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Chapter Eighteen: Cross Country

SATURDAY, JUNE 8, 2002, 6:47 PM (GMT)
ON THE ROAD

-DAWN-


Dawn huddled further down in the corner between the van's bench seat and the windows, rubbing her hands up and down her arms. She was still tired from the plane trip, but after the day they'd been having she was still too wired to go back to sleep.

The countryside they were passing through was mostly green and pretty, but it was definitely on the wet and chilly side, at least compared to California. She wasn't going to get to see much more of it, either; the sun was only an hour or so above the horizon, and the moon had already come and gone for the day. Dawn had no real idea of the times or distances between London and the place they were going, but she figured they probably wouldn't even have got to the Stone thingies before night fell, which meant a lot of sneaking around in the dark and even less sleep after. Cordy had said there was some kind of inn two miles from the site, one with "Cross" in its name, but Dawn wasn't going to hold her breath that they'd actually get to stop there.

After the strange zappy vision thing that had happened back at the hotel, Buffy had been all nerves, wearing that impending-doom expression that usually meant "there's an apocalypse coming I'm not sure I can stop". The way Wes had looked in the vision, not to mention Faith, Dawn pretty much understood why, but that didn't make her feel any better about it. Nor did Buffy's fussing, projecting all her own worries on Dawn. The Prophecy might imply all four of them would get to live awhile longer, long enough to have some kind of effect on the balance at least, but Dawn knew as well as anyone there were more ways around Destiny than you could shake a stake at. Her whole existence pretty much proved it.

All in all, this was definitely not what she'd hoped for on her first trip overseas. In quiet moments after Buffy's return, when Dawn had allowed herself to daydream, she'd been thinking maybe Oxford for college if she got her grades up, maybe visiting some castles, maybe even a trip to Rome. This whole Slaying gig had put a major crimp in those plans. She was starting to get why Buffy had tried so hard to keep the Slaying thing from seeping into her regular life those first several years in Sunnydale; being normal might be seem kinda boring when you were the one watching your sister be a superhero, but you had no idea how good you really had it until it was taken from you.

Dawn shifted in her seat again, then stiffened as she realized her skin was starting to tingle in that falling-asleep kind of way. She hadn't thought anything of it at first when the same thing happened while she was packing Buffy's stuff, but that was before she'd scorched the clothes she was holding with an electrical discharge. "Buffy?" she asked, turning to the seat behind her to see if her sister was feeling the same thing.

Between the seven of them left at the hotel after Giles' arrest, only Cordy had had the ID and experience necessary to drive over here without getting the rest of them lost, wrecked, or dumped in jail, so she'd rented a large passenger van instead of the two smaller, more inconspicuous vehicles Giles had planned on getting. It was the kind of van Dawn was used to seeing driving around with church youth group logos stenciled on the sides; she'd never been in one, but she had a vague idea you were supposed to be twenty-five before you could drive one. She wasn't going to ask questions, though. With five other people scattered around England that they were hopefully going to start collecting any time now, it was the best option they had available.

Buffy had claimed the last bench seat for herself, the one behind Dawn, intent on catching a few more Z's before they had to leap into the fray. It wasn't even noon back in California yet, and it wasn't like they'd been doing much that would require rest since they'd got here, but Dawn was pretty sure that what Buffy was really hoping for was a Slayer Dream. They could sure use some guidance. Whether she was Dreaming or not, though, this was no time for her to be asleep.

"Buffy?" Dawn prompted her sister again, leaning further over the back of her own seat. "Buffy, wake up!"

"Mmm." Buffy groaned and stretched slowly, stifling a yawn behind one small hand. Then she sat up and blinked into Dawn's face. "What is it Dawnie?"

"I think it's happening again," Dawn said, urgently. "Whatever they did last time-- do you feel it?"

A small frown appeared between Buffy's brows as she studied her sister's face for a moment. Then she reached a hand up, tucking a long strand of Dawn's hair behind one ear.

"Buffy!" Dawn objected, half-embarrassed and half-frustrated. "Are you awake yet? That thing with the spell, where we saw Wes and Faith--"

The sleepy haze cleared from Buffy's eyes immediately. She turned both hands palm up in front of her, staring intently at them for a moment, then looked up urgently in the direction of the driver's seat. "Cordy, is there anywhere we can pull over? Now would be a really good time to not be touching metal!"

"What?" Cordy sounded startled. "What's going on?"

Buffy answered her quickly, in a frustrated tone. "I think the Watchers are trying to cast that spell..."

But it was too late. Dawn was vaguely aware of having a mini-seizure right there in her seat, her eyes rolling back as electricity flooded from every pore, but mostly she was caught up in the vision again, her consciousness split between four separate locations. She saw Buffy, beside her, going through the same vision-thing; Faith still lying on the strange bed where she'd been before, cold and blue around the edges, with someone tweedy standing over her; and Wesley, somewhere in the countryside, dropping to his knees as he looked down at some road or other...

Awareness of her surroundings returned to Dawn in a rush, cluttered up with the scent of ozone and the sound of half a dozen voices screaming all at once. Or maybe it was five voices and the squeal of tires leaving rubber on the road; inertia was slamming her forward against the seat belt, and she could hear things clattering to the floor all over the van. Cordy must have slammed on the brakes the instant it happened.

When the van finally screeched to a halt, Dawn jerked away from her grip on the seat and plastered herself up against the nearest window. In her vision of Wes, she'd seen a van skidding out of control on a country road just below him, a van that looked very much like the one they were traveling in. If he'd stayed on foot, running parallel to the roads and trusting in his Slayer-like speed to keep him ahead of pursuit, it was actually pretty possible-- and it would seriously be the best luck they'd had all day. Could they really have found him that easily?

"Is, is everyone okay?" she heard Tara ask in the background. "I diverted as much of the energy as I could, but I wasn't sure I got it all in time."

"Okay?!" Cordelia shrieked. "We could have all gone in the ditch! What the hell is going on?"

"I am undamaged, Princess," Groo offered from the shotgun seat. "Your driving was most excellent."

"It was Watcher mojo," Xander spoke up next, answering Cordy's question. "Pretty much the same thing that happened earlier, except they zapped the van this time instead of just me."

"I don't think it did any damage..." Willow began, then trailed off. "Buffy, what are you... Buffy, are you okay?"

Dawn heard the van's passenger door open. She pulled herself away from the window long enough to see her sister disappear out onto the road, then run around the front of the van and out onto the grassy verge. It could only mean she'd seen it, too; and that meant Wes had to be up there! Dawn struggled with her seatbelt buckle for a moment, then bolted out of the van after her.

The outside air was refreshing after being cooped up in the van, full of the clean scents of water, earth and grass, but the setting sun was in Dawn's eyes, making them water as she ran. She nearly tripped over Buffy when her sister stopped suddenly, dropping to her knees beside a hunched figure. The man was wearing jeans and a leather jacket over one of Wes' blue shirts, but his clothes were slashed in several places and he was covered with blood. Whatever had happened before he got away from the Watchers hadn't been fun for him.

"Wesley? Wes, c'mon, we've got to get moving," Buffy said urgently, touching his shoulder. "We can't afford to get caught out here... Wes! What's wrong?"

The ex-Watcher lifted his head, and Dawn shuddered at the grief and anger she could see in his expression. "Dumbass!" she hissed to Buffy. It should be obvious, even to her egocentric elder sister, what was wrong. "He saw everything we did!"

Buffy flinched but persevered. "She isn't dead, Wes. Didn't you say you gave her something? Something that would keep her safe if she ever got captured, at least until you came for her? I don't know what it was or what it was supposed to do, but I know it worked; Faith isn't dead, Wes. I could feel her in there. I could feel her."

"It wasn't meant to last this long!" he yelled back, finally responding. "A matter of hours, that was all the talisman was meant to hold her for! If I don't reach her before dawn tomorrow..."

"Then we'll find her tonight," Buffy said, her voice low and deadly. "You got what you went there for, right? That guy, he threw you something before your spell went wonky-- we saw it on the camera footage."

"Camera footage?" Wes gaped at her for a second, thrown by the reference, but he pressed one hand up against his jacket as if protecting something. "Y-yes," he said, looking a little less insane than he had a moment before. "Yes, I have it-- Cyril swore it contained the information I was looking for."

"And you trust this guy?" Dawn said, skeptically. "Isn't he the one who sprang the trap on you?"

Buffy threw her a glare at that, and Dawn winced. Yeah, the last thing they needed was a crazy Destroyer on their hands, and Buffy had almost had him calmed down. Fortunately, though, Wesley didn't react to her question; he was struggling to his feet already, one hand clasped around what looked like a computer CD case, his thoughts apparently miles away.

"Do you have a computer with you?" he asked absently.

Dawn glanced back toward the van. Cordy had apparently moved it to one side of the road so traffic could still get by, and the others were slowly swarming out of it, staring up after them. Willow was among them, busy talking to Tara about something, her red hair as vibrant as a flame in the setting sun's light.

"Of course," Buffy assured him. "Have you ever known Willow to go anywhere without her laptop? I'm sure she'd let you use it."

He relaxed just a little at her answer, and let her and Dawn latch onto his arms to help him down the hill. Dawn had no idea how he'd kept moving all this time, as battered up as he was; if this was as much as he'd healed in the three or four hours since the attack, she was amazed he'd made it out at all. He flinched a little when the others swarmed around him back at the van, and frowned when he realized Giles wasn't among them, but he seemed to accept the explanation for that without too much upset; he was too focused on the CD, and Faith's whereabouts, to care much.

When they'd first hooked up, Dawn had been flabbergasted at the very idea of them being together after all they'd put each other through. It hadn't been very long since he'd been the tweedy, nerdy, arrogant Watcher, and Faith had been a wicked, murderous ho. Dawn had come to realize, though, that both of them had the same intensity, deep down; she didn't understand a lot of it, but that didn't mean she couldn't see it. They challenged each other, and loved each other to the point of obsession.

And seriously, if she had to get kidnapped again someday? Dawn would hope her boyfriend would be half as dedicated to getting her back as Wesley was. It took him maybe ten minutes to figure out their next destination from the CD, and then they were off again, without so much as stopping to do more than patch him up with the first aid kit.

Maybe things were going to work out after all. Dawn settled back against the window in the van, staring out into the growing dusk, and allowed herself to hope.

>> CHAPTER NINETEEN

* See? See? I can update more frequently than once every two years!
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The Lesser Men Saga: A B:tVS/A:tS Season 6/3 AU

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