Dawning Light: The Shopping Day Before The Night Before Christmas
A Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Anita Blake crossover
: It's the last shopping day before Christmas Eve, and the malls of St. Louis are packed with last-minute shoppers...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.Rating:
so G it's great.Note
: This was initially part of chapter 11 of Dawning Light
, but it was rather self-contained and it also didn't move the story along, so it's now a "missing scene".~~~
"We don't have to do this," Nathaniel said, unbuttoning Dawn's jacket.
Dawn swallowed the growing anxiety in her chest. "Yes, we do! It's Christmas in a few days and Anita and Micah are at work and this is the last chance to go shopping and I don't have any gifts for anyone
Nathaniel glanced around the packed mall. "You don't need to get us presents, Dawn."
"I totally do!" Dawn tugged on Nathaniel's sleeve until he knelt down. "Please?"
Nathaniel sighed. "I didn't know the mall would be this crowded."
"Dawn, sometimes you don't like crowded places," Nathaniel reminded her.
Dawn waved that off. "This is totally different, we have shopping to do!"
Smiling faintly, Nathaniel helped Dawn out of her coat. "If you do want to leave, you just tell me, okay?"
"I will." Dawn tried to turn and head into the fray, but Nathaniel caught her wrist. "What?"
"You can't run off." Dawn caught a thin spike of fear coming from Nathaniel, and she didn't understand. "You have to stay with me, I can't lose you."
"You won't lose me, I promise! I'll stay with you."
Nathaniel didn't move. "If we do get separated, do you know what to do?"
Dawn was struck with a weird sense of deja vu, from when she was eleven and the first time Buffy took her to a mall without Mom. "Go sit on that bench and don't bug me!"
"But what if I can't find you?" Dawn pleaded, scared that her sister would leave her behind.
"Like I could be so lucky to lose you!"
Dawn looked at her shoes. "I won't get lost," she whispered, all the excitement at the trip chased out of her head by memories of home.
"Dawn, that's not what I meant." Nathaniel hesitated for a moment, then picked Dawn up and stood. "I didn't think that you'd try to get in trouble."
Dawn rested her head against Nathaniel's shoulder. She wasn't sure she wanted a whole mall full of people looking at her being a big baby... but she also wasn't sure she cared. "I won't get lost, I promise."
Nathaniel touched Dawn's cheek. "Maybe I can carry you for a little while?" he suggested.
Digging her fingers into the fabric of Nathaniel's shirt, Dawn watched the mass of humanity flow past them. The fear Dawn felt from Nathaniel shifted into apprehension and worry and something deeper, darker. Something like a memory Dawn wasn't sure she wanted to see.
The more Dawn glimpsed of Nathaniel's past, the less she understood.
Taking her silence for agreement, Nathaniel stepped into the flow of people. From her vantage point on his shoulder, Dawn could see the shops and the faces of the people around them, and it was almost like being the real her again, not some midget-sized kid.
After a while, Dawn started taking in more of her surroundings. The mall was huge, bigger than anything in Sunnydale. Tinny Christmas carols and shrill voices echoed off the hard surfaces of tile and glass. But what made everything seem so alien to Dawn was the undercurrent of emotion, the want
that filled the air.
But it wasn't a good sort of desire, like the feeling Dawn had when Anita tucked her into bed or when Micah let her pick what they were having for dinner. It felt hard and sharp and desperate. Something about it was too familiar, too close, and Dawn closed her eyes on that memory.
"What's wrong?" Nathaniel asked immediately.
Dawn shook her head. "What's Christmas supposed to mean here?" she asked, voice muffled against Nathaniel's shoulder.
Nathaniel carefully shifted Dawn higher on his hip. "Do you mean Christmas in general?"
"Not really." Dawn blinked hard, watching the bright colors pass them by, then twisted to look at Nathaniel. "What does it mean to you?"
"To me?" Nathaniel paused, frowning. Dawn wondered what he was thinking about. Or who he was thinking about. "It's like... it's about having people who care about you."
Something in Nathaniel's face softened, as it always did when he spoke about Anita. "Yes, like Anita. And Micah, and Jason, and the Pard." He smiled hesitantly. "And you, too."
A warm feeling settled over Dawn, blocking out the sharp edges in her mind, and even if they weren't entirely her own emotions, she let them keep her safe. "When I was a little kid, I always thought it was about presents. But family's better than presents, though, any day." Dawn sat up on Nathaniel's arm and shook her head. Even though she was fifteen and looked five, she felt ninety. "I think I can walk now."
Carefully, Nathaniel set Dawn on the ground. Everything looked so different from down here, Dawn thought. She absently gripped Nathaniel's hand as they set off deeper into the mall.
After a few minutes of walking past shops full of boring clothing and electronics, Dawn's steps slowed. "Can we go in there?" she asked, pointing at a window filled with stuffed animals.
"Of course," Nathaniel replied, navigating them against the flow of people into the store.
Once inside, Dawn bounced up and down on her toes. There was every kind of stuffed animal in here! They had giraffes, and cats, teddy bears of every size, and even lions and tigers!
"Oh my," Dawn said, and broke into giggles at her own Wizard of Oz joke. Nathaniel looked at her quizzically. "Can we look around?"
Dawn let go of Nathaniel's hand and scampered deeper into the store. She'd always loved stuffed animals. The toys in the store were so soft, so pretty. Checking that Nathaniel was right behind her, Dawn looked at the shelves of teddy bears and zoo animals, pausing when she came to the wall of stuffed penguins. "Why are there so many kinds of penguins?" she asked, looking over her shoulder at Nathaniel.
"I don't know," he said.
A hint of movement behind Nathaniel caught Dawn's attention. One of the female sales clerks hovered by the stand of stuffed elephants; the woman's entire attention on Nathaniel. Dawn rolled her eyes. Grown-ups were so weird. "Have you seen the movie?" the lady asked when Nathaniel turned her way. "The Penguin Brigade?"
Nathaniel shook his head, an easy smile on his face as he laid his hand on Dawn's shoulder. "Is it new?"
The woman actually giggled. "It just came out last week."
Growing more annoyed by the minute at the silly woman, Dawn sidled closer to Nathaniel and craned her head up to look at him. "Can we go see it sometime?" she asked, trying to sound as cute as possible.
Nathaniel looked down, and this time his smile seemed genuine. "Of course."
Dawn instantly felt better. She was being silly herself. Shaking her head, she headed down the aisle, away from the stuffed penguins.
"You don't want to get a penguin?" Nathaniel asked, following her. "Anita likes them."
"I know," Dawn said. "But she already has some, and that'd be like a total copy-cat to get her something I know she likes, right?" Dawn stopped by the display of tropical bird toys. "We can get one of these!" Dawn exclaimed, pointing at a bright blue parrot that had been knocked onto its side on the shelf. She poked at it. "See? It's pining for the fjords!" Nathaniel gave her a blank look. "Never mind."
"Do you like any of these toys?" Nathaniel asked, and Dawn wasn't sure if she imagined the hopeful tone in his voice. "Stuffed animals are fun."
"Uh huh," Dawn murmured as she made a tiny toy tiger bounce up and down like Tigger. "I used to have like, a million of them, before we moved to Sunnydale. Even Buffy had Mr. Gordo." She moved down the aisle, Nathaniel as quiet and hovering as a ghost. "He was a stuffed pig. Buffy said I used to chew his ears when I was teething. She kept telling Mom on me, but I was pre-verbal so Mom told Buffy she had to share."
"Did she?" Nathaniel helped Dawn pull a plush lion off the shelf.
"Yup." Dawn twitched the toy's tail. It was almost what she wanted, but not quite. She put the lion back and continued on. "She usually did what Mom told her-- Oh!"
Dawn bolted across the store floor, barely missing a collision with the store clerk's legs. There it was! Exactly what she wanted! She picked the toy up with eager hands. It was a stuffed kitten, small enough to fit in her hands. Its soft fur was a light golden brown, almost the same color as Dawn's hair, and it had hazel green eyes!
"Can I get this?" Dawn asked Nathaniel. She tucked the toy against her chest and grabbed at Nathaniel's pant leg with her free hand. "For Micah, for Christmas? Please? Pretty please? With sugar and a cherry on top?"
"You want to get Micah a toy for Christmas?" Nathaniel couldn't mask the confused tinge in his voice.
"Totally!" Dawn held up the stuffed cat for Nathaniel's inspection. "'Cause it's sort of like me, and it's a cat, so he won't forget about me when he has to work a long day or if I have to go away."
Nathaniel looked at Dawn for a very long moment. "Dawn, Micah isn't ever going to forget you," Nathaniel said. "Neither are me or Anita."
Dawn leaned against Nathaniel's leg, looking at the toy cat in her arms. "But he still might like a reminder of me, right?"
Nathaniel took a deep breath. "Of course he would. Why don't we go see if they can wrap it for us?"
"Thank you so much!" Dawn managed to both jump up and down at the same time as she hugged Nathaniel around the waist. "This is going to be a really good Christmas!"
"It sure is," Nathaniel agreed, smiling down at Dawn.~~~
"But Anita said she kept getting in trouble at work because she takes in coffee cups that her boss hates," Dawn argued as she and Nathaniel exited the movie memorabilia shop. "She won't get in trouble with this cup, even though she should."
"Anita has never liked wine, so I don't think that the cup fits her," Nathaniel said, shifting the shopping bags to one hand so he could take hold of Dawn's little palm.
"But haven't you seen the Dracula movie?" Dawn demanded. "They have it here, I saw it, and this fits sooo
Nathaniel stopped dead. "When did you see the Dracula movie?"
Dawn tried to look innocent. "It was on television a few days ago," she said vaguely. "I only saw a little bit."
"You shouldn't be watching those kinds of movies, Dawn, you'll get scared," Nathaniel told her, guiding Dawn back into the mall. "Children shouldn't watch scary movies."
"The only thing scary about Dracula is his choice in tailors," Dawn said scathingly. "Spike was a whole lot scarier than Dracula." And Angel was cuter, Dawn added mentally. She'd only seen the real Dracula in passing that night he'd had coffee with Mom, but she'd thought at the time that the man really needed a haircut. "So Anita will like the cup and her boss will hate it but he won't be able to say anything so everyone wins!"
Nathaniel shook his head. "You really are a lot like Anita," he said.
Dawn beamed. "Thanks!"
"You're welcome." Nathaniel nodded toward another wing of the mall. "Are you hungry?"
"Mall food?" Dawn asked, perking up. "I love mall food!"
So, apparently, did everyone else shopping on that second-to-last shopping day before Christmas. The food court was packed with loud, frantic shoppers. Mostly haggard-looking mothers with chubby, grabby children demanding food or toys or video games. Dawn edged a little closer to Nathaniel as she watched one boy, maybe her apparent age, shovel a hamburger into his gaping maw.
Repulsed, Dawn fervently hoped that she had never been so ill-mannered while out in public. Probably not, she decided. Buffy would have pointed out any gross behavior in Dawn. She'd certainly done so every other time Dawn had been "embarrassing" while Buffy was around.
"What do you want to eat?" Nathaniel asked.
Dawn made a face. "Celery? And water?"
"You need more to eat than that," Nathaniel said. Dawn figured that he either hadn't seen what she had, or he'd totally lost his sense of humor in the Dracula store.
"Fine," Dawn exclaimed. "What should I eat?"
Nathaniel looked around the cavernous food court. "How about Mexican?" he suggested.
"Ooh, tacos?" Dawn asked, celery forgotten. "Can I have a taco? With the hard shell that goes crunch when you bite into it?"
"Okay." Nathaniel navigated their way towards the food stall in question. "And maybe we can get them to put some celery in it."
Dawn peered suspiciously at Nathaniel, but his face was blank. "Hrmph," was all Dawn said. ~~~
"Are we done?" Nathaniel asked as they headed down yet another generic mall corridor. Dawn hoped that she never got lost in a place like this; she'd never find her way out. It would be the perfect kind of mall to trap zombies in, too. "Dawn?"
"Huh?" Dawn blinked. "I guess."
Nathaniel smiled. "It's been a long day, hasn't it?"
Dawn nodded and swung her hand in Nathaniel's. "Kinda. How long have we been here?"
"About two hours."
"Only two hours?" Dawn demanded. "I used to be able to be in a mall all afternoon! Man, I must be getting old."
Her further rant on the matter was derailed as a flash of silver down the corridor caught her eye. Curious, she headed in that direction, pulling Nathaniel along with her.
The flashing had been from one of the many carts set up along the center of the mall wing. Light reflected off shiny jewelry, with sparkling stones set in hair clips and necklaces and jewelry boxes, shaped like cute animals and flowers and hearts. Dawn knew that most of the stuff on the cart was junk, but it was so shiny and pretty that she didn't care.
Nathaniel waited patiently while Dawn looked and looked, never touching because that was rude, but her eyes took in everything, including something almost hidden behind a ladybug box.
The woman in charge of the cart came over to them. "Can I help you find something?" she said. Dawn knew in that instant that the woman was tired and her feet hurt, but she'd sold a lot of jewelry that day so she was happy that she would be able to buy a real turkey for her kids' Christmas dinner. That happiness rushed over Dawn and made her turn against Nathaniel's leg, hiding her face.
"She's shy sometimes," Nathaniel explained, his hand covering Dawn's back.
"That's all right," the woman said. "She's a beautiful girl."
Dawn peeked up at the woman. "I was just looking," she whispered.
"Look all you want," the woman said. "Is there something special you were looking at?"
Dawn stepped hesitantly away from Nathaniel. "Maybe."
"What is it, Dawn?" Nathaniel asked. "Is there something you want?"
Dawn pointed at the cart. "Behind the ladybug." She waited as the woman lifted out the pendant. "That."
"May I?" Nathaniel asked, taking the pendant, shaped like an old-fashioned locket, from the woman. "It's very nice. Do you want it?"
Nervousness gripping her stomach, Dawn nodded, staring at Nathaniel. "Can... can I get it for Buffy?"
"For your sister?" Nathaniel's voice was blank, but suddenly Dawn felt like a child and a fool, wanting to buy a Christmas present for a sister she may never see again.
"Never mind, put it back," Dawn said in a rush, pushing Nathaniel toward the saleswoman. Her face was burning up and she wanted to throw up and cry at the same time.
Nathaniel laid his hand on Dawn's shoulder, squeezing gently. "We'll take it," he told the saleswoman. "And a shorter chain."
Dawn couldn't look away as Nathaniel handed over a large fold of bills, and received the locket in a velvet box. He put the box into one of the shopping bags, then picked up Dawn and settled her on his hip.
"Merry Christmas," the saleswoman called after them.
Nathaniel returned the salutation, but Dawn couldn't speak. She gripped Nathaniel's shirt tightly, still feeling as if she was going to cry. Nathaniel carried Dawn as far as the mall entrance, when he set her down to help her into her jacket.
"Why did you do that?" Dawn asked. She knew that Anita and Nathaniel and everyone didn't think they would ever find Buffy. Even Dawn didn't think Buffy would ever find her again.
Nathaniel buttoned up Dawn's jacket and straightened her collar. "I buy Nicky a Christmas present every year," he said quietly. "Come on, let's get home and wrap these presents."
Dawn's eyes were wide. She wanted to tell Nathaniel that she was sorry his brother had died, and that she knew how he felt, and that she appreciated what he'd done more than he would ever know.
But in the end, all Dawn could do was let Nathaniel take her hand and guide her carefully out the mall doors into the freezing, swirling snow.end