Author's Note: This follows “Being Found”, “Being Taught”, “Being Accepted”, “Being Stubborn”, “Being Aware”, and “Being Foolish”. Post-Angel the TV series. (A little over 2 1/2 years after Black Thorn)
Disclaimer: I don't own anything from Angel and am not making money from this fic.
Warning(s): AU; discipline of adult.

Being Rebellious

“I see the bad moon arising. I see trouble on the way.”  Bad Moon Rising by Clearance Clearwater Revival

Faith sat at the breakfast table, toying with her spoon as she quietly watched the other members of the household. Angel was reading the front page of the paper, sipping every so often from a warmed up mug of what ever type he’d chosen for the morning. Lorne was on the other end of the table going over some accounts from the club, once in a while picking up a piece of toast to take careful bite. Spike and Illyria were making odd faces at each other in some bid to silently communicate. She wrinkled her nose and shook her head before looking across the table to where Lindsey normally sat. Her brother was conspicuous by his absence- although nobody else seemed to be paying it any mind.

Speak of the devil… she thought, having caught site of said brother trying to sneak past the kitchen from the garage area. He was tiptoeing, carefully holding his shoes. When he saw that she’d noticed him, he quickly held up a finger to his lips begging her with his eyes not to say anything. She grinned and quickly looked down at her bowl.

“And just where are you coming in from at…” Angel looked at his watch and raised an eyebrow slightly. “At 7:00 in the morning and obviously having not been home or to bed yet?” The vampire’s voice was calm, if curious, but Lindsey’s shoulders slumped as he realized he’d been caught. Sighing softly he walked over to where their father sat. Angel put down the paper and looked at his youngest son with a patient but determined look.

Lindsey blushed hotly and ran a hand through his hair. “Um…I….well you see…”

Spike piped up without taking his eyes off of Illyria. “He met some bird at the bar last night and she took him home.”

If it was possible, Lindsey somehow turned even redder, his eyes widening. “How’d….” he blinked in surprise that Spike had known.

Spike finally turned to face his little brother, a grin on his face. “Just because you don’t see me, doesn’t mean I’m not there. You really need to be more aware of your surroundings.” He shook his head in a teasing manner.

Angel didn’t look too happy about the fact that Lindsey had just gone off somewhere without saying anything and Faith was waiting for the fireworks to start when Lorne butted in. “Don’t worry Peaches. Cowboy told me where he was going right before he took off. And the bird’s name is Caryn. She’s a sweet kid. I do hope you used protection and didn’t just sneak off without giving her a proper goodbye.” The green man addressed the last bit to Lindsey, who- unable to turn any redder- hid his face in his hands and groaned.

Angel, relaxing once he realized that his boy had not just disappeared without giving anyone any clue to what was going on, nodded and gave Lindsey an amused smile. “What Lorne said.”

Finally giving up any idea of having any privacy, Lindsey sighed. “Yes sir. I did. And we actually had breakfast together so…” he rubbed the back of his neck, still slightly mortified to be discussing his sex life in a way that was reminiscent of him being given the “talk” instead of just friendly banter.

Faith finally couldn’t hold it in any longer and bust up laughing. “Gad…you all act like he’s some virginal teen whose never been laid before. Let ‘im alone.” She stood up, taking her empty bowl to the sink before returning to the room and grabbing Lindsey’s arm. “C’mon bro. If you tell me about your hot date, I’ll tell you ‘bout the one I have planned tonight!” She drug him out while Angel, Spike, and Lorne stared after them with bemused expressions.

Lindsey wasn’t sure what was worse. Being treated like he was an inexperienced child- or having his sister sharing way too much information about her sex life.

# # #
A few hours later, Faith hit the punching bag in the rec room one more time then sighed as she watched it swing erratically back and forth. She didn’t know what was wrong with her. She just felt so restless. She felt a need to do something- something wild and dangerous. Something that she knew Angel wouldn’t approve of, to be honest. But she didn’t want to upset her mentor- her father-figure. And breaking any of his rules for no good reason would definitely upset him. So, she had to continue to be a good little girl- even if she wanted to go on a wild, slay-em and sex-em spree.

She wrinkled then scratched her nose. She was currently alone in the house. Lorne and Angel had both gone to the club to meet up with a potential client. Spike was- as usual- with Illyria, and Lindsey was trying to find more information on his family. He hadn’t said anything, but she knew he thought Wolfram and Hart had somehow screwed him over- beyond the normal screwing over they did to anyone who came in contact with them.

Grabbing a towel and wiping the sweat off her face, she headed upstairs to take a shower. She’d been thinking about it and realized that she’d been living in this household- as a member of this unconventional family- for a little over a year now. And while she’d gotten into trouble a few times, over all she’d kept in check. She’d done well. Better than she had thought she’d be able to. Maybe that explained the itch to misbehave. Prior to Angel, she’d never had anyone that she felt the need to obey- and had mostly done her best to buck authority. She frowned. She felt confused and uncertain. Oh- not about joining the family. But something was crawling under her skin and she couldn’t figure out what. It was frustrating. Sighing again, she quickly jumped into the shower.

Less than five minutes later, she was finished and drying off. Quickly dressing in a pair of clean jeans and a t-shirt, she towel dried her hair then wandered barefoot, back downstairs. She’d go out on patrol in a couple of more hours- nothing of interest would be out before 5pm and likely not until later than that. She needed action, and she knew exactly where to go to find it. Until then though- Judge Judy was always amusing to watch.

# # #
Later that evening she was walking through one of the numerous warehouses that seemed to litter the city. She hadn’t told Angel exactly where she was going- she was patrolling- and her patrols normally didn’t follow a set pattern- it would make it too easy for the nasties to find her if she fell into a routine. She hadn’t brought any back up either, because she honestly didn’t expect to find anything. Not that she would complain If she did find something- she was bored stiff and would welcome a fight- but she wasn’t expecting anything. That’s what she would tell Angel later when he was cleaning out her wounds and stitching her up.

It had happened so quickly, she almost hadn’t seen it; a young kid- probably twelve or thirteen- being grabbed and drug into an alleyway. She’d quickly run across the street and into the alley to confront whatever had grabbed the kid- only to be faced with a motley group of various vampires and demons.

“Well- this was unexpected…” she muttered irritably, before attacking the vampire holding the kid. The kid had fallen to the ground, but at Faith’s sharp command of “run!” he’d disappeared as quickly as he could, leaving Faith to deal with the gang on her own. Just the way she’d wanted.

Five minutes later, she would exit the alley victorious even if she was bloodied and limping. The night was young and she hated to go home already- especially since she was fairly certain that no one else was home yet. Frowning, she pulled her cell out of her back pocket and dialed the number by heart.

“Hey Faith, what’s up?” Angel asked, a slight hint of worry in his tone although he hid it well.

“Are you still at the club?” She asked brightly. At Angel’s affirmative answer, she chirped. “Ok. I guess I’ll come by there then. I didn’t feel like going back to an empty house.”

# # #
She’d snuck in the back door of the club and then texted Angel to let him know she was in Lorne’s office. When the vampire and green demon had both arrived a few minutes later, neither of them were happy to see that she had been wounded. Apparently, one of the scratches she had was deep enough to require stitches.

Angel had quickly called Linda and the woman hadn’t wasted any time getting to the office to help him clean the slayer up. He did the actual stitching, but Faith was grateful for the other woman’s presence since she was able to cast a few spells to make certain there wasn’t any magical nastiness laying in wait.

After he was satisfied that his daughter had been taken care of to the best of their ability- he’d given Faith a stern look. “You need to be more careful Faith. I realize what happened wasn’t your fault and you had no choice in fighting that many alone- but just…be more careful. Try and leave yourself the option of calling for help if you can.” He sighed slightly, then reached over and ruffled her hair. “Lorne and I are done interviewing the client. How’d you like to go to the movies with us?”

Faith smiled brightly, relieved that there wasn’t a lecture in her immediate future and nodded. “I’d like that Pops. Can I get candy?”

“Sure thing Princess. We’ll get candy, popcorn, and a soda. We’ve gotta feed that slayer metabolism, after all.” Lorne- who had remained quiet up till now- chuckled. “You want to come too, Linda?”

The other woman smiled and nodded. “Sure. Now that I’m out of the apartment, I don’t think I want to go back again any time soon. A movie would be fun.”

Soon the four of them were on their way toward the theater. The itch Faith had been feeling all day mollified somewhat and calming enough that she could enjoy herself.

# # #
Many days passed and Faith had tried to be careful- she really had. But despite her efforts she’d come back from patrolling several times with serious cuts or abrasions from taking on foes that were either a lot larger and stronger than her, or foes that were too numerous to handle by herself. She’d only escaped worse injury because she’d either managed to call in back up just in time (she owed Sally and Trish a night out since she’d managed to interrupt their dates at least two times) or had been lucky enough to down her attacker at a critical moment. Needless to say, Angel wasn’t impressed.

“Faith!” the tone of Angel’s voice conveyed all his worry and his growing exasperation as he walked into the kitchen to see her cut up and bloodied for the fifth time in a week. The vampire quickly moved to his daughter’s side and began cleaning up her wounds himself, despite her protests that she was able to take care of it.

It didn’t mean she didn’t still try. “Angel, I’m fine! It looks worse than it is, and I can take care of it!” Faith attempted to swat his hands away from a particularly tender goose egg on her head, only to yelp when he responded by swatting the seat of her pants firmly enough to be a warning. She quickly stilled and let him treat her wounds.

“See, Faith.” The vampire said more calmly than he felt. “That’s the problem. I don’t think you can take care of it- and by it, I mean whatever it is that has you going out and looking for the worst fights available and only asking for help when it is close to too late. You promised me you would be careful.”

She winced at his tone and at the gentle prodding against bruised flesh. “I am trying to be careful, pops. I am. I just seem to be walking into all these big groups of bad guys and you know I can’t just leave them alone once I know where they are and what they are up to…” She winced again at the whine that had crept into her voice.

Angel had finally finished cleaning and bandaging and had stepped back to look at her. His facial expression didn’t indicate he was very impressed by her defense. The vampire sighed softly, reaching up and rubbing the bridge of his nose as he stared at the brunette slayer.

“Ok. I believe you,” he finally stated. Faith slumped in relief but tensed up as her father-figure continued.

“I believe that you are trying to be careful- calling in Trish and Sally instead of continuing to fight on your own proves that. I don’t’ think you are trying very hard to not get into those situations though. You may not be actively looking for situations where you are outnumbered or overpowered- but you aren’t trying very hard to avoid those situations either.” The vampire’s voice held a hint of disappointment that caused Faith’s stomach to flip on itself.

“Angel…” she started to answer him, only to have him put two fingers over her mouth to stop her from speaking. She watched him, her eyes worried.

“No Faith. Don’t try and defend your actions. Like I said…I know you haven’t deliberately gone looking for trouble- you just haven’t actively tried to avoid it. Given the fact that you are destined to fight evil- I’m not surprised by this. It’s as much my fault as it is yours. I should have been clearer in my expectations.” He smiled slightly at her to let her know she wasn’t in trouble.

Faith swallowed chagrined to note how worried she’d been that she would be in trouble with her father. “If I’m not in trouble, then….” Her voice trailed off in confusion.

“From now on- before you go on patrol- you will run your plans for the evening by me. You will tell me where you plan to patrol, how long you plan to be gone, and if you are taking another slayer or one of your siblings with you.” Angel spoke in a tone that didn’t leave room for arguing.

Faith grimaced, but nodded in acceptance of the vampire’s edict. It could have been worse.

Angel Continued. “If you find something unexpected where you KNOW you can not take it on by yourself, you will not engage. You will call me and I will either tell you to wait for me and other back up to arrive before you engage- or I will tell you to leave them be and we will form a group to go after them at another time.”

Faith’s mouth dropped open. “But if I…” her words were stopped once again by Angel placing two fingers over her mouth. Only a healthy respect of her father and a desire to avoid having a sore backside prevented her from biting the vampire’s fingers in irritation.

“That’s not negotiable Faith. If you can’t refrain from attacking something just because it is there- even when you know you will be seriously hurt and might be killed- then maybe you need to stop patrolling for a while and let Trish and Sally handle things while you get your head on straight.” The vampire spoke sternly, but it was the worried look in his eyes that kept Faith quiet this time. Angel really was worried about her. She felt a slight twinge of guilt that she was worrying the man. He already had his plate full worrying about other things.

Sighing softly, the slayer nodded her head. “Yes sir. I’ll call you if I run into things that I know I can’t handle.” Giving the man a crooked smile, she continued- hoping to ease the worry out of his eyes and maybe get him to smile. “If I run into something I can’t avoid or I discover too late that I can’t handle it alone, I’ll call as soon as possible. Ok?”

She was gratified when the vampire did smile at her and the worry eased just a little. “That’s all I can ask for princess. Now- since you’ve been wounded so often this week, I think you should take a few days off from patrolling. At least till the end of the weekend. You can decide where you want to go on Monday and let me know then.”

Faith rolled her eyes, but grinned at Angel fondly. “Yes sir. As soon as I decide where to patrol next, I’ll let you know. But since I have the weekend before I need to do that….” She looked up at the vampire with widened eyes and a pleading look. “Would you mind my borrowing your credit card so I can replace some of the clothes that I ruined this week?”

Angel narrowed his eyes at her suspiciously. “How many things did you ruin? Can’t most of it just be washed out?”

Faith pouted. “Well yeah- but I did ruin my favorite leather jacket. It got sliced up really bad when…” she bit her lip, reluctant to remind Angel of one of the more serious wounds she’d received.

Angel frowned, but nodded slightly. “Ok. You can replace the jacket. And you may buy ONE new outfit. But that’s it.”

“Thanks Angel!” Faith grinned, throwing her arms around her father-figure and giving him a big hug before bouncing out of the kitchen to go take a shower.

Angel shook his head and chuckled faintly. “You’re welcome princess.”

# # #

“Spoonman, come together with your handsSave me, I'm together with your planSave me” Spoonman by Soundgarden

The weekend and the following week had gone fairly smoothly. It hadn’t been as hard for Faith to inform Angel of her plans as she had feared it would be. She decided that it had helped living in the mansion and under the man’s rules for the last year. She couldn’t imagine having given up her independence or autonomy so easily had he demanded she tell him her whereabouts when she first moved in. Now, it was just one more thing she did because her ‘father’ requested it of her and she wanted to make him happy.

She was reflecting on this during breakfast, her head propped up on one hand while she stared off into space- a forkful of egg halfway to her mouth. The rest of the family was sat around the kitchen table like usual, not having noticed her odd position due to reading the paper (Angel and Lorne) or having a staring contest with each other (Spike and Illyria). It was the first thing Lindsey noticed when he snuck back into the house, carrying his shoes and trying not to draw anyone’s attention. Of course it startled him into laughing and drew everyone’s attention.

“Out with Caryn again?” Lorne asked casually, although his eyes were piercing.

Angel didn’t even try for casual. “You should call if you plan to not come home at night.” He didn’t make it an order, but Lindsey could tell it was more than a suggestion.

Sighing, Lindsey let his shoes drop to the floor and walked over to the table, sitting down in his spot. “No. Caryn informed me that we just wouldn’t work out and she wanted to be friends last week.”

Lorne frowned in sympathy and in a bit of confusion. “Then where were you? I thought you said you had a date. Granted, I assumed it was with Caryn, but…”

Lindsey flushed and mumbled under his breath, but of course Angel and Spike’s vampiric hearing picked up every word.

Spike’s eyebrows rose and he quickly pushed back from the table. “Come on Illyria, I need to get some sparring in…you come too Faith.” Illyria and Faith, confused by his actions but knowing that if he was leaving the table so quickly they probably didn’t want to stick around, quickly got up and followed him. Soon it was just Lindsey facing his father and uncle. The younger man bit his lip and waited for his father’s response.

“Would you like to repeat yourself so that Lorne can hear what you just said?” Angel asked calmly, although his eyes flashed his irritation and disappointment.

“I…I never actually had a date. I just told you that so you wouldn’t ask me anymore questions. I was doing more research and after the other day when you said you thought I should give it a rest for a bit, socialize and relax- I didn’t want to give you reason to start worrying about me obsessing or insist that I stop or anything…” Lindsey had the decency to look ashamed of himself as he folded his hands on the table in front of him and stared at them. When he finally looked up into Lorne’s disappointed eyes and then looked at Angel and saw the same disappointment, he winced. “I’m sorry.” He whispered before quietly standing and heading to the kitchen sink.

Surprised at his abruptly leaving the table, Lorne and Angel quickly followed him- only to find him pulling the bottle of soap Angel had bought months ago from under the sink. Silently he handed it to Lorne, giving the bottle a baleful look before looking back up at his guardians sadly. “I knew it was wrong the minute I said it. If it helps, I felt guilty all night long…” he finally admitted.

Shaking his head, Angel gave his son a crooked smile and patted him on the shoulder. “You know how disappointed I am that you would lie…but I’m proud of you for owning up to it without making it worse. I’ll let you talk with your uncle alone for a bit.” Squeezing Lindsey’s shoulder he left the room and went to his office.

Lindsey turned to face Lorne, nervously biting his lip again. “I AM sorry…” he repeated himself, afraid that the green man might not believe him. He couldn’t blame him if he didn’t- lying wouldn’t exactly help him to trust in Lindsey’s words.

Lorne was an empath, however, and he could tell that the remorse was genuine. “You really need to not fib, Cowboy. It makes it really difficult to know if we can believe what you tell us,” the demon admonished sternly, if gently.

“I know.” Lindsey admitted weakly. “I try really hard not to- just sometimes at weird moments, I still find myself falling into old habits and then afterwards…” he shrugged helplessly.

“Well, let’s give you an extra incentive not to fall into those old bad habits then,” Lorne motioned the younger man closer. Sighing forlornly, Lindsey moved to where Lorne beckoned and then opened his mouth without being told. Lorne quickly put three substantial squirts of soap onto the boys tongue. “Close your mouth. I’ll let you know when you can rinse,” the Empath ordered.

It felt like the longest five minutes Lindsey had experienced in a long time. When Lorne finally motioned him to the sink so that he could spit the soap out of his mouth and rinse, his eyes were watering from the effort of not swallowing. Of course the remorse he felt for lying to his uncle hadn’t helped. Even after spitting out the soap and rinsing with the small cup of water that Lorne had handed him- (and it wasn’t nearly enough water to remove all the soap. He’d be tasting suds the rest of the day, he feared)- he couldn’t keep himself from sniffling pathetically and wiping frantically at his eyes.

“A..are we ok?” he finally broke down and asked his uncle.

Lorne gave him a surprised look then quickly pulled him into a hug. “Oh sunshine….of course we’re ok. I’m not mad at you. Yes, I was disappointed- but not mad. We’re more than ok.” He held onto the younger man until he was certain that Lindsey believed him. Finally he stepped back and looked into the younger man’s face. Lindsey looked so young and in need of reassurance. Lorne hated seeing that look on his face- so insecure. Sighing, he put an arm around Lindsey’s shoulders and pulled him with him into Angel’s office. He gave the vampire a look which Angel correctly interpreted, since he quickly stood up from behind his desk and came over to wrap his own arms around his son, holding him tightly.

“No brooding, Sport. You’ve been punished and it’s behind us now. Clean slate and all.” Angel admonished gently, even as he comforted the crestfallen younger man. He didn’t let go until he could feel Lindsey relax and the boy pulled back from him on his own.

Lindsey gave both men a weak smile. “I…think I’m going to go take a nap. I didn’t sleep last night.” He gave his father and uncle a chagrined and nervous look, not certain if he’d get into trouble for that as well. Lorne just shook his head in fond exasperation while Angel put an arm around his shoulders.

“I’ll walk you up to your room then. I’ll come get you for lunch, since you’ll be eating with your uncle and I.” He smiled as Lindsey darted a look toward him before the younger man groaned slightly.

“How long?” Lindsey finally asked, resigned to the ‘medical grounding’ he knew he deserved.

“A month.” Angel answered calmly. “Bedtime is at 10pm- you can’t get out of bed until 6am.”

“Yes sir,” Lindsey sighed as he walked up the stairs, his father by his side.

# # #
Things had calmed down after that. Faith was careful to make certain Angel always knew what her plans were before she went on patrol. The fact that she was expected to call for backup when things looked like they might be more than she could handle- instead of when everything had already gotten out of control, helped her be more thoughtful about what she was doing. She had to admit it was nice not having bruises, scrapes, and cuts all over her body all the time.

For his part, Lindsey- now that he had to be at home and in bed by a set time, was actually taking more time with his family and relaxing. He hadn’t realized how focused he’d become on the research until he couldn’t be so focused on it any more. He had to admit that Lorne had been right to be concerned about him and had actually gone to the other man and admitted as much to him, apologizing for not heeding his council sooner.

When the doorbell had rung a little over a week later, everyone was in the family room watching TV. Illyria, being the closest to the door went to answer it. A few seconds later she was back in the room, her face unreadable as ever, although her voice did have a hint of wonder in it. “There is a mystical ball of energy masquerading as a human here to see you, Angel.” She then sat down nonchalantly next to Spike while everyone else just stared at her.

“Mystical… DAWNIE!” Faith squealed and hopping up ran out to the foyer where her younger friend stood waiting for Angel to come out.

“Faith!” Dawn squealed back and threw her arms around the slayer. “I didn’t know you were here!”

Faith grinned impishly at the other girl. “I’ve been here a little over a year now. Me and Spike both!”

Dawn perked up at those words. “Spike’s here too?”

“Sure am ‘bit.” The blonde vampire had wandered out by this point, Illyria, Angel, and Lindsey trailing after him. Dawn squealed again and threw her arms around him, bouncing up and down in excitement.

“I’m so happy to see you! Why didn’t you tell me you were here? The slayers in the area only mentioned that they helped out Angel occasionally- they never mentioned you all!” Dawn pouted playfully, poking Spike on the arm then doing the same to Faith.

Spike wrinkled his nose. “Where else would I be? I’ve been working with Angel since Sunnydale went down….”

Dawn blushed at his words. “I just thought maybe you’d gone off on your own or something- you never seemed to get along with Angel before….” She glanced uncertainly at the brunette vampire.

“Naw. We get along great now. We just needed to figure out a few things between us. Besides- once I stopped mooning over your sister, I realized I didn’t really have any reason to be upset with him.” Spike shrugged and grinned at his grand-sire.

Dawn glanced at Faith. “So why didn’t you tell me where you were?”

Faith smiled a bit crookedly as she answered. “I didn’t exactly leave on the best of terms with the Scoobies. Figured they would have told you all kinds of things about my leaving and I didn’t want to put you in the middle by trying to defend myself.”

Dawn frowned. “They can be real poop-heads sometimes. I didn’t believe half of what they told me and the half that I could actually believe I figured you had a good reason for.” The slender girl shrugged.

Lindsey cleared his throat. “Er…not to interrupt the happy reunion or be rude or anything- but why are you here?” It was obvious from the girl’s surprise at Faith and Spike’s presence that she hadn’t come to see the two of them- and Illyria had specifically said she came to see Angel- so she had to have a specific reason for coming.

“Oh! Yes!” Dawn turned a startled look on the younger man, before looking at Angel. “I need your help!”

# # #
An hour later, Angel was sitting behind his desk while Dawn paced in front of him. She’d spent the entire time arguing to convince him to help her. “According to everything you’ve told me, there is no guarantee this artifact will actually do anything to help the situation- and might actually make it worse.” The skepticism in his voice was not encouraging.

“I know it is a long shot- but I can’t just sit back and do nothing while Buffy faces this newest big bad. I’m positive that if I can get this artifact and find the right spell that it will help her…” Dawn’s voice was past the point of whining, Angel’s reluctance to help her get what she wanted not sitting well.

A soft knock drew both of their attention to the door. Lindsey stood there holding a couple of folders in his hands. “Information on the artifact and what it is known to do- and information on where it is currently being held…” he said quietly, quickly walking into the office and handing Angel the files. He gave Dawn a quick smile before nodding at Angel and leaving the office, heading back into the family room to see if they’d recorded the television show he’d missed while gathering the research for Angel.

Meanwhile Angel was quickly reading through the information his son had gathered, the corners of his mouth slowly drooping until he had a full-fledge frown. He glanced back up at Dawn in concern. “I don’t believe this artifact will help Buffy, Dawn, and this information just confirms all my suspicions. On top of that, it is in a too secure and well guarded place for us to risk retrieving it. It is entirely too dangerous- especially when it won’t do what you want it to do.”

Sighing softly, he straightened his shoulders and looked her in the eye. “My answer is no. We will not retrieve the artifact. We’ll find some other way to help Buffy, if we can, but this is too risky.” He eyed the younger woman watchfully. “You are of course welcome to stay here as long as you’d like. I know Faith and Spike would like to be able o spend some time with you. However, YOU will not go after the artifact either. Buffy would have my head if anything happened to you. Are we clear?”

Dawn frowned darkly. “Crystal,” she spat out irritably before sighing melodramatically, spinning around and stomping out the door like a petulant teenager.

Angel shook his head in chagrin, wondering what he’d just set himself up for.

# # #
“I just don’t understand you…” Dawn griped two hours later as she paced in Faith’s room. “You AREN’T a follow the rules girl! You’re a figure out what needs doing and taking action girl!” She huffed and threw her hands up in the air. “so why won’t you help me get that artifact? Why are you so insistent that we do what Angel says!?”

Only the genuine look of confusion on her younger friend’s face kept Faith from ignoring the question. Instead she slanted her head thoughtfully and answered as honestly as she could. “Because Angel is family now and when I told him that I wanted to join the family, I made a commitment to abide by the family rules- one of which is if Angel gives a direct order, we obey it.” She shrugged slightly.

She continued before Dawn could spout off, “I know that it seems unfair Dawn, but he has his reasons for refusing to go and for telling you not to go. And I made a commitment to be a part of this family. That means doing what I agreed to do when I joined- in this case listening to Angel.” She bit her lip, hoping Dawn would leave it at that. The look on the other girl’s face wasn’t encouraging however, and Faith sighed softly.

Dawn snorted. “What- so if you don’t obey ‘daddy’ he’ll kick you out of the family? I somehow doubt that Faith. Anyone looking at Angel watching you , and Lindsey, and Spike…could tell he cares about you all too much. He wouldn’t just drop you and send you away because you made a decision for yourself instead of kowtowing to him.”

Faith wrinkled her nose at the attitude Dawn was displaying, but forced her irritation down and smiled faintly. “No Dawn. I don’t think he’d kick me out of the family. I KNOW he wouldn’t do that. You are right. He cares about us all a great deal. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have methods of handling blatant disregard and disobedience of family rules- and I’d rather not experience his method of handling it. Thank you very much.”

Dawn wilted, realizing that nothing she said would change Faith’s mind. The brunette slayer was determined to obey Angel’s directive- no matter how much Dawn badgered her or teased her about being a ‘good little girl’. Finally, in irritation, Dawn crossed her arms and stared down her nose at Faith- who was flopped back in the nearby chair. “Fine. I won’t ask you to help me get the artifact anymore. But I haven’t made any commitment to follow any old rules or obey Angel and I’m going to go get that artifact with or without your help.” She ignored feelings that she was making a big mistake and stalked out of the room, ignoring Faith’s worried and slightly panicked entreaties for her to come back.

# # #

“I am searching … I am not alone I am searching …” Searching by INXS

Faith stared at the empty space where her younger friend had stood for mere seconds before jumping up and throwing on her shoes and jacket. No- she didn’t want to disobey Angel. But having him upset and disappointed with her was preferable to staying here, waiting for help to go get Dawn, and then finding the younger girl dead. If Dawn insisted on going after the artifact, despite the danger, then Faith would have her back. She’d just call Lindsey from the car and let him know what was happening. He could explain to Angel- and maybe if she was lucky, he’d be able to persuade the vampire that it was completely and utterly necessary and she wouldn’t get her butt handed to her when this mess was all over.

Sadly, in her haste, she never noticed that her phone had dropped out of her pocket.

Luckily, as she ran down the stairs and out to the garage, she’d run past Lindsey, nearly running him over in her hurry. Lindsey- who had been getting a drink and debating whether he wanted to go back upstairs to his room (he’d spent over an hour listening to Dawn loudly badger and harass Faith and he really didn’t want to go back to hearing it)- had just watched Dawn storm to the garage not more than a minute before Faith had nearly run him over. It had only taken a few seconds after that to realize what was happening.

He frowned, arguing with himself. Did he follow Faith and invite himself along on what was admittedly a very foolish endeavor? He didn’t like the idea of Faith going after that artifact without someone to back her up- and he didn’t know Dawn well enough to trust that she’d be able to do the job satisfactorily. At the same time, he knew Angel had explicitly said that they would not be going after the artifact and had specifically told Dawn not to go after it. Yeah, he hadn’t actually told him or Faith not to do so, but the implication was there and he wasn’t foolish enough to believe that argument would fly if he tried to use it as an excuse for going after the artifact himself. Plus- it was almost 10pm. He’d be adding breaking his grounding to the list of misdeeds if he went after them. Most importantly- he knew the obstacles and dangers that would be faced going after the artifact. Even with his help, there was no way Dawn and Faith would be able to retrieve it without a lot of injury and pain. If they would have been able to go in and get it easily, Angel would never have forbidden it in the first place.

Swallowing hard, Lindsey forced down his first impulse to go after Faith and help her. Instead he pulled out his cell phone and called Angel, while he went looking for Spike and Illyria.

# # #
Faith had caught up with Dawn in the garage as the younger woman was putting filched keys into the ignition of Faith’s motorcycle. Giving Dawn a furious glare, Faith had made her move back so that she could drive the bike. The self-satisfied smirk on the brat’s face didn’t improve her mood any.

Faith was tempted to just hog-tie Dawn and call Buffy to come get her irritating little sister, but she really didn’t want to be on the outs with Dawn and she knew calling Buffy would put a wedge between them. Of course she could just drag her back into the house and tie her up and let Spike convince her that she shouldn’t go after the artifact. But that was a cop-out really. Plus she knew that Dawn would go after it eventually- and would do so in a way that no one would know she was going until it was too late. Better to just bite the bullet and go now so that she could keep an eye on her friend. “So much for my streak of being ‘good’,” she muttered under her breath as she pealed out of the garage, Dawn throwing her arms around her tightly in a bid not to be unseated from the bike.

Dawn was pleased that she was going after the artifact. She didn’t care what Lindsey’s research said- she was positive it would help Buffy. And it couldn’t possibly be so dangerous that a slayer, two vampires, an old-time god, and a magically enhanced man couldn’t handle it. Angel was just too much of a worrier. Heck, her and Faith would likely breeze in, get the artifact and breeze right out again before Angel even knew what was going on.

Dawn frowned slightly. Faith was really mad at her. She supposed it was a bit unfair to make the other woman choose between obeying Angel and helping her out. She didn’t quite understand this dynamic that Faith had involved herself in. In a way, she supposed it was nice- it seemed to give Faith a grounding and balance that she’d not had before. It was Angel and Faith’s new family that had given her that stability- and Dawn had just made her choose to go against her father-figure in order to keep her safe. She pushed down the twinge of guilt she felt at forcing her friend’s hand in such a manner and tried to focus on the upcoming mission. She’d deal with fallout later.

# # #
Angel was not happy. He’d been sitting in his favorite booth at Lorne’s bar, watching some of the other talent (although no one could beat Lindsey when it came to carrying a tune in his biased opinion) and sipping some concoction that Lorne had made especially for him when Lindsey had called and informed him of what was going on at home.

“I knew that girl was going to be trouble…” he muttered darkly, catching Lorne’s attention at the words.

The green demon raised an eyebrow curiously. “What was that Peaches?”

“Dawn.” Angel snorted, quickly gathering his jacket and sliding out of the booth after gulping down the rest of the drink- not wanting it to go to waste. “Apparently, she didn’t like that Faith was listening to me when I said not to go after a specific artifact. She spent the last hour harassing Faith about obeying me and then when it finally sunk in that Faith wasn’t going to budge, she decided she’d just go and get said artifact on her own. “

Lorne winced. “I take it Faith decided to go with her after all? To keep her safe?”

Angel grimaced, nodding. “Of course she did. There’s no way Dawn would survive without backup. Problem is, where they are going is so dangerous- it is highly likely neither of them will survive. It’s why I said no to going in the first place.”

Sighing, Lorne motioned to Albert that he would be in charge of locking up then grabbed his own jacket so he could follow Angel out to the car. “I’ll call Linda, see if she can get some mojo going in our favor. Then I’ll call Trish and Sally and have them meet us. If there are any other new slayers that can help out, I’ll tell them to bring them along as well.” Lorne didn’t bother to wait for Angel to respond, pulling out his cell and beginning to make his calls.

Angel just nodded. Lindsey had said he was going to call Spike and Illyria, so that left him the task of driving him and Lorne back home to pick up Lindsey and any equipment they might need. He couldn’t speak right now. He had to admit he was very disappointed in Faith’s decision to go with Dawn to retrieve the artifact. Then again- he wasn’t really surprised that she would choose to do so considering the fact that Dawn had decided to go no matter what. Of course Faith would think it important to go and protect her friend, despite what Angel had said. He could only hope that he’d be able to get there in time before either of the girls were permanently harmed.

Of course, he could at least be relieved and proud that Lindsey hadn’t decided to go with them. Lindsey would have found it just as important to protect his sister and her friend as Faith would have found it to important to protect Dawn. The fact that his boy had withstood temptation and not given in to that need, said a lot. That was one positive in this whole mess. Right now, it was the only positive he could see, but he’d take it. He sighed softly, but it came out sounding like a growl.

Lorne glanced at him, finishing his call before putting his phone away. “Linda and the girls are meeting us back at the house. We are in luck, because there were five other slayers visiting Trish and they’ll come with.”

“Well, that’s one more thing to be thankful for…” Angel said morosely.

Lorne smiled crookedly. “We’ll get there in time big guy. They didn’t get that much of a head start. We have to get there in time.” Angel wasn’t sure if Lorne was trying to convince him or himself.

# # #
“She didn’t…” Spike groaned as Lindsey explained the events as he knew them from the last two hours. It figures that he and Illyria go out for a little bit of alone time away from the house and havoc breaks out, he thought irritably.

“Bit knows better than to deliberately put herself in danger. Surely, that much can’t have changed in the last three years…” he groaned again, running a hand through his hair for emphasis. “And Faith…she had to have known what a bad idea it was. Even if Angel didn’t say not to do it!”

Lindsey winced slightly. “She felt like she needed to have Dawn’s back and Dawn was hell bent on going- no matter what anyone said.” He gave his brother a sheepish look. “I can understand it. The only reason I didn’t go to watch Faith’s back was I know what they’ll be up against and knew they needed more than just me for back up. If I’d not stopped to think it through- or had believed that my presence could help them win…I would have been right there with them.”

“And you would have been standing in a corner waiting to get your butt warmed right along with them, too.” Angel snorted, having walked in the door to hear the last part of Lindsey’s comment. He patted Lindsey on the back before giving his shoulder a squeeze. “And I have to say I’m proud of you for withstanding the temptation to go. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision, given your tendency to seek out trouble.”

Lindsey gave his father a befuddled look, not certain if he should be happy at the fact Angel said he was proud of him- or offended at the fact Angel said he tended to seek out trouble. He settled for shrugging. Angel was right. He did tend to find trouble and dive head first into it. He handed Angel the folders he had retrieved. “I’ve marked where I think the easiest entrance for us would be. I’ve also marked several of the areas where we can make a quick exit, once we have the girls back.”

“Thanks son.” Angel murmured, already looking over the information Lindsey had gathered, Spike and Illyria looking over his shoulder.

“Anytime, Dad…” Lindsey whispered back, feeling anxious to be heading out to get his sister but knowing that they couldn’t go without having a plan. Addressing Angel as his father helped calm him- he knew the vampire would not allow anything to happen to any of his children if he was able to do something about it. The gentle squeeze on his arm and the knowing look Angel gave him before continuing to look at the plans helped calm him further.

By the time Linda, Trish, Sally, and the other girls all arrived, a plan had been formed. It was time to go rescue two headstrong girls from certain death.

Faith grunted as the door she had slammed shut and was leaning against was pounded against from the other side. “A little faster Dawnie? Before they manage to get the damn thing open?” Her voice cracked as a particularly hard jolt against the door jarred her injured shoulder, reminding her yet again what a bad idea this had been.

Dawn didn’t respond to her words vocally, but the slender finger held up in silent salute made it clear how the younger girl felt about the needling. Dawn finally managed to shove the heavy file cabinet close enough to keep the door closed and Faith was able to relax for a few seconds before repositioning it into a stronger barrier. She then began to look around the room for available weapons.

“I’m sorry Faith,” Dawn whispered sorrowfully, as she helped pile up potential items to defend themselves with. There wasn’t much to work with, unfortunately and both Faith and Dawn were wounded badly enough that if it came down to fighting without weapons- they’d be overcome within moments. “This is my fault. I should have listened to Angel….I shouldn’t have…you’re only here because of me…” She rubbed at a scratch on her face, smearing more blood.

“It was my choice, kid. I could have kept you from going…or I could have let you go, but called Angel immediately so we could retrieve you before it was too late. I’d like to think you wouldn’t have just come rushing in without a plan if you’d been by yourself….” Faith eyed the younger woman, noting the furtive way her eyes darted around the room at her last sentence. She sighed. “Or maybe you would have.” She muttered darkly, pressing her hand into her side to try and alleviate some of the pain.

“Maybe…maybe if we give ourselves up- give them back the artifact…they’ll just keep us prisoner and Angel can find a way to ransom us?” Dawn glanced at the brunette slayer hopefully. She sighed at the snort Faith emitted.

“You know as well as I do that if we turn ourselves over to them, the first thing they’re going to do is kill us. Then send our bodies back to Angel in pieces.” Faith wasn’t trying to be cruel, but these weren’t nice people they were dealing with. She didn’t want to give Dawn false hope. “The only way we’re getting out of this alive is if Lindsey told on us- and the gang managed to find some extra muscle to help.”

Dawn slumped against a wall, her face crestfallen. “Yeah. Part of me hopes they don’t come after us. It’s bad enough I caused you to die- I don’t want any other deaths to be my fault.” She sniffled slightly, but forced herself not to cry, still attempting to find a way out of the mess they were in. The room only had one entrance- and it was currently being bombarded by the men who wanted to kill them. There were no windows. There was only a vent up toward the ceiling, but there was no way to know where that would end up- and it would be a tight fit. Even so…

“Faith. What about there?” She nodded toward the vent, asking for the slayers opinion. She found herself becoming a little more hopeful at the considering smile on Faith’s face. She smiled back when the slayer nodded.

“That might just be our exit out. Not like we’ll have a better opportunity. Think you can get up without my help or do you need a push?” Faith asked quietly.

Dawn gave it serious thought before answering. “I can get myself up, so it really depends on if you want to lead or follow…”

This time Faith gave it some thought. “I think I better lead. My hearing is better than yours so I’ll listen to make sure we are heading away from the ones that want us dead and not directly to them.” With that decision made, Faith had quickly pulled a chair underneath the vent and stood on it- quickly ripping the cover off the wall. There was no need to hide where they had disappeared to…it was the only way they could have exited the room after all. As soon as the cover was removed, she lifted herself up and into the vent, wincing as the tightness of the air-ducts forced her to aggravate the many wounds she had. Swallowing a whimper, she began the slow trek forward.

Dawn had quickly followed, tapping Faith’s leg to let her know that she was there before they began moving forward more quickly. Dawn was worried about the amount of blood Faith was leaving behind- smeared along the sides of the duct. Unfortunately, she was leaving behind just as much. For the first time Dawn wondered if they might get out of this mess, only to die from their wounds anyway. She didn’t say anything to Faith about her worry though. The slayer had too much to think about just getting them to a safe spot. Dawn really hoped that Angel would come after them. She’d listen to any amount of I-told-you-so’s if the vampire could rescue them.

# # #

“Rescue me
from everything, I
just want to live, I
wish I could breathe”
Rescue Me by Hawthorne Heights

Faith winced as she landed on the ground- hard- barely rolling out of the way for Dawn to land in the spot she’d just vacated with a landing just as hard as her own. They’d crawled as far and as long as they could, but they’d finally reached a point where Faith knew they couldn’t keep going through the air-ducts. They would have to take their chances back in the open. She’d peered out of the vent and seeing windows, decided that this would either be where they made their escape or it would be their final stand before dying.

Her wounds had been more serious than she realized and she’d lost too much blood to go further. She suspected Dawnie was in much the same condition. Slowly, carefully, she stood to her feet before helping Dawn up. They then surreptitiously made their way to one of the windows and peered out. They were on the first floor, luckily. Unfortunately, there were bars on the windows and she didn’t have the strength to break them out. That left the door- which meant setting off the alarm which would let every baddy in the building know where hey were.

She sighed. It wasn’t ideal, and the chances of them making it into the wooded area next to the building or disappearing among the many other buildings surrounding the area were slim, but it was their only chance. She’d turned toward Dawn to indicate her plans when she noted that the younger woman had already moved in the direction of the door, but had collapsed before actually reaching it.

“No…no…no,” Faith muttered to herself in agitated worry, carefully making her way to the now unconscious Dawn. “Please, Dawnie…wake up.” She implored. “I can’t carry you out of here…” she bit back a choked sob as she realized her friend wasn’t going to make it out on her own. That just left Faith and Faith didn’t have the energy left to do anymore. She just didn’t. Sitting beside her friend and taking the younger girl’s hand in her own, she slowly started slumping down until she too was out cold.

# # #
It had been a blood bath. Linda’s mojo had indeed worked to get them into the building unseen- unfortunately, once in the building her magic had been nullified. The only thing in their favor had been the element of surprise and the fact that the enemy were apparently distracted looking for Faith and Dawn. Angel grimaced. That would be good news if it weren’t for the fact that he and the others also needed to find Faith and Dawn and had no clue where to begin looking. He was thankful for the plans Lindsey had put together. At least finding their way out wouldn’t take a long time.

Grimacing as he had to behead yet another demon guard (apparently all the humans left the building at 5:00) he spoke into his com. “Anyone find any clues so far?” He couldn’t help the small bit of hope that crept into his voice.

“Yes, actually…” Lindsey grunted through his own com, fighting two vampires who he’d come across in what appeared to be a filing room. He managed to stake one with the broken arm of a chair before the second one threw him into the wall, causing him to lose his breath. He couldn’t help the tiny whimper that escaped- that had hurt just a bit- but pushed down the pain.

Of course Angel had heard it. “Lindsey? Are you ok? Answer me damnit!”

“Relax, big guy. I’m fine…” Lindsey finally wheezed, having just dispatched the second vampire with a can of bug spray and a cigarette lighter he’d conveniently pocketed from the storage room he’d examined prior to this room. Taking a quick breath, he went to what had caught his eye when he first entered into the room. Blood...a large amount of blood…leading up into the air ducts, was clearly visible. “As I was about to say before I was so rudely attacked. I found blood- and it leads up into the air ducts. They managed to get away from their pursuers, but it’s anyone’s guess where they finally ended up…” Sighing softly, he continued. “I’ll just…follow their trail.” With that he pulled himself up into the air-ducts planning to go after his sister.

Angel shook his head. “Be careful and don’t get stuck Linds. And hurry. I think we’re running out of time.” He muttered the last under his breath.

Lindsey didn’t bother replying- too preoccupied with quickly moving through the narrow vents and making sure he didn’t lose the blood trail in his haste. If part of his haste was spurred by nervousness from being in the tight enclosed space, he’d never admit that.

# # #
Trish and Sally were fighting back to back when Lindsey gave his update. They’d cornered 5 demons, only to have reinforcements arrive and corner them. As a result they now faced 10 angry creatures that looked like a cross between Godzilla and that thing from Predator. It wasn’t looking good for them- Sally had a broken arm, sprained ankle, and she was fairly certain she’d dislocated her hip. Trish was positive that the wound in her side had been poisoned.

“It’s been good- you know…being your friend and partner.” Trish finally said it out loud, realizing that this was it for them. They were surrounded.

Sally swallowed. “Yeah…same here. think they’ll be able to retrieve our bodies?” She asked hesitantly.

“Stop talking like that- we’re coming to get YOU…” Lorne’s voice suddenly and sternly admonished over the coms that the girls had forgotten about.

“That’s real sweet Lorne- but I think it might be too late…” Sally’s voice quivered slightly as she saw the demons tensing up to attack. Both Trish and Sally had to drop to the ground and cover their ears when all 10 of the demons suddenly let out a loud and grating screech before exploding in gory mess all over the two slayers.

A few seconds later, Lorne and Linda burst into the room, franticly looking around, only relaxing when they saw Trish and Sally in a huddle on the floor- in dire need of a shower, but very much alive.

# # #
“What the bloody hell was that?” Spike spat, agitatedly wiping the gore and blood off of his jacket. Illyria stood passively next to him, looking at all the spots of goo or dust that had at one point been demons or vampires.

“It appears that something went wrong….for them.” Illyria shrugged, then turned and left the room. They still had Faith and Dawn to locate and if there wasn’t any fighting left to do, then they may as well find the two girls quickly.

# # #
The five slayers who had been visiting were a bit confused about what had occurred and since they didn’t have a watcher near by to ask, they went to the next best thing. Angel soon found himself surrounded by worried, almost frantic, slayers.

“What happened…?” “I’ve never seen…” “That isn’t sposed to happen is it?” “Holy moly look at the mess! This is never gonna wash out….”

Wincing, Angel held a hand up. “Quiet!” When he finally had their attention he tried to answer as best he could. “I’m not sure what happened, but as soon as we are in a safe place, we will definitely be looking it up to find out. I don’t like surprises. Not even ones in our favor. Until then, we still need to find Faith and Dawn. And I don’t know how much of a reprieve whatever…this is… gave us. So we better make good use of the time.”

The five girls nodded and were about to take off to begin the search again, when Lindsey’s voice cut through the coms.

“I’m not sure what all happened out there- but I found the girls.”

# # #
Lindsey had followed the trail of blood through the air-ducts fairly quickly. Oh, he’d fought enough to get bruised pretty badly, and by tomorrow morning, he suspected he’d have a hard time moving- but he’d somehow managed to avoid any major injuries and therefore was able to move quickly.

And it had been obvious where Faith and Dawn had exited the air-ducts, since there was pretty much a dead end in front of him and the cover for the vent had been torn off. Peering through the vent, he didn’t notice anything else in the room that he needed to worry about and had quickly lowered himself out and onto the ground. A quick glance around the room and he’d seen Faith and Dawn.

“You almost made it, girls…” he muttered under his breath, when he saw how close to the exit they were.

“Almost…ALMOST? Lindsey, are they…” Angel’s frantic voice cut through the coms, reminding Lindsey how sensitive the coms were and that everything he said could be heard by everyone else. He grimaced, quickly moving to the two and kneeling down beside them.

“No… they’re alive! I’m sorry- I meant they almost escaped…” Lindsey’s voice was sheepish and apologetic.

Closing his eyes and pushing down his irritation- this situation wasn’t easy on anyone- Angel asked softly. “Can you tell us where you are so we can come get you?”

Lindsey looked around the room quickly before glancing outside for some type of landmark. “Remember the exits I showed you?” When everyone answered in the affirmative, he continued. “We’re in the northeast part of the building- the exit that faced the woods.”

“Got it. We’re on our way.” Angel’s voice blended with several others saying nearly the same thing. Lindsey had to grin despite the seriousness of the situation. His grin quickly disappeared when he took in the two girls’ wounds.

Faith was still bleeding heavily- that was the most urgent need. He quickly took his jacket off, covering Dawn with it- just because she wasn’t visibly bleeding didn’t mean she didn’t have internal injuries and he didn’t want her going into shock. Convinced that he’d done everything he could for the younger girl he turned his attention to his sister. Removing his t-shirt, he quickly folded it and then pressed it to her shoulder as tightly as he could. He winced in sympathy at the quiet whimper she let out.

“Sorry sweetheart, but you’ve already lost more blood than is safe. I can’t let the rest of it out or we’ll lose you…”he shivered partly because the room was cold, but partly because there was no guarantee that Faith would live, even after they had managed to save her.

Angel and the rest found him in that position five minutes later when they all managed to get to the room at the same time. Linda, seeing how distracted Angel and the rest of his family were at seeing Faith so pale and lifeless, quickly took charge- directing the other slayers on how to immobilize and then pick Dawn up to carry out to the car. She, Trish, and Sally took care of Faith- working around Lindsey until the last second where Linda made him move over for her to take his place.

Illyria had thought to bring the van around to the side where they would exit, so luckily they didn’t have to go back through the building to get out. Unfortunately, they had to set off the alarms in order to get out of the building…Dawn didn’t stir, but Faith began to fight when the sirens broke through her unconsciousness. “It’s ok Faith. We’ve got you…hold still sweetie…” Linda murmured a small charm under her breath to help Faith go back under.

Once the two girls were safely in the van, Trish- who was sweating profusely and looking like she’d be unconscious soon herself, crawled into the van next to Linda. Sally carefully got in next to her. Angel took a quick look around and seeing that there weren’t any other major injuries needing quick medical attention, closed the door then nodded at Illyria to go. “We’ll be there soon. Spike, keep me informed until I get there.” Nodding at his grand-sire Spike hopped into the front seat next to Illyria and they quickly took off for the hospital.

As much as he wanted to go directly to the hospital, Angel knew that the remaining five slayers- not o mention Lorne and Lindsey, needed to be looked after. He quickly motioned them to move to the woods. Once out of site of the building, he gave Lorne the keys to his car. “Lorne, can you take the girls back to the mansion so they can get cleaned up? I’ll ride back on Faith’s bike, with Lindsey.”

Lorne nodded. He too wanted to go straight to the hospital, but Angel was right. They needed to get everyone else cleaned up and make sure they didn’t need medical help. He motioned the girls to follow him and headed to Angel’s car.

“I want to go straight to the hospital…” Lindsey started to argue, but didn’t fight his father when Angel took his arm in a gentle grip and led him to Faith’s bike.

“There isn’t anything more you can do Lindsey- not yet anyway. We’ll get cleaned up- I’ll check you over and make sure you don’t need to see a doctor yourself…” he gave the younger man a stern look when it appeared Lindsey wanted to argue, nodding when the boy quickly looked down and kept the argument to himself. “We should also check on what exactly happened to cause that mass….explosion for lack of a better word…of demons. That just wasn’t normal and I’d rather not have it come back and cause us problems later.”

At that, Lindsey looked up, a resolute look on his face. “Yes sir. I’ll get all the information I can find about that artifact and who had it- I must have missed something the first time through. That’s the only explanation. I’m just glad you, Lorne, and Spike didn’t….” he awkwardly motioned his hands in a haphazard pantomime of an explosion.

Angel smiled at his son, pulling him in close and hugging him- noting the wince and becoming more determined that the boy would receive a thorough check-up. He’d give him a chance to get it done at the hospital, but if the child balked then Angel would hire a doctor to come in and oversee it himself.

When they got to the bike, Angel removed his own jacket and gave it to Lindsey, ignoring the younger man’s protests. “You don’t even have a shirt on Lindsey. And while it isn’t freezing outside, it isn’t exactly warm either. Add wind-chill to the equation and you’ll be frozen by the time we get home. Wear my jacket.”

Lindsey sighed, but pulled the jacket on. “Yes sir.” Quietly he got onto the bike behind his father, wrapping his arms tightly around the vampire and leaning into him.

Angel smiled at the action before quickly starting the bike and pulling out onto the road. The night had been too long- but he had a feeling it was about to get even longer.

# # #

“When I was sorry
It was too late to turn around (turn around)
And tell you so”
Foolish Beat by Debbie Gibson

No one had wasted much time at the mansion. The girls who hadn’t been hurt badly- whose slayer healing was already kicking in- had quickly taken showers and then either gone to crash in one of the numerous guest rooms or gone to take advantage of the big screen television.

Lorne, Angel and Lindsey had quickly cleaned up before going back to Angel’s car to head to the hospital. Lindsey carrying the files of research they had done on the artifact along with his laptop, and Lorne on the phone with Linda. She had been calling intermittently- enough to let the men know that all four girls that had gone to the hospital in the van had been admitted, if only for observation.

Linda had assured Angel- through Lorne- that they did not have to worry about police involvement or coming up with vague excuses for the wounds. She had managed-through contacts and magical means-to get doctors and nurses familiar with the supernatural assigned to the cases. The few personnel attending the girls who hadn’t been familiar with it before were about to be given a quick lesson in it. Linda was a big believer in as many people being aware as possible- especially those that had a bigger chance than most of being exposed to the supernatural in a negative way-people such as police or emergency healthcare workers.

Angel began to relax a little more once he realized that the girls were in capable aware hands and that he would not have to deal with an investigation into what had occurred; at least until he glanced in his rearview mirror and noticed his youngest son holding himself stiffly and wincing anytime he had to move even a little bit or they hit a rough patch on the road.

“You’re going to see a doctor as soon as we get there.” He said firmly, deciding not to give Lindsey a choice in the matter.

Of course the younger man balked. “You said you’d check me out…” the boy protested, his eyes flashing and face turning red at the fact that it appeared he was going to be made to undergo treatment.

“I said I’d check you out and decide if you needed a doctor. At first I thought that even if you needed a doctor, you could be tended to at home easily enough- but the way you’re sitting and reacting to every movement of this car I now think they will need to do some scans and possibly an x-ray or two. You can’t do that at home Lindsey, and it isn’t something I can do.” Angel managed to keep his tone even and calm, even though he was frustrated that the child was apparently going to fight him about it; after everything that had gone on tonight, he really didn’t need Lindsey throwing a tantrum.

“No!” Lindsey retorted. “I’m fine Angel. Just a few bruises and those will be cleared up in a few days…There is no reason for me to have to put up with a doctor poking and prodding or any of those infernal machines that …” He grimaced, not wanting to admit to the fact that the machines made him nervous. He resorted to arguing to hide it. “Just no. I’m not the one who was bleeding out, so you don’t need to worry about me. “

Lorne turned halfway around in his seat, too surprised to say anything at first, but the look on his face indicated his displeasure with his “nephews” words. Before he could find his voice Angel was already responding.

“Listen, little boy…” Angel only raised his voice slightly, but all the frustration of the day was evident in it “you will be checked out by a doctor and will do whatever testing they feel is necessary to make certain you don’t have internal bleeding or any other serious injuries that are in need of care. You will do it without arguing. Or so help me, you will be grounded for the next year and on such a short leash you won’t even be able to go to the bathroom without my knowing about it. Am I clear?!”

“Crystal!” Lindsey snapped, crossing his arms over his chest and looking out the window of the car in agitation- ignoring the tired sigh of his father and the astonished disappointment of his uncle. Little boy…he wasn’t a baby for crying out loud and for Angel to treat him like a child was completely unfair. He glared at his father figure through the rearview mirror, blinking when he finally noted his reflection- crossed arms, face red from temper, lip jutting out in what could only be described as a pout.

His mouth dropped open slightly before embarrassment flooded him and he dropped his hands loosely onto his lap, staring at his knees. He wasn’t a baby or a child, but he certainly hadn’t been acting very adult. He peered at the back of Angel’s head from under lowered lashes- noting how tense the vampire was. Looking in the rearview mirror again, he could note the worry on the man’s face. He knew most of it was because of the girl’s but he also knew that part of it was because of him. And if he were honest, he had to admit the other man had a point. There could be internal injuries that needed looking after. He did hurt worse than mere bruises could account for. Embarrassment was replaced with guilt at having made things even more difficult for the vampire.

Mouth suddenly dry, he swallowed before whispering “I’m sorry.” He winced at how loud the whisper sounded in the near silent car. “I…I’ll do everything I’m told to do….” His voice was uncertain, and he left the ‘daddy’ unsaid- positive he didn’t have the right to use that term after throwing such a fit. Angel, as usual, understood.

“I’m glad to hear it son.” Angel emphasized the endearment, while responded just as quietly. “Apology accepted.”

Lindsey relaxed slightly, but gave Lorne a sideways look, knowing his uncle hadn’t been impressed either. Lorne narrowed his eyes, watching the boy until Lindsey started to squirm.

“I’m glad you finally came to your senses cowboy.” The green man finally said. “You shouldn’t give your daddy such problems- especially when he is already stressed out about your sister and the other girls.”

Lindsey winced at the hint of disappointment in Lorne’s voice. “I know sir. I really AM sorry. “ He looked down and muttered under his breath, “I feel like that little boy you keep calling me…”

Angel snorted in amusement while Lorne smiled faintly. Lindsey looked up with a crooked grin. “Can we check on the girls first- before I get checked out?” He asked hopefully.

“If the girls are ready for visitors then we can make a quick stop there…otherwise you’ll get checked out first.” This time the ex-lawyer just nodded, not even thinking of arguing with his guardian.

# # #
The three men had met Spike and Illyria in the waiting room. Spike glanced up relaxing a bit, especially when Lorne handed him a bag filled with clean clothes for him and his girlfriend. The pair had quickly found an orderly and been told of where they could go to get a quick shower and change. Spike had stuck around just long enough to inform his worried family that Faith was still in surgery, and Dawn was undergoing tests to find out why she had passed out since there weren’t any apparent injuries that would cause that. Trish and Sally had been seen to- Trish being given some antibiotics to fight the toxin with which she had been poisoned and Sally being given some fairly strong pain medicine- and were arranging to be released. Linda was helping them.

Lindsey slumped, realizing that he wouldn’t be allowed to put off his own check-up any longer. When Angel firmly took him by the arm and led him to the front desk, he didn’t even attempt to pull his arm away, just following meekly beside his determined father. It only took a few moments for Angel to explain the situation and the nurse- who was one of the ones ‘in the know’ had led them to a room with orders for Lindsey to undress and put on the gown laying on the bed. She or another nurse and orderly would return shortly to take him for the various scans needed and a doctor would see him as well. Lindsey waited until the nurse had left before sighing and doing as she said. Angel politely looked away, while Lindsey turned so that his back was to his father. At least if Angel accidently got an eyeful it would be of a part of him that he’d seen enough times for it not to be too embarrassing.

Lorne meanwhile had stayed out in the waiting room to either hear of Faith’s condition or to find out if there was any further news on Dawn. The rest of the long night was about to become even longer.

# # #
Three hours later, Dawn had been released as well. It turned out she’d passed out because she had one heck of a concussion. At first they had wanted to keep her overnight for observation, but the scan they had taken indicated that she was already healing fairly rapidly so the doctor agreed to release her on the condition that she stay with someone who could watch out for her.

“Strike one for Slayer genes…” she muttered signing the last document with a flourish. “And that’s that… where are Trish and Sally? And is Faith out yet?” she turned anxious eyes toward Angel, the vampire being the one to accept responsibility for her. He gently took her arm and led the worried girl to sit down with the remainder of the group.

“Linda took Trish and Sally home. We’ll call them as soon as we get more information, but the girls needed to rest and it’s nearly impossible to rest in a waiting room.” Angel calmly remarked, eyeing the rest of his family slouched in various positions of bored waiting. Lindsey had flopped over on the waiting room sofa, feet and arms akimbo in what couldn’t be a terribly comfortable position. The boy had spent nearly two hours researching the artifact and what had occurred.

Dawn bit her lip, sitting down between Spike and Angel, staring at the door where the doctor would be coming through with any information on her friend. She couldn’t help but feel responsible for everything that had occurred- and she was certain that no one would disagree with her. It was her fault they were all in this mess. She could only hope she hadn’t lost her friends because of it. She wouldn’t blame Angel if he told her to leave and forbid her from ever coming to their home again. And while that wouldn’t keep Faith or Spike from seeing her if they wanted- she wasn’t sure they should want to after this. She’d really messed up. She sighed softly then swallowed her guilt. Feeling sorry for herself wasn’t going to help anything and she didn’t truly have the right to feel sorry for herself. Not when Faith was still in danger.

She blinked in surprise at the sudden feeling of an arm going around her shoulders and pulling her in close. What surprised her the most was that it wasn’t Spike hugging her- it was Angel. She smiled sadly. Maybe she wouldn’t be forbidden to come around after all. She wasn’t surprised at how relieved that made her.

# # #
Another hour had gone by. Lindsey had woken up and stretched with a wince, before walking around to get some circulation back into his legs. When Angel wordlessly held out a hand with two pills in it and a water bottle, the younger man quickly took the medication and washed it down with the entire bottle. He grimaced slightly, but smiled at his father figure with a sheepish look.

Angel was never going to stop saying “I told you so”. Turned out Lindsey did have internal injuries- luckily nothing that required surgery, but the bruised liver and kidneys and cracked ribs were bad enough that Lindsey was told in no uncertain terms that he had to limit all physical activity and he’d have to come in for a second examination in another 4 days to make certain things were actually healing. Sighing softly, he was just about to sit down again when Faith’s doctor walked through the door. Immediately, everyone was on their feet.

Angel stepped forward, wanting to ask how she was but suddenly afraid to find out. The doctor, seeing the looks on all their faces, didn’t keep them waiting long. “She came through surgery wonderfully. It was touch and go there for a while- because of the blood loss- but she has been stabilized. We’ve moved her into post-op and, as long as there are no complications, you should be able to see her tomorrow…” the doctor glanced at his watch before raising his eyebrows, “… later this morning when we take her off the medication that is keeping her asleep. Until then, you all might want to consider going home and getting some rest and returning closer to when she will awake.”

Angel swallowed before holding out a hand to the doctor to shake. “Thank you Dr. Philips. Just…thank you.”

The doctor nodded, understanding everything that wasn’t being said. “I’m glad to have good news for you. Now…you all really should go home and rest. Change your clothes. Eat something. I know at least two of you are on orders to take it careful…” he eyed Dawn and Lindsey speculatively and couldn’t help but smirk when he noticed how both of the individuals in question looked at Angel- although the girl also looked at the peroxide blonde that was with them. It was enough to satisfy him that they would be following medical orders- even if they didn’t want to.

The group had taken the doctor’s suggestion and soon they were all back at the mansion, heading to their respective rooms. Lindsey paused at his door, looking at Angel. “When am I allowed to get up? Since I know I’m still grounded and what with tonight being in upheaval and all….”

“Stay in bed until I come and get you. You need to heal and rest is the best way to do that.” Angel answered kindly. He was relieved when Lindsey only nodded, gave him a quick smile and disappeared into his room- leaving the door open. He’d expected an argument.

Dawn bit her lip, having watched the exchange but didn’t say anything- not wanting to give Angel OR Spike (who was giving her speculative looks) any ideas about grounding her. Sighing softly, she turned and went into Faith’s room where she had been planning to stay and closed the door firmly behind her with a click.

Angel frowned slightly, looking at the now closed door. Spike moved closer to his grand-sire and bumped shoulders with him. “Stop brooding Pops. We got them out in time. We’ll go see Faith later and I guarantee you she’ll be out of the hospital by tomorrow morning…the next night at the latest.”

Angel glanced at Spike and gave a weak smile. “I know. She’s going to be ok. I’m just… tired I guess. Thanks for everything you’ve done tonight. You’re a big help.” He turned toward Spike so that the blonde could see how serious he was.

Spike shrugged, slightly embarrassed. “You’re welcome. I didn’t have a choice though. I’d never forgive myself if my family needed me and I just pissed off and left them to fend for themselves…”

Angel smiled more strongly. “Even so. I appreciate you. Just wanted you to know that.” Placing his hand on the younger vampire’s shoulder and giving a firm squeeze, Angel turned to head back into his own room to sleep. Illyria and Lorne had already gone to bed and he and Spike were the only two left up.

Spike watched his father disappear into his room- the older vampire leaving his door wide open so that he could hear if any of his children needed him. Smiling crookedly, the blonde stretched then went to join his girlfriend in his own bed. It had been a long night and damn was he tired.

# # #
Later that morning- although it was close to noon before they all woke up- they had all eaten breakfast and were on their way back to the hospital. They could hear Faith arguing with the nurse as they walked down hall toward their room. With a quick look between them, they all sped up, entering the room to find Faith out of bed and attempting to find her clothing.

“I don’t need to stay…I’m perfectly fine now and if you don’t find me my clothes then I’ll just have to go home with my butt hanging in the wind….” She muttered irritably. The poor nurse- who hadn’t been there last night and wasn’t certain what to do- looked close to tears.

“Faith! Bed! Now!” Angel barked out in a no-nonsense voice. He was both amused and gratified when the brunette girl quickly obeyed him, pulling the sheets of the bed up under her chin and giving him a woebegone expression. He kept his face stern as he nodded in the nurse’s direction. “I don’t want to hear you giving her or any other nurse a hard time again. They’re just making sure you receive the rest you need to recuperate.”

Faith sighed, “Yes sir. I’m sorry…” she glanced at the nurse as she said this. The nurse just gave a timid smile and a quick nod before leaving the room as fast as she could.

Angel finally relented a little. “The doctor says you should be able to go home tonight- if you are good- but that is only because your slayer healing has kicked in. If you aren’t good, it could cause a set-back…so I suggest you do what you are told.”

Faith winced and nodded. “Yes, sir.” She finally glanced around the room, noting that all her family was there. That was a relief. At least she hadn’t lost anyone because of her foolish behavior. She had no delusions that she wasn’t in big trouble. Perhaps staying in the hospital for a bit wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

Everyone stood around Faith’s bed, awkwardly trying to figure out what to say. Now that the worry about if Faith would survive had abated, none of them were overly fond of hospitals and were having a hard time coming up with a topic of conversation.

Finally Lindsey blurted, “I know why the demons exploded…”

Everyone stared at him and he began to fidget. Angel- amusement lacing his words- asked. “So, why did they explode?”

Lindsey blinked then blushed. “Oh yeah…er… our information wasn’t entirely correct. We were going by Dawn’s translation of her prophesy. According to her notes “slayer blood on the artifact is the key to stopping the apocalypse”. That’s why she wanted it. So Buffy could use it to stop whatever they have going on in Cleveland right now.”

Dawn nodded. “Yeah. I thought for sure it would be able to help her. Now the artifact is gone and all I’ve done is cause a big mess…” she muttered sadly, but everyone heard her anyway.

“I told you Dawn- my research indicates that the artifact wouldn’t help Buffy at all. Not for what she was fighting. So you haven’t let her down by the artifact being destroyed.” Angel carefully did not say that the girl had let him down by her actions of the night before.

Lindsey shook his head. “That’s just it. The translation was wrong. Slayer blood on the artifact wasn’t the key to stop the apocalypse. The translation was actually “Slayer blood on the artifact AND the key will stop the apocalypse.” He waited for the group to figure out what he’d just said.

Everyone realized it at the same time, Faith and Dawn’s eyes lighting up. “You mean,” Faith started, “When I was carrying the artifact and bled on it- and then when I held Dawn’s hand at the end because I didn’t think we were going to survive- I was actually fulfilling the prophecy?”

“And all the demons and vampires suddenly exploding were a result of the prophecy being filled- and whatever they had been doing prior to that was actually in preparation to set off an apocalypse…” Lindsey nodded.

Dawn finished, “So we actually stopped an apocalypse without meaning to?” The slight confusion in her voice could be forgiven, as the others were finding it a bit hard to believe as well.

“Looks that way…” Angel finally said. “It’s the only explanation that makes sense. If that’s not what happened then we’re still left with the question of why the mass demon explosion? And I’d rather believe it is because of a fulfilled prophecy than that there is something out there powerful enough to mass-explode demons and vampires without leaving any trace of itself behind.”

“So… since we averted an apocalypse…then it actually ended up being necessary that Dawn and I went after the artifact…so there’s no need for us to be in trouble…right?” Faith glanced at her father-figure hopefully. His raised eyebrow with a stern glare, and his ‘think again’ smile caused her to slump.

“Can’t blame a girl for trying…” she sighed having to smile when the rest of the room laughed.

# # #
"And I believe if we learn from the past
We'd say haven't we been here before"
Haven't We Been Here Before by Styx

The night- and her subsequent release from the hospital- couldn’t arrive fast enough for Faith’s liking. So of course the day dragged. Her family tried to make sure there was at least one of them there with her at all times- although Lindsey had pretty much avoided the hospital as soon as he’d been allowed to leave while Dawn wouldn’t leave the room at all until Spike had cajoled and finally forced the young girl to go get something to eat from the hospital cafeteria. The younger girl had returned thirty minutes later snuggling next to Spike- Faith couldn’t tell if it was from the food or comfort, but her young friend looked a little less piqued. Faith was glad Spike had stepped in- it was obvious Dawn felt guilty about what had occurred, but Faith had her own guilty conscious to deal with.

Finally, the nurse had come with the discharge papers and Faith had been allowed to change into street clothes and be wheeled down to Angel’s car. She would have rather walked, but after the hard time she had given the poor nurse earlier in the morning, she didn’t feel right arguing with the other nurse about being able to walk on her own. The small smile Angel gave her as she sat down in the wheelchair without making a peep, made her happy she had decided on that course of action.

By the time Angel had gotten Faith situated in the car and returned the wheelchair to the waiting orderly, Dawn had already crawled into the back seat and was quietly waiting to go back to the mansion. Dawn had been very quiet since the rescue. He would have been more worried, if he hadn’t known how much of her behavior was because of how guilty she felt. He wasn’t sure what to do about the younger girl. Fairness dictated that he handle her exactly the same way he handled Faith- but reality was that Dawn had never agreed to follow the rules of the house and therefore could reasonably argue that she shouldn’t suffer the consequences. He would have to talk with Lorne and Spike before making any final decisions. Lorne always gave good advice- and Spike arguably knew Dawn the best of any of them in the house.

“Are we going to talk when we get home?” Faith’s voice broke through the vampire’s musings and he glanced over at the young woman seated next to him, running a critical eye over her to assess her condition.

Turning his eyes back to the road, he finally asked, “Are you ready to talk? The doctor said physically you are fine, although you should still take it easy for a few days. I think you will be able to handle a talk- but…I’m willing to let you wait one more day if you need time to think first.”

Faith blinked in surprise. “You’re letting me choose when…when we talk?” she asked hesitantly, then swallowed when her guardian nodded. Looking forward, she wrung her hands together fretfully before finally admitting, “I’d rather do it sooner…if that’s ok.” Her voice was hesitant.

Angel glanced at her and gave a small smile of reassurance. “Then we’ll talk tonight.”

Faith gave a brief nod and turned to look out her window. Dawn, listening to the exchange, couldn’t help but be confused. Why would it matter when they talked? And why would Faith seem so hesitant about doing so? What was going on? She didn’t voice her questions though. She wasn’t sure she wanted an answer.

# # #
When the trio walked into the kitchen of the mansion, thirty minutes later- they found Linda, Lorne, and Lindsey playing a board game while Spike and Illyria watched quietly. Angel nodded at the rest of his little family, smiling at Linda in welcome before turning to Dawn and Faith. “Why don’t you two girls go get cleaned up. I’m going to throw something on for dinner.”

Faith looked like she wanted to say something but closed her mouth and nodded instead, grabbing Dawn’s arm and dragging the younger girl upstairs.

Lindsey glanced at Angel and bit his lip. “Look, I…I know I’m supposed to be in bed by 10, but that’s not too far away and…well… I just…do I have to be in the house when you have your discussion? The walls are so thin….” He winced at how whiny he sounded, but didn’t look away from Angel.

Angel blinked in surprise, his mouth falling open slightly before he frowned in consternation. “You can hear…?” Lindsey looked at his hands, turning pink and grumbling good naturedly. “Every time Spike and Illyria get down and dirty, anytime someone has an argument, and anytime you have a discussion with one of us kids.” He turned an even brighter red when he considered the fact that more often than not the others were hearing Angel’s ‘discussions’ with him.

“Huh…” Angel shook his head. “We’ll have to look into sound proofing the walls if it is that bad. I just assumed I could hear everything because of vampiric hearing and the fact that Spike and Illyria don’t seem to care who hears them…” he muttered.

“Oi! We aren’t THAT loud…” Spike complained half-heartedly, but smirked at Lindsey. He really didn’t care who heard.

Angel snorted then looked back to his youngest son. “If Lorne doesn’t mind babysitting for a bit” he ignored Lindsey’s dismayed protest at the term, “then you can go out with him and Linda for a bit- I’ll call when it is safe to come home.”

Lorne chuckled at Lindsey who was sliding down into his chair in mortification. “No problem Big Guy. Linda and I can take Dennis the Menace here out for a soda. If he’s a good boy we might upgrade it to an ice-cream float.”

“Lorne!” Lindsey groaned, before finally giving up and giving his family an offended pout. Unfortunately, that only succeeded in making him look like the young boy they were teasing him about being. “Ugh!” he huffed when they all bust out laughing.

Linda took pity on him and stood up, thwapping Lorne lightly on the back of the head before turning to the ex-lawyer. “Come on Lin, Lorne can treat you to a hamburger and fries for acting like a big jerk.”

“Hey now!” It was Lorne’s turn to pout, although he sent a wink in Lindsey’s direction and quickly stood up to join Linda.

Angel watched in bemusement as the three quickly grabbed jackets and left. “How long have Lorne and…”

“Think it just started actually…” Spike answered his unfinished question, looking a bit surprised himself. He nodded at Illyria who left. Angel had no clue where she went.

“You don’t want to disappear?” Angel asked curiously.

“Depends. What are you planning to do?” Spike asked seriously.

Angel frowned. “Faith broke the biggest rule we have. I’m going to dole out the consequences for breaking that rule.”

Spike nodded. “And Dawn?”

Angel blinked then sighed. “I’m not sure. It doesn’t seem fair that she be let off without a reprimand, when she’s the one who led the charge into disobedience…but she never agreed to follow the rules in the first place. She didn’t even know what the rules were or the consequences- as far as I know. I don’t see how I can rightly hold her accountable for something she didn’t know or agree to follow…”

“Bollocks!” Spike spat. “She may not have known or agreed to follow the rules- but she knows damn well not to take chances with her life. And she knows that she’s supposed to follow the chain of command when it comes to fighting the supernatural. And she still put herself in danger by ignoring your decision. You may not feel like you have the right to hold her accountable…and maybe you are right. She probably wouldn’t learn the lesson if you were the one doling it out- she hasn’t learned to respect you yet. So…I’ll just be the one to deliver the message and lesson.” Spike nodded emphatically as if it were a done deal.

Angel supposed it was. Spike looked on Dawn like a baby sister and it was obvious she idolized the blonde vampire. And Spike was right. She really shouldn’t be allowed to get away with what she’d done. “That makes sense. But at some point, we’re going to have to have another discussion where I explain the rules to Dawn. Something like this can’t happen again.”

“No, it can’t.” Spike agreed. “You going to feed the girls first or talk first?”

Angel looked toward the stairs. “I had planned to feed everyone first, but since Lorne took Lindsey and Linda out and Illyria disappeared… maybe we should just get the talk over with.”

Spike nodded then swept his hand out in a flourish. “After you…”

# # #
Dawn was sitting cross-legged on Faith’s bed and Faith was just exiting the bathroom drying her hair with a towel when Angel and Spike knocked on the wall next to the open door of Faith’s room. Faith glanced over and realized immediately that her reprieve was over. Swallowing thickly, she gave Dawn a nervous smile. “Dawnie, Angel and I need to have a talk. Why don’t you go hang out with Spike for a while…”

“That will be perfect, sis…” Spike interjected before Dawn could answer. “Cuz ‘Bit and I need to have our own discussion.”

Faith blinked in surprise at his words, then glanced at Dawn- who had a bewildered look on her face. The younger girl didn’t argue thankfully. She just shrugged, and slid past Angel and next to Spike who put his arm around her shoulders to draw her toward his room. “We’ll just have our talk in my room, unless you’d rather go to the office?”

“No…your room is fine…” Faith could hear Dawn mumble as they disappeared from sight. Faith turned to look at Angel.

Angel motioned for her to take a seat on her bed and he sat on a nearby chair before he cleared his throat and quietly asked, “Are you happy Faith?”

Faith frowned in confusion before hesitantly answering. “Y..yes?”

Angel smiled weakly and shook his head, clarifying his question. “I mean are you happy being in our family? Are you happy living here in this house, under my rules and expectations? Or are you having second thoughts about being accountable to someone other than yourself, with all the consequences that go with being accountable to someone else?” He winced, not certain he was asking things in the right way.

Faith, turned pale, swallowing hard. “W…why? Do you not want me to live here anymore? Because I know I messed up bad but…” her panicked words slowed when her father-figure quickly reached over and took her hand in his own.

“Of course I want you to live here! As far as I am concerned you are my child and you will be welcome here as long as you want to be here.“ He stopped to think his next words over carefully. “It’s just the last few weeks, you seem to be chafing at the fact that I expect you to follow the rules I’ve set out for this house. I…I guess I just wanted to make sure you weren’t having second thoughts. That you DID want to continue living here with all that entails…” He watched her almost afraid at what she would say.

Faith winced, before collecting her thoughts and answering him. “I know I messed up bad, Daddy.” She whispered. “But none of what I did was because I don’t want to be here with you all… I’ve never been happier in my life. A large part of that is because you expect things from me and hold me accountable. Even if I don’t like the consequences, I’d rather have them for the rest of my life if it meant never being alone again…”

Angel frowned slightly. “I don’t want you thinking that the only way you can have my love or attention is if you live with me and obey me… You wouldn’t be alone if you chose to live on your own…it would be different…but you wouldn’t be alone.”

“I know- but…I like living with my family. I…I’m happy and I don’t really want to live on my own and…I need the boundaries you set.” She gave him a sheepish look. “I know if I didn’t have them, I’d likely be taking all kinds of chances and I’m not sure I’d have survived lately if it hadn’t been for your rules- however irritating they might be sometimes.”

She quickly continued, “I didn’t disobey you this time because I didn’t want to live here anymore or wasn’t happy with the way things were. I- Dawn had been giving me a hard time and I guess part of me just wanted to prove to her that I was still the same bad-ass slayer that didn’t need anyone or have to listen to anyone- even if I knew deep inside it wasn’t true and I had changed.”

Angel could tell that she meant every word. Finally convinced that she wasn’t being coerced into a situation she didn’t truly want to be in, he nodded his head and gave her a tiny smile. “I’m glad that you would rather stay with all of us and that you are happy. And I will tell you- just like I told your brother- I will never let any of my children leave if they truly want to stay. But I will also not allow blatant disobedience of household rules without addressing it.” He smiled again at the wince and acknowledging nod the girl gave to him, before he asked. “What is it you did wrong Faith?”

The slayer cleared her throat before answering him. “I went after something that you specifically told Dawn not to go after…and I know that even if you didn’t actually tell me not to- it was implied. So I disobeyed a direct order…” she looked down at her feet, finding the carpet very interesting.

She cleared her throat again. “I deliberately and needlessly put my life in danger, cuz if I’d just stopped Dawn instead of following her- we wouldn’t have been hurt or trapped or anything and no one else would have been hurt having to come after us…” She sniffled, horrified to find herself crying already.

Finally, she looked up at her father-figure noting the disappointment in his eyes and the firm resolution on his face. “I know how wrong I was…even though it ended up being a good thing we were there to stop an apocalypse- it wasn’t good how I went about doing things and it was just luck that we stopped what we did…” she grimaced, running her hand over her eyes. She thought about Trish and Sally both being hurt so badly because they had come to help her. She thought about her brother being so battered, because she’d made such a foolish choice. She thought about all the worry she’d put her family through because they thought she wouldn’t survive. She knew how she would feel if any of them had been so close to dying- and the realization that she’d put them through that weighed on her. She choked back more tears, finding it hard to talk. “I feel so guilty…and I’m so sorry…” she finally whispered, wringing her hands in front of her and bit her lip as she watched her guardian.

Angel stared at her for a few seconds before responding. “I know you are sweetheart. And we’re going to take care of things now so that you don’t have to feel so guilty.” Nodding his head briskly, he continued. “You’re right. I didn’t give you a direct order not to go- because I had told Dawn not to go and I felt you would know that the implication was there for you not to go either. That disobedience has earned you a four-weeks grounding. No phone, no television, no recreational activities unless I specifically make an exception. You will be in bed by 10pm and you will not be allowed up until 6am.”

Faith nodded miserably, grateful that it hadn’t been worse.

Taking a deep breath, Angel stood and walked to the bed, sitting down and looking at his daughter. “For endangering your life deliberately and needlessly, you’ve earned a spanking. Please come here Faith.”

He was relieved when she did not hesitate. Faith stood quickly-straight, shoulder’s back- and moved so that she was by his knee. Without having to be told to do so, she lowered her sweat pants, before lying over his lap, bracing her upper body on the bed. Angel wasted no time in pulling her in tight against him and locking her firmly in place with one arm. As soon as he was positive she couldn’t squirm out of his grip, he raised his hand and let it fall on the upturned bottom with a loud smack.

Faith couldn’t help the gasp that escaped her lips as her father’s hand connected with her backside. Angel may have let her keep her underwear in place- but it was scant protection. Sadly, the silk material actually seemed to amplify the pain of the smacks as they relentlessly fell on her vulnerable bottom. The vampire was holding nothing back and much quicker than she would have liked, Faith found herself whimpering and attempting to squirm out of the path of his punishing hand. Despite herself, Faith couldn’t help throwing a hand back in an attempt to protect her butt.

Angel smiled sadly at the futile gesture, calmly taking her wrist and pinning her hand against the small of her back before continuing to show his disappointment and displeasure for her actions. It wasn’t until he started on the fourth round- having liberally covered her entire backside and upper thighs with the harsh smacks- that he finally spoke. “We thought we’d lost you. You were so close to having bled out that we thought we were too late and we had lost you. I don’t ever want to feel that way again, Faith,” the vampire had managed to keep his voice calm, but he couldn’t help the small quiver in his voice as he thought- for the hundredth time- about almost losing his child to her foolish actions.

Faith had managed to keep herself from crying up to that point. Yes, the spanking hurt- and she didn’t attempt to pretend otherwise, allowing herself to whimper, sniffle, and say ow as much as she needed to. But she’d kept from actually breaking down into crying. Until Angel spoke and she heard in his voice how her actions had affected the man. And just like that, her eyes were full of tears and she was choking on sobs. “I….I’m sorry! I didn’t mean…I didn’t want…I’m sorry daddy!” going limp across her father’s lap, Faith dug her fingers into the bedspread and pressed her face against her bed completely ashamed of her actions.

Angel, finally hearing the surrender and repentance he’d been listening for, relaxed. “We’re almost done princess…” he gently squeezed her wrist before lifting his knee and laying a flurry of burning smacks on her sit-spots.

It took several minutes before Faith realized the spanking was over, and even then she remained in position across Angel’s lap, sobbing. Every time she thought she had control of her emotions, she’d remember the quiver in her guardian’s voice and the fact that her actions had hurt more people than just herself.

Angel allowed her to stay in place, but it soon became obvious that Faith needed his help to calm down again. Gently, he picked her up and sat her on his lap, hugging her close to him, putting her head against his shoulder, and kissing the top of her head. “It’s ok sweetie. It’s over. You’ve been punished and it’s all behind us now- a clean slate. I forgive you…”

He frowned in worry when his words failed to calm the over-wrought girl and not knowing what else to do he began to rock her gently, rubbing her back and humming a tune that he remembered his mother singing to his baby sister long before he was turned. Every so often he would kiss the top of Faith’s head and murmur, “I’ve got you sweetheart… I’ll always have you…you aren’t alone….”

# # #
Spike had led Dawn into his room and closed the door so that they would have privacy before he pulled a chair out from under his desk and motioned for her to sit. He sat on his bed, then leaned forward and just looked at her. Dawn, already confused about what wasn’t being said between Angel and Faith, stared back uncertainly before she began to fidget. Spike grinned when he noticed her squirming but quickly schooled his face into a stern frown.

“You have a lot to answer for, ‘Bit,” he finally stated. Dawn bit her lip and looked away from him before pouting defensively.

“What do you mean?” she attempted to hedge.

If anything Spike’s frown became sterner, as irritation crept in due to her games. “You weren’t fair to Faith, then, were you?” He watched her, relieved when he could see some guilt flash in her eyes. At least she wasn’t convinced she was in the right. If she was convinced she was right, nothing he said or did would convince her otherwise.

“I didn’t make Faith come…” her voice wasn’t convincing- even to her own ears.

“No. You didn’t. But you sure as hell didn’t make it easy on her to do what she knew she should be doing, either. Did you?” Spike raised an unimpressed eyebrow.

Dawn bit her lip, slumping down onto the chair a bit further. “I…I gave her a really hard time about wanting to follow Angel’s stupid rules.” She muttered, getting a disgruntled look on her face.

“What you did was harassed and harangued her, doing everything in your power to make her feel guilty and bad about doing the right thing!” Spike quickly responded, satisfied when the young girl winced at his tone.

“Ok,” Dawn finally admitted. “I did harass her- and I know that wasn’t a fair thing to do. Agreeing to do something and then agreeing to being held accountable if you don’t follow through isn’t the same as being MADE to do something. I…I shouldn’t have treated Faith like she was acting like a Stepford child by listening to Angel- since that’s what she’d agreed to do….” The admittance was reluctant and Spike would have had a hard time hearing it if it hadn’t been for his vampiric hearing. He decided to let that go for the moment and continued.

“And?” he asked her instead.

Dawn glared at him half-heartedly before grudgingly admitting. “Angel was right and I should have listened to him when he ordered me not to go.”

“Damn straight you should have.” Spike huffed, waiting until she looked up at him to ask, “So why didn’t you listen? You knew what you were planning was dangerous and you know better than to needlessly risk your life. You also know better than to ignore the commands of someone who is in charge of fighting the big bad- which in this instance was Angel. So why did you decide to ignore all common sense and go anyway?”

At that moment, the sounds from Faith’s room- which Dawn and he had been able to ignore- became more pronounced. Dawn’s eyes widened at Faith’s sounds of distress. “He…he’s….” she turned an angry glare on the blond vampire, although he could see fear was the predominate emotion- she was just trying to hide it.

“He’s spanking her.” Spike shrugged. “It’s the consequence of deliberately and needlessly putting your life in danger. Now answer my question.”

Dawn shook her head, unable to focus. Spike gave her a few moments to gather her thoughts and emotions back together before prodding, “Why did you go against Angel’s orders when it had been made clear that what you wanted to do wouldn’t work? Why would you badger Faith into accompanying you, when you had to know that nothing would truly be accomplished- other than thumbing your nose at Angel? Just what were you thinking???” If his voice slightly rose at the end, Spike felt he was entitled. He’d managed to stay calm, but hearing his sister being punished had fueled his frustration with the younger girl.

“I…I didn’t want to admit that I was wrong. I wanted to do this for Buffy so that she would be ok and so that…so that…” Dawn’s voice trailed off and she turned pink in mortification at having to admit her reasons.

“So that what Dawn?” Spike wouldn’t allow her to quit there.

“So that she’d notice I was still around and useful…” the girl muttered, crossing her arms over her chest more to comfort herself than to show defiance. Spike blinked. Just what in the heck was going on in Cleveland if Dawn felt the need to prove that?

“I don’t understand…” he finally admitted.

Swallowing hard Dawn explained. “They don’t let me do anything…saying that I can’t really be of much help and I’m better off finishing school and maybe becoming a watcher after graduating- but it’d be even better if I did something totally non-hell-mouthy related…” She glanced up at her older friend.

“So they won’t let me do anything- but they don’t really notice if I go ahead and do it anyway- they’re all doing their own thing and no one hardly notices what anyone else does and so if I just do what I want despite what they say, they don’t even notice or care. It feels like as long as I don’t get killed, no one really cares what happens with me. Giles notices what I do- but he seems to think that because I’m over 18 now, he doesn’t have a right to tell me what to do so he doesn’t. I don’t know which is worse. Having a bunch of people telling me I can’t do something because I’m no help to them- and then being ignored so that they never notice what I do…. Or having the one person who does notice what I do not care to say anything at all….” Dawns voice was high and breathy at the end- she’d spilled all of that out quickly and almost in one breath. It had obviously been bothering her for some time. Before Spike could remark on it, she continued sheepishly.

“I guess I was jealous. You all- you’re family now and you show each other how much you care for each other by showing attention to each other and caring what each other is doing…I know Angel wasn’t just being super bossy. He was trying to protect his family. I miss having family…the scoobies all do their own thing and with Giles feeling like he has no right to do anything in our lives…. I just ... I know I’m supposed to be an adult but sometimes I wi…” she barely refrained from using the “W” word.

“You want someone that will step up and tell you No. And hold you accountable.” Spike finished for her.

“Yeah.” Dawn admitted in a whisper. “I know sometimes I don’t make the best choices and sometimes it feels like no one really cares about that or what happen to me as long as I don’t get killed…” She sniffled forlornly.

Spike let out a frustrated huff- if he had Buffy or any of the other twits that made up her ‘scooby’ group in front of him right now, he’d be tearing them a new one for not realizing the turmoil the youngest of their group was going through. Giles seemed to be the only one paying attention- how the man had gotten it into his tweedy brain that he should just step back because he didn’t’ have a right to step in, was beyond the vampire. Family didn’t just step back and let someone drift as soon as they were an adult. Spike determined to give the man a call and knock some sense into him. Before he could do that, however, he had to take care of his ‘Bit.

“Well, you’d be wrong there. I’m sure they care more than is evidenced by their actions. But even if they didn’t- you have at least two people here who care very much what happens to you. Otherwise Faith wouldn’t have risked her butt to go with you and I wouldn’t be having this conversation with you,” the blond vampire admonished.

Dawn gave him a tremulous smile, before looking at her hands nervously. “I owe Angel and Faith an apology…” she glanced up. He nodded, waiting for the inevitable question.

“Are you going to….?” Dawn swallowed nervously, glancing in the direction of Faith’s room, unable to voice the word. Despite trying to ignore the sounds coming from there, she could still hear Faith crying- and the quiet murmurs that she assumed were Angel comforting her friend.

“Yes, I am.” Spike answered her calmly before holding out a hand to her. Dawn looked as if she wanted to argue, but closing her eyes briefly she forced herself to stand and take his hand. Spike was surprised that she didn’t argue and found himself feeling very proud of her at that moment. Gently he tugged her to his side so that she stood by his knee. “I’ll let you keep your panties- this time- but if something like this ever happens again, it will be on the bare. Got it?”

Dawn gave him a horrified look, but then nodded quickly- her face bright red. Unclenching her fingers, she forced herself to undo her jeans, then shoved them down and quickly threw herself over Spike’s lap- unable to look him in the face. Shaking his head slightly, Spike pulled her more securely against himself before raising his hand and landing it with a firm smack. Dawn couldn’t help but yelp.

Spike wasted no time in covering her entire bottom with firm hard smacks. Dawn- who had never been spanked in her life- quickly found herself squirming in an attempt to get away from the hand heating her backside. It was to no avail, however, and soon she found herself whimpering, then crying, and then sobbing- interspersing her cries with words of apology and promises to be good. Finally, she went limp across Spike’s lap- all fight gone- and just cried. As soon as she quit fighting, Spike gave her two hard smacks on her sit spots and stopped the spanking- rubbing her back gently until she calmed down.

A couple of minutes went by before Dawn was able to calm herself enough to lift herself off of Spike’s lap, but as soon as she had done so, she threw her arms around the blond, hugging him tightly. “I’m sorry…” she said in a tiny contrite voice.

“I know you are Bit. All’s forgiven. You’ve been punished and now it’s a clean slate, yeah?” he spoke into her hair before kissing the top of her head. He smiled when he felt her relax. His smile grew when she didn’t attempt to pull away from the hug.

# # #
"And I wouldn't change a thing
It's perfectly imperfect
So crazy but it's worth it"
Wouldn't Change a Thing by Matthew West

Faith had finally calmed down, though she had remained snuggled close to Angel even after she’d stopped crying. The vampire had allowed the closeness, realizing that even though she had been punished and he had forgiven her for her foolish actions, it would take a bit longer for Faith to forgive herself. She likely wouldn’t be able to do that until she’d seen and talked to the rest of her family and friends though. Kissing her on top of her head he squeezed her one more time before telling her, “Come on Princess. You need to eat something. And the rest of the family should be getting back soon.”

Carefully, Angel stood and helped Faith to her feet, then putting an arm around the slayer’s shoulders, he gently led her out of the bedroom and downstairs to the kitchen. Dawn and Spike were already sitting at the table, Spike watching as Dawn carefully ate the sandwich he had insisted she have. The blond vampire glanced over at his sister and gave her a small smile. “I fixed you one too and I expect you to eat it. “

Faith blinked at Spike before chuffing in amusement and nodding her head. “Got it bro. I’ll just go get it now.” Giving Angel one last quick hug, she went into the kitchen, returning quickly with a huge sandwich. “Yeesh- I realize I eat a lot, but did you have to assume I’d be such a pig?” she teased her brother.

Spike just grinned and motioned her to begin eating. Angel watched his children in amusement, feeling himself relax for the first time in days. Sometimes he felt like it was a good thing he was immortal. It was the only thing that kept his “kids” from aging him too drastically. He glanced over as Lorne and Linda walked in from the garage, Lindsey trailing behind shoveling a huge spoon full of ice-cream into his mouth. Well- that and the fact that he had the help of a very good friend to support him. He smiled at Lorne.

“Ah- everyone is back just in time for a refresher of the family rules!” He said playfully, grinning- although his eyes were serious. Lindsey quickly swallowed the ice-cream in his mouth before wincing and holding a hand up to his forehead. “Ow. Brain-freeze!” he complained, before wandering over to “his” chair and sitting down.

Lorne drug a couple of barstools over for him and Linda, although the woman looked at Angel a bit uncomfortably. “I think I’ll just go home for a bit- since this is a family meeting and all…” she finally said before quickly giving Lorne a peck on the cheek then grabbing her purse and jacket.

“I’ll call you later about this weekend, Luv…” Lorne smiled at her and watched as she left before he looked around the table. Illyria had snuck in from somewhere, so it looked like the whole household was in attendance.

Angel remained standing. He wanted to make certain that what he said was taken as coming from a position of authority, as he suspected Dawn might balk at what he was about to say. He let his eyes fall on each of his family members one by one. He was so grateful to have every one of them in his life, and the thought of losing any of them was unthinkable. Swallowing and taking a deep breath he began.

“I am more than happy that you all have decided to live here- a part of my family. And I’ve only requested five things from you while you live here. Don’t lie to me. Take care of yourself. Don’t risk your life for no reason. Obey a direct order. Don’t hide things from me to avoid consequences from the first four.” He waited a few seconds for any comments and when none came, he continued.

“I made a commitment that you would always have a home here as long as you wanted it. I would not be a dictator, making arbitrary demands or orders- and would in fact follow my own rules. I would do everything in my power to protect you- even if that meant holding you accountable for your actions.” He stopped and looked around the table looking for reactions.

Lorne was nodding in agreement. Spike looked him in the eye and gave a crooked smile. Lindsey was giving him a sheepish look and fidgeting but looked him in the eye. Faith was sitting very still and staring at her hands while biting her lip.

Straightening his shoulders, Angel continued. “I don’t think the rules are all that difficult or unreasonable- and you all agreed to the consequences of breaking those rules- so I think they are fair as well. But, I just want to reiterate- if you no longer agree to these rules and no longer feel like you are able or should be expected to obey them- talk to me. Because I don’t want any of you to think that the only way you can be a part of this family or have my love or affection is if you follow them. That just isn’t true…” his voice trailed off as he looked around the first hint of uncertainty on his face. Faith had confirmed that she was where she wanted to be…would Spike and Lindsey feel the same way?

Spike slanted his head then shrugged. “I knew all that. I could move into an apartment if I got tired of you being in charge- thing is- you being in charge isn’t bad.” The blond vampire shrugged again. “And like you said- the rules aren’t unreasonable and I agreed to the consequences. It isn’t like I’m in some situation where I have no control or choice in the matter. If I thought you weren’t leaving me the choice I’d have been out of here long ago.”

Lindsey finally stopped fidgeting and bit his lip, looking Angel in the eye. “You know what was going on with me before you brought me in. I’ve pretty much proven that I make really foolish decisions when left to my own devices.” He winced and huffed slightly, blushing. “Letting you be in charge was prolly the smartest thing I did if I wanted to keep myself alive.” His drawl was becoming more pronounced, showing Angel how uncomfortable this conversation was making the younger man. “I don’t wanna go anywhere, if that’s what you were wondrin’…” the ex-lawyer finally finished, managing to keep his eyes up and looking at Angel, although he’d started fidgeting again.

Faith finally looked up and gave her father a crooked smile. “I already told you I didn’t want to go anywhere- but I’ll say it for everyone else to hear too. I LIKE living with my family,” her gaze swept around the room taking in her brothers and uncle before returning to Angel. “And as uncomfortable as the consequences might be- I need those rules.”

Through the whole conversation Dawn was watching everyone in the group, feeling more and more left out and a bit lonely as she realized how close they all really were and how much trust they placed in Angel and each other. She wished that there was someone back home that she could trust as much. At one time, she had trusted all the Scoobies and her sister in that way- but they had all grown so far apart. She didn’t realize how lonely she truly was until she saw how much she was missing out on. Her despondent thoughts were interrupted by a throat clearing.

“Dawn, I know that Spike explained to you the biggest rule we have- about placing your life in danger and the consequences of such…” Angel began. Dawn nodded vigorously, blushing as everyone looked at her with varying degrees of surprise and or sympathy. “I just told of the other rules in place, in addition to the not placing your life in danger rule. Do you have any questions about any of the rules I mentioned?”

Dawn frowned slightly, not certain why Angel would be asking her if she had questions; putting her life in danger was one thing, but it wasn’t like she lived here and would be expected to follow the others. Quietly she answered with a hint of her confusion in her voice, “No. I understand the rules…”

Angel smiled gently at her confusion, but continued. “The consequences for breaking a direct order is being grounded; the consequences for lying is a soaped mouth; the consequences of not taking care of your health is a medical grounding. Do you have any questions about that?” Dawn shook her head no, so Angel continued. “If you hide things in an attempt to avoid being ordered not to do something, to avoid disagreement or disapproval, you will be grounded and receive a night time spanking for as long as the grounding lasts. Do you have any questions about that?”

Dawn’s mouth dropped open in shock and she blinked owlishly, before gulping. “J…just one. W…why are you telling me this? I…I don’t live here, so…”
Angel’s smile broadened and he gave he younger girl a warm look. “No. You don’t live here. But as a good friend of both Spike and Faith, I expect that you will be visiting as frequently as your studies allow you to. You are always welcome to visit whenever and for however long you want- that will never be in question. However, while you are here, I will expect you to obey the rules just like all my other children do.” He ignored the semi-disgruntled looks Lindsey and Spike gave him at being called children, but he could tell they were also pleased at being called his children, so he let the remark stand.

Angel frowned slightly as he continued. “If you can’t agree to follow the rules, then you’ll need to stay at a hotel when you visit. I can’t in good conscious stand back and watch you put your life at risk and NOT do anything. You are too important and cared about by too many people- including myself for the short amount of time I’ve gotten to know you. It is up to you of course…”

“Yes! I agree!” Dawn blurted. She had listened to the older vampire’s words and as it became obvious to her that- here at least- she had people looking out for her and who actually cared what she did, her eyes began to fill with tears. When Angel had finished his explanation she’d not even given him a chance to ask her what her choice was. The elation she’d felt that he would even consider including her with the rest of his family made her decision for her.

Angel blinked in surprise at her quick agreement, but looking in her eyes he could tell that she wanted to be included. He nodded then smiled at her. “Welcome to the family….”

“Thanks, Uncle Angel,” Dawn retorted impishly. The rest of the room had to laugh at the surprised, yet pleased look on the vampire’s face.

# # #
They had all stayed around the table, talking about various things, relaxing and just enjoying each others company. At some point, Lorne had brought out bowls of ice cream for everyone- and a bowl of fruit for Lindsey since, “you already had ice cream. You want to keep that boyish figure don’t you?” which led to the others all laughing at Lindsey’s offended pout- though he didn’t argue the point.

The pleasant chit chat had evolved into a game of truth or dare- which Angel had finally had to put the kibosh on. Spike dared Lindsey to streak around the mansion- it was dark and the neighbors were far enough away that he wasn’t too worried about the police being called about indecent exposure- but the look in Lindsey’s eyes promised retribution and Angel really didn’t want to have to get after his two sons for doing anything really stupid.

Once they’d all calmed down, the conversation had turned back to more serious matters (with only the occasional remark by Faith or Dawn about how Lindsey should be an underwear model or pose in Playgirl). They were all leaning in their chairs, sipping at various drinks, just taking comfort in the fact that they were all at home and were all safe for the moment.

“It’s really…disconcerting…sometimes.” Lindsey remarked out of nowhere.

Angel looked up curiously just as Faith asked a confused, “What is?”

“…Being here, a part of a family….actually belonging somewhere and being – bound for lack of a better word- to the rules of another person. For so long I was in control of my own life and every decision I made was my own. Well, mostly- I can see in some cases where I was manipulated to do what I did… and who is ever really in charge of themselves when they work for a place like Wolfram and Hart? But still…” Lindsey frowned as he tried to explain what he meant and how he felt.

Faith nodded. “Yeah. It’s odd having someone else tell you what to do -outside of a job- when you’re used to doing things when and how you want…” She wrinkled her nose. “But I’ve been here long enough now, that I think it’d be almost as odd NOT having someone else in charge now. Not sure I’d be happy going back to the way things were.”

Lindsey grinned faintly. “I hear that…. Have to admit I’m happier now than I ever was when I was ‘free’.”

Dawn whispered her own two cents into the conversation. “Never thought I’d say this, cuz before I was 18 I used to dream of the day when no one could tell me what to do anymore… but I’m looking forward to having at least one place where I’m NOT in charge. It…it’s really lonely when you make all the decisions for yourself and know that it doesn’t matter what you do cuz no one else really cares one way or another. Much rather be told I have limits and have someone care whether or not I stay in those limits….”

Dawn looked over at Angel and smiled weakly. “Can I just say thank you for including me as an extended member of the family. Cuz my own family doesn’t seem to care, so it’s nice that someone does…” she looked down at the table, not seeing the look of worry that crossed everyone else’s face at her words. Angel glanced at Spike, a question in his eyes, and Spike nodded.

Sighing silently- all his kids had been wounded in some way emotionally. It grieved him that Dawn would feel neglect from her family. He knew that Buffy loved her sister- but things had changed a lot since Sunnydale had sunk- and just because you loved someone didn’t mean you were infallible when it came to dealing with them. Every action he took, he had to remind himself that four other people (at least) had a stake in the outcome of whatever choice he made and he had to be mindful of how they would be affected. He suspected that the Sunnydale group had stopped being able to think of anyone beyond their own selves.

“You’re more than welcome Dawn,” he finally answered the youngest girl. “I just hope you feel the same way, when I actually have to show you the extent of my caring….” He smirked. He knew his family, and if Dawn followed the same pattern, she’d be testing him at some point. They all had; they did; and they probably would for the unforeseeable future. Luckily for them (although he suspected they didn’t feel very lucky as it was occurring) he was more than able and willing to show them how much he cared through judicial use of his hand.

His smirk turned into a grin at the uncomfortable laughing around the table.

# # #
Early the next morning, everyone else still in bed, Spike had gotten up and gone into Angel’s office to make a phone call. Dawn had indicated one too many times how she felt alone and adrift back in Cleveland. The younger girl was obviously convinced that no one cared what she did, what happened to her, or anything at all having to do with her. He wasn’t as convinced as Dawn- but he also knew that what Dawn needed, the Scoobies weren’t likely going to be willing to provide. He could already hear their outraged arguments against him laying a hand on Dawnie.

Giles on the other hand…while he’d probably feel very uncomfortable with the conversation- Spike could imagine the older man cleaning his glasses as they spoke- Giles was more pragmatic (normally) and if he realized that Dawn needed the stability of having someone else holding her accountable and taking an active role in her life, the man would step up. Giles just needed to be made aware of what Dawn needed.

Hence, Spike standing at Angel’s desk, holding the phone and trying to figure out the best way to open the conversation. Sighing, the blond vampire finally dialed the number and waited.

“Hello?” Giles voice carried over the line. Straightening his shoulders and preparing to go to battle, Spike responded.

“Hello, Ripper! It’s me, Spike…I’ve got something important to talk about with you…”

# # #
A week later, they were all at the airport to see Dawn off. She was just about to go through security- at which point she would be by herself until she met her ride. She looked a bit depressed at having to leave the newly found belonging she’d found.

“You’re sure Giles said he was picking me up at the airport? Because when I came out here, he just asked if I’d have enough money to catch a cab, so I didn’t think he’d be available…” Dawn fretted for what felt like the hundredth time.

Faith rolled her eyes. “He told Spike he would pick you up personally and to make sure you knew to expect him there. Don’t worry Dawnie. I’m sure if he couldn’t make it, he would have told Spike and arranged for someone else to get you…” She looked at her brother hesitantly, since she wasn’t entirely sure about that- but Spike didn’t seem worried at all.
Spike gave Dawn a toothy grin. “He’ll be there, ‘Bit. And after the talk he and I had, I think you’ll find things a bit different when you get home. You won’t be feeling quite so lonely anymore…” he let his voice trail off, deliberately leaving a lot unsaid.

Dawn gave him a nervous look. “Uh…how much did you talk about and how different are you implying?” she asked, her voice squeaking somewhat.

Spike just grinned even more brightly. “I told him everything- and I got the impression that he’s about to adopt some rules of his own. So…don’t be thinking you can go and do foolish stunts when you get back home- just because we aren’t there to stop you!” the blond vampire nodded emphatically. “Giles was NOT very happy when he heard of what went down here- but was very grateful that someone stepped in. He told me as long as we keep you in line here- he’ll do the same there. So, no more Mr. You’re-Too-Old-For-Me-To-Say-Anything. From now on, you do something stupid, you’ll have to answer to him.”

Dawn’s nervous look turned into one of mortified horror. “Spiiiiiiike!”

Faith, who had been watching the interplay along with the rest of the family- snorted. “Oh stop whining, Dawn. That’s exactly what you WANTED to happen, and you know it. Just accept that your wings have been clipped, be glad with all the attention you’re bound to get from here on out, and be happy and safe.” With that the brunette gave her younger friend a big hug before pushing her into the arms of Spike.

Dawn gave a sheepish grin as she hugged the blond vampire. “You’re right. And I’ll try. Thanks everyone…for know.” Giving Spike one last squeeze, she quickly hugged the rest of the group, then grabbed her carry on and turned to go wait in line for security. Turning back one last time to wave, she called out, “Be safe. I’ll come back to see you again my next break!” Then she was gone.

Faith turned toward Spike. “So do you think Giles will really step up and be there for her?” she asked curiously.

Spike chuckled. “Oh yeah. I wasn’t lying about how upset he was. She’ll be lucky if he doesn’t decide to give her a small demonstration of how much he cares and how much he is going to care in the future- the minute he has her within grip. I think Ripper has come out to play and be guardian for our little key.”

Faith blinked and looked toward where her friend had disappeared and sympathized, “Poor Dawnie.”

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