Paul Haggis, Paul Gross and Alliance Atlantis the rights to due South
, and Joss Whedon and Fox can lay claim to Buffy: the Vampire Slayer
. Personally, I call dibs on that donut over there.Notes:
Sequel to M.I.A.
I still didn’t know how we ended up with the short end of the stick. Ben said something about how we weren’t that well known, so Tuktoyaktuk was the last place anyone would look, and then he said something else about up here being their last hope, but if they’d asked me, I would’ve said that was a load of garbage.
Heh. I said it anyway, just to be sure everyone knew my thoughts on the subject. Anyway, I figured we were being punished. Or I was, at least, even though I hadn’t done anything wrong.
Okay, maybe I sent Willow a few screen shots of the Wicked Witch of the West melting, but she had it coming after that crack she made about me and Ben being cute
, of all things. An ex-Chicago cop is never
cute. Not under any circumstances. And yeah, I possibly might have said a thing or two about Buffy’s stamina right after that snow demon kicked her ass six ways to Sunday, but she had it coming, too, telling me I looked like a broom with really short bristles on top.
The point was, even if they thought I deserved it, Ben sure as hell didn’t, which was why I complained loud and long about being turned into a babysitter.
“Honestly, Ray. The way you’re carrying on, one would think you’d just been told to make a sacrificial offering of your GTO.”
“Geez! Don’t say shit like that.” I looked around, making sure there wasn’t something waiting to eat a nice hunk of Detroit steel. Didn’t matter that the Goat lived in Arizona with my dad, it was the principle of the thing.
Ben just rolled his eyes at me. “Are you coming with me or not?”
“Yeah.” No way I was leaving him to face that
We got to the airfield just in time to see her come off the plane. She looked a little worse for wear, and she was scowling to beat the band. Turbulence must’ve been bad right before they landed, but even so, I could see she wasn’t any happier about coming here than I was about having her here. Fine with me. If we both hated each other, it would be no problem avoiding each other.
Bringing up the rear was an older guy, maybe in his mid twenties, and the next thing I know, the two of them are in a clinch, and they’re sucking face.
“Hey!” I grabbed the kid from behind and pulled her away from him. “You blind or something? She’s still a kid!”
“I am not!”
I had my fist wrapped around the guy’s collar in nothing flat, and I was in his face but good. Sure, I didn’t want her around, but that was no reason —
— to let her get molested by some dickhead who couldn’t even —
“Let him go, you big bully!”
— keep his hands off a twelve-year-old girl with the most piercing voice I ever heard, and anyway —
“What?” I turned to Ben. “Since when does Canada let perverts get away with touching kids like that?”
“I’m not —”
“Ray, let him go.” Ben looked and sounded entirely too reasonable about this. It was long about then I got my first clue that I might have got something wrong.
“Xander is my fiancé!” And then the little brat had the gall to kick my knee. My bad knee. From behind.
Ben caught me before I went all the way down, but that didn’t take my mind off what she’d just said. “Oh, hell no. Not on my watch. Ben, arrest him.”
“You know,” I turned to glare at Dickhead, but he plastered a goofy smile on his face and kept talking. “We should probably take this discussion someplace else. Maybe somewhere with a little more privacy?”
Someplace private turned out to be an empty hangar, because Dickhead — Dawn’s so-called fiancé — had to leave within the hour. Once we got inside, I got between the two of them.
“Talk.” Ben frowned at me, and I ignored him, just crossed my arms and waited.
Dickhead blinked and tried the goofy grin again. When that didn’t work, he sighed. “Okay, here’s the deal. Dawn isn’t twelve, she’s twenty-one —”
“Pull the other one.” He flinched, and I kept the grin off my face. Hadn’t been on the force for freakin’ ever, but I still had that cop voice down pat.
“Ray, please.” I tried to glare at Ben, but I couldn’t hold it, not with him looking all reasonable and shit. “Just listen.”
I looked at Dickhead for a long minute and nodded. “Fine. I’m listening.”
He checked to make sure he was out of immediate reach and started talking again. “Dawn is twenty-one — sort of — it’s complicated —”
“And a story best left for later,” Ben murmured. “For now, though, accept that she’s a twenty-one-year-old woman with a fiancé.”
And that pretty much stopped me cold. As a concept, I was familiar with it, but on a day-to-day basis, I did my level best to forget it even existed. I didn’t like magic. It made too much weird shit possible, and life with Ben was already complicated enough. I looked at him and could see he was telling the truth as he knew it, and then I looked at Dickhead, who was watching at Dawn with the same kind of sick longing I’d seen on my face every single day Ben was missing.
That was enough to get Dickhead — couldn’t remember his name — talking again. “Dawn has something a witch wants, and she figured the best way to get it was to de-age her.”
Ben put his hand on my shoulder. “The witch cast a spell to make Dawn younger.”
“Back to the embryonic stage,” Dawn said. There was a note in her voice that convinced me for the first time she was really an adult in a kid’s body.
“But that would mean —”
“I’ll die.” She said it with a quiet kind of dignity, and the guy sort of whimpered — a noise I was also familiar with.
“Willow can fix it, though, right?” I looked back and forth between them and got a worse feeling in the pit of my stomach.
“Not yet,” The guy said, sounding kind of grim. “She was able to stop the spell from working during the daylight hours, but when the sun goes down, Dawn regresses again.”
Suddenly, Tuktoyaktuk made all kinds of sense, especially seeing as how it would be a couple of months before we saw another sunset. “That’s why she’s here? To give Willow more time?”
“Yeah.” He gave Dawn one last look and blinked hard. “I have to go. Martin doesn’t want to stay here too long. We’ll call when we know something more.”
Dawn stepped toward him, her hand reaching out. “Xander —”
“I can’t.” He left without looking at her again, and I couldn’t really blame the guy, especially when Dawn burst into tears.
And they weren’t quiet tears, either. They were the tears of a twelve-year-old girl whose heart was breaking. Her breath hitched, and snot ran down her face, and Ben just stood there, kind of clueless, because he never had much contact with girls that age. I sighed and pulled Dawn into my arms. My shirt would be a mess, but that’s what laundry day was for.
Once I figured out Dawn wasn’t going to stop crying anytime soon, I just picked her up, and she did that automatic kid thing of wrapping her legs around me to hold on. Ben drove us home at his usual snail’s pace, giving everyone in town a chance to see me holding a sobbing girl in my lap. At least with Ben behind the wheel, they knew I wasn’t kidnapping her or anything.
At the house, Dawn didn’t want to let go, so I had Ben pull my jacket off, one arm at a time, figuring I would want to get comfortable for a while. As soon as I sat on the couch, Dawn’s tears slowed down a little, but she kept her face buried in my neck. It was maybe another fifteen minutes before I realized she was asleep, and by then, Ben was sitting next to us.
“In one sense, she’s twenty-one,” he began. “In another, she’s existed in this physical state for just seven years.”
“Shh.” He was right. Neither of us wanted to wake up Dawn just yet. “In reality, she’s existed for at least thirty-two years, but is possibly as old as the universe itself.”
Damned if I could make heads or tails of it at first, but eventually, Ben was able to get it through my head that Dawn started out as a bunch of magical energy that was transformed into a human girl and sent to Buffy as her sister. I still couldn’t figure out the whole angle on how everyone had memories of her before she showed up in Sunnydale, but that didn’t matter much. What did matter was the witch that was after her — a chick named Amy Madison. She wanted to turn Dawn back into a blob of energy again and use her like a power-up.
When Ben finished talking, I said, “That sucks.”
“Tell me about it.” Dawn’s voice was kind of scratchy. I wondered how long she’d been listening. “I used to like Amy. I mean, I was the one who snuck cookies to her and got her out of her cage every so often after Willow moved in.”
“Cage?” Even Ben was confused about that one.
“She was a rat for a few years.” Dawn yawned and tucked her head down again. She didn’t make any move to get off my lap. “I’m sorry about the way I behaved earlier. I have the memories of an adult, but with an adolescent body, I’m —”
“An adolescent brat?”
Ben frowned, which I couldn’t care less about, because Dawn giggled, and I got kind of stupid and mushy about that. She lifted her head and looked me straight in the eye. There was some embarrassment, sure, but there was also some relief. “Thanks. It’s been tough the last couple of weeks, shrinking down like this.”
There was a smart-ass remark on my lips, and I would have said it if my throat hadn’t closed up just then. It hit me — really hit me — that if Willow couldn’t fix this, Dawn wasn’t long for this world.
Did she back out of the room quietly? No. Did she cough to announce her presence? No. Did she act like she was in any way, shape or form sorry about walking in when she did? No! The demon — and make no mistake about it, because Dawn Summers is
a demon — just giggled and started singing, “Benton and Raymond, sittin’ in a tree, K - I - S - S - I - N - G!”
I would’ve killed her then if Ben had let me, and I was ready to kill him, because he was absolutely no help at all. He thought it was cute, the way Dawn teased me. Said it was nice that she was keeping her spirits up. Hah! A lot he knew. Fortunately for me, I grew up on the mean streets of Chicago, so when Dawn pushed, I pushed right back.
We settled down into a rhythm pretty quick after the kissing incident. She’d do something rotten to me, and I would retaliate. It was kind of fun, even though Ben started muttering about wanting to have
children, not marry one. That cracked Dawn up to no end until she figured out that yeah, me and Ben really were planning to get married in August.
That was when she lost it and had a temper tantrum the likes of which I’d never seen in my life and never wanted to again. Among other things that don’t bear repeating, she screamed that if she couldn’t get married, neither could we, and what right did we have to think we could be happy if she wasn’t. By the time it was over, she was still crying, and she was apologizing over and over again, even as she fell asleep in my lap.
While I tried to wipe the snot off my shirt, Ben called Giles to ask if Dawn’s tantrum was part of the spell or something. The best Giles could come up with was that the stress was getting to her.
Yeah. I couldn’t believe it either that he had such a lame answer for us. Hell, I could’ve told him that two weeks earlier, which was when I got covered in Dawn-snot the first time.
At least he had some real news for us, which meant the call wasn’t a total waste. Willow finally figured out how to break that Madison chick’s spell, so a bunch of them would be here in a couple of days to take care of it. I damn near broke out the champagne when I heard that.
“How do I look?” Dawn twirled around, and her skirt flared out, just like a dancer’s would.
“Pretty as a picture,” I told her, which was true. I hadn’t seen any pictures of her as an adult, but I could tell that she was going to be — had been — is — anyway, Dawn was probably a hell of a good looking woman, when she was allowed to get to that age.
Dawn squealed and bounced over to hug me. When she wasn’t throwing a tantrum, she really was a sweet, loving kid. “Thank you! Do you think Xander will like my dress?”
Ben was finally comfortable enough with her to say, “I’m sure he will, but you need to show restraint in public when you see him.”
Turned out I wasn’t the only one to get upset over Dawn and Xander’s goodbye kiss. Ben heard from a few people after that, and he had to soothe some ruffled feathers in town. I’m not sure what he told them, but whatever it was, it got everyone off the hook, for which I was grateful. I don’t think Dawn could’ve handled her sweetie going to jail over a kiss she made him take.
She nodded, blushing a little. “Yeah. Got it. No PDAs.”
I glanced at the clock and made shooing motions at both of them. “Pitter patter, people. Let’s get at ‘er.”
It was only ten minutes to the airfield when I drove, so we got there in plenty of time to see the plane land. I saw some familiar faces come down the steps and a few unfamiliar ones as well. No telling who belonged to who until Buffy spotted us and ran straight at Dawn, picking her up and twirling her around in a big hug. I didn’t see too much more just then, because I got something in my eye, and I had to wipe it away.
Shut up. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it, no matter what Ben says.
Willow and Giles followed along with an older man who’d probably served time somewhere, unless I missed my guess, and no one else. Ben and I shared a look then, because if Xander hadn’t come, that wasn’t good news. Willow hustled past us to give Dawn her own hug, and she and Buffy moved Dawn a little ways away.
Giles and the other man stopped near us. “Ben, Ray. I’d like you to meet Ethan Rayne. He’ll be helping us with Dawn.”
Yeah, guy was a con, but Giles trusted him, so that was good enough for me. I held out my hand. “Pleased to meet you.”
Rayne looked a little panicked and stepped away from me. “I’m sorry — I can’t —”
“Bare skin is a problem,” Giles said. “He’s still recovering from a rather difficult — er — time of it.”
At that, Rayne barked out something that might have been a laugh if it hadn’t sounded so bitter. “Yes, Ripper, several years of torture could, I suppose, be described as difficult.”
“Ethan.” I didn’t know what the hell was going on or why Giles looked guilty and pissed at the same time, but that one word was enough to make Rayne settle down again. Still, I had to wonder what the hell he meant by torture and why Giles didn’t object to the word.
“Rupert, where’s Xander?” Ben wasn’t as easily distracted as I was.
I heard the pitch of Dawn’s voice rise in that scary way she had and wanted to duck and cover. “He’s not coming, is he?”
“No.” Giles winced when he heard some of Dawn’s reaction to what Buffy and Willow were telling her. The kid could really belt it out. “It’s unlikely that we’ll be able to return Dawn to the age she was when Amy cast her spell. Xander — Buffy won’t permit contact until Dawn reaches adulthood.”
“Pithy.” Ethan looked over at Dawn. “I don’t recall her being this excitable before.”
“You only met her that one Halloween. It’s hardly enough to form an accurate judgment.” Giles frowned. “Still, you may have a point. She does seem a bit out of sorts.”
At that, I rolled my eyes. “You think? She just found out she might have to grow up again and she isn’t even allowed to see the guy she loves.”
Ben didn’t get anything else out since I suddenly had an armful of crying Dawn. I picked her up, and she wrapped her legs around my waist and drenched me in Dawn-snot, which I could have totally predicted. That was when I promised myself not to take Dawn to the airfield anymore.
In the end, it didn’t seem to take much to break the spell. I mean, it was nothing like what happened when Giles brought Ben back, so I was kind of surprised to see Willow and Giles and Ethan looking totally whipped at the end. Dawn looked a little dazed herself, but when Buffy asked how she felt, Dawn just ignored her and stood next to me, burying her face in my chest.
“Hey,” I said softly. “Your sister asked how you’re doing.”
“I don’t want to talk to her.” At least, I think that’s what she said. Her voice was pretty muffled.
Buffy figured it out anyway and tightened her lips. “Giles, when will you know if we can get Dawn back to twenty-one?”
“We can’t.” Ethan kind of wheezed it out, and Dawn flinched against me. I put my arm around her.
Willow spoke up. “Amy drained too much.”
Buffy’s face went blank at that. “When we catch up with her, will we be able to get it back?”
“Not without killing her. Amy, that is,” Giles said.
Dawn twitched, and I told her under my breath, “Don’t even think it.”
Willow came close and reached out her hand but didn’t make contact. “I’m sorry, Dawnie. I really am.”
“We’ll leave tomorrow, then.” Buffy was righteously pissed, and I almost felt sorry for Madison. Almost. “Dawn, you’re packed, right?”
“I’m not going.” She twisted around to glare at Buffy and didn’t let go of me.
“Dawn —” Don’t know why Buffy looked so surprised. I saw this showdown coming when we were at the airfield. “You can’t stay here.”
“I can if Ray and Ben will let me.”
While she talked to Buffy, I had a silent conversation with Ben. He was reluctant to break up a family like that, and I sympathized, I really did. On the other hand, I didn’t think Dawn would want to stay here all that long. I figured she needed some time to get used to the idea, and it would be easier if she wasn’t living with everyone who remembered her as an adult. Ben agreed, with reservations, and I smiled my thanks at him.
Before Buffy could say much of anything, I interrupted with, “It’s no problem if she wants to stay. Ben and I like her.”
“Buffy.” Giles touched her. “We were unable to protect Dawn in England. At least here, Ben can call on the Spirits of the North for help. Amy is unlikely to slip past them.”
That was when I knew we made the right decision about Dawn, because Buffy, for an instant, looked relieved at having an excuse not to take her back with them. I could tell it wasn’t like Buffy hated her sister or anything, but being able to leave Dawn here made Buffy relax. No idea why, though.
“Dawn —” As soon as Buffy touched her face, Dawn twisted away and ran crying to her room.
I looked back and forth, not sure what to do, when Buffy, her voice breaking, said, “Go after her, already. Take care of her.”
The next morning, Dawn refused to say goodbye to them, and I refused to make her go to the airfield. I was serious about that promise I’d made to myself, because as much as it turned out I liked Dawn, I hated her snot even more. So the two of us hung out at the house and played gin-rummy while Ben got everyone else on their way home.
He called around ten to tell me he was going to the office and to say that Buffy was deeply upset that Dawn hadn’t come along. When I hung up and sat down at the kitchen table again, I passed on the message and pulled a card from the stack.
“I know it isn’t her fault,” she started, her voice low, “but in a way, it is. She’s the reason I’m here in the first place, and she’s the reason I can’t see Xander for six more years.”
“Yeah. But she’s your sister.”
“I know. And maybe one day, I’ll forgive her.” Dawn swallowed hard and blinked away a couple of tears before snatching up the card I threw down. “Meanwhile, I win.”
Third game that morning. What the hell was I thinking when I talked Ben into this?