Dawning Light Missing Scene: Check Mate
A Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Anita Blake crossover
by MhalachaiMissing Scene:
#6 - The CircusDisclaimer
: Buffy the Vampire Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. Anita Blake belongs to Laurell K. Hamilton. No profit has been made from this fic.Setting:
This missing scene takes place early January, one month after the start of Dawning Light.
There are no spoilers for what will happen... at least beyond what we've seen in other missing scenes. ~~~~~
Anita wanted something. Jean-Claude could tell, from the way she kept tapping her toe against the carpet, refusing to meet his gaze, holding onto Dawn's hand like it was a lifeline.
Dawn, on the other hand, was still as a doll, glaring up at Jean-Claude.
Jean-Claude hid a sigh. "Oui, ma petite?"
Anita flipped her hair over her shoulder, a nervous gesture he had not seen in a long time. "Are you busy?" she asked, pulling Dawn closer and putting her hand on the girl's shoulder.
"Not at the moment, ma petite. Why?" If it had been any other time, he would have approached Anita, touched her as he asked after her secrets, hidden loosely in the rush of her words. But not tonight. Not as Anita held Dawn between them as a shield.
"Zerbrowski called," Anita said in a hurry. "And Micah's at work and Nathaniel's working and Dawn and I were going to see a movie but I can't take her with me to the police station--"
Jean-Claude held up his hand to stop the guilty torrent of words. Now, he knew why Anita was here. "Would you like for us to watch Dawn?" Never mind that the detectives at RPIT would have made space for the girl, rather than have her holed up in the monster's lair.
He made himself blink. The dreariness of the January cold was affecting him more than usual, making him poetic in his maudlin state.
"Yes!" Anita almost smiled. "I know it's short notice, but I can come pick her up when... Wait, who do you mean by 'us'?"
Jean-Claude raised an eyebrow as little Dawn rolled her eyes at Anita's delayed reaction. How very... adult. "He means he's going to feed me to the lamia in the side-show upstairs when you're gone, Anita," Dawn said.
"Hey!" Anita shot Jean-Claude a glare. "That-- Oh, hey. Hey!"
Dawn shook her head. "She left her sense of humor in the car."
"Shh." Anita knelt down in front of Dawn, straightening the girl's dress. "I know you're upset about the movie..."
"Whatever," Dawn mumbled. She played with a button on Anita's jacket. "You have to work."
"I'm still sorry." Anita brushed a strand of hair off Dawn's cheek. Dawn didn't see it, but Jean-Claude did, the tenderness, the softness on Anita's face. It was a look that Jean-Claude never thought he'd see, and something twisted in his chest in the vicinity of his unbeating heart.
"It's okay," Dawn said.
Anita dropped a kiss on Dawn's hair and gave her a quick hug. "I'll be back as soon as I can. Don't wander off. And don't look vampires in the eye. And--"
"Aniiiiita!" Dawn interrupted. "You're leaving me with Jean-Claude. What can go wrong?" She smiled brilliantly.
"I'm not even going to answer that," Anita muttered as she stood up. She hesitated, being pulled toward the door by duty, and not wanting to leave."No harm will come to little Dawn while she is in my care,"
Jean-Claude whispered in Anita's mind, over the marks between them. "I know that.""I am honored that you would ask me to watch over her, even for so short a time,"
Jean-Claude added. He waited for Anita to deflect his comments, as she so often did. It was rare that she could let him speak of his true feelings for her, beyond love, without the self-deprecating comments that were her only way of handling things.
But Anita said nothing. She gave Dawn's shoulder another squeeze, then backed towards the door. "I'll give you guys a call in a bit, okay?"
"Bye," Dawn said. "Don't get eaten by vampires."
"I'll try my best," Anita said, smiling a little. She glanced at Jean-Claude, with the happiness still in her eyes, and her smile changed. "Goodbye."
He bowed slightly at the waist, ever the gentleman. "Ma petite, we will await your return."
He waited until Anita had closed the heavy door of the lair underneath the Circus before turning to Dawn. The girl was looking around the room, with its fabric-covered walls and stark white and black furniture, with frank curiosity. Jean-Claude knew she had never been to the Circus of the Damned before.
What had he gotten himself into? He had only met Dawn twice, and had no opportunity to speak in depth with her. He knew nothing about children. The closest he had come to a child in a very long time was Valentina, who looked the same age as Dawn, but acted as only a centuries-old predator could. Perfect camouflage, until it was too late.
He did not know why watching Dawn made him think of camouflage.
"It looks like a mime exploded in here," Dawn said suddenly. "Well, not a real mime, because then everything would be red and gooey, but like a fake mime. Mime-lite."
Jean-Claude blinked again. He may not know much about children, but he doubted this was the usual behavior for a child. "Indeed, little one, the room is very black and white."
"Who picked it out?" Dawn asked, taking a tentative step towards the coffee table. "Are those roses real?"
"The flowers are real, oui," Jean-Claude said. He moved around the couch, leaving a great deal of room between him and the child. Anita had shared her suspicions on what had happened to Dawn before the graveyard, how the girl continued to panic around unfamiliar men, how the child had taken the step of stealing a knife from the kitchen for protection the previous month.
More than Anita, Jean-Claude knew what monsters, human or otherwise, could do to such an innocent child. He hoped, for the child's sake and for Anita, that Anita's fears were unfounded.
As Dawn carefully touched the white roses, Jean-Claude made a note to speak with Nathaniel about the girl. Nathaniel had a hard-earned knowledge of the depravity of men, and he might have a better idea of what had befallen Dawn.
"These are pretty," Dawn said, smiling with a brilliance that befit her name. "You get Anita flowers all the time, right? The ones we have at home?"
"Oui, those are my gift to Anita," Jean-Claude said. Moving carefully, deliberately human, he sat on the long white couch and regarded Dawn. "A dozen white roses and three red roses."
"I asked Anita about that," Dawn said. "'Cause, you know, fifteen's a weird number for roses, unless there's some weird multiples-of-three thing you've got going on, which I'm not sure I want to know about." She scrunched up her nose for a moment. "Who's Asher?"
Unsure of how to deal with the torrent of information that had just spilled from Dawn's lips, Jean-Claude picked the easiest way out -- answering a question with a question. "Where did you hear of Asher?"
"I heard Anita thinking about-- I mean talking about!" Dawn jumped back, eyes wide. "I heard Anita talking about him!"
Ah, yes. The elephant in the room. Anita had told him that Dawn could apparently read thoughts, but then quickly changed the subject. He had not pressed Anita, had not wanted to deal with her sudden maternal protectiveness.
But now, without Anita around... Jean-Claude might not have known how to deal with children, but he knew how to charm almost anyone. He smiled, careful to hide his fangs. "Anita has told me that you occasionally hear the thoughts of others," Jean-Claude said softly. "It is quite all right, to speak of such things."
Dawn looked down at her dress, smoothed the purple fabric with trembling hands.
Jean-Claude leaned forward, added a touch of empathy and a dash of comfort to his voice. "You are not the only one with gifts, mon petit soleil. Anita has gifts of her own."
"Yeah, but that's cool," Dawn said. "She can raise the dead, she doesn't have stupid mind-reading telepathy."
Jean-Claude hoped that Anita would forgive him for what he was about to do. "I am certain that if you speak with Anita on this matter, you will find that she does not consider her affinity with the dead to be 'cool'. As with other gifts, it has another side."
Dawn frowned. "How do you mean?" she demanded, climbing up on the couch beside Jean-Claude. She put her hands in her lap. "What's the bad?"
Jean-Claude shrugged. "Anita cannot stop raising the dead. It is not like a gift she can put back on the shelf; it is always with her."
Dawn's eyes widened. "So, like, power will out?" Before Jean-Claude would react, she bit her lip. "That really sucks. Why didn't she tell me?"
"I am certain that she did not wish to burden you."
"Anita's got a misplaced sense of protection," Dawn protested. "Maybe if I knew she had problems too, then I wouldn't go around all day with this crushing emo weight of the world on my shoulders, would I? Huh? Did she ever think of that?"
"She only wishes the best for you," Jean-Claude said soothingly. "You cannot fault her for that."
Dawn sat back against the cushions. "Watch me," she said. "And it's not like I can stop it."
Jean-Claude sensed an opening. "It must be difficult, catching thoughts from those around you," he commiserated. "Anita, Nathaniel..." He watched Dawn nod, then moved in for the kill. "Damian."
"No, not Damian," Dawn said immediately. "He's like a big empty space in my head, which is like so creepy. Kinda like you."
Inside, Jean-Claude was smiling. He had exactly what he wanted -- the answer as to whether Dawn could read his thoughts. On the surface, he continued as if Dawn's words were of little importance. "It must be very disconcerting."
Dawn made a face. "That's one way of putting it." She looked around the room again. "Hey, who's that?" She pointed at the portrait over the fireplace. "Is that you?"
"Oui, it is." Jean-Claude wondered if Dawn was as eager to leave the previous line of questioning as he was. "Would you care to see?"
"Okay." Dawn bounced off the couch and ran across the room, her Mary Janes soft on the carpet. "Hey, it is you! What's with the hat?"
"In those days, every gentleman wore a hat," Jean-Claude told her. He pulled an uncomfortable armchair over and helped Dawn climb onto it, standing on the seat so she could get a closer look at the portrait. "And every young lady such as yourself would wear a dress like that."
"She's pretty," Dawn said wistfully. "Is she a vampire too?"
"Non." Jean-Claude stared hard at Julianna's image, the old familiar ache of loss and failure hard in his head. "Non, Julianna was Asher's human servant, much as Anita is my human servant."
Dawn twisted around in the chair to stare at Jean-Claude with ancient eyes. "Is she dead?" Dawn asked after a moment.
Dawn turned back to the painting. "Is that Asher?" This time, her voice was softer, edged with something Jean-Claude could not identify.
After another minute of staring at the portrait, Dawn climbed off the chair and returned to the couch. She sat on the edge, deliberately facing away from the portrait.
At a loss to know what had just occurred, Jean-Claude returned the chair to its rightful location by the wall. He wondered what he should do, if there was something he could get for the child, some sort of beverage or toy.
Dawn kicked her heel against the couch, frowning at her hands again. Shouldn't a child be more active, more questioning? Was there something he was supposed to do? Would Anita not have mentioned it if there was a plan to the night?
"Do you like penguins?" Dawn asked suddenly. Jean-Claude raised an eyebrow. "You know, penguins."
"I have no feelings on the matter," Jean-Claude admitted. "However, I do know that Anita likes penguins."
"Uh huh." Dawn tugged on the hem of her sleeve, revealing a thin white scar around her wrist. "We were going to go see the penguin movie tonight. But she got busy."
"I am certain the movie will still be at the theater tomorrow night," Jean-Claude offered. He was at least capable at soothing unhappy females of any age.
"But she still cancelled on me," Dawn pointed out. "Does she do that to you too?"
Jean-Claude sighed. "She has, when her work takes her to dangerous places," he admitted.
"I bet it bugs you."
"I understand that ma petite's work is of the utmost importance to the public safety."
"I bet it bugs you," Dawn repeated.
"She does not do so to 'bug' me."
"I bet it bugs you."
"Please stop saying that."
Dawn raised her eyebrows. "It totally bugs you," she said with relish. "At least I'm not the only one."
Jean-Claude was beginning to think this was a bad idea. He toyed with the idea of calling Jason to his side, to distract the child, but Jason was upstairs working. Surely the smooth running of the Circus was more important than his discomfort with a child?
After all, he was the Master. The Sourde de Sang of his bloodline. He could handle one small child's probing question.
"What do you do for fun?"
Make that probing questions.
"How do you mean?"
"I mean, what do you do for fun?" Dawn slid forward on the couch. "Do you watch TV?"
"No." Jean-Claude cast around for things he could tell the child, as he knew that if he answered that question honestly, Anita would kill him. "I... I enjoy working."
Dawn was unimpressed. "You can't work all the time."
"Occasionally I will walk the Circus, ensuring that my patrons are content."
"So you lurk."
"I do not lurk," Jean-Claude protested before he could catch himself. "I am the Master of St. Louis. There is no need for me to lurk."
Dawn slumped back against the cushions. "Do you read?" she asked hopefully. "I bet you've read a lot of good books."
"This is true," Jean-Claude said. It seemed a safe enough topic...
"Ever eat an author?"
Apparently not. Jean-Claude tried to look stern without bleeding over into terror, and faced the child. "This is not an appropriate topic," he said.
Dawn let out a long-suffering sigh. "Fine," she muttered. "I don't suppose you'll let me go see the Circus upstairs?"
"No. Anita would not like that."
"Anita's not here," Dawn pointed out. "And like you said, you're the Master. Who'd be mean to me if you were there?"
"We are not going upstairs," Jean-Claude said. "Anita will be done soon and return to retrieve you."
"Please?" Dawn asked, her eyes big and her lower lip extended in the slightest of pouts.
Jean-Claude knew how to use physical appearance for emotional manipulation when he saw it, and Dawn was exuding it in spades. He sincerely hoped this was an unconscious action, for if Dawn knew how to use her cuteness, no one was safe.
"Do you play cards?" Jean-Claude asked in desperation. "There are cards... somewhere."
"Do you play chess?" Dawn stuck a strand of hair in her mouth. "Can we play chess?"
Jean-Claude quirked up the side of his mouth with something that felt a little too much like relief. "Chess it is."
It only took him a moment to retrieve the chessboard from the side table, and set the board. Dawn slid off the couch and knelt by the side of the coffee table. "Can I be white?"
"If you so wish." Jean-Claude paused. "That means you go first."
"I know." Dawn stuck her tongue out of the corner of her mouth. "Are we going to play with wild pieces?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Wild pieces. Like in poker. You let one piece be wild and do whatever. Like the third pawn from the left can only go backwards. Or in an S-shape. Or only move ever three turns."
Jean-Claude resisted the urge to put his head in his hands. "Those are not the rules of the game."
"But they can be," Dawn said. "And if you don't play around with changing the rules, what will happen if someone else changes things up and you have to adapt but you've never tried?"
The line of reasoning was sound and logical, and so unlike anything Jean-Claude expected from a young child, that he wasn't sure what to say. "Perhaps we should still play by the regular rules," he said.
"Okay." Dawn considered the board. "If you want." She moved a pawn.
The game began in earnest. For a child, Dawn had a frighteningly strong grasp of the technical aspects of the game, but Jean-Claude supposed that could be part of her intelligence. Indeed, he thought as he moved his knight, Anita had been telling anyone who would listen how smart Dawn was, with her large vocabulary and quick grasp of reality--
His hand froze above his bishop as he realized exactly what Dawn had just done. It was a reckless, brash move, that looked as if she had opened her queen up for the taking, and Jean-Claude almost fell for it. Instead, he looked ahead, played the rest of the game out in his head, and realized in that moment that in twenty moves, Dawn would have him in checkmate.
Looking at the girl, Jean-Claude saw that she knew it too. He forced himself to nod. "Very good, mon petit soleil."
Dawn grinned. "Wanna play as fast as we can to the end?"
In response, Jean-Claude slid his bishop across the board, knocking the white marble queen off the board.~~~
Anita shut the large wooden door behind her, exuding exhaustion. "How can you be awake?" she asked in greeting as she walked across the room to where Dawn and Jean-Claude were still playing chess. "It's past midnight."
Dawn bounced to her feet and ran to Anita. "We missed you!" she exclaimed. Anita swept the child up into a big hug. "And your nose is cold!"
"It's cold outside," Anita said. Sweeping her eyes past the table, she sighed. "I think I know why you're still up."
"Those M&Ms are like health food," Dawn protested. "They've got peanuts in them."
"You are full of sugar," Anita said, poking her finger against Dawn's belly and making the girl giggle. "With any luck, you'll crash on the way home and I can get you to bed without having a whirling dervish spinning around the house all night."
"Nope!" Dawn squirmed out of Anita's grasp and ran back to the table. "We're almost done. Then we can go."
"Chess?" Anita frowned. "It's nice of Jean-Claude to play with you."
"Non, ma petite, it was a pleasure to play with little Dawn," Jean-Claude said, keeping his eyes on the board as Dawn moved her rook in a circle, knocking the black knight to the side. "Her way of manipulating the rules for her own benefit is quite illuminating."
"He's just never played with wild pieces before," Dawn told Anita. "Oh, it was the best when all the pawns could only move backwards! That was cool."
Anita looked between Jean-Claude and Dawn. "What are you talking about?"
"Little Dawn has pointed out, rightfully so, I may add, that sometimes it is for the best to experiment with the rules, in case the rules are changed on you at a later time." Jean-Claude used his bishop to jump the pawn hiding Dawn's king. "Checkmate."
Dawn consulted scribbles on the paper beside the board. "I forgot that was a rule."
"My apologies," Jean-Claude said, bowing with his hand over his heart. "You are welcome to a rematch, if you so wish."
"Not tonight," Anita interrupted before Dawn could accept. "Someone should have been in bed three hours ago. Come on."
Dawn yawned as Anita helped her to her feet. "I have to go to the bathroom."
Jean-Claude obligingly rose. "Perhaps we can take her to my suite?"
"Come on, kiddo," Anita said. "Let's get moving."
Dawn was visibly slowing down as they walked the stone corridor. Also apparent was the care with which Anita held Dawn's hand, keeping the girl in the middle of the corridor, away from the rough stone walls. Jean-Claude observed the scene, keeping his thoughts to himself.
"Here we are," Anita said, guiding Dawn towards Jean-Claude's door. "Just through here."
Dawn's eyes popped open as she looked around the room. "Did a mime explode in here?" she demanded, twisting around to look at Jean-Claude.
"No, little one, a mime did not explode in here." The black and white walls directed attention to the brilliant crimson of the bed, but it was not as bad as Dawn was making it out to be. "Anita once suggested that I add some color to my decorating."
"And I haven't made a single suggestion since." Anita pointed at the door in the far wall. "The bathroom's in there."
"Okay." Dawn took two steps across the carpet, then stopped. She turned to Anita, paler than before. "There's no one else in there, right?"
Jean-Claude could feel the waves of worry coming from Anita. "No, Dawn, there's no one in there."
"I will go ensure that fact," Jean-Claude said smoothly before Anita could say anything else. "Ma petite?"
Anita took Dawn's hand again as Jean-Claude crossed the room, pushed open the bathroom door and flipped on the light in one smooth motion. He knew as well as Anita that there was no one and nothing in that room, but he made the show of checking, knowing Dawn was watching from the doorway.
"The room is ready for you, Dawn," Jean-Claude said after a cursory check.
Dawn stood uncertain, chewing on her finger.
"Do you need me to stay?" Anita asked.
That pulled Dawn out of her concentration. "No, I'm fine," she said. "I'll be quick."
"We will be right outside," Jean-Claude said, pulling Anita back through the door with him. "Mademoiselle."
Anita let Jean-Claude close the door, then guide her across the room before she jerked away. "There was no reason for her to think that there was anyone in that room," Anita said, crossing her arms. "Did anything happen tonight?"
"Non." Jean-Claude leaned against the wall. "I sent word to everyone to stay away from the entrance area tonight. The only person we saw was Jason, as he went to fetch something for Dawn to eat."
"What did you do for five hours?" Anita asked.
"We played chess."
"For five hours
"It was Dawn's request. She said it had been a very long time since she had the chance to play the game."
Anita rubbed a hand across her eyes. Sensing that she would be more open to his comfort now, Jean-Claude pushed off the wall and stepped close enough to Anita to put his arms around her waist. She relaxed against him, their bodies fitting together effortlessly. He drew in the scent of her hair, her blood, her power over the dead. "I miss this," Anita murmured. "Just being with you."
Jean-Claude did not point out that it had been her idea to focus the entirety of her free time on Dawn. "As I have missed you, ma petite."
"Thanks for watching Dawn. It can't have been easy to play chess with a kid for that long."
"On the contrary, ma petite. She plays at a level similar to Asher."
Anita twisted away, as Jean-Claude knew she would. "What are you talking about?" she demanded. "Who plays that well?"
"How? You're the one who told me Asher's the best chess player you know."
"I believe I said that he was the most challenging," Jean-Claude corrected. "His skill at strategy has grown in bounds, since--" Since Julianna's death.
"In recent years. He sees the game miles ahead, and is willing to be reckless to secure victory."
"So, what? Dawn's like some freaky child chess prodigy?"
Jean-Claude considered what he should say. His suspicions on Dawn were only a tiny spark in the darkness. He did not know what they meant, but he knew that the answer to the mysterious child lay within reach. "Dawn is indeed a very bright girl," he said carefully. "Her logic, her reasoning, all of these things are not the actions of a normal child."
"So Dawn's special," Anita snapped. "She's really smart and she's quick on her feet and she's an amazing girl!"
"She is," Jean-Claude agreed, pushing soothing feelings at Anita. "Perhaps you need to consider--"
Jean-Claude knew he was on dangerous ground. He had heard from others how desperately Anita had latched onto Dawn, and after that debacle at Christmas with Richard...
Jean-Claude could tell Anita how the girl reminded him slightly of Valentina. He could talk of how the child spoke of things beyond the reasoning of a child, even of a teenager. He could mention how the girl appeared so old one moment, then a typical child the next. He could recount how Dawn had avoided looking at the picture of Asher all night, how she had averted her eyes whenever she had moved around the room.
He could say all these things, and drive Anita away from him.
Of his fears and suspicions, he said nothing.
"Consider that Dawn needs more mental stimulation," he mentioned with casual calm. He noted that Anita visibly relaxed. "Such intelligence should be nurtured, in one so young."
"You're right," Anita said reluctantly. "We were holding off on figuring out what to do about school, but maybe we can look into that."
"I would of course be happy to play chess with her again," Jean-Claude offered, and was rewarded with a beautiful smile.
"Thanks," Anita said. "That means a lot."
Jean-Claude nodded, as an odd sound began to drift out of the bathroom. He turned his head. "Why has Dawn turned on the faucet in the bathtub?"
"Oh, not again," Anita grumbled, stalking across the room. "Dawn?" she said, knocking on the door. "Do we have to have the water talk again?"
The door swung inward. "The water comes out of a swan's mouth!" Dawn exclaimed. She pulled Anita into the room. "See? Like it's puking up water!"
Anita rolled her eyes. "Thanks for the visual, Dawn." She helped Dawn into her jacket, then picked the girl up. "Come on, time for us to vamoose."
"Can we get a swan tap for home?" Dawn asked.
"No." Anita turned off the bathroom tap, and started in the direction of the exit.
"Because I say so."
Dawn looked back at Jean-Claude. "Where did you get the tap? Can you tell Anita so she stops being so dumb about it?"
Jean-Claude spread his hands. "I would never willingly step in the way of Anita's decision-making process."
"You're both ridiculous." Dawn yawned again as she put her head on Anita's shoulder. "Silly ducklings."
"Time to get you home," Anita said, voice soft. "How does that sound?"
"Okay," Dawn said sleepily.
Anita looked at Jean-Claude. "Thank you," she said. "It means a lot to me."
Jean-Claude smiled at her. "Anything you would ask of me, ma petite. Je t'aime."
"I love you too."
"He's not so bad," Dawn muttered, breaking the spell. "Even if he doesn't lurk."
Anita shook her head. "I'll see you later, Jean-Claude."
"Do you need help in carrying Dawn to the car?" he asked. "There are a great many stairs."
"I've got her," Anita said, a wistful smile. "Bye."
Jean-Claude closed the door behind them, letting his fingers linger on the wood. He stared at the wood for a minute, then slowly returned to his seat on the couch. He stared at the remains of the chess board, lost in thought.
That was how Asher found him, much later. "Are we still banished from our home by a child?" the vampire demanded, slouching down onto the couch beside Jean-Claude.
"You will ruin your shirt if you sit like that," Jean-Claude murmured, stroking a finger over his lip.
Asher cocked his head, staring at Jean-Claude with narrowed eyes. "What are you thinking?"
Jean-Claude blinked slowly. "I am thinking that I wish to learn more about this child in Anita's life."
"In what way?" Asher didn't voice his constant litany of complaints, but they hung in the air, how Anita was holding everyone in her life, especially Asher, at bay 'for the sake of the child'.
Jean-Claude sat up. "For starters, I wish to know how a child falls from the air into a deserted cemetery."
"Anita said that she suspected the child had been brought to the area and abandoned."
"Yet the police have found no evidence in that regard. All the evidence seems to support Dawn's version of events, of... falling."
"You believe the fantastical tale of this child?"
Jean-Claude looked at the chess board, at the black queen lying on its side next to the white queen. "It would seem that I do."