Secrets of the Blood

Author: Mac Xavier <mac.xavier[at]>

Author: Dragonhulk <stevenstirling23[at]>

Author: IceWing <icewing[at]>

Disclaimer: I use these characters, nothing more, don't sue.

Summary: With this group a simple vacation can never remain a simple vacation.

Authors Notes: Mac and I will be switching off every part. This is the first time I've done a collaborated work, so forgive me if it's a bit choppy.

Latest addition

Chapter 1

Dawn tried not to cackle in mad glee at the thought of what this trip was going to hold for her. While Atlantis would be what most people were dying to see living on the Hellmouth had spoiled her against anything remotely mystical. Sure it would be cool to see a place that most people thought was nothing but myth, but what really got her blood pumping was the idea of being able to act her age for the first time in years without her mother or sister trying to treat her like her physical age. The fact that she planned to dance in a way guaranteed to make every male in whatever club she went to drool was just an added bonus really.

If Joyce Summers had seen the grin that emerged on her youngest daughters face it would be a safe bet that a couple more grey hairs would have appeared on the middle aged woman's head, but at that moment Dawn wouldn't have cared. After two years of constant loving, but extremely annoying babying at the hands of her family the seventeen year old trapped in a thirteen year old body was finally going to have the chance to act her age.

There were definitely perks to having a powerful magical being as your best friend, and apparently illusions to make her and Faith look their real ages was one of them. Now the biggest question she had was if she should sneak into her older sisters' room for the appropriate clubbing clothes or if she should just buy them when they reached Panama.

One option involved the chance of being grounded until she was thirty just to annoy her older sister, while the other option only held almost no danger of retribution. When it was broken down in that way the choice was obvious, Dawn just hoped that no one caught her sneaking into Buffys room.

All things considered the trip to the elder sisters' room and back was surprisingly easy. As far as Dawn was concerned for someone with a supposed secret identity Buffy really sucked at keeping things secret. Still she had gotten the red bikini top she had wanted, and that was all that really mattered.

"Dawn, are you in there?" came a voice from the other side of the closed door.

"Yeah mom, I'm in here," said Dawn as she quickly hid the revealing top under her pillow, knowing that her mother wouldn't stay out of the room long enough for her to find a decent hiding place.

"I just wanted to make sure that you packed enough sunscreen," said Joyce Summers as she entered the room of her youngest child.

"Mom, I'm old enough to know how to pack," said Dawn in an exasperated voice as she held up the two bottles of sunscreen she was packing for the trip. This was exactly why she needed to get away.

"I know, but I'm a mother. That means that I worry when my daughters go away for several days with a teenage friend," said Joyce with a motherly smile.

"Mooom, this is Xander we're talking about here," said Dawn in an exasperated voice. "If anyone tried anything with us you he'd toss them over the side and make them swim back to shore. Besides, you know we're going to have adult chaperones."

"Yes, but I won't be one of them, so I still get to worry," said Joyce with a motherly smile.

"Come on, it's not like Jesse is coming, so I won't even have to worry about slipping in drool," said Dawn even as she thought of the fun she would have making the guys in Panama drool after Jacks cast the spell.

"He is a bit overeager isn't he," said Joyce with an amused smile as she thought back on some of the looks the young man had given her when he thought she wasn't looking.

"I think it's safe to say that Jesse goes a little bit beyond overeager, and is bordering on young perv in training," said Dawn.

"Dawn!" yelled the blond mother in a scandalized voice.

"Oh come on, I'm thirteen! At thirteen I should be able to say things like perv, even if I can't do anything with them," said Dawn in an almost acidic tone.

"It's not too late for me to ground you and stop you from going on this trip young lady," said Joyce, not liking the tone of voice her youngest was using at all.

"Fine, no high school language for the middle school kid," said Dawn as she tried to get her temper under control. Entering puberty the second time was even worse than the first time around at times.

Joyce just looked at her youngest daughter not knowing exactly what to say, an event that was happening more and more frequently. She could tell that her youngest daughter was being bothered by something more than the usual thirteen year old problems, but for the life of her Joyce couldn't figure out what those problems were.

Fortunately, or perhaps not, both were saved from having to confront the issues by the arrival of one Buffy Anne Summers.

"Hey mom, can you help me pack?" yelled the young Slayer as she made a mad dash to her room.

"I thought I told you to do that before you went to bed last night," said Joyce in a disapproving tone as she left Dawns room.

"Yeah, I just kind of got home really late last night, and kind of forgot," said the Chosen One in a sheepish voice.

"Fine, at least this way I can make sure you don't try to pack that red bikini top you have hidden under your dresser," said Joyce as she started to pick out some fun but appropriate clothes for her daughter.

"How do you know about that?!" asked Buffy as she turned beet red in embarrassment.

"Honey just because I try to give you your space, doesn't mean I'm stupid," said the elder Summers woman. "I may not press you about your dating life, but I do keep track of the clothes you have, especially the ones you don't want me to know about."

Dawn tried her best not to laugh at the look of utter mortification that fell over her older sister's face. Okay so being thirteen again sucked big time, but maybe there were one or two good things about not being seventeen like she was supposed to be.

"Hey mom is it okay if I ride up with Jacks if you're going to be helping Buffy?" asked Dawn.

"That sounds fine dear, just make sure you have everything before you leave," said Joyce, trusting that Dawn could handle herself for the half a block walk it took to get to the silver haired girls house, even if she had to carry a suitcase.

Dawn grinned as she quickly went to her room, shoved the red bikini top into her bags, and then left to visit her friend. She was in a better mood now thanks to her mom embarrassing her sister, but it was still a good idea to get out of the house before she really blew up at her family.

As Dawn started her walk to her friend's house she tried to calm down. The thing was that she knew her family loved her and she shouldn't be mad at them like this, but the kid treatment they were giving her seemed to instantly get under her skin no matter what she told herself.

Pushing these thoughts away Dawn knocked on the door, and waited until a petite girl with silver hair opened it. The girl was small and unassuming to those who only gave her a passing glance, but anyone who truly knew her had to hold in their laughter at the thoughts of others.

"Hey Jacks, Vin already leave?" asked Dawn with a genuine smile, as she looked around the quiet house.

"He left early this morning," said the young silver haired girl. "I was just doing some last minute packing before I ride up with your family."

"Well that was a waste of a trip. Mom either forgot to mention that you were riding with us, or she just wanted me out of the way while she helped Buffy pack," said Dawn in a voice that held more than a drop of annoyance. "I can't wait until we hit Panama, though I have to wonder if Faith will still want to do the spell."

"Why wouldn't she?" asked Jacks with a slight shrug.

"Have you seen her lately, she has all the curves she had when she first came to town, or close enough," said Dawn with a bit of a pout. "It's not fare."

"That Faith has curves?" asked Jacks with an upraised eyebrow.

"That I don't," growled Dawn. "I was fifteen, just getting my own curves, when the reset happened and instantly turned me into an eleven year old stick figure. I swear if I get curves and lose them again I'm going to snap and go on a freaking shooting spree."

"I wish I could say that I understand, but in all honesty I haven't gained that many curves over the past hundred years," said Jacks referring to the fact that even in her adult form the word large didn't apply to any part of her body, some would even say that medium would be pushing it.

"Sorry," said Dawn with a slight wince.

"It's okay, I can tell that's been building for a long time, and the whole point of our little side trip is to let you blow some of that steam off," said Jacks with a bit of a smile as the last of her things entered her bag.

"Speaking of steam, how much do you think I'll be able to build up in the guys if I wear this in my more mature form?" asked Dawn as she took out the red bikini top with a devilish smirk on her face.

"You do know that the spell will be mostly illusion right?" asked Jacks as she did a quick check to make sure all of the doors and windows were locked. It wasn't that she was very concerned about anything breaking in with the wards she had placed around the house, but it was never a good idea to start getting sloppy on a Hellmouth.

"The point isn't really wearing the bikini top; the point is that my sister can't wear the bikini top," said Dawn, her trademark devilish grin firmly in place.

"No the real point is me making you look better in that bikini top, or at least an illusion of it, than your sister could ever look in it," said Jacks as she returned Dawn's grin a hundred times over.

"I hereby bow to your superior wisdom, oh friend of mine," said Dawn as the door shut behind them, leaving the house empty and quiet for a time.

Chapter 2

The sun was shining down, sparkling off the water well into the distance as the three girls unloaded their bags from the Summers Family SUV. Dawn teased Buffy about how much she packed for a trip to a tropical paradise as a heavy bag thudded onto the blacktop of the parking lot.

Jacks waved to Joyce, along with Dawn and Buffy, as the elder Summers woman drove away from the marina. She dropped her arm to her side as soon as the SUV made the turn past the gate, the brine heavy wind blowing locks of hair across her face. "Thank god. If I had to stay in this form for another second I'd be forced to hurt someone."

"Hey!" Buffy complained when the duffle bag Jacks had been carrying struck her squarely in the chest. "Watch it, Jacks."

"I was," Jacks said as she began to spin in place. She blurred, then was consumed in a brief flash of white and green light. When the light faded away her adult form stood in the child form's place. Green shorts and a fitted black tank top replaced the cartoon tee-shirt and jeans. "Ah! Much better!"

Dawn eyed her friend, mildly jealous of the other being's ability to decide what age she appeared to be but mostly just amused at how comfortable Jacks was no matter what shape she took. She giggled, a sweet and sour sound.

Jacks took her bag back from Buffy just as the sound reached her ears. "What's tickled your fancy?"

"It's just, you can look how ever you feel like," Dawn told her with a shrug and a smile still around her lips as they walked toward the yacht and the 579. "I want to be able to do that. When ever I wanted just age myself up or down."

Buffy rolled her eyes as she stopped at the foot of the gang plank. "So what? You'd spend half your time looking like a two year old?"

"Oh, like you act so much older than I am," Dawn snarked back.

Jacks pinched the bridge of her nose. "I want *both* of you to act your ages." She looked back up at the flare of magic energy. "Ah, shit."

"What the heck did you do?" Buffy demanded. From significantly below her normal (although still slight) height.

Dawn looked up from her own chest. A chest she hadn't had a moment before. She looked back up, a michievious grin tugging at her lips. "And can you adjust it up by about two years?"

"Dawn!" Buffy screeched, outraged at several things. Primarily among them was the fact that her baby sister was going to have a better figure than she did.

Jacks shook her head slowly. "It'll wear off in a few hours. Hopefully -before- Xander decides to kill me."

"I'm twelve!" the blonde Slayer hissed.

"And you're very cute," Jacks said absently. She frowned, chewing on the inside of her lip. An accidental magic flare hadn't happened to her in years. Not past her adolesence ... except for ... Well it couldn't be that. "Let's get on the boat and if you don't revert in a few hours I'll do a reversal spell."

"Do one now!" Buffy demanded, stomping her foot. Her Slayer Strength still intact as witnessed by the crack in the wooden plank under the stomped foot.

Neon green eyes narrowed. "Keep in mind that even in your proper form I'm a good three hundred years older than you are, young lady, now get your backside on that boat before you get spanked."

Jacks sprawled on the foredeck, her eyes closed and hidden by a large pair of sunglasses as she let the motion of the P-579 cutting across the water sooth her worried mind. She sighed when she sensed someone hovering over her. "If you're going to yell at me some more, Buffy, could you do it quietly? I have the backlash headache from hell."

"I'm not going to yell at you, but I gotta ask what happened, Jacks," Xander's voice said from above.

"Random magic surge," the half fey explained. Not that it was much of an explaination.

"Is it going to happen again?" Xander asked softly, prompting the older Knight to look up at him. "I need to know, Jacks. Is it going to happen again?"

She sat up slowly, pulling her knees to her chest as she stared up at him from behind her sunglasses. "I can't answer that. Because I don't know, not because I don't want too. This hasn't happened in ..." Her voice broke off. "Actually, the situation this last happened in is impossible at this time."

"You'll tell me as soon as you know one way or another," Xander told her. Half way between an order from her leader and a plea from her friend.

"I will," Jacks promised, favoring her Commander with a smile.

Xander grinned down at her. "While a twelve year old Buffy was cute, I don't need to see a fifteen year old Dawn for another few years, okay? You know Joyce is expecting both her girls back in roughly the same form they left in."

"I know, and I didn't turn them into puppies."

He grimaced at her. "At least you didn't threaten turtles."

Jacks giggled as he settled down beside her to watch the water roll past. They were quiet for a moment before Xander spoke again. "You didn't have to come, you know. The girls would have understood if you'd gone hunting with Vin instead. We all know you two don't really get to spend all that much time together. Not real time as a couple of adults."

"Hunting with Vin can be fun," Jacks allowed. "But, honestly, I never really had many friends of my own. Faith, Dawn ... They're *my* friends. Not my sister's, not my uncle's, not my husband's." She pushed her sunglasses up on top of her head to lock eyes with Xander. "That's important to me. Spending time with them, when it isn't about saving the world or protecting Dawn, is important to me."

Xander smiled at her. "I'm glad you three get along so well. Even if it's eventually going to be giving me ulcers."

Jacks laughed as she dropped her shades back down over her eyes. "You're worried about ulcers? Imagine what we're going to do to Buffy once Dawn is old enough to join us on the front line."

"I really almost hate you when you say things like that," Xander sighed. There was another stretch of comfortable silence before Xander felt the need to break it, if only at the prompting of a certain inner voice. "So, what caused you to have wild magic bursts before?"

"Puberty and pregnancy." Jacks watched in amusement as Xander choked on the very thought. "As I said, not a possiblity at this time."

Xander shook his head. "Now I know I hate you when you say things like that."

"No, you don't."

Dawn managed to corner both Faith and Jacks, Buffy neatly deflected by her younger sister's reminder of how annoyed Jacks currently was with the blonde. "We're still doing it, right?"

"Yeah, D, we're still doing it," Faith said with a grin. "Chance to seriously party with you two? Wouldn't miss it." She gave Jacks a teasing sidelong glance. "So long as somebody can keep her magic in check."

"You're both brats, you know that right?" Jacks muttered as she stared over the aft railing to watch the moon and starlight reflect off the water, disrupted only by their wake.

The Dark Slayer slung an arm around the smaller woman's shoulders, joining the half-fey in her water-gazing. "Ya love us anyway."

"Of course I do," the half-fey snorted as Dawn leaned against her other side. "You're my sisters."

Chapter 3

"This is nice," said a very contented brunette Summers woman as she soaked up the sun with her best friends. There was just something truly relaxing about tanning on the deck of a boat. Well it was relaxing if you could ignore all the large guns, but after living in Sunnydale for a while ignoring things came naturally.

"Careful Dawn, saying things like that is the surest way I know of to invite trouble," drawled the only member of the group that didn't have brunette hair.

"Come on Jacks, we aren't on the Hellmouth anymore, we can let our guard down a little," stated the younger of the two time displaced women in the group.

"No. Still dangerous," said Mikki as she stretched in a very cat like manner. Then as if the universe was attempting to prove the young were's point a small red projectile impacted against her head, and drenching her. The following cat like yowl of surprise and death glare the thirteen year old sent her human friend had Dawn quickly reconsidering her ideas concerning what she could and could not say away from the Hellmouth.

"Should have listened to the Pixy little D," said Faith with a chuckle. Her hand shot up, Slayer reflexes in high gear, allowing her to pluck a green projectile from the air just before it would have impacted on her head. However, the projectile wasn't designed to handle the sudden deceleration her catch had caused, and it still ruptured, spraying water all over her face despite her best efforts. "Okay," she said with a menacing growl. "Now I'm annoyed."

"Strategic retreat!" cried Dawn as more water balloons made their way towards the group.

"I swear I'm going to kill whoever's doing this," snarled the dark haired warrior even as the four women made their way to an overhang for some protection against the assault.

"I'm first," stated a very wet were-panther.

"First we need to find them, then we can indulge our mutual blood lust," said Jacks. "I don't suppose anyone noticed where the balloons were coming from?"

"From over the railings," answered Dawn and Faith, while Mikki simply pointed to the direction that the attack had come from.

"Yes now think, what's in that direction?"

"Water," said Faith.

"The yacht," moaned Dawn just as another water balloon exploded over their hiding place. "They probably have a catapult or something."

"They may have a catapult, but we have a Slayer," said Jacks with a very dangerous glint in her eyes.

"Yeah, but no ammo," said Faith right before a pile of filled balloons appeared after Jacks muttered a quick spell. "Nice, but these don't feel like their filled with water."

"They're not," said the half fey with a truly sadistic smile plastered on her face. "When it comes to a prank war my philosophy is simple, why retaliate when you can escalate?"

"Love the way you think sis," stated the Boston native as she quickly stood up and sent her own balloon towards the attackers with an accuracy that only a mystically empowered warrior could manage.

Moments Earlier on the Yacht

"Do you really think this is a good idea?" asked Natalie even as she continued to hold onto one end of the rubber hose that was serving as a water balloon launcher.

"Come on Nat, it's just a bit of harmless fun," stated the red head of the bunch as she let another projectile fly at the war ship that was close to their own, significantly less armed, boat.

"Dylan's right, it's just a bit of harmless fun," Alex said with a grin of her own. "Besides what's the worst they'll do, throw water balloons back at us and get us wet, no big deal."

This of course was fates queue to step in and show the self appointed Angels exactly what kind of retribution you can expect when you annoy magically empowered individuals. In this particular case vengeance came in a neon green package, and traveled at about fifty miles per hour.

"AAGH!" shouted Dylan as she fell onto her back, covered in something that wasn't water. "What is this?!?"

Natalie simply walked towards her fallen companion scraped some of the dark substance off with a finger, sniffed it, then stuck it in her mouth. "Chocolate pudding, tastes good too."

"How did they get chocolate pudding into a water balloon?" wondered Alex.

Natalie simply looked at her friend like the answer should be obvious by now. "We're on our way to visit Atlantis, and you're wondering how they got chocolate pudding into a water balloon?"

"Oh, right." When it was put like that the answer did seem kind of obvious.

"As much fun as this is do you two really think we should be in the open like this?" asked Dylan even as five more balloons came hurtling towards the group. Soon the three detectives were covered with chocolate pudding and lime jello, as well as most of the deck of the yacht

Back on the PT boat

"When you go all out for a prank war you really go all out sis," said Faith as she overcame her bout of laughter.

"Oh, this isn't me going all out," said the silver haired half-fey. "This is me stretching my legs a bit. When I go all out there is usually a *lot* more property damage."

"In that case lets keep this as minimal as possible," said a male voice from behind the group of giggling females.

"Hey Xander, what's up?" Dawn asked even as she tried to calm herself a bit.

"I was just about to ask you the same thing. Do any of you know why Kevin would radio me, complaining about a mess being made on his deck?"

"They started it," huffed Mikki.

"Who started what?" asked Xander.

"The Angels decided to launch water balloons at us, so we decided to pay them back," Jacks with a bit of a shrug.

"With Bill Cosby endorsed desserts?"

"It seemed appropriate for some reason."

Xander simply closed his eyes and allowed a small groan to escape before he decided to continue with the conversation. "You know that they'll find some way to get back at you, right?"

"Then we'll get back at them even worse, that's how a prank war works," said Dawn.

"Just don't damage the yacht, okay? Kev said he was implementing a strict you break it I buy it policy on damages, and I really don't feel like buying a damaged yacht at the moment."

"No permanent damage, you got it boytoy," said Faith even as a predatory grin began to spread across her face.

While he was a bit worried about the use of the word permanent in that last sentence Xander hadn't survived this long by knowing what battles should and should not be fought. When Faith, Jacks, and Dawn decided to start throwing food it was time to either duck for cover, or join in the fun.

"Well I won't stop you then. Just a suggestion though, try not to do anything that would send Jess into hormonal overload when he hears about it, okay?"

"Sorry to be the one to tell you this X, but your bud's a horndog. I think if we told him we watched pain dry he'd find a way to turn it into a wet dream."

"Probably," Xander admitted with a grin as he turned to leave.

"So what do we do now?" asked Faith as she watched Xander depart, and enjoying what she was seeing.

"Just wait until dark, I have some ideas on what we can do," Dawn said with a truly dangerous smile on her face.

The Yacht: After Sundown

"No," said Kevin Sorbo in as firm a voice as he could manage.

"Come on, I just want to push it up another fifty feet or so," pleaded Dylan as she put her considerable charms into getting the actor to let her into the control room.

"Sorry, but I don't feel like traumatizing the local sea life at the moment," said Kevin.

"Hey, I can pilot a boat just as well as I can drive!" snapped Dylan.

"That's what worries me," Herc muttered too softly for Dylan to hear. "Listen the point is that I don't want my boat to be caught in the crossfire of this prank war. If you really want to get them wait until we reach land tomorrow night."

"Fine," said Dylan as she walked off and joined her friends. "No go on getting him to move it closer."

"Well we may not be able to get them, but at least they can't get us either," said Alex. "The best thing to do would be to get some sleep and then plan on how to get them when we wake up."

"You're probably right," said Dylan as the three women moved towards their room.

Natalie simply stayed quiet. She hand spent more time with Xander and his friends then the other two, and she wasn't nearly as sure of their safety as they seemed to be.

The PT Boat

"Think you can make it?" Dawn asked Faith as the group gazed at the yacht.

"Traveling light on solid ground no problem, on open water carrying this shit is way too risky though," the raven haired slayer grudgingly admitted.

"Looks like it's still my turn then," said Jacks as she took the equipment from Faiths hand and casually flew over to the luxury boat.

As she flew over the open waters she had to admit that it was quite enjoyable. She was half trickster by birth, and it had been far too long since this part of herself had come out to play.

Jacks flew around the boat peeking into window after window like a sex changed Peter Pan looking for her targets. Finally she spotted them sleeping comfortably so with a snap of her fingers she made the window open, and placed the package inside. Floating back to the PT Boat as silently as she came the half fey simply gave her other three conspirators a thumbs up to indicate that the job had been accomplished.

With a predatory grin Mikki pressed a button on the remote that Dawn had handed her and listened to the effects that the radio signal had on the device Jacks had placed on the other boat. This should teach the three women that not even Angels should soak a cat when it was enjoying the sun.

The Yacht

Three Angels were violently pulled from their sleep by a high pitched shriek that seemed to stab their minds. For a few moments the normally graceful women fumbled around as they tried to figure out just what was going on, and then to find the source of the sound. It was Natalie who finally found the device and was grateful when she was able to turn it off with a simple flick of a switch.

"First pudding and lime jello balloons, and now this. Is anyone else getting the feeling that we may be in over our heads on this one?" asked Alex.

"Are you saying that we should give up?" Dylan asked her fellow Angel. She may have the same feelings, but she would be dammed if she was going to let some kids beat her.

"Think of it as postponing things until we have more ammo. Xander packed some of the Atlantis equipment on his ship. That means that they have some highly advanced equipment they can use against us."

"What about after they drop off the equipment?"

"We'll see," said Natalie as she joined the conversation. "Even with out the equipment they still have Jacks and Faith to help out, and I think that most of this was their doing. If we want to get one up on them we'll have to get really creative."

"I can do that kind of creative," piped up Dylan.

"We know, just be creative later."

"Is that a white flag their waving?" asked Dawn the next morning.

"I think it's actually a bed sheet, but I think the sentiment is the same," said Jacks.

"You guys really think they'd just surrender?" Faith asked her friends, and got three negative answers in response. "Me neither, I think they just want some time to regroup."

"We going to give it to them?" asked Dawn.

"Why not? It's no fun to play with someone who can't play back," Jacks responded with a smile.

"So just Panama and Atlantis for the rest of the trip then," stated Faith. "With some thoughts on what we can do to them when they restart the prank war."

"Sounds good to me," said Dawn.

"Given time they may come up with something nice and challenging, so count me in as well," said Jacks.

"Okay then, let's catch some rays. Hopefully without the water this time," said Faith.

Mikki simply nodded in agreement. As far as she was concerned getting someone wet while they were enjoying the sun should be a carnal sin, one you should pay dearly for. The Angels had suffered enough… for now at least.

Chapter 4

Xander peeked over Mikki and Jacks' shoulders as the were-jaguar and the half-fey witch collaborated over a note pad with several colored pens. "Should this worry me?"

"Not in the slightest," Jacks said lightly as she sketched out a few stick figures, one in dark yellow-ish orange, one in red and the other in black.

"Not target," Mikki added with a smirk.

".... Right. You know, what? I don't want to know," Xander sighed. "But stick figures?"

"Drawing is not among my various talents, Commander," Jacks said easily. A stick figure with cat ears and a tail seemed to crouch behind the three other figures.

"Right. I really don't want to know," Xander said, shaking his head slowly. "You two have fun and don't kill anyone."

"We won't," Mikki assured him.

"Besides, we currently have a truce," Jacks pointed out. Although she still continued to doodle on the page. "In anycase the next move is the Angels' rather than ours."

"So not making me feel better. And aren't Dawn and Faith involved in this?" Mikki and Jacks just grinned up at him. Xander shook his head again, it was something he seemed to do frequently when the girls got together on something. "Right. I don't want to know. Have fun."

The girls waved as Xander turned to walk off. Mikki kept her voice low enough not to carry to him when she turned back to Jacks. "Where are they anyway?"

"Getting ready for when we dock in Panama," Jacks said with a shrug.

Mikki stared at her for several long silent moments. While the were could tell Jacks wasn't telling her the entire truth neither was the half-fey lying to her. Jacks would do a lot of things, but she'd never out and out lie to Mikki. Tie the truth in knots, sure, but not outright lie.

Jacks smiled faintly when Mikki nodded slightly. It wasn't so much an agreement as it was acceptance that no more information was going to be passed along. The fact was, Dawn and Faith were getting ready for their arrival in Panama. Faith was taking a nap and Dawn was meditating on how she should look as an adult. Jacks would need that image when she crafted the illusion of maturity for their night out.

"We reach Panama in three hours," Dylan complained as she glared ahead of the yacht toward the PT-579. "And we still don't have a way to get back at those brats yet."

Natalie rolled her eyes. "Those 'brats' are a Slayer, a were-jaguar, a half-fey witch who's older than all three of us added together, and a girl who's been hanging around Xander for way too long to be normal."

Alex frowned slightly. "Still, we should be able to get back at them somehow. Brains over brawn. Intelligence over cunning."

"Now all we have to do is come up with a way to counter superior technology and magic," Natalie said with a frown of her own. "We're Angels."

"We can't let Charlie down," Dylan added with a firm nod. The other two stared at her. "Not that he's ever going to find out about this."

Jacks winked at Mikki as the young were slipped away from the rest of the group from the 579, headed toward the group from Poseiden's Chariot. Mikki dropped her 'cargo' after passing a message from Jacks to Hercules, then returned to Dawn's side with an air of purely feline smugness around her.

Xander and Maria watched in confusion as Herc moved quickly away from the Angels. Faith and Dawn looked over at Jacks only to see her smiling innocently.

"Jacks?" Dawn prompted.

The half-fey's 'innocent' smile melted into a wicked grin. "Magical stink bombs. The only ones' who'll smell anything are the Angels and anyone with Eternal blood."

"Which would be ...?" Xander asked with a sigh.

"Me and 'Kevin', of course," Jacks said cheerfully. "They'll doubtlessly spend hours scrubbing off something that no one else will even notice."

"You're evil, Tinker Bell," Faith concluded with a wicked smirk of her own. "Why didn't you let me and the Dawn Patrol in on this?"

"You were napping," Mikki pointed out.

Jacks held up a hand. "And five .... four ... three ... two ..."

The Angels' shrieked as the small marbles Mikki had dropped around them exploded into clouds of orange and yellow smoke.

"It's good to be me," Jacks announced before striding away from the dock.

"So what are we doing tonight, ladies?" Xander asked as he noticed Jacks, Dawn and Faith all had small over night bags slung over their shoulders.

Jacks, in a form both fully human (if exoticly colored) and fully adult, gestured to herself, Dawn and Faith. "We are going to get a hotel room for the night and engage in rites of female bonding."

"You're going to do what with my little sister?" Buffy demanded.

"Yo, B, chill," Faith cut in with a snicker. "Tink said 'bonding' not 'bondage'."

Dawn snorted. "Totally not my thing anyway."

"I don't even want to know how you know that," Xander decided.

"In any case, we're going to go be pampered to within an inch of our lives," Jacks informed them with a cool stare at Buffy. "And the rest of you aren't invited."

"Why not?" Buffy demanded, eyes narrowed at her little sister's best friend.

"Because it's for -me- and -my- friends, Buffy," Dawn snapped. "Not me, my friends and my over protective sister!"

"Fine," the blonde Slayer shifted her gaze to Mikki. "So why isn't Mikki going?"

The young were-jaguar shrugged. "Don't want to."

"Later, B, Studly," Faith said as she grabbed the two smaller girls and all but ran up the dock. Laughter floated on the air behind them as they melted into the quickly moving crowd.

First the girls shopped. Faith provided a running comentary even as she tried on her own choices.

"Little daring there, J-girl," Faith observed of the barely there black lace strapless, backless and damned near skirtless dress Jacks was trying on at the moment.

Jacks shot her a wicked grin in the mirror. "Have you ever seen Vin completely speachless?"

"Frequently," Dawn retorted as she checked out a rack of tops that she wouldn't be physically able to fill out for another few years. "He's not exactly chatty."

"Don't think the pixie means Tanner's usual way of being quiet," Faith said with a wicked grin of her own.

Jacks' grin melted into a smirk. "Exactly. Normally he simply has nothing to say or doesn't feel the need to speak. I mean unable to put more than a few vowel sounds together."

Dawn grinned and turned to the salesgirl. "She'll take it."

The hotel was nice. Posh as Faith called it. Jacks observed that Ezra would have adored it but it would likely drive Vin crazy for being too fancy. Dawn simply announced that it was perfect and called down to the concierge to request three massages and food to be sent up.

"Girl, who's money are we spending anyway?" Faith asked as she threw herself onto the plush couch in the center of the suite's sitting room.

The majority of the shopping bags had been sent back to the boat at Dawn's suggestion. Faith suspected it was to make Buffy fume. Especially since the blonde Slayer would have no real way of knowing what was for who. But the remaining bags held what the trio intended to wear out that night. Or in Dawn's case, the outfit that Jacks would base the illusion's outfit on.

"Mine, actually," Jacks said cheerfully. "Vin prefers to spend his own money, and Xander supplies me with something like a salary, although I do still have active accounts with certain ... mystically associated firms and banks."

"On the side of the light?" Dawn asked skeptically.

"Well, more in the grey, but not evil," Jacks explained. "The end of the world wouldn't be profitable so they finance certain groups behind the scenes to prevent it. Of course they also provide supurb security for their less that human-friendly clients." She paused with a contemplative air. "I wonder if I could spend enough money to actually make them weep ...."

There was a polite knock on the door. It was three very attractive young Latino men with folding massage tables. Faith smirked.

"J-girl, I like how you live," the Dark Slayer crowed.

Six hours, three massages, a soak in the jacuzzi, and two careful spells later, the trio of party girls left the hotel.

Dawn now stood just slightly taller than Faith, her curves not quite as eye catching but enough to fill out the saphire blue silk halter top nicely over her low slung blue jeans. Faith strutted along to one side of Dawn, black jeans tight enough to have been painted on and a scrap of a deep shimmering red hankerchief masqurading as a top. Jacks strolled on the other side of her younger friend, her outfit a more sedate but still eyecatching green satin tank top and a darker green skirt of some material that clung and shifted with every movement.

The girls hit three different clubs before midnight, laughing, dancing and all but teasing everyone around them. Faith even got to bust a few heads when a few young men didn't want to take no for an answer as they left the second club.

The third club seemed to cater equally to the young and pretty as to the rough and tumble set. As witnessed by the freighter captain that flirted, ineptly, with Jacks.

"Mr. Kirk..."

"Captain, but you can call me JT."

"I don't CARE what you've got in your cargo hold and if you don't get your hand off my posterior I will make you wish I'd simply killed you," Jacks snarled.

JT Kirk gave her a charmingly boyish grin, one Jacks would have found both amusing and charming, if the hand on her backside hadn't been there and hadn't just squeezed the portion of fleash under it.

Captain Kirk was destined to spend the next three days as a rather large and mangy looking rat. Luckly for him, his less than entirely human second in command scooped him up and departed with only an amused nod for Jacks.

Faith and Dawn hussled the irate half-fey out of the club.

"Was that another surge?" Dawn asked carefully.

"Impulsive, but not an uncontroled surge," Jacks said. She grinned. "If he knew how to take no for an answer I would have at least turned him into a tomcat."

Perhaps it was tempting fate to head for a fourth club, but Faith and Dawn had both declaired they were having too much fun to stop before the sun came up. Jacks had caved to their enthusasim and her own enjoyment. It was almost like something she'd done at the youthful age of seventy in another reality.

Whatever the cause, Jacks missed the feeling of eyes on them. It was only one pair among many that night and she was used to having eyes on her. At heart Jacks was a preformer after all, her very nature was to attract attention be it through tricks or singing or dancing ...

"Thought, you know, what you and Faith do is more like having sex standing up with all your clothes still on," Dawn pointed out after Jacks gently turned away a puppy eyed admirer.

"Not as good as the real thing, Little D, but damn close," Faith laughed.

Jacks just snorted and dragged them both out to the floor as a drum heavy song started up.


Chapter 5

Dawn was beyond happy at the moment. There was just something about being hot enough to have guys buy you drinks in a part of the world known for beautiful women. Okay so Jacks and Faith weren't letting her have any alcoholic drinks, but it was still fun.

At the moment they were all sitting around a table they had acquired, talking and just enjoying each others company. They had been dancing and moving the moment the sun went down, so even Faith was feeling the need to move a bit slower.

"I can't believe we actually did this," said Dawn as she leaned back in her chair, her mostly empty drink held loosely in her right hand.

"Four clubs in one night, may not be a record, but damn was this fun," Faith said as she gulped down the last dregs of her drink,and motioned the bartender to bring another round.

"Fun as this may have been I think we should consider heading back to the hotel and get some rest before we have to leave." Jacks quickly muttered a spell the second the drinks were set on the table. It was just a small spell to make sure that the drinks didn't have any magical potions or drugs that would harm them, and while it may seem a bit paranoid it was always better to be safe than sorry.

"Come on Pixy, we can squeeze in one more club," said Faith as she immediately went for her drink as soon as Jacks gave her the okay.

"It's like, half an hour before the sun comes up. Besides my feet are already going to hurt for a week, I don't need to add to their pain."

"Spoilsport," said Faith. Inwardly she had to agree with Dawn though; the club they were in was in the process of shutting down for the day, leaving only a handful of people in the building.

"Sorry Mrs. Supernatural Endurance, but the vote is two against one for leaving," said Jacks as she got up and started to walk towards the cashier.

Reluctantly the dark haired members of the trio got up to follow. Neither was particularly happy to be moving, but for completely different reasons. Faith didn't want to go because it would mean that the night was over, Dawn just wanted to give her feet more time to rest.

"When I get a boyfriend I'm so going to make him carry me when my feet feel like this," said Dawn with just a bit of a wine in her voice as he hobbled after her immortal friend.

"What do you mean my card has been declined, try it again," growled Jacks as the other two finally made it into earshot.

"I'm sorry, but the card is being declined," said the cashier as he once again slid the thin slip of plastic through the machine.

"Got enough cash to cover it?" asked Faith.

"No, only enough to buy a ride back to the hotel," Jacks said in a disgruntled tone.

"No big, we'll just call X and have him come down with some cash. It'll be embarrassing as hell, but we'll live."

Jacks let out a long breath in frustration. She had wanted to use her own money for this, but she wasn't seeing too many other options at the moment. "Fine, but try his cell phone, then the communicator, I don't want to sit through a lecture from Merlin if I can avoid it."

"You should use the phone in the managers office, cell phones usually don't get a signal in this area," said the cashier with a friendly smile.

"Where's the office?" asked Dawn.

"Second floor, third door on the right, you can't miss it."

"Thanks," said Faith as the group started to move toward the staircase.

"Don't mention it, you aren't the first ones this has happened to, and I doubt you'll be the last."

The trio found the room easy enough, but were shocked when the door immediately slammed shut behind them. Through the thick iron doors all three could hear the sounds of heavy bolts locking into place.

"Never a good sign," muttered Dawn even as Faith tried to force the door open at the same time Jacks began to call on the eldritch energies that were her birthright. Unfortunately for everyone Faith found her strength quickly leaving her, and Jacks felt her magic sliding back under the surface.

"Magic trap," rasped Jacks even as she tried to keep herself awake. "They put something in our drinks and something in here. Both are completely inert until they get close to each other."

"Just tell me what to smash and its dust," said Faith as her eyes slowly began to close.

It was already too late though, Jacks was already unconscious, and within seconds Faith fell to the floor in a similar state.

"Jacks, Faith, come on guys wake up!" cried Dawn in near hysteria as she felt the darkness of sleep threatening to overtake her mind.

Fumbling around in Jacks purse Dawn frantically looked for the communicator so she could call for help. It was too little too late though, because the second that she found it she felt herself falling to the side, her body completely unresponsive to her commands.

Then she joined her friends in a dreamless sleep.

And with a loud thunk, the heavy iron door was unlocked.

Chapter 6

As consciousness returned to her, the first thing that Dawn thought was god, did her mouth taste foul. Shaking her head slightly to clear the cobwebs from it, the youngest of the Summers clan opened her eyes.

Taking in the rather sophisticated surrounding she found herself in, she swallowed heavily. "Ok... Not the club, not the 579, not home... Probably not of the good..." The young woman took a moment to examine the room, her eyes coming to rest on the prone forms of both Jacks and Faith.

"Oh, thank god," she said to herself as she realized that she'd been in a lot worse situations, because, frankly, if you wake up after being kidnapped in a room with the Puck's Child and a Slayer, well, assuming they weren't the ones who kidnapped you, things could be a lot worse.

"Jacks! Faith!" said Dawn in a loud whisper running towards Jacks position, not wanting to let whoever had grabbed them know the three of them were up and about."

Suddenly, Dawn felt herself falling to the floor. She threw her arms out to catch herself, breaking the fall and preventing her face from impacting on the marble tiles which made up the floor itself.

"What the?" she said, confused as she looked back to see what it was that had grabbed her foot. "Ah crap!" she said as she saw the silken band which was wrapped around her ankle, and the apparently delicate cord which led from it to a recessed carving underneath the settee which she had been reclined on.

Shifting her position, the young brunette felt the band, trying to find the knot where it had been tied, but, to her dismay, it seemed that the entire piece was a single piece of silk, which had no visible or identifiable beginning or end. In fact, the cord which led away from it seemed to be a part of the band itself, with no visible attachment or spot where it was spliced into the material around her ankle.

With all of her might, she pulled at the cord which held her, then, when that had no effect, tried to twist and tear the band of silk itself, with much the same results.

"Ok... No worries... Faith can make short work of this... So can Jacks for that matter..." Dawn stood up, her training with Masters Li and Kane showing in the fluidity of motion.

Moving slower this time, in order to prevent a repeat of the earlier trip, Dawn closed the distance between the settee which she had awoken on, and the one on which Jacks currently lay on.

"Hey Pixie... Time to wake up," she said in soft voice once she had reached the limit the silken restraint afforded her, which still left her a good four feet short of being able to reach over and shake the young woman's shoulder. "Jacks... Wake up!" she said a bit louder, but although there was a slight shift in Jacks' relaxed form, she didn't return to the land of the living. "Oh, crap," said Dawn as her eyes were drawn to the blood red sigils which were drawn on the Fey's forehead, cheeks and forearms. "Ok... Now, I'm thinking this is slipping towards the seriously bad category after all."

Moving around the extremely high end furnishing of the room, Dawn tried to get close to Faith, but found that, again, the cord kept her short of the settee on which the dark haired Slayer was resting. "Shit!" exclaimed the teen, as she observed similar runes drawn on her friend's face and hands, as well as the seemingly dainty chains which ran from her wrists, under the settee, and then showed up again to connect to her ankles, keeping her limbs crossed and restrained. "Faith! Wake up girl! We've got trouble!"

"Now now..." came a slightly accented voice from behind Dawn. "I wouldn't say that... You are my guests, after all."

Dawn spun around, her arms coming up in a defensive stance.

There in the arched doorway, a glass of dark wine in her hand, stood a stunning woman, her presence filling the room, despite the fact that she was not yet in it. She reached up with her empty left hand, brushing the curly blond hair, accentuated with dark highlights, from her face.

Entering the room with an authorative stride, she stopped short of Dawn, who had yet to relax her stand, and looked her up and down before taking a sip from the glass. "And who would you be?" she asked. "Such a pretty little moppet as yourself, out with your friends, acting older than you are..." Her hand rose, as if to touch Dawn's face, but when the young brunette shied back, the woman looked slightly disappointed. "You know, had you been good girls, none of this would have happened to you. But, when one tries to draw attention, one never knows the kind of person who will become intrigued in your charms, or more accurately, in the uniqueness of your friends." As she spoke, the older woman, stepped away from Dawn, walking towards the form of Faith. "Both of them, they shine through the night. It must be difficult, such a blossoming young beauty as yourself, to be outshined by these two. But, young one, you are judged by the company which you keep, and tonight, the company you kept meant you had to vanish as well as the two who I was actually interested in. Have no fear though," said the woman as her nails traced across Faith's face. "Your youth and beauty will not go to waste, although I rather doubt you will truly appreciate the immortality that you will have through me."

Dawn, who had been staring at her captor defiantly, finally spoke. "Lady, who the hell are you?" she demanded.

"Such language from such a beautiful face. You remind me of one of the daughter's of one of my maids, from when I was a child." Her voice seemed to trail off for a moment, as she lost herself in memory for a heartbeat. "Such a pure, innocent soul she was...." Her attention snapped back, and as she spoke again, her voice was again firmly rooted in the here and now. "I am Lady Elizabeth, Countess of Cachtice and I am most pleased to make your acquaintance, although I am sure the feeling is most likely not shared. Now that I have introduced myself, why don't you do the same..."

Dawn hesitated for a moment, but then she remembered the number one rule of the life the Scoobies had come to live by, which was 'Don't Die'. And, as a rule, when captured by villain types, it was usually a good idea to do as you were told, especially when they're sociopaths like the one who was holding them captive at the moment.

"Dawn..." she said, but when the older woman made a gesture, Dawn continued. "Dawn Summers."

"See that wasn't so hard, now was it. Now then, I suppose you're wondering why exactly you and I are having this little conversation." When Dawn nodded, the Countess continued. "Well, one doesn't make it to my age, without taking the time to learn to appreciate the moments of life."

"Yeah, cause making it to thirty, maybe thirty-five is such an epic achievement..." snapped Dawn before she could keep her mouth under control.

But, to the young woman's surprise, Elizabeth simply smiled. "Four hundred and thirty seven in August, actually. But, I do appreciate the compliment. Actually, that's one of the reasons that I wanted to have this little chat. Since when I slice your pretty little throat open, and bathe in your blood, your beauty, your youth, a tiny bit of your soul, will become part of me. I do so like to get to know those whose lifeblood grants me the youth and beauty which time so tries to steal away from me."

As Dawn looked into the eyes of her captor, she knew that this woman, despite all of her trappings and poise, would have no problem at all in doing exactly what she had just described.

"You look pale, young one... Do not worry, your passing will be relatively quick and painless. Your beauty and youth are what I desire from you, despite the mongrelized lineage you American's seem so predisposed to, you will serve my overall needs. As for your friends, they simply radiate power, the white haired one far more so. Might I ask their names as well?"

"Faith and Jacks," replied Dawn. Although she'd been kidnapped in the past, grabbed as bait to lure out Buffy, or as a target unto herself, the sheer charisma and politeness that this sociopathic bitch was really starting to bother her.

"There now, that wasn't so tough. I do have some preparations that I need to make, in order to make the most of your two friends. As inconvenient as it is, I fear that I am going to need to keep the both of them alive until I am ready to begin collecting from them."

"They'll never let you touch them..."

"My dear, if that were the case, then I would already have been defeated, then wouldn't I? But, you notice the markings I have placed on each of them? Those keep their powers or abilities from causing me problems, until I am able to make more permanent accommodations to keep them as my guests until their usefulness is at an end. Much," she gestured towards Dawn's ankle, "like the small trinket which keeps you from entering areas of the house which I have deemed off limits."

"You mean the thing which is keeping me chained in this room?"

"As you say... Both descriptions are accurate. Take time to enjoy the beauty around you. Not many are able to see such finery in their short, meaningless lives."

"Now, before I depart, I must insist on a small vial of your blood, to add to my collection. I would gather it afterwards, but, well, the process is a tad messy, and what is left, well, there's not much kick left in the blood by the time I'm finished with it, and with you for that matter... Now," she reached into one of the pockets on her leather jacket and pulled out a small needle and vial, only the golden runes around the vial distinguishing it from what could be seen in any hospital around the nation. As she set it on the small table which was just within Dawn's reach, the woman continued to speak. "If you would be so kind as to take this and fill it up for me, I would be appreciative."

"Appreciative enough to let us go?" asked Dawn as she picked up the vial and needle, looking at both of them.

The Countess laughed. "You are an entertaining little moppet aren't you. It might almost be worth keeping you around for the sake of entertainment..." She paused and looked Dawn up and down. "A few years older, and you'd be quite the fetching beauty. You could keep me entertained for hours, I'm sure, once you were properly trained. Then, perhaps I would take you out in the snow and ice, so I could watch your beauty for years to come... Perhaps I will keep you around... Something to think about, but before I decide, be a good little moppet and fill up that vial for me."

"What if I don't know how?"

The older woman shook her head. "Those are special. A minor enchantment on them, to make the blood flow better. Simply place it against your arm, press the needle in, and it will fill the vial before you know it..."

"And if I refuse?" said Dawn, a bit of defiance in her voice, but if someone listened carefully, they might have been able to pick out a tiny hint of fear as well.

"Such fire... Even now, you refuse to give up." Elizabeth took her right hand, sliding in into her left sleeve. "If nothing else, you American's have a certain, spark that the Old World had lost." She slide her hand out, a glittering blade now in her grasp. Taking a step forward, she laid the tip against the lid of Faith right eye. "If you do not do as you're told, I will simply slice up your friends. Their blood is what I need, not their eyesight. And, if that doesn't have any effect on your decision, I can promise you that not only will I cease any and all consideration of keeping you as a pet for a time, but your passing will be far from peaceful." She smiled at the young woman. "Does that clarify your position?"

Dawn swallowed. "Ok, blood it is..." Looking down, she affixed the needle to the vial, and slowly slid it into her arm.

As the curtains fell still once the Countess has passed through, Dawn frantically began to tug at the cord which bound her. Despite the apparent fragility of the line, no matter how hard the young woman yanked and pulled, there was no effect.

Desperate, Dawn first patted down her pockets, hoping she'd find something, keys perhaps, but anything sharp would be a godsend right about now.

"I'm screwed. Muscles and magic are out for the duration. I need to stall the madwoman and figure a way to call the cavalry... Or at very least, figure out how to get myself off this leash. Which, if I'm not wrong, may only be the first one that the nutcase keeps me on... Not that they can't be fun from what Faith said, but I kinda want to have SOME say about it..."

Moving to the end of the arc the cord allowed her, Dawn started to try and find some memento or trinket which could hopefully be broken in order to give her something sharp.

But, before she could do more than take a brief look, a flaming figure flashed into existence at the center point between the three reclining couches the girls had been placed on initially.

Dawn stood there, silently, as she watched the flaming figure, wishing that she was able to get to something she could use as a weapon.

And then, the flames were gone, leaving an apparently middle aged man in an expensive suit, standing there.

Standing there, and looking at her, as if somewhat annoyed.

"So," spoke the figure in a decidedly British accent. "You see a man on fire in the center of the room, and you just stand there?"

"Uh... Not really having a fire extinguisher or a bucket of water here..." said Dawn, the surrealness of the situation evident, but she managed to remain calm.

"Yes, I know that... But... No hysterics, no 'Oh Lord, whatever shall I do!'"

"You weren't screaming... Besides, I'm from Sunnydale..." responded Dawn. If nothing else, being the Slayer's sister, dealing with those Knights in LA and two years of Martial Arts and Zen Archery training gave her a solid sense of self-control.

"Good point," admitted the figure, before sighing. "You know, there are times that you humans can exasperate even the boss, although usually it's in a good way..."

"Ok, not to be rude," snapped Dawn. "But, who in the hell are you?!"

"First... Hell... Not so much..." Behind him, a set of massive wings, snapped into being, the feathers on them practically glowing with holy light. "Now that we've gotten that little item out of the way, I am Metatron..."

Dawn looked at him blankly.

"Oh... You have..." Another sigh. "Metatron. The Herald of the Almighty? The Voice of the Creator?"

Still not a response from Dawn.

"I'm the one that speaks for the Creator, since her voice tends to make mortals' heads explode like watermelons at a Ghallager show. You know, the burning bush who gave Moses the speech which got summarized as ten line items on the stone tablets... I've stopped in to talk to your friend, Xander, a time or two."

"Oh... Okay.... Xander having somebody claiming to be the voice of God swing by to chat over coffee... How messed up is my life that I actually find that halfway plausible..." Dawn paused. "I don't suppose you've got some I.D.?"

"What, you mean aside from the fiery entrance and the expansive wingspan? No, sorry, I left my passport in my other pants... How about the fact that I know that you're closer to eighteen than you seem, Miss Dawn Summers. That your friend with the ears back there is the Puck's Child. Or that the dark haired one is the Slayer who was called before the reset. Or that you've got one sister, but ones older and ones younger than you? Or that you remember working with that meandering monk just before you woke up screaming in agony and then you realized you were a kid again. That enough ID for you, or shall we continue?"

"Ummm... No, I think we're good."

"Very well then...." Metatron looked down at Faith, and then at Jacks. "I have to say, as much of a sociopath as she is, and she's pretty close to the top of Luc's list for long term incarceration, she's a master of her craft."

"Are they..." Dawn couldn't complete the sentence.

"Oh, they'll be fine. Or, perhaps I should say, the sigils she used on them won't have any permanent effect on either of them. The Countess uses them on her more... potent victims, to keep them controllable until she's ready to begin her work. Far more effective than drugs or chemicals."

Dawn stared at the top dog of the heavenly chorus for a moment. "Well, aren't you going to get us out of here? Snap your fingers, or spirit us away or something?"

The angel responded by simply rolling his eyes. "Please, that's not at all why I'm here. You may not know it, but the boss is ALL about free will. If we start going around manipulating people into what we want done, or ordering them about, pulling the strings like some kind of cosmic puppet master, well, that's what we're fighting AGAINST, now isn't it..."

The young woman shook her head, almost as if trying to shake loose what she had just heard. "You mean, you're just going to leave us here for that sociopathic witch to come back...

"Not a witch. Completely wrong approach to both personal ethics as well as her actual proficiency." The angel reached into the inside of his jacket and pulled forth a small, bone handled knife, the blade of which was less than two inches long. "But, back to free will," he said as he leaned against one of the heavy pieces of furniture which decorated the room and began to clean under his nails with the tip. "Take for example this situation... You three chose to go on your little trip. You chose to sneak out and go clubbing, making sure that nobody followed you. Since you chose to have a wild night out and dance like there's no tomorrow, you went to the club where the Countess was watching. She chose to take advantage of the situation of a Slayer and a Fey falling into her lap. You, you're just a free bonus to her... Or at least, that's what she thinks. And, thanks to the wards that your hostess chose to put on her vehicles and on the estate here, not even your fold coms will reveal your location."

"Ok, so it's all about choice. Great, I get it... And so, what, now you're choosing to just leave us here to die?"

"Nope. See, unfortunately, free will is all about mortals. Take your hostess for example... She chose to entertain some of mankind's more base desires, tying that knowledge to ancient mystical arts. I don't suppose you've heard the phrase, Blood shall tell? Well, not only has the good Countess heard that phrase, she's decided to live by it, and she's done her best to pry every single secret she can out of the blood."

"You know, you have choices, options laid out before you? Just like everyone else, the rest of humanity, most sentient beings in fact. You have the same choices that Elizabeth has had. But, and this is where the irony of this whole situation comes into play, you have so much more, if you decide to walk that path."

Metatron paused, looking a Dawn for a moment, then turning his gaze to Faith and Jacks. "That's why she couldn't resist those two... The power of their blood. She craves it, because, her own, has nothing in it, not anymore. She sips on what she sees as fine lineages, like premier wines, other times, she'll gorge herself on raw power, using it for whatever whim strikes her fancy." He shifted his gaze back to the young brunette standing before him. "But, you know what? She missed what was right before her. She chose to look beyond that which she could not see, to that which she thought was calling to her the loudest."

"Fine, great," said Dawn. "Not that I don't appreciate all the answers you're not giving me, but how do I wake them up and get us the hell out of here!"

"As I said, the answers you need, to deal with the problem you're facing right now, the answer to the questions and problems you're going to face, throughout your life... The Secret is in the Blood. But, as you are given an opportunity to learn a secret, any secret, that you are both willing and able to pay the price that comes attached. And, Miss Summers, I can assure you, the price for this secret, it is a heavy one." His voice softened a bit. "I'm sorry that you're going to have to pay it, assuming that you and your friends make it through this. It is a heavy price, and one that will strain you more than you could imagine. But you have it in you, to be able to handle this, and almost anything else life throws at you. If you do decide that you're willing to look at the unknown, peel back the veil and look at what's on the other side, you tell Xander it's time for you to be told the truth. The entire truth. That I said it was time, and that it's your choice, your decision to know for yourself."

The angel who had stood at the birth of reality, given knowledge, and extracted the price, throughout all of eternity, looked at the young woman he stood before. "Whatever you do, know that it's the right thing. But, you must decide quickly, because you don't have a lot of time before, one way or another, a turning point in your life, this time around, at least, comes walking through that door..." He gestured at the doorway, covered in material, which the Countess had left through.

Dawn turned her head, looking where the angel had gestured. When she looked back, Metatron was gone.

Sitting alone in a well furnished office, the woman known to Dawn as Countess Elizabeth was acting more like a business owner arranging shipping of product than a person who had kidnapped three young women and was holding them prisoner before their eventual exsanguinations. Which, to her mind, was exactly what was going on.

"Yes, that's right, I need the jet serviced and all customs matters prearranged, in order to transport two packages." She paused for a moment, idly picking up the vial of blood on her desk and holding it up to the light. "I'll also need secure seating on board for a third, who will be traveling with me in the cabin." The person on the other end of the phone was apparently speaking for a moment, as Elizabeth listened. "No, the other two will be in the cargo hold. But the third, I do believe I want with me, assuming she makes it to the airport intact. There's something about her that I find appealing... And since that dreadful incident in Venice that cost me the services of Irina, I've found myself in need of a new companion." Another pause. "No, I believe that if she makes it to the chalet alive, that I'll enjoy training her myself. But, right now, that's still an undecided issue. In the meantime, please instruct the appropriate individuals to make sure two of the holding cells, appropriate for extremely potent and powerful donors, are prepared." Another pause. "Well, have them disposed of... They're just children... Easy enough to replace for a few dollars if need be. Do I need to walk you through every detail myself? I thought not... Now, inform me when the travel arrangements have been finalized."

Hanging up the phone, she sighed. The loss of her assistant recently had been an extreme nuisance. Not only had she lost a quite competent assistant, she had also lost a playmate who enjoyed serving her own needs, as well as being able to put on a show with some of the lower quality 'volunteers' she came across.

But, as hard as good help was to find, the woman had been pressuring more and more to learn the Arts. And, that was not something Elizabeth was willing to do. Perhaps her demise would turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Although it would have been far more enjoyable to deal with her assistant personally, and in a prolonged and imaginative fashion. "Well," she mused. "There's always the future ..." She smiled and raised the goblet to her lips, the dark liquid heavy inside.

Dawn sat on the edge of the reclined couch she had first woken up on, her head in her hands, as the events of the past few minutes ran through her head.

'Ok,' she thought to herself. 'Let's get past the whole 'I had an Angel, and not just ANY angel, but the supposed voice of God himself, come down to have a little chat with me', cause, THAT alone isn't going to cause me to freak out, no not at all...' She shook her head. 'Come on Dawn, this is NOT the time to lose it. Now, there's a way out of here... There's got to be a way..." She rolled the entire conversation around in her head, focusing on it to the point she wasn't paying attention to her surroundings.

A voice from the doorway jolted her from her ponderings. "Time for you to say goodbye to your friends, little one."

Dawn's head jerked towards the sound of the voice, letting her see the Countess standing in the doorway. Coming to her feet, she looked at the older woman, fire in her eyes. "What are you going to do to us?" demanded the Key made flesh.

Elizabeth smiled as she walked towards Dawn. "Your friends, Jacks and Faith, was it? Well, let's just say that there have been arrangements made for them, and you need not worry your pretty little head about them. If you are lucky, you'll be able to remember them as they are now. And, if not, well, then their fate won't be any concern of yours anymore."

"I won't let you touch them," declared Dawn defiantly.

The older woman looked at her young 'guest', the smile fading from her face, but a certain sparkle taking it's place in her eyes. "Well, it looks like it time to begin breaking you of certain bad habits that simply will NOT do." With the speed of a striking snake, the older woman's hand and arm lashed out, hitting Dawn across the face and jaw. The impact of it drove the teen to the floor. "Now, let us be clear. You are in no position to make demands, or even requests, at this time. You will do as you are told, or you will suffer for as long as I am entertained by you and your pain. The appropriate answer is 'Yes, Countess', by the way..."

Dawn blinked, clearing the stars from her vision. The cold pressure of the floor against her face helped, although she knew that there was going to be one hell of a bruise there. 'Bitch hits like a vamp,' thought Dawn. 'Damn that hurt!'

"On your feet, little one..." ordered the Countess.

Shakily, the young woman complied.

"Now, do we have any more questions regarding your position before me?" asked Elizabeth, the tone of her voice sounding like she was discussing the weather outside, rather than the enforced subservience of another person.

Dawn met her eyes, defiance shining in her eyes. Then, without blinking, she spit in the Countesses face.

Ever so calmly, Elizabeth pulled a silken cloth from her jacket, wiping the spittle away, then placed it once again in the pocket. Then, Elizabeth cracked Dawn across the face again, this time from the other direction. The force of the impact split Dawn's lip, and again knocked her to the floor.

Dawn was stunned by the force of the impact. Then, before she could do anything, the young woman felt a massive pressure on the back of her neck, as Elizabeth pressed a Dolce Vita boot into Dawn's neck. "Now, as I was saying while you were attempting to find your bearings. You will now do as I say, when I say, or there will be consequences. You are no longer some loutish American brat, instead, you are now mine, and you will behave appropriately, one way or another, are we clear?"

"Yes... Yes... I'm sorry," cried Dawn, as the pressure and instinctual reaction to something pressing into the back of her neck brought survival responses to the forefront.

The pressure on her neck vanished as Elizabeth removed her boot. "Not that I believe for a moment that you are going to give in that easily... Nor, do I hope you do... I so look forward to... Correcting... your behavior... Now, stand and face me, moppet."

Standing, Dawn came face to face with her captor, who brought a hand up and traced the curve of the younger woman's cheek. "Oh yes, you'll do nicely... Once you're taught to heel. Something I greatly look forward to teaching you."

Dawn lashed out with a quick punch, but before it could connect, her fist was caught, and her own energy used against her as the Countess redirected the blow, twisting it around, causing Dawn to spin, and then wince as her arm was forced up behind her back. Then, Elizabeth grabbed Dawn's silken hair, close to the scalp, and pulled back hard.

Dawn yelped as her head was forced back by the pressure, feeling her captor adjust her grip so that her pined arm, and the handful of hair were both being held by the same hand.

Her head was turned slightly to the side, as the taller woman dragged her nails across Dawn's face, scraping the young woman's soft skin and leaving red lines across it... "You may as well say goodbye to your friends, for this..."

Dawn cut her off by twisting her head, which hurt due to her hair being pulled, and then bit down hard on the hand as it got close to her mouth.

Yanking her arm away, Elizabeth took the opportunity to cuff Dawn upside the head, her fist closed tight, and then shoved the young woman away and downwards.

The time twisted youngster stumbled, and then fell, as her equilibrium was off from the blow, and again, she fell to the ground.

Gathering herself, her mind frantically racing, trying to come up with a way out of this nightmare, trying to keep control of her body away from the lizard brain which governed flight or fight reactions, Dawn heard the woman continuing to speak, but, then, her eyes focused on something underneath the couch which was only inches in front of her face.

With an internal thought of 'So much for not interfering', Dawn's hand reached under the edge of the settee, her fingers closing around the one thing that she hoped might possibly be her salvation.

Nervously, Dawn shifted her weight and began to stand, making sure to keep her hand angled to keep the item within concealed. 'Please,' she prayed silently as she stood. 'If I fuck this up, Jacks and Faith are toast, and I'm thinking they'll be a hell of a lot luckier than I'll be...'

"Now, moppet, how much more of this will it take before you realize that you, and your friends," her eyes drifted towards Jacks and Faith, laying deathly still, "are now mine?"

Dawn struck as Elizabeth's gaze was averted, her right hand swinging around, a glittering blade visible as she swung upwards, aiming for the woman's eyes.

But, despite the viciousness of Dawn's attack, the Countess was far more than she appeared, and as such was almost able to sway back from the surprise attack.


As Dawn finished the follow through, Elizabeth stumbled back, a result of the combination of surprise from the assault itself, and more shockingly, the fact that Dawn had actually managed to wound her.

As her captor stumbled back, Dawn reached down and sliced through the silken cord which had restricted her movement, leaving about four inches of it dangling from the cuff which was still woven around her ankle.

"How did... You had no weapon on you, much less something capable of penetrating my defenses..." proclaimed the older woman.

"Guess I've got a meddling angel watching over me... Now, come on, blondie!" mocked Dawn. "Come at me again, so I can give you a matching gash on your other cheek!"

The blonde reached up, her fingers dabbing against the wound Dawn had inflicted upon her. Pulling her hand back, she looked at the blood which covered them. "Why you little..." Elizabeth stalked in again, and as she did so, Dawn swung again.

This time though, the Countess was ready, and countered the attack. Striking with the knife edge of her palm, the older woman hit Dawn hard on the wrist. The strike numbed Dawn's hand and caused the small knife to fly free.

Dawn watched in horror as it hit the floor and skittered away from her.

But the horror was wiped from her face as a savage blow rocked her head to the side, sending her spinning.

But, instead of stopping when she hit the floor, Dawn dropped into a shoulder roll, the words of Master Caine echoing in her mind. 'One who does not flow with the world, while in conflict, will come to a stop. And to stop, is to surrender to your opponent's initiative.'

Rolling to her feet, Dawn then continued with a fluidic leap, tucking her legs up as she passed over Faith's prone form, as she put the couch the Slayer lay unconscious upon between herself and the Countess as she moved for the blade she had lost.

Slapping her hands on the floor, she rolled forward, skidding to a stop. Her right hand slid under the edge of a bureau, searching for the knife.

Instead, she gasped in pain as the palm of her hand was sliced open by the blade, jammed in place, but pointed towards her, as she pushed her arm forward.

Feeling the blood welling up, she more carefully felt along the metal until she found the hilt.

Just as she was starting to close her fingers around it, Dawn found herself being jerked backwards by an inhuman force. Looking back, she saw nothing touching her, but yet she was sliding away from the knife.

Dawn clawed at the floor for a moment, leaving a bloody trail behind as she slid. Twisting around, the nearly panicking young woman saw her captor standing there, moving her hands through the air as if she was pulling a rope in. With each motion, Dawn could feel the silken band around her ankle being pulled on, as if it was being pulled by the motions.

Once Dawn was halfway between her original position and the Countess, older woman stopped her movements. "I'm starting to wonder if you're not more trouble than you're worth, moppet..." She took a step to the side, coming within reach of Faith's reposed, still form. "I think that the easy, quiet passing that your friends would have been given, is going to be a lot more painful. They will die, cursing your name, and I'll make sure you see and hear, every second. And then, when I'm done with them, then I'll turn my attentions to you, pet. You'll scream, first begging for it to stop, and then, by the time I'm done, you'll be begging for my touch..." She smiled, and despite her beauty, this smile was not pretty at all. "And then, after all that, the real fun will begin...."

She reached down, pressing a sharpened fingernail into Faith's carotid, until the skin was close to breaking.

Dawn screamed out "No!", and something inside of her snapped as she threw out her hand. A pale red wave of energy arced out of the young woman's hand, droplets of blood moving along with it, as it crossed the space, slamming into her captor's body.

Elizabeth was lifted from the floor and flung across the room, where she slammed into the far wall and then landed on the floor.

Dawn looked at her hand in disbelief. With each beat of her heart, a little more blood flowed from the deep wound. The pulsing rhythm of it was practically entrancing, as her blood flowed out.

But, as she watched the red liquid flow from her palm, something clicked in Dawn's head, and Metatron's words suddenly crystallized into perfect clarity.

The Secret was in the Blood.


Her Blood...

Right or wrong, she knew... Well, knew might be too strong a word... Believed, because her life, and the lives of her friends depending on her being right.

Yet even as she was contemplating all of this at the speed of thought, across the room, the older woman was recovering her footing from the three point stance she had landed in.

"My, my..." said the Countess as she reached behind her back, pulling out a wicked looking athame. The waved blade seemed to practically quiver in the older woman's hand, almost as if it hungered for Dawn's blood. She began to stalk back across the room, speaking as she moved. "It seems as if..."

Dawn, closed her eyes for a moment, a moment of silent prayer, and then, with all of her being, all of her belief, flung out her hand again towards her captor, trying to recreate that first blast of power.

But, this time, the arc of energy was far weaker, and a simple gesture by her opponent dissipated the attack as if it were nothing. Slightly panicking, Dawn moved, darting around the still form of Jacks, her blood dripping from her left hand as she tried to keep distance between herself and her foe. If she was lucky, maybe she'd be able to get to the knife, but in the mean time.... Dawn flung her hand again as she moved.

"It's over now," declared Elizabeth as she nullified Dawn's third attack. "Perhaps I misjudged just how sweet you would taste. And, how such a trollop as you would be able to tap into the power of the blood, well, that's a secret I will so enjoy prying out of you."

"Oh, I'm just full of surprises!" Dawn quipped, as she realized her options were rapidly dwindling. The bureau was only a dozen feet away. If she was lucky, she'd be able to push it to the side, using it as a shield and then grab the blade from underneath.

"That you are... And I'll enjoy spilling them all in order to examine them in depth. But, it doesn't matter, I've harvested dozens of blood mages in my time, and you don't even bear a Sigil. Without that, although the blood is so much sweeter, it means that you don't even know what it is you're playing with... And, time," announced the Countess, "is something that has run out for you, moppet!"

"Oh, somehow, I doubt that," came a pissed off voice from behind Elizabeth.

Spinning, the older woman came face to face with the second of her 'guests'.

The petite one, with the white hair, was no longer reclined and unresponsive on the settee, as she was supposed to be. Instead, she was standing there, the look on her face one of vengeance personified.

"But the..." started Elizabeth. "You can't!" The older woman looked at the runic marks, which had been drawn in blood on Jacks' forehead, cheeks, as well as her wrists and palms. Her face paled in horror as she realized that two of the runes, on Jacks' face and right arm, were no longer intact. Instead, an arc of blood, Dawn's blood, neatly bisected them, breaking the painstakingly drawn symbols, and in doing so, negating their worth.

Even as comprehension was dawning on the Countess, Jacks began to channel her own energy. Her feet lifted from the ground, as she began to float, and her white hair seemed to take on a life of her own, flaring out from her face and head like the corona of a star.

Knowing when she was overmatched, and the power radiating off the white haired woman left no doubt in her mind, decided that it was time to cut her losses.

Using the athame in her right hand, Elizabeth quickly brought the blade across her left arm, opening a deep gash. Then, switching the blade to her left hand, she yanked an elegantly filigreed locket from her neck, pulling the chain free as well, and smeared it with the blood.

The gold tracing of the jewelry turned red, as the blood was pulled into it, almost greedily. Then, for a split second it began to glow, and then, in a blinding flash of light, the woman was gone.

The two remaining figures stood there for a moment, staring at the spot where their kidnapper had vanished from.

Jacks looked at Dawn, a faint smile on her face. "Well, I can't say that I'm disappointed..."

And with that, the white haired Fey collapsed to the ground.

Secrets Will Out

Faith kept an impatient watch at the door, rubbing absently at one of her wrists. If asked, the dark haired Slayer would insist that she could still feel the cold press of those sissy-ass looking chains that had been there even after Dawn had pulled them off. She glanced over her shoulder to check up on her 'sisters'.

Dawn was bleeding. Dawn was not supposed to be bleeding. Dawn bleeding meant that Dawn had gotten hurt. Dawn was not supposed to get hurt.

Faith cut that line of thought off quickly before she turned into Buffy in Freak Out Over Protective Mode.

Jacks carefully cast the spells that would heal the cut on Dawn's hand. She was slower and more methodical than she normally was, but she was still somewhat drained from the sigals and glifs used to contain her. And quite frankly, healing magic wasn't something that came easily to her. Mostly she was going slowly because she was following the directions Kaina'tal was whispering in her mind.

"We gotta tell Xan-man about this shit," Faith said once Jacks had finished her bit with the herbs and half-mumbled rhyming chants. "This bitch is cold."

"Selfish, self-serving, vain and arrogant," Jacks agreed. "I doubt she's the sort to let it go at this."

Dawn shook her head. "Not yet." She took a deep breath and stared at the fading scar on her hand. "I'm not ready for anyone else to know just yet."

"I can shield your new talent," Jacks said slowly, almost hesitating over the last word. She shook off what Dawn recognized was a memory before she continued. "For a while anyway. I can even teach you to use it. This," Jacks paused to tap the silver and white gold bracelet Dawn never took off, "should keep her from tracking you magically in any case."

Faith took a deep breath. "If Pixie-sticks is willing to keep what's the what from Xander, then I guess I can keep it quiet too. But we gotta tell him eventually." She offered up some semblance of her usual wicked grin. "Just let me be there when B finds out."

"You're on," Dawn managed with a weak smile of her own.

"Let's get out of here," Jacks muttered as she stood up carefully. She summoned Kaina'tal to her hand. Her eyes narrowed at the small knife Dawn tucked into her belt as if the young girl was unaware of the motion. "You know I'm not happy about this."

"I know ... and we'll tell him," the youngest said softly. "Just ... not yet."

Faith scrubbed a hand through her hair. "Soon."

"Yeah," Dawn swallowed hard. "Soon."

Jacks refrained from mentioning that not telling Xander was the least of the things she was unhappy about. Kaina'tal snapped out to her full form as Jacks lead the way out of the extravagantly apointed prision cell.

"You're running late," Maria said flatly as the three apparently younger women hurried on board.

Faith grinned ferally, for all that it didn't show in her eyes. "We partied hard."

Jacks sighed and tamped down hard on a surge of magic. Having spent so much time on the Hellmouth and then leaving it must be what was playing merry havoc with her control. No matter how much she wished for the other cause to be true.

"You're late," Xander said cheerfully as the trio opted to just sprawl out on the deck, well out of the way.

"We were up much later than planned," Jacks admitted. She yawned and let her magic transform the clubbing outfits into more practical shorts and shirts, a halter top in Faith's case.

Xander shook his head. "So much for relaxing."

It was well past midnight when the white haired witch sensed the slight tremble of power.

"I should pluck you bald, Voice," Jacks said calmly, not even opening her eyes from her meditation as the figure of Le Metatron simply appeared behind her.

"Oh? Yes, you do have that habit when winged persons annoy you," Metatron mused. "Well, when they have feathers at anyrate."

Jacks finally opened her eyes with a whisper of a sigh. "I was going to teach her magic anyway, as you very well know. But not Blood Magic."

"The Will and the Word is not where her strongest potential lay, Jacqueline ... as you very well know," Metatron pointed out. "Although I suspect she may have a talent for brewing potions."

"The direction of ones strongest potential is not always the direction that one should take." The half-fey flowed to her feet, still staring out over the night blackened waters of the Caribbean. "Power is Power, but some powers are darker than others. No matter how good the wielder's intentions."

"You can't protect her forever. Regardless of who she reminds you of."

Jacks turned with a retort ready on her lips, Dawn wasn't Doe Leaps the River, only to find Le Metatron gone far more silently than he'd arrived. Jacks bit back the urge to sigh again. Doe Leaps the River had found her way to the path of Blood Magic as well, and Jacks had lost her truest friend. Two hundred eighty years later it still hurt. But Dawn wasn't Doe Leaps the River. Dawn was stronger willed, more focused.

And maybe, that is what worried Jacks the most.

From outside the windows of the tastefully decorated office, the snow covered slopes of the Carpathian mountains provided a picturesque backdrop for the woman who sat behind the desk to watch.

But, today, like most days, the landscape was the furthest thing from her mind, as she slid the headset on and began to dial. When the other party answered, she was silent for a moment, waiting for the initial greeting to conclude before she spoke.

"Yes, this is Countess Erzabeth Bathori... I have a project I wish to coordinate through Wolfram and Hart. Please connect me through to the Projects Manager who oversees my Account. Yes, I will hold..." As she waited, her hand rose to touch her unblemished face, almost as if remembering something.

Several moments passed before she spoke again.

"Yes, this is she... Now, as I told your receptionist, I have a project I need. Rather mundane this time, but I need three young women identified, with only extremely vague information." She picked up a small item from her desk. "I believe the three of them are friends. Of course, the first is approximately eighteen, from California in the States." She rolled the small vial of blood between her fingers, before swiveling her chair and holding it up to the light. "She has brown hair, blue eyes... First name of Dawn..."

The End


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