So much love and adoration to everyone who reviewed.
And as always, MistressAshley is a lovely and generous artist who has provided the gorgeous art on Ch.1 and 2.
Dawn dreams of a garden. Lush and beautiful, it’s filled with her favorite flowers and plants. Coming from California, Dawn is used to the beauty of nature- but this is almost too much.
She walks slowly, inhaling the fragrantly scented air as her hand skirts the leaves of the vegetation around her. It feels like she’s walking through something solid and yet malleable, like the air is made up of particles and if Dawn only concentrates enough- she can touch them.
It feels like home
, if home was a beautiful garden with a really high glass ceiling, it feels like Revello Drive and there’s nothing that Dawn would like more than to go back to those days. She has to stop herself from looking for her mom.
It’s strange, mango trees don’t normally grow with pears but Dawn shrugs and figures hey, what the hell? It’s her dream right? She steps closer to the tree, the pear one, noticing that the grass is green, tall and surprisingly thick against her bare ankles. It feels great against her flesh, like a thousand caresses seeping into her system through her feet and Dawn takes a moment to stand there and feel
“You always did have a great imagination,” an unassuming male voice says from behind her, startling her badly and making her shriek as she jumps about a foot in the air.
“Warn a girl!” she hisses, clutching at her chest as her heart goes thumpathumpathumpathumpa
. Dawn also wonders whether it’s possible to get horribly, painfully murdered by mild looking gardener types in dreams and whether this will hurt in reality.
The mild looking gardener types chuckles at that and says, “It’s Joshua actually. And no, you’re not about to be murdered.” He may be right, he’s wearing a black and red flannel shirt over a pair of jean overalls. Together with his mildly jolly demeanor, he could be a Cabbage Patch Kid albeit with a grey beard.
“Come on,” Joshua beckons with his hand, “I have something to show you.”
,” Dawn clutches at the hem of her pajamas, and why the hell is she wearing those things anyway? They’re her favorite, feel good, old pair of pj’s with teddy bears frolicking across them and a frilly pink script proclaiming to the world from her rump that Dawn is Precious. Thank you Buffy for that wonderful gift that is now apparently a fixture in Dawn’s dreams.
She decides to go for it. There’s nothing else to be done, no choice here, really. This garden feels like home, like belonging and Dawn’s never been one to back away from a mystery. The air feels heavier here, somehow, but it’s almost like the heaviness is good for her.
It helps her, seeps into her skin, into the places that have been torn apart and sewn back together after countless battles and magic spells gone awry. It feels like the garden cleanses her, washes her of all her sins and makes her new and precious again like the damn pajamas say.
Dawn follows the man in front of her, winding deeper and deeper into the garden as he says“I like your outfit by the way,” with a soft grin thrown over his shoulder.
Dawn scowls at that and sticks her tongue out at him, not minding the fact that she’s twenty and should be beyond such petty behavior. “Ha,ha funny man. Laugh it up chuckles.”
He does. An unassuming laugh that floats back to her, wrapping its way around Dawn’s spine until she feels like she’s floating.
And strangely enough, it feels like the garden is amused too. Amused by her pajamas, amused by her easy banter with Joshua. It feels welcoming and if Dawn really stops and focuses, she swears that the trees bend a little lower as she walks by, and that the leaves of green around her are thousands of reaching faces towards her sun and it feels like the whole places is crying out ‘Mine!’
“It likes you,” Joshua says up ahead, turning to stare at Dawn with curios eyes.
“It’s a garden
,” Dawn feels compelled to point that out. Because, come on. He might not be offering cheese to all and sundry but the old dude’s certainly acting off his rocker.
“And yet, it still likes you,” Joshua answers. He’s sitting at the edge of a white, marble fountain, letting the water run through his fingers. There is a marble cherub, fat and curly, holding a harp on top of the monstrosity. The water looks dark, like there are things
floating beneath the surface and leaves floating on top.
Dawn stares at the liquid in the fountain, unable to tear her eyes away, sure that if she does- evil, great and unavoidable, the soul sucking kind will come out for her. She shivers, clutching at her fleece sleeves with a thin edged panic as the trees lean towards her in commiseration.
“You shouldn’t worry about that,” Joshua says, “none of that can touch you.”
Dawn snaps her eyes back to him and surprisingly, or maybe not- given her Willow like propensity for verbal diarrhea, she says “Angels don’t look like that,” in regards to the fat winged cherub on top of the fountain.
The air smells like peaches, like hibiscus flowers and cinnamon cookies and it is the best damn combination that she’s ever thought of. It smells like her mom’s hair, comforting and warm and a reminder of lying in bed on Sunday mornings while being tickled and called ‘Pumpkin belly’.
“No,” Joshua smiles as the air goes fuzzy around her. A rose has started crawling up her leg, winding its way up her pajamas until it’s practically a boot of vines trying to climb up Dawn’s body. “We don’t.”
When she opens her eyes the next night, she’s standing in the middle of a field underneath the blazing sun. She’s wearing her favorite ‘Jail bait’ t-shirt, with the Jail crossed out in black permanent marker and only the Bait visible and a pair of daisy dukes. This is of course her favorite patrolling shirt for obvious reasons.
This doesn’t look like anywhere she’s been. The grass around her is low and burnt out sienna, almost straw really. Looking in the immediate vicinity, Dawn can see nothing but browns and yellows interspersed with the occasional olive green and an utterly defiant crimson. The landscape is foreign
and the sun prickling the skin on her forearms is not the sun of her youth.
There is a figure in the distance, hazy and wavering, but it’s moving towards her.
Dawn starts walking, cursing her dream self’s decision to wear flip flops while cavorting across a steppe in the middle of summer. Despite the obvious difficulties, she finds that she likes this dream. It’s wrong and right, familiar in all the ways it isn’t and the air- even with it’s oppressive hotness, feels like walking into a spice shop, heady and head turning.
The figure turns out to be Joshua, of course it does, except this time he’s changed out of those awful overalls and is wearing a white button down over black slacks.
“Hello Dawn,” he smiles at her, holding out his palm, expectant and not. Like he doesn’t care whether she takes it or not.
“Hey,” Dawn says and holds his hand, because it feels like she should, like she’s done this- thousands and thousands of times before. They begin walking away, still holding hands and even though Dawn is almost a head taller than him at her freakish five eleven, she still feels protected and warm within his grasp.
“Where are we?” she asks, because not that it’s not nice to go gallivanting around strange landscapes with older, excuse me, more mature men. But still. A girl has her dignity.
“We’re back where we started,” Joshua answers, slipping his hand out of hers and moving ahead where a small, fat shape is busily burrowing its body into the dusty ground.
It doesn’t look
like the garden, but Dawn’s seen enough dreamscapes to know that scenes shift and change at will.
She walks up to the kneeling man, watching him play with the fat gopher like creature gripping at his fingers with what she swears is a smile.
This has happened before. Many, many times.
“You’re real, not just a figment of my imagination” Dawn says mildly.
“I'm real,” Joshua agrees, not turning around, intent on letting the gopher thing nibble at his digits.
“I know you, don’t I?” there is a mild edge to her question, a note of panic creeping into her voice and freezing her guts.
Grey clouds are rolling on the horizon, too fast and too ominous to be natural. They quickly block the sky from her and Dawn feels fear for the first time since meeting Joshua. The barren landscape looks gloomy underneath the grey of the atmosphere.
“What are you?” she swallows.
“I’m your placeholder,” Joshua says as he straightens up, looking at her with curious interest. “I’m doing your job until you come home,” he shrugs.
Fat raindrops are starting to fall onto the parched earth.
Dawn bites her lip as she notices that the drops don’t seem to land on her companion, leaving him as dry as he came in the middle of a beginning rainstorm.
“How long have we known each other?” she has to scream to be heard over the lightning and thunder suddenly crashing through the sky.
Joshua smiles and his voice makes her bones shake and the earth tremble, “I have known you, Dawn, since the beginning of time... Since the beginning of Creation.”
Dawn can’t breathe, she can’t move and it feels like she’s fourteen again and hell is opening underneath her feet. She can smell her blood in the air and her stomach pangs from phantom wounds long healed but never forgotten. She thinks of Keys and dimensions and gods come to kill her for something she's never known. She starts screaming, raw and loud, a howl of fear and pain as Joshua’s eyes flash white and he erupts into a thousand splashes of lightning in front of her and the world goes black.