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Dawning Light: Strange Little Girl, Look At You

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This story is No. 3 in the series "Dawning Light". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Nathaniel is starting to put the pieces together on the things Dawn fears...

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Anita Blake > Dawn-Centered(Past Donor)MhalachaiFR1512,68331910,64521 Mar 0721 Mar 07Yes
Dawning Light Missing Scene: Strange Little Girl, Look At You
A Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Anita Blake crossover


Summary: Nathaniel is starting to put the pieces together on the things Dawn fears...
Disclaimer: 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.
Note: Set just after Dawning Light chapter 10.

~~~~~

Nathaniel answered the front door before Jason had even finished knocking. "Hey," Jason said by way of greeting, pushing his way into the house. "I got all the stuff you asked for."

"Thanks," Nathaniel said softly, casting a glance over his shoulder in the direction of the living room.

"Thanks?" Jason echoed. "I spent all afternoon running around town picking up Christmas decorations and assorted crap, putting my life on the line every time I stepped between a suburban soccer mom and yet another Santa decoration, and all I get is a thanks?"

"Thanks a lot." Nathaniel took the plastic bin from Jason's hands and examined the contents.

Jason shrugged. "Okay then. Why couldn't you go get this yourself? You sounded weird on the phone."

Nathaniel frowned at the large wrapped gift in the bottom of the bin. Jean-Claude's elegant handwriting had addressed the gift to Dawn. "I was going to go shopping with Dawn, but there was a change in plans."

Jason poked Nathaniel in the shoulder. "What change? Something to do with Anita?"

Nathaniel shook his head. "Dawn had a bad morning."

"What, she get in a fight with Anita? She's feisty for a rug-rat."

"No, not that." Nathaniel slumped against the wall, wondering if all parents felt this utterly helpless when their kid was falling apart. "Anita took Dawn to the doctor's office, to get her checked out and all that. Dawn was fine through most of it, even though Anita said she questioned everything, and knew why they were taking a full-body x-ray."

"Why did they do something like that?" Jason interrupted.

"Looking for any indication of past abuse like broken bones." Nathaniel watched as realization dawned in Jason's eyes. The werewolf looked down at the basket of Christmas decorations. "Anita said Dawn was talking with the doctor and nurses just fine, until they went to take some blood."

"Maybe the kid doesn't like needles?"

Nathaniel shook his head. "Anita said Dawn totally freaked out. She went really quiet, then before the nurse could stick the needle in her arm she got away from Anita and ran. She made it as far as the elevator before Anita caught her. She said a few words about the world ending if they took blood out of her, and then she just stopped talking."

"Jesus," Jason muttered. "Where's the kid now?"

"In the living room. Anita went into the police station to see if they came up with anything on Dawn. She's really mad right now."

"At what?"

Nathaniel looked at Jason, who had grown up in a nice rich house with two parents, where the worst thing that ever happened to him was that he might not have gotten the BMW he wanted for his sixteenth birthday. Jason might know intellectually what could have happened to Dawn, but he hadn't lived it, not like Nathaniel had. "Come in, Dawn will want to see you," he said.

Nathaniel didn't wait for Jason. He walked into the living room with the basket of Christmas goods, and set it on the ground by the Christmas tree. Behind him, he heard Jason whistle. "Man, this place looks awesome. Do you have Martha Stewart locked up in the basement?"

"No, we did this," Nathaniel said. "Dawn helped out."

The girl in question hadn't moved from her spot on the window seat. She hadn't eaten anything since Anita brought her in from the car that morning. All Dawn had done once her boots and jacket were off was to head straight for the living room, climb up on the cushioned window seat, and stare out at the snow.

"This place looks really awesome," Jason said again. He slumped down on the sofa where he could keep an eye on Nathaniel and on Dawn. "Compared with the Circus, this is Christmas central. Most of the vampires don't celebrate Christmas, it'd take away from their eternal gothic emo street cred."

Dawn turned her head a little toward Jason.

"And that tree is amazing," Jason continued. "I saw Micah yesterday, he said that you guys picked it up on Thursday? You sure do work quick. I guess you'd have to, with Christmas less than a couple of weeks away. Did you get the decorations too, or did you make them?"

"We bought most of them, but Anita had some stashed away from previous years, and Dawn and I made the rest," Nathaniel said, jumping in to fill the silence.

"Very cool," Jason said. "And lots of presents, too. Are those all for Dawn?"

"Most of them are," Nathaniel told him. The majority of the presents under the tree were things that Nathaniel had purchased for Dawn in that first week, before the social worker tried to ship Dawn off to the Walkers. Anita still hadn't asked him why he'd bought all those things, and he wasn't sure he wanted to tell her of all the Christmases when he had nothing; when he'd had to get into some strange man's car and sell his body just to get enough money to eat.

Nathaniel kept those thoughts buried deep, far under the mental shielding he'd learned from Anita. Dawn had enough trouble with reading minds. She didn't need to glimpse the horror show that was Nathaniel's past.

"Well, I've got one more to add to the pile, if she wants." Jason dug into the basket and pulled the long gift-wrapped package out from under eight tiny reindeer. "It's from Jean-Claude."

Dawn turned around. She stared at Jason for a long minute, went back to looking at the snow.

"I'll put it under the tree," Nathaniel said. He wasn't going to play mind games with Dawn. If there was a gift offered, he wasn't going to make her jump through hops to get it. Taking the gift from Jason, Nathaniel set it on the pile of presents.

Moving stiffly, Dawn slipped down from the window seat and shuffled over to the gift pile. She knelt in front of Jean-Claude's present and started sniffing the wrapping paper.

"What is she doing?" Jason asked Nathaniel.

Nathaniel shook his head. "Dawn? What are you doing?"

With one final sniff, Dawn sat up. "It's a present from a vampire. It might have something dead in it."

"What?" Jason exclaimed, sitting bolt upright.

Nathaniel stared into Dawn's clear hazel eyes, and worry that had nothing to do with his own childhood began to gnaw at his insides. "Why do you think there's something dead in that package?"

"Because Jean-Claude is a vampire," Dawn said as if it was obvious, like saying the sun rose in the east. "Once Angelus left Giles a present like that and he's a vampire."

Nathaniel had heard about Giles before, and from what he gathered the man was around forty, British, and was around Dawn more than her father had been. That meant that Angelus was probably the vampire. "What did Angelus leave for Giles?" Nathaniel asked.

"His dead girlfriend," Dawn said, as matter-of-factly as if she'd said that Angelus had left Giles a postcard.

From the couch, Jason made a weird sound, a cross between a gasp and a cough. Nathaniel fought to keep his emotions off his face. "Dawn, Jean-Claude would never do something like that, not to you, not to anyone," Nathaniel said. "He's a... I mean, he wouldn't. He likes children."

"To eat?"

Jason muttered something under his breath. "Dawn, you met Jean-Claude. He's a good guy."

"He's still a vampire," Dawn pointed out.

"Yeah, but--" Jason cut himself off. "Okay, kid, there's only one way I can do this."

"Do what?" Nathaniel asked, instantly alert.

"Dawn, I've known a few vampires in my time," Jason said. Nathaniel gave him a warning glare, but Jason shook his head. "Some of them weren't nice, some were probably like this Angelus guy, leaving rotting bodies in beds--"

"Murdered bodies," Dawn interrupted. "Angelus killed her at the high school and then took her body to Giles' apartment. I heard Buffy talking to Willow about it."

Half of Nathaniel wanted to hug Dawn and protect her from the story she was telling, the other half wanted to go out and hurt whoever had let her know about these horrible things in the world. He settled for reaching out and covering Dawn's hand with his. She was cold to the touch.

"Jean-Claude's not like that," Jason continued as Nathaniel reached for a blanket. "Jean-Claude's the best master a guy could hope for. He's a good vampire, and he certainly doesn't eat children. Do you think Anita would be dating Jean-Claude if Jean-Claude wasn't a good guy?"

Dawn frowned, letting Nathaniel tuck the blanket around her. "I guess not."

"Exactly," Jason said.

"But then why would Jean-Claude give me a present?" Dawn asked.

"He gave you that pen," Nathaniel reminded her. "He knows you're going to be staying here with Anita, he probably wanted to give you a nice gift because of that."

Dawn played with the edge of the blanket, not looking at anyone. "Can you find out?" she asked in a tiny voice. "If it's bad?"

"I'll have Anita ask Jean-Claude what it is," Nathaniel promised before Jason could speak. "He'll tell her the truth."

"Okay." Dawn continued playing with the blanket, lapsing into silence.

Nathaniel wished desperately that Anita or Micah were there. He didn't know how to handle Dawn when she was freaking out, or when she was really quiet. Anita knew better, Micah too. Nathaniel always felt like he was doing something wrong. He had read all the books and the websites he could on children, on what scared them and how they dealt with trauma and loss.

But the way Dawn acted wasn't like anything in the books. Nothing about her was normal, not the way she talked, now how much she knew, how she could read so well, not even the way she ate. Certainly not the way she freaked out around certain people... although there was a pattern that Nathaniel was beginning to suspect. Dawn had met many people since coming to live at Anita's house, but only a few of them had scared her. Merle, Richard, Damian... all tall alpha males with muscular builds.

Dawn pulled Nathaniel out of his thoughts by leaning against him. Nathaniel put his hand on Dawn's shoulder, careful as always to see if she flinched away from him, but she only cuddled up closer.

"Do you have Christmas at the Circus?" Dawn asked Jason.

"I do," Jason responded. "I've got a tiny tree in my room, on top of my television. And I hung some mistletoe in the main room, but took it down after Meng Die threatened to feed it to me."

"Anya once said that mistletoe is the cause of and the solution to all a girl's problems," Dawn said. "No one would explain what that meant. Does that mean you're supposed to poison someone?"

"I don't think that's what it means," Nathaniel said gently.

"Oh." Dawn stared at Jason. "Do you watch the Charlie Brown Christmas Special?"

Jason frowned. "Who's Charlie Brown?"

Dawn sat up, the blanket slipping off her shoulders. "You don't know who Charlie Brown is?" she demanded, incredulous. "No Snoopy? No Lucy? None of it?"

Jason shook his head. "Sorry, kid."

"A world without Charlie Brown is no kind of a world at all!" Dawn exclaimed. "So you never saw the Snoopy dance?"

"Again with the no."

Dawn smacked her hands against her forehead. "What kind of place is this?" she asked melodramatically. "The Snoopy dance solves everyone's problems! Xander used to do it all the time for Willow! I know, I saw it one year when they were at our house for Christmas."

"Is Snoopy a person?"

Dawn stood up and actually stamped her foot on the ground. "Snoopy is a dog! He's Charlie Brown's dog, and he dances on top of the piano while Schroeder plays at the Christmas pageant rehearsal, and no one understands why Charlie Brown is full of ennui at the over-commercialization of Christmas!" Dawn paused. "You guys do have Jesus here, right?"

"Yes, we have Jesus," Jason promised. He cracked a grin. "Well, not on me, I left him in my other pants."

Dawn rolled her eyes. "I'll show you the Snoopy dance," she said, stepping away from the blanket. "So if you ever need to cheer anyone up, you can."

With that, Dawn started jumping around, her arms straight at her sides. To Nathaniel, the Snoopy dance looked like a weird cross between Irish dancing and pogo-jumping.

She finished with a flourish. "That's it!" She pointed at a laughing Jason. "Now it's your turn, buster."

Jason stopped laughing. "I don't--"

"You dance all night at work," Dawn said. She leaned against Nathaniel, putting her arm around his neck. "Please?" She gave him big puppy-dog eyes. "It'll make me feel better."

"Of course Jason will dance for you," Nathaniel said. "He would never disappoint a little girl."

Glaring daggers at Nathaniel, Jason stood and hopped around half-heartedly. "Like this?"

Dawn heaved a mighty sigh. "No, more kick!" She pushed away from Nathaniel and showed Jason the dance again, and again, until he was actually mimicking her movements with enough energy for Dawn's satisfaction.

It took all Nathaniel had to hold his laughter inside. He made a mental note to talk to Anita about buying a video camera for Christmas.

Giggling, hair flying everywhere, Dawn collapsed on the ground by Nathaniel's side. "I feel better now, Jason!" she said.

"Oh good." Jason pushed his hair off his face. "I need a drink."

"There's water in the fridge," Nathaniel said. Jason headed for the kitchen, leaving Dawn and Nathaniel alone in the living room. Dawn giggled again, then lapsed into silence. Nathaniel decided to take a chance. "Do you want to talk about why you were upset this morning?"

Dawn looked at her hands, then slowly pushed back her sleeves. The scars on her wrists stood out bright red against her pale skin. "What if Buffy's looking for me and I'm not doing anything to find her?" Dawn whispered. "What if she can't find me because I'm not looking for her?"

Nathaniel took a deep breath. "Is there anything else about Buffy that you haven't told Anita or the police?" he asked. He caught the way Dawn flinched at the question.

"I told them about where I live and all about my family," Dawn protested. "And I don't know how I ended up in the cemetery, really!"

Nathaniel shushed the girl. "It'll be okay," he said. He knew Dawn was lying about something, holding back some piece of information that was making her feel guilty. But no matter how bad she felt, no matter how often Anita asked the girl for more, Dawn wouldn't explain.

Nathaniel had seen the way Dawn had trouble sleeping, how she knew too much for a girl her age about vampires and lycanthropes and the monsters hiding in the dark. Micah had told them how Dawn asked if Micah would eat her, and after Dawn's reaction to Damian and Merle and Richard...

If Dawn didn't want to give them all the information to find her sister, that was just fine with Nathaniel. Anyone who let a child so close to the dangerous things in the night, had let her be sliced up as a sacrifice on a freezing winter night, had no business being anywhere near Dawn. Dawn deserved better. She deserved to be safe.

Nathaniel hadn't talked about it with Anita or Micah, but he knew they felt the same way.

Even if Dawn's sister did show up, Nathaniel wasn't going to let Dawn go without a fight.

The End

You have reached the end of "Dawning Light: Strange Little Girl, Look At You". This story is complete.

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