffin, and stood his ground before the Slayer, hoping to defend himself verbally. He knew that the chip in his head wouldn't let him fight her back, and normally she respected that limitation. Not tonight. Tonight, she was intent on the kill, and Spike knew it. "Look, Buffy, I wouldn't put the make on Dawnie. I may be many things, but I'm not a cradle-robber. At least I'd have the decency to wait till she's legal-" That comment won Spike a hard right hook to the eye, which sent him sprawled to the floor. "Ease up, sister, that was a joke!"

"You bastard!" Buffy shrieked, "if I thought you had even looked funny at my sister, you'd be dustbuster chow in a second! I don't want you near her, and I sure as hell don't want her out slaying!"

"Look, Slayer," Spike decided to match Buffy's anger with some of his own. He stepped forward, his lip curled in a bemused sneer. "Before you died, you made me promise to look out for the li'l Bit. And I swore to you that I would. First vow I ever made that meant something." He stepped forward, watching Buffy's eyes and facial expressions for any sign of her intentions. "I don't know if you've noticed, blondie, but it's not safe here in Sunnydale. And I can't be expected to be there twenty-four-seven, y'know. Overly sensitive to sunlight, remember. So when she asked me to show her some moves one night, I agreed. Just some basic self-defense stuff, can't really do much more with this soddin' chip, now can I?"

Buffy leaned slightly, favoring her left leg as she stood, her arms crossed over her chest, a hard scowl on her face. "I don't want her out there at night," she spoke in a dark, low tone of voice. "I don't want her risking her life. She's my sister. The only real family I have left. And I will do anything and everything in my power to protect her."

Spike didn't see her hand strike, but suddenly Buffy's right hand seized Spike by the neck and lifted him a foot off the ground. Spike squirmed in her grasp, but her grip was unrelenting, vise-like. "You've lost your Sunnydale privileges, Spike. Tomorrow's Thursday. I'll give you 'til sunrise on Saturday morning, but I want you out of town. I see you here after Saturday night, ever, under any circumstances-" She let go of Spike's neck, causing the vampire to land on his back, hard on the cold concrete floor of his crypt. "You're the vampire. I'm the vampire slayer. You figure it out." She turned from Spike, and started to walk away.

"You can't kill me, Slayer," Spike whispered. "With the damn chip in my head, I couldn't fight back."

Buffy cocked her head toward Spike, and the century-old vampire's cold heart chilled even more at the cruel upturn of her lips. "Good," she breathed. "That'll make my job easier." She headed out of the crypt without looking back.

As she got behind the wheel of the Jeep, she could feel a familiar ethereal presence in the passenger seat. "'Bout time someone told ol' Brillo-head where to get off," Joyce's ghost commented.

"Mom," Buffy said irritably, "not tonight."

"Oh, Buffy?" Joyce asked. "Then when? You think you can protect Dawn just by getting rid of one vampire? It's not that easy. Trust me, been there, done that, got the t-shirt."

"What am I supposed to do, Mom?" Buffy lamented.

Joyce gave Buffy a knowing smile. "Just let her grow up, honey. That's all any of us can do."

Buffy's shoulders sagged, as though under a terrible, if unseen, weight. "First let her have the opportunity to get older. Then I'll worry about her growing up."

"Do what you have to, honey." The ghost shrugged her shoulders and faded.

Buffy shook her head, and not for the first time wondered if she would ever be old enough, or wise enough, to be the parent.

She was beginning to doubt.