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Dawn Summers was not a slayer.

For all the good that did her.

It wasn’t like anybody cut her any slack because of it. “Oh, look! No super strength. I guess you better hang out at the mall while we patrol!” Oh, no. She was still here in the dark, in the snotty Seattle rain, hunting stray demons like everybody else. Her shoes were all gummy, and she would never get that purple goop out of her hair.

A patrol car eased onto the street in front of her, light bar dark, and she tucked her sword into the folds of her duster. She would also never live it down if she got arrested.

Like a lot of cities, Seattle had a shiny new Hellmouth, and they needed every last body—warm or cold—to get it under control. These were Vi’s old stomping grounds, so she took point. Geoff walked beside her, a shade too easy in the urban night to be as harmless as he looked.

You could hardly tell he was a vampire.

“How are they doing?” Buffy slid into the empty space on her left without disturbing the air. She didn’t look harmless. She looked like a blade in human form, all gleam and polished edges. Deadly. Dawn added ‘Call Harmony’ to her mental to-do list. Some time away might be in order. Maybe for both of them.

“He’s a dweeb,” she said, just loud enough for Geoff to hear, and grinned when he flipped her off without turning around. She wasn’t a slayer. She didn’t have their wired-in antipathy for vampires. To her, they were just people with bad teeth and weird diets. “I like him.”

“But?” Buffy lagged a little and lowered her voice.

“I think he’s about to try something stupid.” She matched Buffy’s undertone and blunted her consonants. Vampire hearing made gossip tricky.

“What?” Dawn let her gaze rest on Vi’s back meaningfully, and Buffy’s eyes widened. “Oh. Wow. I guess that’s....” That flash of humanity subsided in a heartbeat, and then The Slayer was back. “That’s her problem. How do they look?”

“You know how they look.” Like you and Spike.

Buffy nodded, lips bloodless as a gash in the belly of a starving vampire. “And they’re fighting as a unit? Not getting in each other’s way?”

“Buffy.” Dawn stopped her, pulled her up short with a hand on her shoulder. She wasn’t a slayer, but she wasn’t quite human, either, and she was tough as hell. Maybe literally. “They’re seamless. You threw them at each other, and they stuck. Congratulations.”

“Oh.” That sound was too pitiful to have come out of Buffy the Legendary, larger than life in kevlar-lined leather, brown hair buzzed into a high and tight that hollowed her yellow eyes.

Vampire yellow. Maybe nobody else had noticed that, but Dawn had.

For the people around them, only four years had passed since the first Slayer Army socked Hell in the mouth, and everybody knew what happened—even the new girls. Spike the Nuclear Option was as much a legend as Buffy herself, and if Buffy still mourned her vampire...well, who had any right to judge?

But it hadn’t been four years. Not for Buffy. Not for Dawn. And that scared the hell out of her.