'Everything that isn't nailed down'
Author's Note: Okay, now for something a little different (for me, at least).
I know Buffy/Dawn isn't everybody's thing; it isn't necessarily *my* thing; it's just a story idea that occured to me in response to a challenge... so I'm writing it. And hey, in this story Dawn is sixteen, which is where Buffy was in Season One (and all of Season Two prior to 'Surprise/Innocence'), so cut the girl a little slack. At least her illicit romance will be with a living person... and within her generation.
Remember, all the fictional incest that follows is between fictional characters who are of the legal age of consent. Also? They're fictional.
The challenge for the story (posted by the awesome Fictional Femme) was this:
Most of you know the old cliche by now. Some alien artifact, superscience perfume, supernatural creature who feeds on sexuality, or a rare plant is discovered and suddenly everybody can't get enough of the sex'n! People who hate eachother, people who are 'just friends', even people who might be related ... they just can't seem to keep their hands off eachother anymore because of the stuff. They have to have someone, anyone right now!
Basically, I want porn with (not a plot necessarily but) a reason. Underlying emotions could be explored. Sexual fantasies can be revealed. Character development after the 'pollen' wears off would be great.
Of course, this being me, the minor bits of plot and character development have turned into a full-blown story. I do, however, intend to eventually get around to the naughty stuff.
One more time, I'll warn ya.
If you're squicked by that, well, I understand. Just move along, and I'll get back to writing some nice, wholesome Buffy/Faith fic soon.
Once upon a time, high atop a teetering tower made of junk, the world came to an end.
Or, well, maybe not the entire
world, just the only part of it that mattered.
A beautiful girl named Buffy jumped from that tower.
She leapt, without hesitation, into the seething energy of a dimensional rift, and sealed the bleeding wound in the many universes before it could destroy all reality.
It killed her. And in that moment the world ended.
* * * * *
"Here we go, right through here."
It was so strange, guiding Buffy down the hall like she didn't even know the way to her own bedroom. Strange, and at the moment, necessary. It wasn't so much that her sister didn't remember things like which door led to which room, it was more like she didn't trust
those memories... or anything else.
Dawn used her foot to sweep Buffy's dirty clothes out of the way so the girl wouldn't have to step on them; the very, very
dirty clothes that she'd taken off her sister earlier. It had been a nice outfit once, though now she planned to throw it in the garbage as soon as possible. It was, you know, sort of doubtful that Buffy would want to wear the clothes she'd been buried in ever again, even if they could somehow manage to get all the mud stains out. Stains that had come from having to dig her way up out of her own grave.
Buffy was standing, motionless, staring down at her funeral clothes with haunted eyes. Carefully, as if the Slayer were made of spun glass, Dawn took her by the shoulders and walked her through the doorway and over to the bed. She didn't turn on the light; she'd seen how the girl flinched away from anything bright.
"See?" She asked her sister quietly. Loud sounds seemed to hurt Buffy too, so she kept her voice as soft and reassuring as she could. "Your bed, just the same as it was, still waiting for you." Hoping she wouldn't have to explain why the Buffybot's recharging unit was sitting beside the nightstand, Dawn eased the tiny woman down until she was lying atop the sheets. When that was done she pulled the blanket up and tucked it in around her sister, and all the while, Buffy stared up at her.
That stare made the younger girl's heart ache. It wasn't a happy look, it wasn't a sad
look. It was....
She didn't really know what it was, but it wasn't anything she'd ever seen in Buffy's eyes before. It made her a little scared, and at the same time it made her want to sit down and cry.
"Buffy... are you okay?"
No answer, just that stare. Dawn forced a smile, though it came out very small and trembly. She reached out and touched the girl's hair, lightly, and tried not to notice how her sister tensed, and pulled away slightly.
"Get some sleep, then," Dawn whispered. "You'll feel better in the morning."
Long seconds passed, and then, after a visible struggle, Buffy forced herself to speak.
"...I'm tired," she said, the words barely audible.
That was it. That was all she had to offer. Dawn smiled again, nodded as if it had been a gushing declaration of happiness and joy at being back among the living; reunited with all the family she had left, and then stepped back.
"Okay then. Goodnight." She retreated to the door, stepped through and started to close it, then paused.
"I love you, Buffy. And I'm glad you're home."
Nothing. She saw those eyes watching her; green, and beautiful and empty, and there was nothing else. She closed the door, and picked up the muddy clothes, and headed downstairs to throw them away. Then she went to her room and cried.
* * * * *
Dawn's world ended, when Buffy died. In the days that followed, the one hundred and forty-eight nightmarish, agonizing, empty days that came after, she had plenty of time to fully grasp what she'd lost. Her sister, yes, though that was only the most obvious loss. As much as she'd loved Joyce, the woman had never truly been her mother.
Buffy was her mother. She was the center of everything in Dawn's life. And she'd been dead for one hundred and forty-eight days.
* * * * *
Dawn did her best to keep her voice light, and carefree, and oh-so-casually interested, despite the uneasy tension that gripped her every hour of every day. It shouldn't have been this way--if there was any kind of justice in the universe it wouldn't
have been this way... only it was. She had her sister back; her wildest hope and dream had come true, and it was very nearly more painful than if Buffy had never come back at all.
"Buffy? Hey, how're you doing over there?"
Like now, for example. Dawn looked at the older girl's back, where she stood at the kitchen counter. She'd apparently been making herself a sandwich or something, though now she was standing motionless as a statue. That was something that happened to her a lot, since she'd come back from the grave. She would be doing something, or talking, and then she would just stop, like a wind-up toy whose spring had run down. It woke a sort of quiet horror in Dawn to see her like that; it made her wonder if maybe her sister hadn't managed to make it all the way back from wherever she'd been, from whatever hell had claimed her after she'd sacrificed herself in place of a little sister who wasn't even really her sister
"Getting some food, huh?" That got no response at all. The Buffy-shaped object before her remained immobile and unaware. "Well," she chirped, forcing herself to be as cheerful a lil' Dawnie as she knew how to be, and walking up behind the other girl. "I hope you're making enough for both of us, otherwise I'm going to show you all the kung-fu moves I learned from 'The Matrix', and take away--"
She broke off with a gasp, when she reached the counter and saw what covered it.
A wide puddle of blood, which covered the slices of bread and cheese there, and went on to spill over the edge and down onto the floor. Buffy was just standing there, looking down at the knife she held, and at the deep gash in her finger. Her eyes held only the tiniest trace of interest, and not the least bit of concern.
"Buffy!" Dawn grabbed at her hand, checking the wound and trying not to step in the blood that was spattered around their feet. The wound had been deep; a sharp knife, backed by a Slayer's strength, meant that even a small slip could half-sever a finger. This had nearly done that--the girl would never have bled so much otherwise. Fortunately the bleeding had nearly stopped all by itself... while Buffy had stood there, and watched, and done nothing.
Dawn pulled her sister back from the counter, grabbing a dishtowel and wrapping it tightly around the girl's hand. Even now Buffy never reacted, never looked at her, she just stared at the bright crimson that covered her partially-completed sandwich like some grotesque new brand of ketchup.
"Buffy, what's the matter
with you?!" At some point all the quiet understanding and waiting for the older girl to find her balance in her own time had to stop, and Dawn was pretty much at that point right now. "What did you do
It came out louder than she'd meant, and with an edge of that strident, whining tone that everyone who knew her agreed was her worst trait. At least it finally got Buffy's attention, and she turned her head and met Dawn's gaze.
"I...." She stopped, thought about it, looked over at the counter, and then back at the younger girl. "I remembered liking... cheese? And I was getting some. Cheese." She shrugged then, and her wounded hand twitched slightly. "And then there was blood."
Looking around at the horrific scene, Dawn couldn't argue that
"I can see the blood. Why didn't you do anything?"
Buffy frowned, just a little.
Dawn was very close to uttering her most piercing, whiny, nails-on-a-chalkboard shriek, and she didn't even think that would be enough to get through to the girl before her.
! You know, like maybe wrapping up a cut instead of standing here staring
at it while you bleed to death!" Buffy looked at her, and then down at her hand.
Giving her sister an angry, frightened look, Dawn pulled the towel off, and saw that yes, the bleeding had indeed stopped.
"Sure, after you lost like, a quart of blood it stopped." She paused, took a deep breath, and went on in a slightly less-shrill tone. "Buffy, why didn't you say anything?" If Dawn had suffered a wound like the one the other girl had received, the scream would have been audible blocks away. "I mean... didn't it hurt? A lot
All that got her was that faintly terrifying, empty jade stare.
"It hurt," Buffy said, into the silence of the room. "Everything here hurts. What difference does a cut on my finger make?"
* * * * *
It all came down to blood.
When the monks had started their little 'project', they had nothing except a ball of energy that had been around since the beginning of the universe. It was a powerful, utterly inhuman thing, and they needed to give it human form. To do that, they'd used a tiny bit of blood, of Buffy's blood. Dawn had no idea how they'd gotten it (though it probably hadn't been hard; the Slayer had left plenty of it scattered around Sunnydale these last few years). Once they had it, they'd used it to shape the mystical artifact that was the Key. A little tweak here and there had prevented her from turning out as an identical twin--even the huge memory-altering spell that came next would have been hard-pressed to deal with the ramifications of that. Even so, the connection between the two girls was like that of twins in many ways. It had
to be a close bond, because it was the only way Dawn could have survived her transformation.
The Key, after all, was an object, a thing. It was not, nor had it ever been, alive. There was no consciousness there, no will to live, and most importantly, there was no soul. All of those things she got from her bond with Buffy. That was why she thought of the girl as her mother, because it was the Slayer who had sustained her very existence until she was strong enough to survive on her own.
The monks had filled in the blank slate of her memory, but it was Buffy who had, all unknowing, given her everything else.
* * * * *
"--special on the healing crystals today! Thirty percent off of any rose quartz with a purchase of fifty dollars or more; what a bargain that is, you lucky shopper you!"
Anya's spiel was much less engaging after the twentieth repetition or so, and Dawn was seriously considering using some wax from the 'genuine voodoo candles' to plug up her ears so she wouldn't have to listen any more. Xander, Willow and Tara seemed to have a higher tolerance; or maybe it was just that they had interesting things to discuss, which served to block the sound of the woman's relentless shilling of her store's products.
"Great work, killing that demon hitchhiker thing, Buff," Xander was saying. "And might I say, it's nice to see you've still got those Slayer moves; miss evil ghosty from the great beyond never had a chance once the Buffinator got all medieval on her butt!"
Buffy nodded, and smiled obediently, though it seemed that Dawn was the only one who saw how hollow that smile really was.
"Yeah, you were amazing," added Willow. "With that nasty little, um, 'side effect' out of the way, that pretty much makes the spell we used to bring you back a done deal." She reached out and patted the Slayer on the hand reassuringly. "No need to worry about anything ever canceling it, or reversing it now; without something like that demon throwing things out of whack, it's basically as solid as any other part of the framework that makes up the mystical structure of the multiverse. Plus, with the countercurrent entropy effect you get with really high-order spells, the more time that passes the stronger it'll get! And there's even all sorts of... other... things...."
She had noticed that everyone's eyes were glazing over, and so she cut her enthusiastic rambling short, though not without a disgruntled sigh.
"Sure, be that way. Just let ol' Willow worry about how all this magic works, no need to bother understanding any of it yourselves."
Xander grinned as he picked up his foam cup of steaming coffee.
"Hey, Wil; I basically got through all of high school by letting you be the one who understood everything. All I needed to know was where to find you, so I could copy your stuff before class."
Tara leaned over, and kissed the redheaded girl on the cheek softly.
"It's a good thing you're smart enough for all the rest of us," she told Willow. "Without you, we never would have been able to do the resurrection spell. We wouldn't have gotten Buffy back."
Willow all but glowed with the praise, and again, only Dawn, sitting at a smaller table off to the side with her algebra homework, seemed to notice that Buffy wasn't quite as pleased as everyone else. The blonde girl didn't smile at the witch; she stared at her, with eyes darkened by something that looked a lot like sullen anger. A moment later the expression was wiped away, and Buffy made some breezy comment about Willow's genius apparently not extending to doing housework... and the words hardly sounded forced at all.
Not unless you were listening carefully.
Dawn frowned, the knot in her stomach making her a little queasy. Getting up to stretch her legs, she wandered around the shop, watched the occasional customer, noticed that someone had accidentally left their keys by the register while paying for their purchase... and slipped them into her pocket.
Not because she planned on stealing their car or anything, it was more that, well, taking things seemed like a perfectly natural thing to do. There was such a huge, empty place in her life, the place where her sister used to be, and the version of Buffy that had come back wasn't exactly going out of her way to fill that place. So Dawn took things, and hoarded them, and hoped that if she accumulated enough random objects then sooner or later that emptiness would be filled.
So far it wasn't working. Maybe that just meant she wasn't trying hard enough.
Behind the counter was an old cardboard box of stuff that hadn't been sorted and priced yet; semi-strange, possibly magical items Giles had found at some estate sale. On top was a small book, with a green, pink and gold cover that seemed to be dusted with glitter. On impulse, Dawn took that too, casually strolling over and depositing it in her school bag.
She almost felt better after that; car keys were nothing--magic books on the other hand, were something she'd been taught to respect for as long as she could remember... though she really doubted that there was anything of actual interest in this one. Who would put something really magical in something that looked so pretty and, well... girly
* * * * *
It wasn't just the one time at the Magic Shoppe that she saw that look from her sister. Whenever the others were around; Xander, Anya, Tara, and most especially Willow, Buffy was having to force herself to act like nothing was wrong. She wasn't even that bad
at pretending, but Dawn could see through it. She saw the anger, the way the blonde girl drew even further back from the world, whenever she was around them.
The fact that she was the only one who could see it only made Dawn more certain that it was up to her, and her alone to get through to Buffy. To bring her the rest of the way back from wherever she was living now. It wouldn't be easy, it might not even be possible; she didn't care.
After all, it was her fault that Buffy had died in the first place.
* * * * *
"How about these?" Dawn held up the strappy heels, doing an eager little bouncy dance at the same time. "Can I get them, can I please please pleeeease?"
Buffy looked, blinked, and shook her head.
"This is school shopping, as in 'clothes to wear to school'. Those are definitely not
Dawn pouted, and she knew it was a fairly close copy of Buffy's own pout because she'd practiced it for hours after she saw how well it worked in helping the older girl get her way. No luck this time, though; her sister was already wandering away down the aisle, towards the bargain racks. Dawn sighed, considered the ultra-sexy shoes, and reluctantly decided that they were too big to fit into her purse. Putting them back, she moved on.
So far, the shopping trip wasn't going well. Firstly, of course, because she wasn't happy with any of the things Buffy was letting her buy. (or, more accurately, that Buffy was buying for
Secondly, though, and far more importantly, it wasn't going well because the two of them weren't connecting the way Dawn had hoped they would. Seriously, given the older girl's former obsession with clothes and shoes and all things girly-girl, she'd been sure that they would find all sorts of things to talk about. As it turned out, though... not so much. Even though passing days were turning to weeks, and providing a comforting distance between her time in the grave and the present, Buffy was still struggling to find more than bits and pieces of her old self.
She rarely smiled (unless it was that horrible, false, brittle smile she put on for the scoobies), and it was only after much nagging from Dawn that she'd started paying a little attention to her appearance again. At first she'd disdained any makeup at all, which left her looking washed-out and pale, besides being extremely un-Buffylike. Now she used enough to keep from looking like a ghost, and at least took the time to brush her hair, even if she usually just tied it back and then ignored it. More sisterly prodding had convinced her to leave it long (it had, somehow grown past the middle of her back while she was... gone... and was now making a serious bid to reach her waist). She did, however, stubbornly refuse to color it, which left that potentially gorgeous mane a drab, dirty brown-blonde.
It was a far cry from the playful, flirty, sexy girl Dawn remembered. The golden, ever-changing hair, and always perfect makeup were nowhere to be seen. There were no more short skirts, no more hip-hugger jeans or pink leather pants; no heels, or jewelry, or even bright colors.
It was almost as if Buffy had forgotten she was a girl at all. After a lifetime of adoring her older sister, and (secretly, of course) regarding her as the most stylish and beautiful person in the entire world, Dawn found this grim, frumpy, somehow asexual woman almost unrecognizable.
Whatever depression or trauma Buffy was suffering from, it seemed that not even a shopping trip was going to be able cure it.
If she really wanted to find a bright side (and she really did), then at least she could tell herself that Buffy wasn't angry at her. That quiet, lingering resentment that tinged her eyes and tugged at her mouth when she was around Willow and the others wasn't there when she was with Dawn... which had to be a good thing. On the other hand, that everpresent distance, and sense of isolation, was definitely still there.
For Dawn, who despite the best efforts of Xander, and Spike, and Tara didn't really have any connection to the world at all except for her sister, being ignored by Buffy was almost physically painful.
At this point she would even settle for a yelling and screaming, clawing and hair-pulling fight with her, if only it would make the other girl see her for five minutes, instead of staring past her like this.
"Here. Take these."
She'd caught up with Buffy, in the dreaded 'Bargain Racks of Doom', and the result was even worse than she'd imagined. Dull brown slacks, light beige blouse... with huge buttons covered in more beige. Throw in a cardboard box for her to carry and she would look like a delivery person.
"No. Buffy, no
All she got was another blouse shoved in her general direction, this one off-white, with long, narrow sleeves and a pocket that just screamed 'put your pocket protector and calculator here... nerd!'.
That was enough. It was more than enough, actually, and Dawn decided that there was no time like the present for that argument-slash-fight she'd been considering a few moments earlier.
"I'm thinking of getting breast implants."
A lie, that. Still, it was one practically guaranteed to provoke a response. She held her breath, waiting for the explosion, knowing it would come--heck, some random older lady two aisles over looked up in shock, and watched Buffy expectantly.
"Uh huh," Buffy murmured, flipping methodically through the hangers. "I've heard those are nice."
Dawn stared, eventually recovered, and closed her gaping mouth so abruptly her teeth clicked. The woman who'd overheard made a disgruntled sound, glared at Buffy and Dawn in turn, and moved off towards the housewares section. Refusing to give up without making a real go of it, she fired another volley.
"I started smoking while you were gone." Which wasn't a lie, exactly. She had
tried it, and had actually gone through almost half a pack before deciding it just wasn't for her. In the here and now, though, Buffy had finally turned her head and was looking at her; yay!
"That's a disgusting habit," she said, trying to sound like she actually cared... and not entirely succeeding. Dawn, encouraged by even a small reaction, kept going.
"No, it's not. I mean, yeah, when a guy does it, sure, disgusting. But when it's a sexy girl, it makes her look even sexier, and all... I don't know, elegant, and sophisticated... and stuff."
Buffy's faint frown grew slightly more visible, and she shook her head.
"No, it doesn't."
Dawn was caught between happiness and frustration. She was finally--finally
--getting a reaction, yes, just not much of a reaction. Feeling a little reckless, and yes, a little desperate at this point, she decided to go for broke and break out the big guns.
"How about Faith? Can you really say that she didn't look crazy-sexy when she was smoking, with that whole dark and dangerous vibe she had?"
Buffy stared at her, and for once it wasn't a blank stare. It was a little shocked, and a little guilty, and oh-my-god she was actually blushing just the teeniest bit!
"Faith isn't any kind of role-model, Dawn."
The younger girl grinned gleefully.
"But you're not denying that you think she's totally hot."
Looking away, Buffy fumbled with a jacket marked fifty percent off.
"Faith is evil."
Dawn sat the stack of horrible clothes down on a convenient table so that she could wave her arms for emphasis.
"There's evil, and then there's wicked. Faith? Definitely wicked. I mean, come on! I remember
, Buffy! I remember the way she looked at you, and the way you pretended not to notice until she was busy with something, and then you would totally be checking her out too!" She blew out a gusty breath in her exasperation. "Besides, Faith never did anything evil around me, except make me jealous because of all the attention she got from you. I remember how upset I was when I heard that she snuck in that kiss, when you never--"
"No," Buffy said, interrupting her. Dawn paused, a little confused, and tried to figure out what she meant.
"Huh? 'No' what?"
"No, you don't remember," her sister told her flatly. "You weren't there, Dawn. Anything you think you saw isn't real. You've never even seen Faith, not really. All those memories are lies."
If Buffy had punched her, full strength, right in the belly, it couldn't have hurt Dawn any more than those words. She stared, stunned, and the other girl stared right back. Distant. Uncaring. Unreachable. Taking a slow, quivering breath, Dawn tried to hold herself together.
"I thought I remembered having a sister," she said, hating the way her voice shook. "I thought I remembered her loving me. Guess that was a lie too."
She turned and walked away, reaching out as she passed and sweeping the awful clothes off into the floor. Buffy could have called after her; there was plenty of time for her to say she was sorry, that she hadn't meant what she'd said.
She didn't; there was nothing at all, and Dawn had to hurry her steps so that she could make it outside before she fell apart.
* * * * *
Waking up in the middle of the night, lonely and scared, wasn't a new thing for her. She'd done it the first night of her life, just over a year ago, and she'd done it a couple of hundred times since. It wasn't something that was supposed to happen; the memories she had of her supposed childhood didn't include anything like her little episodes. That only served to prove that the monks hadn't known everything. They hadn't, for example, known that somewhere, deep down inside, Dawn would remember the time before she was alive.
Eons of drifting, of floating between universes, of passing like a ghost through world after world, dimension after dimension. After all, to the Key, the barriers that divided the multiverse into separate places and times were meaningless.
Then it was trapped, caught, contained, and millennia passed with its energies confined by massively powerful spells. It was only an object of course; a self-sustaining orb of exotic mystical forces. There had been no pain inflicted by this imprisonment, and it had felt neither crushing boredom nor a burning desire to be set free.
It was only much later that Dawn relived the echoes of that time, and woke in the middle of the night, and shivered in terror as she imagined the walls of her room closing in on her, or that the door and window had disappeared, leaving her trapped.
* * * * *
"Buffy?" She knew she sounded like a frightened five-year-old; knew it, and didn't care. Dawn shuffled forward another half-step in her fuzzy slippers and pushed the door a little wider. "Buffy, are you awake? I had a, um, a nightmare. Can I...?"
She stopped there. It was asking a lot, she knew; the uncaring, ice-cold person Buffy had become wasn't likely to let her pretend little sister crawl under the blankets with her just because she'd had a bad dream. Despite herself, Dawn found herself half-wishing it was the BuffyBot lying there, and not the real Buffy. The machine might have been as fake as the Key's current form, but at least she was warm, and friendly, and perfectly willing to let a scared girl curl up next to her at night while she was recharging.
"Buffy?" No answer, though it wasn't because her sister was ignoring her. In the dim light from the hallway, she saw the Slayer's tiny form tossing and turning on the bed as Buffy struggled silently against her own nightly terrors. Hesitantly, Dawn moved forward, wondering what she should do. The overwhelming temptation was to slip into the bed, and wrap her arms around the blonde girl, and hold her until the nightmare had passed. Of course there were drawbacks to that plan... as was proven a moment later, when Buffy cried out softly, made a convulsive movement, and tore the sheets and blanket that covered her to shreds with no effort at all.
"Um, nope, not doing that," Dawn told herself. "There's less painful ways to win a free trip to the hospital, thanks." She looked around, located the shelf holding the small collection of old stuffed animals from when Buffy was a little girl, and picked one up.
"Buffy, wake up," she whispered loudly. There was no danger of waking up Tara and Willow in the next room, because they were both off visiting a new coven that had started up over in Meridian. There was some kind of full-moon festival tonight; an Esbat, or Sabbat, or Pasat... she couldn't remember exactly. So she tried calling out again, louder. "Buffy!" More tossing, turning, and a dainty, flailing fist put a not-so-dainty hole in the wall next to the bed. Dawn shrugged, leaned back, and chucked the stuffed penguin at the sleeping girl as hard as she could.
It missed, of course; it was no gender-based insult to say that Dawn threw like a girl, because she did.
Like a wussy girl, that is, not a coordinated, athletic kind of girl.
She tried again, with the fluffy little lion, missed again, and finally managed to score with a flung pig. Mr. Gordo smacked Buffy right in the nose, which made the girl jackknife upright in a scary-fast movement. Dawn gave a little squeak, dropped the stuffed bear that had been next up on the firing line, and raised both hands in surrender.
"Whoa, peace, take it easy." Buffy looked at her, then around at the animals scattered on and around the bed, then back at Dawn.
"What are you doing in here?" She was angry; angry and not bothering to hide it, though her voice was still flat and distant.
"You were having a nightmare. I mean, it looked
like you were, anyway, so I thought you'd rather I woke you up than let you--"
"Okay. Fine." Buffy set the stuffed toys off into the floor, one by one, in a little line. She noticed the torn covers, and the hole in the wall, but she didn't comment on either. "Thanks. Now go back to bed."
Dawn nodded, though she fidgeted in place for a minute rather than leaving.
"I...." She took a breath, let it out, took another one, and then rushed on with it. "I had a bad dream too, so maybe I would understand if you sort of, um, wanted to talk about things that are bothering you? Because that's a sisterly thing to do, don't you think? Where we talk things over and get past the bad stuff and--"
Buffy raised a hand, and pointed at the door.
"The sisterly thing is leaving your sister alone so she can sleep. So go."
Dawn went, and wondered if maybe turning all cold and numb inside, like Buffy had, would be better than feeling this way, every day, every night.
* * * * *
Spells were not Dawn's friend.
It was, in fact, sort of universally accepted among the scoobies that Dawn was not, under any circumstances, allowed to read the spellbooks, to look at the spellbooks, or even to be within arm's length of the spellbooks.
Once, she'd accidentally blown up her end of the table just by speaking some random pig latin
while Tara had an open book within the Dawn threat-zone. Giles had not been amused.
There was apparently something about her, above and beyond her nearly supernatural clumsiness, that just didn't mesh well with human magic. The consensus was that it had to do with her Keyness; that the energies inside her conflicted with spells, and made them go all random and stuff. That kind of left the question of how those monks had managed to contain the Key using magic; maybe that was why only an ancient order of guys who had no social lives (and therefore tons of time to do research) had been able to do it.
Anyway, there were to be no spells for Dawn, ever. Which sort of hurt her chances of becoming a Watcher, since they were supposed to be mystical experts, and part of being an expert was the ability to do at least some
It sucked, and it wasn't fair, and it was what it was... darn it.
And then, one night when she'd just been kicked out of Buffy's room as repayment for saving her from a nightmare, Dawn finally got around to actually looking at a small, sparkly little book she'd stolen weeks before.
* * * * *
magic?" She glanced up, worried that she might have said that too loud. When no cranky Buffy appeared at her door she sighed in relief, shifted around to sit cross-legged amidst the fluffy pillows on her bed, and regarded the little book again. "Faerie magic. Okay, so does that mean spells that let you do faerie-type things, like, um, make toadstools grow in circles, and put people to sleep for twenty years at a time, or does it mean magic that only Faeries can do
She hadn't intended to do any reading of mystical tomes just then. Instead, she'd retreated to her room, and pulled the several old shoeboxes of stolen treasure from beneath her bed, and started sorting through it. Seeing all of her loot, holding it in her hands, and examining it; it usually worked as a way of calming down and regaining her balance after something bad had happened to her. Now, tonight, she'd been in dire need of calm and balance. And then she'd seen the book, the one she'd stolen from the Magic Box. Opening it up for the first time, she'd started reading, though the swirly, rune-like lettering made it slow going. The first thing she'd seen there was the title--'A Booke of Faerie Magick'. That's what had gotten her all jumpy and excited.
"Because maybe they're spells I can actually use!" she whispered to herself. "That would be so cool... 'cause then I could do stuff, instead of just sitting around being 'ignored girl'."
Her fingers felt slippery, or dusty, somehow, so she wiped them off before flipping through the pages. Inside, she saw lots more writing, along with some small, amazingly beautiful illustrations that reminded her of the Nene Thomas posters she had hanging on her wall. The faeries in the book were similar in that they were women of ethereal beauty, with long hair, gauzy clothes, and delicate wings. Unlike Thomas' depictions, however, the beings in the book seemed a little stranger, definitely less fond of cats and butterflies, and, um... sexier? Dawn frowned, and looked closer, and saw that yes, those semi-transparent gowns and dresses really did
show more than a hint of what was underneath.
Blushing furiously she flipped further through the book, and saw that it did indeed seem to list dozens of different spells. None of them seemed to require exotic ingredients, either... or any ingredients at all, really. Instead, it was mostly a question of just reading through the convoluted passages written there, although she did see repeated references about being 'worthy', and 'apt for the knowledge of the Fae'. She wiped her fingers off again, because they somehow kept getting some kind of powder or dust on them, and then turned back to the earliest pages.
"Hey, here's an easy one. 'To summon faerie light'." She nodded to herself. "I'll try this one; if I mess it up, it can't do too much damage, and if I actually get a light then I'll use it to... read this book?" She stopped, and looked up, and only then realized that she hadn't turned on the light in her room when she came back in from waking Buffy. The little nightlight by her bed had been enough to see by when she was pulling out her stolen hoard, and she'd been too excited by the discovery of the book to think about needing more light. Looking down at the open tome (if something no larger than her hand could even be called a 'tome'), she saw that the pages themselves had a faint glow to them, and the writing too. Although, when she looked more closely, she noticed that the 'light' cast no shadows, and did not illuminate her hand, or anything else she held up to it.
"It's more like... my eyes are acting different? Like I'm seeing some weird stuff that isn't really light at all?" She couldn't see how that could have happened, Keyness or no Keyness. Her hands were tingling with excitement, and she ran them back and forth along her bare thighs for a moment before going back to looking at the spell. It would conjure a single 'faerie light', which from the little drawing looked to be a firefly-sized glowy thing that would zip around and go wherever she told it to go. Even if she didn't need it to read the book, that would still be pretty awesome, especially for someone like her, who was theoretically doomed to live magic-free.
"Hokay then, here goes." She licked her lips, cleared her throat, and then started to read the words quietly aloud.
* * * * *
The spell wasn't really a spell; she knew that as soon as she spoke the first word. It wasn't a string of gibberish, wasn't even a series of phrases that had been transposed into a strange, alien-sounding language.
It was a story.
Those few, brief paragraphs told the tale of what the faerie lights were; how they had been brought into being, what rules defined their existence... and why they would come when called. The reading of the story changed Dawn, as the reading of any story ought
to change the reader in some way. She read the words, and she gained her first, tiny sliver of understanding of these beings known as the Fae. When the story ended, and the words moving through her mind and passing between her lips faded away, she sat for a long moment, dazed, the details of what she'd read already fading....
And then light bloomed all around her.
* * * * *
Dawn very nearly jumped out of her skin when she snapped out of the trance-like state the summoning had brought on, and found herself surrounded. The description she'd read had explicitly stated that there would be one, exactly one
of the little light thingies when she was finished. That was false advertising to a fairly huge degree, since what surrounded her now was something like a hundred
Okay, so they weren't doing anything except float there, it was still kind of startling. Although.... She looked around, at the constellation of brightly glowing points slowly orbiting her, and felt a hesitant smile tugging at her lips.
"It's sort of pretty, isn't it?" They were glowing gold, and silvery, and soft shades of blue, and green, and pink... just like the dusty cover of the book. Dawn realized that she was literally tingling with excitement at having successfully performed the magic, the sensation especially intense in her hands and thighs. Grinning at the beauty of what she had made, she put both hands in her hair and pulled it back from her face as she craned her head around to watch them all swirling silently like some magical galaxy centered on her. The feel of her thick, silky hair sliding across her skin felt nice, even moreso than usual, so she combed her fingers through the long, soft mane a few more times, then settled herself to wait for the evil to make its inevitable appearance.
A brief time passed while she waited for the lights to attack her, or turn her into a statue, or teleport her away to some horrible place. Basically the usual Tuesday, Dawn's-in-trouble-again kind of thing, because by now she knew all too well how things like this worked in Sunnydale. And yet, strangely, amazingly... nothing of the sort happened. Feeling cautiously hopeful, she tried pointing towards her dresser, and a dozen or so of the lights obediently drifted in that direction, and hovered around one of her many hair brushes. She closed her eyes and thought very hard about the color green (for obvious reasons), and when she opened her eyes again it was to find every single light was glowing a rich, deep emerald.
"I am now a total, mystical badass," she announced to the room, and then broke down in a fit of giggles that were totally unbecoming of someone who was sixteen years old.
When the gigglefit had passed she looked around at the lights, and wondered why the effect had been multiplied to such a large degree.
"Could be that stupid Key thing is actually working for
me, for a change?" she wondered aloud. "Maybe if it messes up human magic, then there are other kinds, like this Faerie stuff, that it puts into overdrive?"
She didn't know if that was the reason, and unlike Willow, she didn't have anything like the brainpower needed to figure it out. Not that it really mattered, anyway. What mattered was that it had worked! She was so giddy now that even her head was tingling, with faint little tickles dancing along her scalp. She wiped her hands again, and looked through the book, searching for something a little more impressive than making a magical set of christmas lights.
"This? Nah, that would freak out the neighbors. Um, lemme see.... No, not that one, though it's definitely something to try at school next time I get a chance. How about.... Oh!" She sat, frozen in place, and barely noticed that all of the lights had blinked brighter at her exclamation, and drifted slightly closer as she leaned over to peer at the page.
"'A summoning with which to fill the empty heart'." She started skimming through it, silently, hardly pausing to blink, much less breathe. It was long, with pages and pages of tiny text, and she couldn't really understand it fully without reading it properly. Still, the gist of it seemed clear enough.
It would let her heal Buffy.
The summoning was all about 'driving away sorrow' and 'bringing light and love to the lonely and forsaken'; that described what Buffy needed pretty much exactly! Then a brief moment of sanity struck her, and even though she scowled at the unwelcome thought she still forced herself to put the book down, and crawl out of bed, and walk around the room while she thought it over.
"The light spell worked, only it did a lot more than it was supposed to." A glance around the room showed her the scores of lights floating serenely; completely harmless, sure, but still clear evidence that everything had not gone as planned. "Would it hurt anything, if Buffy got too
much healing?" She considered that, wiping her hands off on the front of the oversized tee shirt she wore to sleep in. "I don't see how; it's love, right? Nobody ever got hurt by someone loving them too much... did they?" It seemed like there might be an uncomfortable answer to that one, if she thought about it hard enough, only....
She blinked, and squinted, and noticed that concentrating actually was proving to be more difficult than usual. Not only was her vision a little odd, with beautiful little halos surrounding all the lights she'd summoned, there was also something very distracting happening. Something that had, in fact, been happening for some time without her really being aware of it. What she'd mistaken for mere excitement at her successful bit of magic was now a very pleasant tingling that was spreading through her entire body, moving up her arms, and spreading out from her thighs and scalp, too.
It didn't hurt, in no way whatsoever did it hurt; very much the opposite. It felt really, really, really
good. Still, she bit her lip, turned in place, and walked slowly over to her dresser. Steeling herself, she looked in the mirror, and couldn't quite hold in a gasp at what she saw.
She was glowing. Well, scattered bits of her were glowing, at least; hands, her thighs, a splotchy, uneven area across her forehead near the hairline....
Softly, and in the same pretty shades as the lights... and the same as the pages and writing in the book. She realized belatedly that there must be something on the book; she'd been feeling it without noticing it ever since she started reading. Something had gotten on her hands, and every time she touched any other part of herself, that something had transferred, and started to do... what? So far it felt nice, even if it looked strange. Leaning closer to the mirror, she saw that even her hair looked different, though instead of taking on a glow it was more like someone had dusted her long, thick tresses with a liberal dose of glitter. Thousands of tiny sparkles and gleams shone there, making the dark brown of her hair look richer, and awakening subtle highlights that hadn't been visible before.
She had to admit, reluctantly, that it looked awfully cool.
"Definitely Tuesday stuff here, Dawn," she reminded herself aloud, her voice stern. "Something weird is happening to you; this is never good. So focus!"
Closing her eyes she tried to act like a Watcher and evaluate her condition in a methodical fashion. Body? Tingly, not hurting. So far the only bad thing was the way the new sensation was starting to awaken other feelings, feelings that usually led to a quiet interlude alone in her bed.
In fact, her hands, her glowy hands, had slipped upwards without her noticing it, and were even now languidly caressing her breasts. She gave a little gasp as the incredibly fine powder, or dust, or whatever it was from the book that still covered her fingers immediately penetrated her tee shirt and got to work on one of her most sensitive areas.
of them, actually.
"Stop it!" she told herself sternly, yanking her hands back down to her sides. And then she had to bite at her lower lip, and close her eyes for a moment as the sweet tingling in her chest really
started to kick in.
"Yeah, great," she grumbled unhappily. "That'll just make it much easier to concentrate!"
She shook her head, and tried to ignore the delicious ripples and tickles that moved through her body.
"Okay, body is mostly okay, just... revved up, as Faith would say. How 'bout my brain?"
Thinking it over, she tried to be objective. As far as she could tell, it was fine. She still knew who she was, she knew what year it was, she had no overwhelming urge to go out and start eating human flesh or anything similarly zombie-like.
"Well then. Guess my only real clue as to what's happening here is the book." She frowned at her tingly, glowy hands, and shrugged. "I've already been zapped; no sense in bein' a scaredy cat about it now."
When she moved to the bed she halfway expected to stagger and weave like a drunk person, thanks to whatever it was that had affected her. Instead she found herself perfectly in control of her movements, though it was more like drifting than walking. Her body almost seemed to float, as gently and gracefully as a bit of down, like she was doing ballet, only there was no effort involved with this at all.
Picking up the book, she saw that the colors on the cover weren't painted on, as she'd first thought. Instead they were made up of richly colored dust, like the coating on a butterfly's wing, and it rubbed off on her fingers when she trailed them over the book's cover. The tingling increased slightly, and she smiled nervously in response.
"As far as Tuesdays go, this is one of the nicer ones; so far, anyway." Tilting her head, she considered the sound of her voice, which was remarkably soft and lilting; again, without her having consciously tried to change it.
All that was left now was to decide what to do. Obviously there was something strange and magical happening here. The smart thing would be to go and wake up Buffy, and endure the usual lecture about how stupid and dangerous it was to meddle with magical things. Or, she could take the cowardly way out, and hope a few hours delay wouldn't hurt anything, and wait for Willow and Tara to get home. Hopefully they could fix whatever this was before Buffy, or Giles even knew it had happened (and she would much
rather endure a lecture from Willow and Tara than one from Giles).
"Or...." She thought about the third option. "I can hope this really is harmless, or mostly harmless, and go ahead, and do the spell, and heal Buffy."
Staring down at the book in her hands, she pretty much already knew which one it was going to be. Sure, a small voice in the back of her head was shouting something about not being stupid, and pointing out that in Sunnydale, messing with unknown magicks did not tend to lead to a long and happy life. If something went wrong, then Dawn could very well suffer some awful, unimaginable fate. On the other hand, if it went right
, then, well....
"Then I'll have my sister back," she whispered. "The sister who died for me. The sister that I've loved all my life. And even if most of my life has been a lie, that part is real. I do love Buffy, more than anything."
There, that was easy. Decision made.
Settling herself in the center of the bed, she found the start of the summoning. With a voice that was clear and rich and beautiful, with the faerie lights glowing strong and bright and somehow supportively
all around her, she began to read.
* * * * *