Buffy,

I'm sorry it had to be this way, and I hope that some day you will forgive me. I hope that someday we can talk again, but the time isn't now, and I don't know when it will be. Please don't look for me when you find this letter. We won't be in Sunny Dale anymore.

I've kept the ring, Spike told me it's what you wanted. I'm safe, and I know Spike will take good care of me.

Don't be mad at him, either.

This was my decision

Dawn

With trembling fingers, Buffy read and re-read Dawn's familiar script. It was a peculiar mixture between a childish scrawl and that of an adult. The curves of her letters were generous, and the sweep wide, much like their mothers. Wiping the tears from her eyes, she struggled with the conflicting emotions inside of her. She had been home for two days, and the letter had been left in the mail box. Her first instinct had been to go storming to the cemetery, positive this had been some sort of trick or cruel joke. When she had slammed the door to Spike's crypt open and found it empty, her knees had given out and she'd sunk to the floor in near hysterics.

Alerting the others, she was infuriated to discover that Dawn had warned them of her disappearance. Much like Buffy would have done however, they had simply brushed off her words and dismissed them, chalking it up to anger and frustration about the situation at hand. Giles had sat with her in the kitchen that night, and while she had stared, dry-eyed at the letter, much like she was doing now, did his best to offer comfort, and a plan of action.

"Where would they go?" Buffy had asked quietly, before smoothing the letter out along the surface of the table. Her hands shook noticeably, and slowly, she withdrew them and placed them in her lap, out of sight. Giles adjusted his glasses, and the pity in his gaze was hard to miss, before his eyes fell to the letter.

"I'm not sure," he replied carefully, steeping his fingers together. Brows furrowed, he had closed his eyes as if in thought, and Buffy could remember sitting there, watching him, completely at a loss. Dawn had taken all of her things; every piece of clothing, down to her mirror, jewellery, shoes, and socks. Her comforters were gone, as were her pillows. Buffy doubted she had actually taken everything with her, but because of this, Willow couldn't use a tracking spell. Spike had done the same with his things, although there were less possessions on a greater scale for him to get rid of. It was a clever move, and Spike had no doubt been the one to suggest it. Dawn wasn't stupid, but she was a bit of a scatterbrain, and it was uncharacteristic of her to go to such lengths to cover their tracks.

This meant that they were serious, and Buffy was given two options and two options only. She could either accept the fact that she had ultimately forced Dawn in to this position, and leave her alone to explore the world with Spike, or she could leave Sunny Dale in pursuit of her. Guilt tugged at her as she took the second option in to consideration. Dawn had more or less asked her to let her go; let her leave, to be free. The protective, older sister in her wanted to throw everything down at once and begin the search, but she knew as well that she had other duties to perform. Spike was smart, and if he didn't want to be found, he had at least a hundred years or more of experience than she. Leaving Sunny Dale in pursuit of Dawn could and probably would prove to be a fruitless effort and a waste of time. Spike would keep her safe, she knew that much.

Aggravated, she let out a deep sigh before sinking into a chair by the kitchen table.

Cradling her head in her hands, she closed her eyes and tried to picture the last time she had seen Dawn with her own eyes. Smiling, maybe? Or had they fought? Her memory was still hazy, and even now, she was still recovering from the damage James and Drusilla had done to her, even gifted with the mystical powers of the Slayer. Their relationship had never been fantastic, although she had assumed it was such with all sisters. They had their ups and downs, and since their mother died, it had been extra stressful and put even more of a strain on their relationship. Buffy was not mother material, and to assume the role of caregiver atop her Slayer duties, added with the sudden financial burden of near bankruptcy…

Had she failed Dawn?

It was hard to take in, all at once, that in such a short span of time so many drastic things had happened, and their lives were so incredibly different. She was alone, for now, the rest of the Scooby Gang having wandered off to their own respective places out of respect and an inkling that Buffy was hankering for some privacy. The silence was stifling, however, and the longer she stared at the letter, the more desperate she felt. Swallowing thickly, she rose abruptly, almost knocking the chair over. Turning towards the phone in the kitchen, she dialled Giles' number, and rocked anxiously back on her heels while waiting for him to pick up.

"Good afternoon," came his soft, professional lilt, "Thank you for calling The Magick Box, Giles speaking. How may I help you?"

"It's me," Buffy stated, and the tone in Giles voice changed instantly.

"Oh, Buffy, how are you?"

"I don't know," she answered honestly, chewing on her thumb. She glanced around the empty kitchen. The clock ticking in the background, the sun shining through the window. Everything seemed so abnormally mundane. It was almost painful.

"I'm not going to look for her," she blurted suddenly. Her words surprised even her, and she held her breath as she waited for Giles' response.

"Pardon?"

"I said, I'm not going to look for her, Giles," she repeated more firmly. "I've thought about it. I've been thinking about it non stop, ever since I found the letter…"

"Well, what do you propose we do?" Giles asked, lowering his voice, "and what am I to tell the others?"

"Don't tell them!" Buffy exclaimed, before adding quickly, "I mean, it's my decision, I think I should let everyone know."

"And you're sure? Absolutely positive, Buffy? This is a very serious decision.."

"We've all been through hell," she interjected, waving her hand nervously in the air, despite the fact he wouldn't be able to see. "And Dawn, especially.. I don't know when.." she took a steadying breath, before continuing, "I don't know when things changed between her and Spike, but everything is so different now. She's with him, and she has the ring, and if anything I know Spike will protect her with his life. Maybe…maybe being away from Sunny Dale will be good for her. Safer."

Giles huffed, and she could envision him removing his glasses and cleaning them meticulously, while balancing the receiver between his ear and shoulder.

"I'm at a loss for words," he finally said, and the finality in his tone sobered Buffy some, making the weight of the decision she'd just made seem even more heavy. "Ultimately, it's up to you, and how you wish to proceed with things."

"I have other things to focus on," Buffy cut in, determinedly. "She is with Spike, and she'll be safe. I know it."

"For your sake, Buffy, I hope you're right."

Dawn drifted in and out of sleep the first few days of their journey. Spike had procured a vehicle, and despite it's painted black windows to keep the sun at bay, the inside was particularly luxurious and she could melt into the plush leather seating. She hid, in the back, and slept under blankets. Well out of the way of the sun, she had insisted that Spike wear the ring during the days, more so for his comfort than anything else, and after a brief argument he had agreed, solely because she wanted it so. They had driven through California, through Nevada and the Utah, and when Dawn awoke one evening, Spike had informed her that they had just crossed in to Colorado. They were going to take a train to Illinois, and once they'd arrived there, they caught a red-eye to France.

Travelling was a little difficult, given the sensitive nature of their condition, but they had managed, and when Dawn had been confused as to why they couldn't have caught a plane in the first place, Spike had simply smiled before taking her hand.

"We're on the run, Pet," he'd explained with an impish grin. "Half the fun is coverin' your tracks. Besides," he'd added, lowering his voice, "if your sister catches up to us, she'll have my bloody head. An' probably yours, at that."

Why France, Dawn didn't know, but the excitement bubbled inside of her as they dismounted the plane and entered the receiving area of the Charles De Gaulle Paris International Airport. The entire terminal was wide, and the roof arched, and Dawn found it pleasing to the eye. The red interior drew her attention as well, and as she stood taking everything in at once, Spike had gently taken her by the elbow and drawn her to the side. "See those?" he had asked, pointing to the large array of windows scattered along the wall. It was nearly light outside, and a pale glow had started to fill the terminal, accompanied by the soft glow of the luminescent bulbs above.

"Sun's comin' up," he said, almost ruefully. "Much as I'd love to show you 'round our first day, it's best if we get on, somewhere safe."

"Where are we going to stay?" Dawn asked, feeling much like a child as he guided her through the sleepy airport towards the baggage area.

"Was tough, but I pulled a few strings," he explained as he grabbed the few things they had brought with them. "There's a city close to here, Goussainville. We'll be staying there for a short while with a friend, while I find us something better. It' about forty minutes from here. If we make it fast we'll be there before sunrise."

They had stepped outside, and Spike had slipped the ring of Amara back on to her finger. She could tell he was slightly uncomfortable as he flagged down a cab. He spoke in French to the driver, which surprised her-she didn't know he could speak any other languages, although it was naïve of her to assume otherwise. He was how old? He'd had plenty of time to learn. The drive as promised, was a little lengthy, and even though she enjoyed the scenery as they made their way to their destination, she was worried as the sun began to climb higher.

The door to a large, stone building opened wide and only after one knock. A large man with bright yellow eyes greeted them; Spike addressed him as Louis, and she had shaken his hand if not somewhat timidly.

"She is enchanting," Louis had said in English, for Dawn's benefit. His home was large, and lavishly furnished. Best of all, it was dark. He led them down in to a basement, with a low ceiling, and as Spike set their bags down, he exchanged words with him in French before leaving them to be alone.

The room was dimly lit, but she could already tell it was decorated in good taste. The carpet was thick and burgundy, all the furniture plush and in matching, complimenting hues. There were no windows, but a fireplace on the far wall give a gentle glow, as if already expecting them, and instantly she felt at home.

She wandered to the couch and ran her fingers along the back; he was delighted to find it was made of velvet and soft to the touch. Taking a deep breath to steady herself more than anything, she turned to Spike. He had shrugged out of his coat, and thrown it along one of the chairs, and was watching her as if to gauge her reaction. Her gaze followed the tense line of his shoulder down the curve of his bicep, and slowly as she lifted her eyes to meet his, the realization that they were here, they had done it, and that they were free to be together and do as they wish, suddenly seized her with such clarity she sank to her backside on the carpet.

"Dawn?" Spike asked, sounding alarmed. He came over to kneel in front of her, and lifting her face, his brows furrowed when he realized she was crying.

"We're actually here!" she whispered, absolutely giddy. Spike's expression eased, and he cupped her face in-between his hands.

"We are," he said softly, and his lips curled up in to an impish smile. "And we're together, and we have all the time in the world to do whatever we like."

Throwing her arms around him, she knocked him backwards and he let out a small laugh. Inhaling deeply his familiar scent, she nestled her face in to his throat and pressed her lips to his skin. He grew quiet, and her arms tightened around him as his encircled her waist.

"I love you," she whispered, and he turned to press a kiss to her temple.

"I love you," he responded with sincerity.

"I can't wait to spend forever with you," she said softly, after a moment of quiet. She could almost see Spike smiling although she didn't lift her eyes, and his embrace tightened around her as he nuzzled the crown of her hair.

"Forever's a long time, Pet," he mused, "I reckon you'll get sick of The Big Bad sooner or later."

"Never!" she exclaimed vehemently, lifting her head in surprise. His blue eyes were sparkling, and his grin gave her Goosebumps before he leaned foreword and seized her lips in a long, meaningful kiss. Slowly, he pulled away, and they watched one another before he murmured around a smirk, "I'll hold you to that."

END