Again, sorry for the long wait inbetween updates. I'm taking this one slow in order to get the best writing possible out of it.
Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy or any of the other Buffyverse characters. They belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy, as well as the WB and UPN.
Her entire body still felt sore as she opened her eyes, the light flooding into the room momentarily blinding her as it landed on her eyes.
"Dawnie?" As her vision started to adjust to the light, she saw the faint outline of Willow's face standing above her, a nervous smile on her face. "Hey, um, time to get up."
"Just five more minutes." Dawn groaned, grabbing her pillow and using it to cover her face as a shield from the sunlight.
"Rough night?" The Witch asked, sitting down on the edge of the mattress, and slowly lifting the pillow off of the girl's face.
"Trust me, you wouldn't believe me if I told you."
"I um…sneaked out and fought a vampire?"
"You did WHAT?!" Covering her mouth, Willow quickly looked the hallway, afraid that Buffy or someone else might have heard. Minutes passed, and satisfied that no-one had heard her outburst, she turned her attention back to the Potential beside her.
"You did what? Are you ok? Did it hurt you?" She asked, her eyes still filled with concern. "Did it bite you, because you know those can leave a massive thing that's a little bit like a hickey, and those aren't good to get either because everyone at school will know that you and someone else were doing something…"
"Willow!" Dawn finally said, stopping the babbling almost instantly. "You're babbling again."
"Look, I'm fine. I got him, although my hand kinda hurts a little bit. Who knew that putting a stake through bone would hurt so bad?"
"Did…does Buffy know?"
"No, not yet."
"Dawnie, you have to tell her sometime. If you keep going out in the middle of the night, she's going to catch on sooner or later."
"I'm trying, but I…I just can't come up with the words."
"Can you at least try to hurry, I don't like lying to Buffy. In my experience, lying leads to madness and anger."
"Don't worry, It won't last for much longer."
"Willow?" Upon hearing Buffy's voice echoing up the stairs, the red-head offered a final smile to the younger Summers girl, and headed out the door. Waiting for a few long moments, Dawn got onto her feet, the muscles in her body almost begging her to lay back down and go to sleep. Looking down at her arms, she was almost relieved that there were no signs of any bruising, despite the way the vampire had tackled her to the ground. If there had even been one black-and-blue smudge on her body, Buffy would notice and questions would rise.
Attention wasn't something she wanted right now.
"Kennedy, can I talk to you?" As she ceased her assault against the punching bag that lay suspended in front of her, the Potential turned, her mind already expecting to find Buffy or one of the other Potentials to be standing behind her. When she instead found Dawn standing there, her mind momentarily drew a blank before it regained its normal 'posture'. Looking at the Slayer's sister with questioning eyes, she thought about smiling at her, but decided against going through with the gesture.
"Yeah, sure. There a problem?"
"I…um, I've got a favor I need to ask." The girl wasn't looking at her for some odd reason, but again the Potential decided not to call her out on it.
"I…I need you to teach more how to fight." As she heard the question leave the girl's lips, Kennedy caught the slightest reflection of reluctance in Dawn's eyes.
"Um, ok…you mind telling me why?"
"I'm…I'm the new Potential Willow was looking for…" The words echoed through the air as nothing more than a mere whisper, the look on the girl's face showing that she was still unsure of what to feel. "The one that they couldn't find?"
"You are?!" She nearly screamed her answer, but managed to restrain her voice inside her throat. "Then why doesn't Buffy know?"
"I'm not ready to tell her yet. She's got enough people to worry about right now without me getting in the way."
"So you want me to teach you to fight like the others do because…why? Sorry if I'm a little confused with this, but it's a little strange."
"When the time comes, she's going to need everyone she can get in order to fight this thing. I want to be there, and I don't want her to think that I'm not capable of defending myself."
"And you basically want me to put you through the whole 'I'm training to be a Potential Slayer thing', just like all the others?"
"That's kinda what I'm asking for here." There was a short bit of silence between the two of them before Kennedy shoved her hands into the pockets of her sweat-pants.
"Alright then, give me twenty."
"What?" The order having caught the Potential off-guard, Dawn looked at the older girl with a confused look adorning her features.
"You heard me, get on the ground and give me twenty."
"I said I wanted to learn how to fight, not go through gym class again."
"You told me you wanted to go through what all the rest of us are, so you get the entire package. Twenty. Right now." Rolling her eyes at the girl's command, the younger Summers daughter nevertheless got onto the floor and assumed the position that she had learned from her years of gym class.
"One." She said aloud, pushing up with her arms as the other Potential watched her silently.
As she finally reached the last number, she dropped fully onto the ground, a small blanket of sweat starting to appear on her forehead. The cement beneath her stomach felt cool to the touch, and it helped relieve some of warmth running through her body due to the unexpected exercise.
"Wow, I take it you're not that much of a gym person?"
"Not…really." Dawn managed to spit out, the tired muscles in her arms not wanting to move another inch.
"You can stand up now." Groaning slightly, she nevertheless managed to get back onto her feet, her body remaining sore for a few more seconds before the feeling began to disappear.
"Alright, hit me."
"What?" Just as she had earlier, Dawn stared back at the other Potential with questioning eyes, unsure if what she had just heard Kennedy say was correct.
"I want you to hit me as hard as you can. Don't hold back." Raising her fists into a fighting stance that she vaguely remembered Buffy explaining, she could feel her tired body wanting to stop and rest, but she continued on.
"Are you sure about thi-" she started to say before she felt Kennedy's solid fist slam into the upper portion of her arm.
"Ow!" She said, taking a step back as the wave of pain from the hit cycled through her body.
"Don't hesitate, just react." Stepping back herself, the other Potential fell into her own fighting stance, silent as she waited for Dawn's response. Looking back at Kennedy, she felt a slight thread of anger running through her veins, and as she mumbled a response that sounded somewhat like an 'ok', she swung her fist towards her fellow Potential. The swing being easily deflected by the more experienced girl, she again tried to push her way past the girl's defense. Again and again her attacks were only met with blocks, the rage inside of her beginning to boil up rapidly.
"You're getting better, keep trying." Kennedy said as she again blocked the girl's attack with the side of her arm. With each punch, the younger Summers child was getting closer, her attacks continuing to come closer to hitting their mark. Beads of sweat dotted her forehead, and inside her chest her heart-beat continued to be fueled with a slight burst of adrenaline. Her lungs were beginning to beg for air as every action in her body became concentrated towards breaking Kennedy's defenses.
As she swing her fist for the umpteenth time, she allowed herself to smile when her fist finally made it past Kennedy's forearm and made contact with the upper portion of her chest. Taking a step back in order to collect herself, the other Potential nevertheless dropped her arms to her sides.
"Ok, that was good." The words left her lips with sincere emotion. "Your timing could use some work, but I think you've got it a little bit better than some of the others. We just gotta keep up with this."
"Remember, Buffy can't find out about this."
"Hey, I won't tell if you don't."
"Thanks." Grabbing one of the towels lying on the nearby hand-rail, Dawn wiped the sweat that covered her forehead off of her body. "I'll tell her soon."
"Guess you kinda have to considering that those eye-less guys are gonna be gunning for you as well now. You're officially one of us now, welcome to the club."
"Thanks." The word was drenched with sarcasm and dread. She had tried her best to avoid thinking about the unavoidable attacks by the First's minions that would no doubt come soon enough. It all reminded her too much of how it had felt once she had found out that she had once been the Key, and that the Hellgod that had arrived in Sunnydale had been looking for her. Both she and Buffy had been hunted without mercy, and all of it had ended with Buffy throwing herself into a portal that had threatened to destroy the world.
Everything had changed since then. Buffy had come back, Tara had died, and Willow had gotten all veiny and black-haired. Nothing had ever been the same or normal since they had all come to Sunnydale.
Nothing would ever be normal, just as it never had been.
Sneaking out of the house for a second time was an easy feat, just as it had been two nights ago. Buffy had taken the other Potentials out for some kind of 'field trip' to one of the local vamp nests, leaving Dawn and the other 'normal' people inside the house to their own devices for a few hours. Waiting until the rest of the household was asleep, Dawn again made her way to the window and stepped out onto the roof, gradually making her way down the slope of the house until she reached the point until she could hop down.
She had almost come close to telling Buffy about her newly found Potential status, but again the words had vanished from her mind as soon as she had opened her mouth. Stumbling over her missing words, she had managed to come up with an excuse why she had attracted her sister's attention, changing the focus of the conversation to a newly finished translation. Afterwards, she had almost slapped herself for chickening out on telling Buffy. What was so hard about saying 'Hey, Buffy, I'm a Potential now!'? Sure she would be shocked, and so majorly not happy, but at this point, Dawn just wanted to let the secret out.
The night air around her was as black and quiet as it was thick. Above her, the stars were just barely visible, even more so than they had been two nights ago. It was as if the heavens themselves were afraid of the inevitable struggle that would soon engulf the entire area above the Hellmouth. Sunnydale's days were numbered, and it didn't take a genius to see that. A feeling of almost pure, unrestrained evil hung in the air, the sensation of it so strong and undodgeable that she couldn't simply ignore it.
She walked until the graveyard met her eyes, the over-hanging sign seemingly welcoming her as it passed over her head. All around her, the countless tombstones were silent in their observation of her and her purpose in being here so late into the night. The stake that still lay in her belt loop continued to slap against her jeans, the feeling of the weapon assuring her that it was still there. The pointed edge was seemingly begging for an unbeating heart to target, its desires utterly silent just like the night around it.
There were hardly any fresh graves around the entire grounds, a symbol of just how many people had finally started to leave town. Without a constant supply of fresh blood to feed the many Demons around the Hellmouth, the vampire population had started to dwindle. It was a far cry from the years previous where the vampires' numbers were nearly overflowing. The First simply hadn't a need for the typical run-of-the-mill vampires when it had a constantly growing army of Ubervamps inside the Hellmouth itself.
"Alone in a graveyard. 'Hello, my name is Buffy. What's yours?'" The words left her lips and echoed through the entire grounds. Nothing replied to her sarcastic statement except the shadows which remained silent in their observations. Sighing, she leaned back against one of the more sturdy tombstones, and waited, hoping that she could pick apart a vampire from the shadows. Turning her head to the left in order to look out across the small slope, she caught movement out of the corner of her eye. As she turned towards the area, she stopped and waited for the movement to happen again.
There was a small moment of silence until she heard the unmistakable sound of a leaf crackling underneath a pair of boots. Her body relying on its instincts, Dawn reached down and grabbed the stake that still lay in her belt-loop. Having a weapon so close at hand reassured her that she wasn't completely defenseless in the situation she found herself in. She heard Kennedy's words of advice repeating over and over again in her head, the training session she had taken part in only the day before bringing back a certain feeling to all of her muscles.
The sound again pressed at her hearing, its origin seemingly all around her now. Turning her body around in a semi-circle, she looked through every inch of the shadows, various shapes taking form and then rapidly disappearing as soon as they had arrived. Pulling the stake out of the belt-loop, she almost instantly had a death-grip on the weapon, her finger-nails almost digging into the wood itself. Inside her chest, her heart felt like it might explode at any given moment. Her head still turning, she thought for a moment that she could pick out the shape of something, but then it was gone again.
"Ok, I'm really not liking this…" Her words had no effect on whatever was continuing to circle around her, and as she finally stopped her circuit, Dawn felt a strong hand fall down on her shoulder. Turning and moving on nothing more than pure instinct, she held the stake up in a stabbing position, her mind prepared to strike down whatever had been cycling around her.
"Dawn?" As the name left Buffy's lips, her younger sister's eyes grew large once she recognized who was standing in front of her.
"Buffy?" Her gaze going up to the stake her sister held in her hands, the Slayer crossed her arms in front of her chest.
"Ok, considering the fact that you're holding a pointy stake at me, I'm going to give you three seconds to explain why you're out here." She said as she perked up her eyebrow, silently demanding an explanation.
"Well, um, you see…"
"I'm, sort of, kinda of….ok, this is kinda hard to say."
"We've got time. I'm all ears." The hand holding the stake already lowered, Dawn looked down towards the ground, her mind scrambling to find the right words to say. As she raised her head, she was just in time to see the single Bringer walking towards them.
"Buffy…" Rolling her eyes, Buffy let her hands return to her sides.
"Alright, look, we're standing in the middle of a graveyard, and considering that I'm the Slayer, I kinda want to know why my little sister is out here when she shouldn't be." The Bringer had just begun to raise the knife in his hand when Buffy turned on her heel, her fist connecting with the Demon's face with near perfect accuracy. "Because honestly, having to deal with these guys just makes the entire occasion just seem so much better."
As if on pure will, the rest of the Bringers began to burst out of the shadows, their black attire blending in perfectly with the darkness from which they had just emerged. Most of them were armed with their seemingly trademark knives, but a few now brandished a type of fighting axe that Dawn had seen occasionally around the training room in the Magick Box. She had seen first-hand the kind of damage the weapon could do to a fake training dummy, and she wasn't particularly looking forward to seeing how it would function on a body of flesh and blood.
Most of the Bringers were coming at them from the area behind where she had only moments ago been standing, but one or two of them were closing in from the sides. The one that Buffy had only seconds ago slugged was already on his knees, his body falling to the ground beneath him as consciousness left his body. Turning her attention to the approaching group, Buffy pushed her sister behind her, grabbing the stake out of her pocket.
"I trust that you know how to use one of these?" She asked, raising the wooden object at level with her head.
"I might have learned how." Dawn replied, raising her own as she pressed her back against her sister's.
"We're going to finish this conversation, don't forget that."
"Oh, I'm so looking forward to it."