A/N: Hey guys, sorry, I'm not actually dead, just struggling. I'm in my first semester of uni with a really full course load (two languages, politics and linguistics, as well as working to pick up a third language) and my little brother is fighting cancer for the last time. I haven't really been able to motivate myself to write on my old stuff, I will eventually but right now i look at most of it and it just isn't who I am anymore, I can't make myself think in the ways I did then, I can't be that optimistic. Anyway, totally not important. I've gotten some really good grades back at uni and decided that I should see what y'all thought of this!
I do not own BtVS or Lie to Me, a series that if you haven't watched yet, you should!
Dawn sat in the second row of the lecture theatre, waiting for the arrival of the guest lecturer, the one one of her professors had told her she just had to attend. For a man who didn’t seem to know what to do with a 19-year-old PhD student, he had been very insistent about here coming to see this man speak.
Dawn sighed slightly, shifting deeper in her seat. She wasn’t really entirely certain why she was here; a languages and foreign culture PhD attending a lecture on micro-expressions and lie detection didn’t make any sense to her.
She had been a student at Columbia University for six months now, ever since her return to the states from her home of five years in Britain, where she lived with her adoptive father, Rupert Giles.
After the portal that Glory opened pretty much destroyed Sunnydale before Buffy managed to close it again, the Scoobies basically scattered to the winds. Upon finding out that Dawn didn’t seem to exist outside of Sunnydale, no paper trail and, more importantly, her ‘father’ not remembering her, Willow had set one up before leaving with Tara. Giles had taken Dawn back to England with him, where she had thrown herself into her studies to escape her grief.
She now spoke ten modern languages with the fluency of a native speaker, although she didn’t bother counting the number of dialects she had mastered, and could read and, when the spoken language was still known, speak Ancient Egyptian, Sumarian, Latin as well as several demon languages.
She and Giles hypothesized that either the Key gave her some kind of special ability when it came to language learning and retention, or that this was some form of ‘compensation’ for the crappy life circumstances she’d been dealt. Either way, within eighteen months of the move to England, just after her sixteenth birthday, she had completed her A-levels and was enrolled at Oxford University. There, she completed her bachelors and masters degrees a week before her nineteenth birthday, and half a month after that, she was on her way to her homeland to work for her PhD at one of the top universities in the States.
Dawn was shaken out of her thoughts by a weight settling on the seat beside her. She turned to find a young Latino woman shifting in the seat.
“Hi,” she said, speaking softly to keep from being heard by the people filtering into the lecture theatre, smiling softly. “I’m Dawn.” She was bored, and figured that making conversation with the friendly looking woman would be more interesting that sitting and thinking.
“Ria,” replied the other woman. “What are you studying?” she asked.
“I’m doing my PhD in Language and Culture,” Dawn replied, shrugging slightly. “You?”
“I’m studying deception detection,” replied Ria.
“Cool,” Dawn replied, nodding. “I don’t actually know why I’m here, but my PhD advisor told me I needed to be, so here I am.”
Watching her face, Ria saw a brief flash of disgust when Dawn spoke of her PhD advisor.
“You don’t like him very much, do you?” she asked, surprised.
Dawn frowned slightly, then shrugged and shook her head. “He made a pass at me the first time we met. He’s over fifty, and he knows I’m only just nineteen. Yeah, he grosses me out a bit.”
Ria scowled at the idea. She turned her attention to Dawn, admitting freely that the girl was fine looking, although she definitely looked her age. Right now, she wanted to learn more about this girl who had aced the lie detection quiz when asked to take it by one of her professors, and who considered her own name to be in some way a lie. “Your accent is interesting,” she said, changing the topic, honestly curious now.
“I grew up in California,” that was a lie, but one supported by her paper trail, which again confused Ria, “but I moved to England with my adoptive father when I was fourteen. I guess a bit of the accent over there rubbed off, and I speak so many other languages that they’ve all added their own little bits and pieces.”
“How many languages?”
“Ummm…modern languages, ten, not counting dialects. Ancient languages, another three or four,” Dawn replied, shrugging modestly.
Ria, watching, was surprised to find that the modesty was real, not faked. “You really aren’t all that proud of that, are you?” she asked, surprised.
“Not really. What’s no point in being proud of it, it’s a great gift to be used, but proud of an accident of birth?” She shook her head.
Something about that last sentence had been off. ‘An accident of birth’, Dawn had said, but she didn’t actually believe that that was what it was. While she believed that she had received a gift, she didn’t see it as being genetic, another piece of this very odd puzzle that the natural was starting to realize would take a lot longer to solve than she had at first thought.
Dawn was beginning to feel suspicious of the woman beside her. While she hadn’t told any lies, and had been nothing but polite and friendly, she was clearly nervous, and that made Dawn wonder what she had to be nervous about. Fortunately for Ria, before she could call her on it, the lights dimmed and Doctor Cal Lightman walked onto the stage.
Dawn listened, growing more and more intrigued as the two-hour lecture continued, as the man on stage proceeded to explain, in detail, what it was she had been doing her entire life. Well, she admitted to herself, not her entire life, but for the five years of her true existence she had always been able to identify when people were lying to her. She had always known when Buffy, her mother or any of the Scoobies lied, although she learnt at a young age, before she truly existed, that calling people on their lies could end badly. She had learnt to hide her knowledge and use it, when possible, to her advantage.
At the end of the lecture, Ria asked if Dawn would like to get a cup of coffee. Dawn agreed, and followed the other woman out of the hall, missing the very slight glance that the man on the stage made in their direction. Soon they were seated at Dawn’s favourite café on campus, waiting on their orders.
“I have to confess something,” said Ria, having read Dawn’s increasing suspicion in her face. “I actually work with Doctor Lightman. I’m here today specifically to meet you, to sound you out. You caused quite a stir at the office when your test results came in, you know that? You scored higher than I did, and I’m supposedly one of the best naturals he’s ever found.” She didn’t hide the concern on her face at that fact, wondering what had happened to this girl to make her so good at reading people’s emotions.
“Why are you telling me this now?” she asked, curious.
“You were getting confused and suspicious about why I was here,” Ria replied. “And my boss is on his way over to talk to you right now.” A moment later, one of the chairs swung around to face backwards and Cal Lightman dropped onto it.
“Hi. You must be the Dawn Summers-Giles I’ve been hearing so much about,” he said, looking the girl up and down. She was tall and willowy, didn’t look older than her apparent nineteen years, her hair pulled back in a no-nonsense braid that fell almost to her waist.
“Nice to meet you, Doctor Lightman. That was a fascinating lecture, although I don’t quite know why they wanted me to attend, or why you would want to meet me.”
“You were asked to sit a test by one of the professors here, weren’t you?” asked Lightman, and Dawn smirked.
“You already know the answer to that question, so why should I bother giving it to you?” she asked, quirking one eyebrow at the man.
“Oh, very good,” he replied, a true grin lighting his features. “Anyway, you got one of the highest scores I’ve ever seen. An old friend told me you were coming to study here, and I just thought it would be interesting to get the results of someone who is so good at languages, to see if there was any kind of correlation,” Cal admitted, studying the girl in front of him.
“I guess that makes sense. It always did help to be able to read peoples meanings on their faces when trying to figure out meaning from context,” Dawn replied, shrugging. “Of course, sometimes it made it about a million times more confusing.”
“Very true. You, however, are an anomaly,” he said, eyeing her closely. “I’ve never met a highly educated natural before,” he told her, watching her face for her reaction to this comment. Her honest surprise lasted for less than a second, and something else, something so fleeting even he almost didn’t catch it, quickly shuttered away behind a bland expression. Why would she have felt fear at that, he wondered, even as he listened to her response.
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve known when people are lying to me,” she told him, shrugging. “It was interesting hearing the science behind how I do it, though. Thanks for that.”
Cal leaned back in surprise. “You’re telling the truth. You’ve never studied this before, have you?”
“Again with a question you already know the answer for,” replied Dawn, shaking her head slightly. “No, I haven’t.”
“So, tell me a bit about yourself,” he said, trying to get a grip on Dawn. “Where were you born?”
“Los Angeles,” Dawn replied, her right shoulder shrugging slightly.
“Uh-huh,” replied Cal, smiling politely. “How old are you?”
“Nineteen,” Dawn replied.
“Yep. Now, down to business. Do you want a job?”
“Excuse me?” Dawn was honestly shocked. She had had no idea that that was where this was leading.
“Well, you’re doing your thesis, there’s no reason for you to be here full time, is there?”
“Well, because I’m so young, the uni wants me to be. It’s weird being back in a country where I’m under the legal drinking age.” She grinned slightly. “Even though I completed my Bachelors and Masters in just over three years in a country with, in some ways, laxer laws than America, they don’t trust me not to suddenly go crazy now that I’m across the pond from my only family.” She grimaced, annoyed.
“Well, I can swing it with the uni, luv, if this is what you want,” Cal told her, and she nodded thoughtfully.
“What would I be doing?” asked Dawn, curious now.
“We use our skills to help out many different people, a lot of law enforcement agencies, government, the military, basically anyone who meets certain criteria, such as not being a dictatorship, and needs help finding the truth for a reasonable reason, we help, for a fee. You would be assisting in this, and learning more about it as you go, learning to explain, for a start, why people lie, not just identify that they’re lying.”
“So, I’d be helping people by finding the truth and the reasons behind the lies,” Dawn paraphrased.
“That’s it,” replied Lightman with a grin. “I won’t lie to you, sometimes the truth won’t be pretty, it won’t be what you want to find in a situation, but I think you already know that, don’t you.” He read her response in her face, sadness and resignation together, and nodded. “Thought so. So, wha’d’ya think?”
“It’d give you an excuse to get away from your PhD advisor,” Ria spoke up, knowing that, if her suspicions about Dawn’s past were correct, this would encourage her, and that even if they weren’t, it would still be a powerful incentive.
Seeing the expression that Dawn flashed at the mention of the man, Cal nodded firmly. “It definitely would.” He looked more closely at this girl, this child who was close enough in age to his own to stir strong emotions in him. “Has this guy done anything worthy of being brought up on misconduct charges?” he asked, his concern clear.
Dawn shrugged, but her face gave her away.
“I’m gonna take that as a yes, then,” he continued. “Come on.”
Before she really knew what was happening, Dawn found herself in the Dean’s office, giving testimony against her PhD advisor. Twenty minutes later, the man was brought in, loudly declaiming his innocence and that Dawn had put the moves on him, but he had chosen not to damage her ‘bright academic career’ by smearing her name.
The Dean, however, was well acquainted with Cal’s work, and knew that what he said was true, so took Dawn’s side, something that may not have happened if she had come forward on her own.
Far sooner than Dawn could believe, it was over, and the man who had previously held her future in the palm of his hand was being placed under investigation to find out if what he had tried to do had happened before.
Dawn left the office still in a bit of a daze, and Ria had to chuckle at her somewhat bemused expression. “He does that when its necessary, turning your life on its ear,” she told the girl, who smiled slightly and nodded.
“Thank you both,” she said. “I was…” she trailed off.
“Worried that they wouldn’t believe you if you came in on your own?” finished Cal, and Dawn nodded.
“I wear revealing clothes, I’m young and I’m across the ocean from my only family; of course I’m going to try and hit on my fifty-six year old advisor.” She shuddered, disgust flashing clearly across her face.
“I’m curious. If you knew you were likely to have these problems over here, why didn’t you stay in England?” asked Ria.
“I weighed it up. Obviously I wasn’t expecting a perv for a supervisor, but other than that, the problems didn’t seem to be that huge when compared with having everyone in British academia thinking I only got where I was because of Giles.”
“My adoptive dad,” Dawn’s fond grin was clear and honest, “he used to be the curator of the British museum.”
“And people assumed that he helped you get where you were,” Lightman nodded. “Anyway, back to what we actually came here for. What do you think?”
“I think…I think I’d like to learn from you, Doctor Lightman,” Dawn said, nodding thoughtfully.
“Well, then,” Cal replied, nodding. “How long will you need to be ready to go?”
“Well, I need to straighten everything out with the university,” she said slowly.
“I’ll take care of that side of it. We’ll find a PhD advisor who is more…open minded for you.”
“Well, other than that, all I need to do is pack up my apartment, most of which I actually haven’t gotten unpacked yet, so it won’t take more than a day or so.”
“Ok then. Here’s my card. You have a week to get everything sorted, find a place and settle in, but if you want to drop by before then, that would be fine,” Lightman said, handing over the small cardboard rectangle. “See you in a week.” He turned and walked away, Ria offering her own goodbyes before following.
“That was weird,” Ria said, frowning slightly.
“How so?” asked Cal, wondering whether he would see any growth in her answers as far as the why went.
“The things she was lying about didn’t make any sense. Her name, where she was born and where she grew up? And she doesn’t really think the things she can do are accidents of birth, but she does consider them gifts. And the things she was lying about, it was almost like they were true and weren’t at the same time, did you see that?”
“Yeah, I did, but I didn’t expect you to. I’ve seen things like this once or twice, mostly with people with things like Stockholm Syndrome. They are taught a lie, and have it ground into them so firmly that they believe that it’s the truth but on some level know it’s a lie at the same time. Hence the type of readings we saw today. Still, in a case like that, you would expect her to have the same mixed feelings for her adoptive father, but…” he trailed off, and Ria nodded.
“Nothing but honest love and affection. She mentioned him several times, and each time, love.” Ria frowned. “If you know she’s lying, why did you offer her the job?”
“Because she’s an anomaly. Because she lied, and didn’t lie, and did both at the same time. Because she fascinates me and I think she’ll be an excellent addition to the team. Because I need a puzzle to solve. Pick one.” Cal smirked at Ria, raising an eyebrow.
Ria just rolled her eyes at him and followed him back to the rental car, ready to get back to DC and her secret service boyfriend. She was looking forward to meeting Dawn Summers-Giles again, to seeing if she could crack a piece of the puzzle that, while she thought it may have intrigued her boss, had definitely captured her interest. Five Days Later, The Lightman Building
It had taken Dawn five days to finish her move. The biggest problem had been finding an apartment, but fortunately her real estate agent in New York had some DC connections and was able to put her together with a woman who found an apartment with everything Dawn needed, including a room fitted out like a dance studio, perfect for martial arts.
Once she had a place, she needed to get her stuff moved, organize shipping on the stuff she still had in storage and get herself up to Washington DC. She was honestly excited to be starting in such a new area of study. She loved studying languages, and knew that she always would, but she thought it would be nice, refreshing, to not be thinking in terms of verb conjugations in Arabic dialects as opposed to those of Mandarin Chinese all the time.
Now she stood in the lobby of the Lightman Corporation, dressed in slacks and a fashionably professional top, admiring the collage of different micro-expressions that covered the wall to her right.
“Can I help you?” Dawn froze for an instant before turning to face the woman speaking to her, who sounded so much like her mother that even six years after her death Dawn almost expected to see her. She quickly hid her pain behind a friendly, professional smile.
“Good morning, I’m Dawn Summers-Giles. Doctor Lightman told me to come by once I was finished settling in?”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Summers-Giles, I’m Doctor Foster, Doctor Lightman’s partner,”
“It’s lovely to meet you,” Dawn said, a bit more her British accent and mannerisms slipping out. “Please call me Dawn, I hear Miss Summers and I look for my…older sister,” the slightest pause and the brief flash of grief showed what that did to her, “and Miss Giles makes me look for my rather crazy maiden aunt who took me tripping around the Middle East. The things that woman would get up to, and without once actually breaking the law…” she trailed off, blushing as she realized that she was babbling. “Sorry about that, my mouth sometimes gets away from me,” she said, ducking her head and smiling self-deprecatingly.
“You’ll fit in fine around here, then,” Gillian replied, smiling gently. “We weren’t actually expecting you for another couple of days,” she said, and Dawn nodded.
“Doctor Lightman said to take a week, but to come by earlier if I was ready. I’m not much of one for doing nothing, so once I was moved in and unpacked, I came. I hope that’s okay, Doctor Foster.”
“That’s fine, of course. Let me show you around,” Gillian led Dawn further into the offices, Dawn looking around, curiosity written all over her face.
“Interesting place,” she said, glancing around. “Love the décor.” There was no hint of sarcasm in her voice as she studied the different collages that covered the walls.
“In here,” said Gillian, guiding Dawn into the AV lab, “we have Loker. Before he opens his mouth, he believes in what he calls ‘radical honesty’, and he will tell you everything that is on his mind all the time. He’s harmless, please try not to break him.”
“Hi,” Loker said, glancing over at Dawn. “You’re too young for me to be attracted to you.”
Dawn snorted softly. “You remind me of an old friend,” Dawn said with a grin, Spike’s memory suddenly bright and clear in her mind’s eye. “He had much the same policy…or just a complete lack of mental filterage, you know.” She shrugged slightly, and Loker actually laughed.
“Okay, well, Loker needs to finish his analysis,” Foster said, leading the way back out of the AV Lab. “You’ll be spending a lot of time in there, trust me, we all do.”
Foster led Dawn through the rest of the building, showing her where to find all the important things – her own office, Foster’s, Cal’s and the toilets. “Now, we’ve got some paperwork you need to fill out, just the normal things.”
She left Dawn at her desk, filling in a stack of papers. She had filled in most of them – contacts, tax details, that sort of thing, but she was staring, slightly nonplussed, at the last, when Cal Lightman appeared in the doorway.
“What did the form do to you?” he asked, staring at her with amusement pasted across his features.
Dawn jumped slightly, turning to face him. “Doctor Lightman…hi. It’s nothing, I’m just wondering why you need all the really detailed medical information?”
“So if you get hurt on a case, we don’t have the doctors scrambling to find your records from wherever they would need to be dredged up. Only it’s more a when than an if, really. Why?”
“Well, I don’t actually know the answers to…most of these,” Dawn admitted, looking down at the form with a slightly frustrated scowl.
“Alright, hold onto it, contact your former GP and get them to give you the answers,” he told her as he picked up the other forms.
“I don’t have one,” Dawn said simply.
“You don’t have a doctor?” Cal asked, confused.
“No,” was all Dawn said, but Cal didn’t miss the briefest flash of fear on her face.
“And you don’t know…your blood type, if you have any allergies, what, if any, vaccinations you have, what illnesses you’ve suffered from…” he was reading off the form now, having shifted to see what she had left blank.
“Well, you’ll just have to go and see one, then,” replied Cal, not prepared for the incapacitating fear that covered Dawn’s face before she hid it behind an almost perfect mask. “Or not,” he said. “What is it about doctors that bothers you?”
Dawn didn’t answer, just looked at him
“Wow…whoever that was really did a number on you,” Cal commented.
Dawn rolled her eyes. “Look, I can more than take care of myself, trust me. So, this information is just…unnecessary.”
“When was the last time you went to a doctor?” asked Cal, now leaning against the side of her desk looking down at her.
“I was fourteen,” Dawn replied, her voice flat, but her face showed her true feelings of mingled fear, disgust and betrayal.
Cal sat silently. The push to ask what had happened to her was strong, but he could already tell that she wasn’t going to answer the question. Instead, he tried to think of a compromise. “What if we got someone to come here, just a nurse, to draw blood for testing? Then we could get the answer to pretty much all of these questions.”
Dawn bit her lip and nodded, knowing it was the best arrangement she was going to get. She remembered the last time Giles had tried to take her to a doctor, not long after they had arrived in England when she came down with a nasty bout of the flu. The panic attack just inside the door of the surgery had been more than severe enough to convince him that it shouldn’t be tried again, and while Dawn had attempted at few times on her own, every time the mere smell of the surgery and the idea of seeing a doctor had driven her away. Even her medical papers for travel had been fakes; Giles slipped them through a forger on the Council’s payroll.
“Well then, that’s decided.” He glanced around the office, which was already showing a few signs of its new inhabitant. Clearly not nervous about staking out her space, Dawn had brought in several photographs and displayed them proudly around the room.
One in particular caught his eye, and he crossed the room to study it closer up. It was black and white, and showed Dawn, wearing a hijab and long, flowing clothing, crouching on the floor of a large canvas tent surrounded by a group of African children, all of whom were beaming at the camera, holding writing slates over their heads, the English and Arabic alphabets clearly written on each and every one. Dawn’s smile was affectionate and proud as she wrapped one arm around two children, and mussed the hair of a third with her other hand.
“My kids,” Dawn said, voice full of affection as she watched Cal study the picture.
“Where was this taken?” he asked, eyes running over the picture, taking in the clearly rudimentary setting.
“Darfur,” Dawn replied, and Cal’s eyes widened in surprise. She crossed the room and took the picture from the shelf it had been sitting on, tracing a finger over the smiling faces.
“You were over there doing…” he trailed off, curious.
“I was perfecting my Sudanese Arabic and teaching.”
“Difficult place to be.”
“Those are normally the places where you’re needed most,” Dawn replied.
“That they are,” he agreed. “Well, come on, lets get you set up in the AV lab, I want to test you against the simulator.”