Sequel to Retrograde
Summary: Dawn has to deal with the consequences of her actions while her eighteenth birthday approaches. How long can the gang hide Spike from his own identity?
The smell of chlorine pervaded her senses all the way to the locker room. She had gone for a few extra laps in the pool after practice ended, so by the time Dawn got out to towel off, most of the girls had already gone home.
"Hey," Hannah Crutch greeted when she saw the Summers girl. She was a year behind Dawn in school, but they were both a part of the swim team, so they knew each other fairly well despite not sharing classes.
"Hi," Dawn paused, squeezing water out of her hair while Hannah tied her shoes. "Did Alex already leave?"
"Yeah, she said she had to head out, asap," Hannah nodded absently. "You really like swimming, I guess."
Dawn shook her head slightly. If she were ever asked, there were at least six girls she could highly praise before herself on the team. Being a slayer's sister didn't mean you got to be very special, she supposed. She enjoyed being on the team and trying to improve her own times, but she wasn't going to pretend she was the best. Not by far.
"I just don't wanna go home right away," Dawn shrugged.
Hannah looked puzzled for a second. "Oh. Your family throwing a huge surprise party or something?" she teased with a gentle smile. She started pulling her hair back into a ponytail and Dawn noticed another girl, Erica, grab her bag and leave. A second later the door slammed shut, and Dawn suddenly realized that they must be the only ones left.
"I think they honestly forgot this year," Dawn said with a relieved sigh. "I'm glad, actually. You can't even imagine the speeches I'm going to get once they realize that I'm turning eighteen."
"My parents have been hyper-aware of it since I started my period," Hannah laughed. "You're lucky."
She was just lucky that they hadn't started locking her in her room yet, or that Buffy hadn't tried to persuade Willow to cast some elaborate chastity spell on her sister, or that Angel hadn't started leaving entrails on the doorsteps of every eligible young man in a ten mile radius, with a warning note attached.
"I'll see you tomorrow," Hannah said with a brisk wave, breaking Dawn out of her thoughts.
"Yeah, seeya," Dawn said slowly while the girl left, realizing she still had to rinse off. She knew she could shower at home, but she really didn't want to, and that had nothing to do with Kennedy recently mistaking her for Willow and trying to help her 'wash her back'.
The only sounds in the locker room were the fans circulating the air, and a faint electrical hum. Dawn toweled herself off quickly, afraid that a lot of time had gone by. The water had been just the right temperature, blissful and perfect... until it ran cold.
"Little bit late to be hanging around at school, don't you think?" a feminine voice cut the air.
Dawn's skin erupted into goosebumps and she turned, wildly clutching at her towel to cover herself. "What are –?" she nearly tripped on the drain when she saw who was sitting on the bench behind her. "You.... You're dead," she said forcefully, as if reminding the universe of something that had slipped it's mind.
"Someone was paying attention in school," Lilah Morgan smirked, crossing her legs in amusement and folding her hands in her lap. "We always knew you'd be something special ever since you popped into existence."
"You're DEAD," Dawn repeated loudly, then her voice hushed at the cold echo in the room – the possibility that someone would hear and that Lilah wasn't there at all. But she was. That was number one in Buffy's book: It's always real. Still, she knew that Lilah Morgan shouldn't be kicking around. "I ki--" Dawn stopped and self-consciously lowered her voice to a hushed whisper, "I killed you."
"You did," Lilah Morgan agreed.
"Why are you alive, then?" Dawn asked, fixing the towel around herself, attempting to become hyper-aware of her surroundings in case she had to fight, but her head was pounding. "I thought you were human. I mean, aside from being a lawyer."
"Oh, you killed me, Sweetie," Lilah assured her. "But when you sign in blood, it's not just a lifetime commitment."
"Wow," Dawn said, then realized that if she were up against... a vampire or a zombie or whatever Lilah was now, she might not have a chance in hell of getting out alive. "So is this it?"
"I'm not here to kill you," Lilah said. "The Senior Partners brought me back to make you an offer."
"They're the bigwigs behind Wolfram and Hart," Lilah explained briefly. "Now that the firm has been thoroughly massacred they're looking for new blood... so to speak."
"What do you want?" Dawn snapped lightly, still a bit afraid but now a bit annoyed. She wasn't sure if Lilah really didn't plan to kill her, but she didn't want to stand around with just a towel on in front of the dead body of someone she hated.
"They want to give you the keys to the kingdom," Lilah said, cutting to the chase.
"No," Dawn said, without bothering to think about what that meant. She started to grab her clothes.
"You can't say no," Lilah said, standing up in front of Dawn to cut her off. "Or even yes. Not yet."
"Do you understand what this is? The Senior Partners want to hand full control of Wolfram and Hart to you."
"I'm just a kid," Dawn shook her head in disbelief, starting to wonder if she should be pinching herself.
"Not in another three days." Lilah laughed bitterly when Dawn's eyes filled with knowing. "Do you realize what you could do with this? You could control the world. Or, you know, LA at least. You could guarantee luxurious lifestyles for all of your friends and family. Your sister's watcher is getting a little gray now, isn't he? You could date celebrities. Or you could..." Lilah sighed with boredom when her suggestions made no positive effect on Dawn, "help little old ladies cross the street and buy new astroturf for your school football field. Whatever your little heart desires. So long as the company keeps going on it's merry way."
"Wolfram and Hart is evil," Dawn said, but she felt ridiculous, like a five year old saying 'Mommy says not to talk to strangers'.
"Newsflash, hon," Lilah said, her red lips curving into a mocking smile. "Last time I checked, murdering someone isn't exactly Girl Scout behavior."
"You hurt Spike!" Dawn yelled at her. "You were killing him."
"I did my job," Lilah shrugged. "And you did yours. To be honest, if the kingdom ever crumbled, the Senior Partners wanted Angel to take over."
Dawn furrowed her brow at her, wondering what the depth of this trick was. "Why aren't you talking to him, then?"
"You have much more potential, Dawn," Lilah told her. "You're very new to this world. The Senior Partners always thought that Angel would be the one to take control, but you're a wrench in the engine."
Dawn breathed out in disbelief. "I'm not evil."
"No, you're not. You just understand how the world works," Lilah said. "You don't let anything get in your way."
"And I'm not going to listen to you anymore," Dawn said, grabbing a fistful of clothes and starting to dress, ignoring Lilah as if she were little more than a figment of her imagination. She might just exist for this message, Dawn considered, and then go back to oblivion, or hell – whichever one was worse.
She was pulling on her shirt when something caught the corner of her eye and she shuddered silently to find Lilah standing so close to her.
"You have a few days to think about it," Lilah told her. "In the meantime, if you want to talk or take a tour, call this number," she said, handing a card to Dawn. When the girl went to grab it, Lilah tightened her grip on the card, and they stared at each other.
"You know what my answer is," Dawn said.
"Think about it," Lilah persisted. "You're going to be graduating. Do you even know what you're going to do with your life? Are you really going to become a doctor or an engineer with your kind of lifestyle? Are you really going to try to lead a normal life like that, knowing what lives in the dark? You could change the world for good with power like this. Someone else could use it to hunt down everyone you know and love. Trust me, some seriously sick individuals are waiting for this position to become available to them."
"Give it to Angel, then, or Buffy," Dawn blurted out, knowing that the position must be very important, and not wanting someone like Glory taking over. "Even Wesley or Giles," she added when Lilah's face remained stony.
"No," Lilah refused simply, still clutching onto her half of the business card, locking them together tensely.
Dawn frowned, desperate. She began to see it as it was – an unbelievably powerful root of evil that could either be taken over by someone good or be taken by someone or something even more heinous than she could imagine. Everyone she loved could die if that happened. She didn't want it to be her fault alone because she couldn't accept an impossible proposition. Angel or Buffy would be much better suited for the job, not some kid.
Lilah quirked her brow as if the answer were very plain. "You're the one who killed me," she said, letting go of the card.
More to come, guaranteed. Reviews are awesome. Newcomers should read Retrograde so they can fully enjoy this sequel. Thank you for reading!