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Fragility

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Summary: Dawn went to search for her own purpose, and instead found herself in yet another difficult situation."An old soul for the Key" challenge response.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Anita Blake > Dawn-CenteredhereandnowFR1826,1756276,10410 Oct 1025 May 11No

Chapter One

AN- Alright. Here's chapter one! I did make one slight change to what I believe runs true for the Anita Blake novels-- I have slightly switched the effects of the vaccine to help against catching lycanthropy. For the following purposes, I have made the vaccine that even once infected, there is still the possibility of the vaccine preventing the spread.

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Update: I took into consideration what one of my reviewers said, and removed the prologue.

Fragility

Chapter One--




It was dark.

Dawn could barely cope with this fact when a ever-present feeling began to pound its way through her skull. Her stomach felt sick and nausea was making it churn. She could feel grass under her fingertips. It felt slick, like she had fallen asleep and the morning dew had already descended and she was all wrapped up in it.

Her chest hurt, and it was hard to breathe. She knew she should open her eyes, but the pain was so big that she could hardly be bothered to make the effort. It had been years since she had felt pain like this, and she could not fathom what would had happened to make her feel it once more.

She struggled to open her eyes, and when they were finally open all she could see was even more black. The night sky hovered overhead, and small stars that seemed so far away taunted her to get up and join them.

Her head rolled to the side and she experimentally twitched her fingers, just to see if they would move. The smell of copper and salt met her nose as her face pressed into the slick grass and she came to the sudden realization that it wasn’t dew at all.

Her face was pressed against blood.

Panic settled in and Dawn wanted to sit up, to cry for help. But no matter how hard she tried, her mouth refused to cooperate.

But then there was a scream somewhere in the distance and somebody was shouting for a phone, 911, help.

“Are you okay?” A man with pretty hair was leaning over her, his eyes full of worry. A hysterical woman was crying in the distance.

Dawn stared up at him, unable to speak, and as she lost consciousness she was aware of a hand gently touching her cheek.


* * *

Somewhere, a monitor was beeping.

Dawn had become very familiar with the sound after her mother’s illness. Hospitals had a certain smell, a certain sound and feeling. Dawn was very intimate with these sensations, and when she opened her eyes to white walls she didn’t feel surprised. Instead, Dawn took in the sight of the colorless walls and cheap floor tiles and felt more alone then she ever had before.

There was a nurse standing over her, smiling and holding a chart under one arm.

“Hello, miss,” she said. “Can I get you anything?”

Dawn tried to speak, but her throat felt so parched that she could barely make any noise come out. The nurse seemed to understand this however, because a cup of water was pushed into her numb fingers. Dawn smiled at her gratefully and quickly downed the cool liquid.

While Dawn handed the nurse back the cup, she noticed several voices were arguing outside of the room.

Noticing Dawn’s curiosity, the nurse said, “It’s just the police officers. They want to talk to you about what happened. But I was ordered here to tell you that there is a vaccine open for victims in danger of lycanthropy, and if you would like to have it administered, I am more then capable of doing so.”

Dawn stared at her blankly, thoughts swirling around that did nothing but elevate the tension in the back of her head.

“I don’t understand,” she settled on saying, her voice hardly a whisper.

The nurse’s face was carefully blank. “You don’t know what happened?”

Dawn shook her head.

The door of the hospital room was abruptly shoved open and a woman with dark hair stormed inside. A policeman followed behind her, a pad of paper in his hands. Dawn noticed a pen hanging off one ear.

Neither of them looked happy.

The nurse glared at them. “I haven’t been able to speak to her yet!”

The woman shot her a dark look. “I should have been called immediately for this. It’s pard business!”

“Pard?” Dawn murmured.

The policeman quickly approached her, sliding the pen from his ear. “Can you tell us your name?”

“Dawn,” she replied.

“Dawn,” the woman said, stepping forward. “Can you tell us who attacked you?”

“Attacked?” Dawn replied blankly.

“You might have obtained a strand of leopard lycanthropy,” the nurse interrupted. “Do you want the vaccine?”

“I don’t understand,” Dawn repeated, feeling panic begin to well up.

“You were attacked by a leopard.”

“There are leopards in LA?” Dawn said, and found herself blacking out once more.

* * *

When her eyes reopened, she was alone. She had been moved sometime while she slept. She was in a room that had a window this time, and while the curtains were rather a plain blue, it was still an improvement from her last room.

There was an IV sticking out of her arm, and she watched the bag drip with a detached curiosity. Her mind was still muddled; half formed memories and distorted images twisted around and caused her eyelids to burn.

She let her eyes slide shut, trying to conjure up the last thing she could recall. The last thing she remembered doing was fighting off a big bad in LA. Some of the mini-Slayers had needed some extra hands, and when Angel asked, Dawn couldn’t say no. She had packed her bags from the trashy hotel she was staying at in Colorado Springs and drove as fast as she could.

After that, her memories were displaced. She could remember meeting with Angel and the Slayers. She remembered grabbing weapons with the others and gearing up for battle. She could remember going after the big bad.

She couldn’t remember the battle itself, or who it was they fought.

“How are you feeling?”

Dawn’s eyes shot open and she turned to face a man. He was standing in the doorway that had been empty moments before. She puzzled over his eyes a moment, debating about the color but finally resolved that it must be the lighting that made them appear slightly yellow. They were definitely a green shade, with slits like a cat’s, and watched her with a kindness that reminded Dawn of Tara. It was the type of kindness that got good people killed.

He was almost girl-pretty, Dawn decided. His hair was almost the exact same shade of brown as her own, but way curlier and it was pulled back away from his expressive face. His lips were wide, with the bottom more full then the top lip. It made him appear like he was pouting, and Dawn knew that women probably fawned over him the way a child drooled over candy.

He watched her expectantly, reminding her that he had asked her something.

“What?” she said, feeling stupid.

The man smiled and she instantly relaxed. It was a smile that was not meant to mock her; it was one of reassurance.

“How are you feeling?” he asked gently.

Dawn pondered this for a moment, her fingers tingling as she stretched them experimentally. “I’m better, I think.”

The man strode forward a couple more steps, keeping a small distance from her. Dawn watched him out of curiosity. He seemed not quite weary, but he did keep several feet from the edge of the bed. She wondered why he didn’t come closer, but the only plausible explanation that she could deduce was that he didn’t want to frighten her.

After all, she had to admit, she had no idea who he was.

As if reading her thoughts, he said, “My name is Micah Callahan. I heard that you’re called Dawn?”

She gave a jerky nod. “Yeah, did the police tell you?”

“Anita did,” he said as he strode forward a little, letting his hands fall upon the end of her bed.

“Anita?”

He smiled. “Short, dark haired woman. She was with you earlier before you passed out.”

“I remember her,” Dawn murmured, recalling the woman. Then, a thought flickered across her mind, and she blurted out, “What is a pard? She mentioned it.”

He nodded. “I can explain in a moment. Anita is on her way with Detective Zerbrowski.”

“The policeman that was with her earlier?”

“Yes. They need to ask you a couple questions.”

The door reopened then and the woman, Anita, Dawn reminded herself, marched in with the detective in tow. The man was carrying a pad of paper once more. Anita walked up next to Micah, and Dawn noticed the way they stood next to one another; a careful closeness without being too close. She had noticed it between Willow and Tara, and Buffy and Riley.

Anita was small, and pretty. Dawn took note of how she and Buffy could have been polar opposites. Where Buffy was blonde and bubbly, this woman was dark and had a disposition that clearly stated leave me the fuck alone.

Zerbrowski on the other hand, reminded Dawn of Xander. He was wearing a suit that didn’t match his tie or shirt, his shoes were scuffed and it looked like there was part of a jelly donut dripping down one pant leg. His hair was a mix of black and grey, with silver glasses. He was taller then both Anita and Micah, and Dawn was curious to know if he acted as much like Xander outside of his job as he looked like he did.

Dawn returned her attention to Zerbrowski’s face as he introduced himself.

“We need to ask you a couple of questions,” he said. “Can you answer them for us?”

“Um.” Dawn glanced over at Micah, seeking reassurance. He gave her a small nod. She looked back at Zerbrowski, and nodded.

“Can you tell us your last name? Where you live, what happened?”

“Uh, my name is Dawn Summers.” She glanced over towards Anita and Micah again, then back to the detective. “I’m from Sunnydale, California, but I’ve been living in Colorado Springs. I was in L.A., visiting with friends, last I remember.”

He scribbled something down, then looked up at her. “Do you know what happened to you?”

Dawn shook her head. “I have no idea.”

Anita spoke then. “Do you remember what I said to you?”

Dawn chewed her bottom lip a moment, then nodded slowly. “Something about a leopard, right?”

“You said you were last in L.A., correct?” Zerbrowski interrupted.

“Yeah,” Dawn agreed. “So?”

“We’re in Saint Louis, Missouri.”

Dawn blinked and, not for the first time in her life, wished that she could have a remote control for life, just like that one movie that she had rented with Spike once. If she had one, she would totally rewind and pause and replay what he just said.

“Are you okay?” Micah asked gently.

“I think so,” Dawn whispered. “How could I have gone from California to Missouri?”

Zerbrowski looked troubled. “We were hoping you could tell us.”

Dawn shook her head. “ I have no idea.” She looked around, then back to the small group assembled before her. “Do you suppose that it will be easy to find out?”

“We don’t know,” Anita spoke up, looking extremely peeved. “Your case isn’t like the usual.”

“And the usual,” Zerbrowski added, “is pretty far out there.”

“How far?” Dawn asked, curious.

“We’re apart of RPIT.”

“Rip it?” Dawn asked, feeling like she missed something.

“Regional Preternatural Investigation Team.”

“I don’t understand,” she said helplessly.

Micah said, “Whatever happened to you, there was a leopard involved. We believe that you might have been infected, but we can’t be sure yet. That’s why you were removed to a different facility. One that is friendly to us.”

Dawn swallowed, hard. “What does a leopard have to do with anything, though? And what do you mean by us?”

Anita spoke, sounding irritated. “You might be a lycanthrope by the next full moon.”

Dawn recognized the word but, for the life of her, could not put together what leopards had to go with lycanthropy. “You mean, like, werewolves?”

“Wereleopards,” Micah corrected gently.

She blinked. Once, twice. When her mouth decided to function properly, she squeaked out, “Wereleopard?!”

Micah mistook her shock for stunned horror. “There is another option. There’s a vaccine that is available, but there is no promise that it will take away the effects. It could always just feed you another strand and infect you with another type of lycanthropy.”

“No, no,” Dawn shook her head. “That’s not-- what I mean is, I didn’t know there was such a thing as a wereleopard. I thought it was only werewolves!”

Zerbrowski looked uneasy. “You didn’t know? Where did you say you’re from?”

“Sunnydale, California,” Dawn told him again. Then she stared at Anita and Micah, giving them a hard look. “If that’s the case, then what does my being a leopard have to do with the both of you?”

Anita narrowed her eyes at her. Dawn was reminded of Anya abruptly, the way she would stare coolly at those who would besmirch her precious money. But as Anita opened her mouth, probably to snap something rude, Dawn made sure to quickly interrupt.

“I’m not trying to point fingers or anything. But I can understand why Detective Zerbrowski would be here, since this is obviously something for the police to be involved with. But I don’t know what your roles are here.”

“I’m Nimir-Ra,” Anita said. “Micah is Nimir-Raj.”

“Not ringing any bells,” Dawn snapped, her confusion coming out in the one way that it always had since she was a teenager: angry. “Want to try using normal people speak?”

While Anita glared, Micah quickly spoke. “It means that we’re the leaders of the wereleopards in this city. We wanted to be here when you woke up so that you would have the option of staying with our pard.”

“Pard again,” Dawn frowned. “What does that mean?”

“We protect our pard,” Micah explained. “We make sure that the wereleopards here are under our care.”

“Like a pack,” Dawn said, connecting the dots. Wolves traveled in packs, didn’t they? So why shouldn’t these leopards?

“Exactly,” Micah agreed.

“Do you have any information at all?” Anita demanded. If Dawn was feeling more herself, she would have rolled her eyes. One track mind, much? “Can you remember anything?”

Dawn shot her a quick look, and said, “No. The last I remember is being in L.A., and then,” she froze.

“Then,” Zerbrowski prompted as she fell silent.

“Waking up in a pool of blood,” Dawn finished.

An uncomfortable silence settled among the group and Dawn turned to look at Micah. Of the three gathered, he seemed to be the most trustworthy. Why, she wasn’t sure. But she would take what she got.

“What will happen now?” she asked with uncertainty.

“We wait to see what will happen on the full moon.”

* * *

For the next two days, Dawn was surrounded by people with faces without names. She was introduced to many other shifters, or lycanthropes as they were alternatively called. There was always somebody on patrol, watching over her as she mechanically went through the routine check-ups, exams, and occasional blood tests. Every time that a nurse slid a needle into her arm and withdrew blood, Dawn turned her face away to stare bleakly at the walls, her thoughts full of blood dripping down her stomach and causing portals of destruction.

A nurse even had to help her take a bath. When Dawn had sank into the hot water, it had felt as close to heaven as she was sure she was likely too for awhile, if the mirror was any indication.

The first time Dawn caught a reflection of herself, she was horrified. Bruises blotched across her skin, down her face and onto her neck. Her lip was split, she had a large gash across her forehead, and she would not even get started on the mess that she had once considered her back.

There were large claw marks down across one shoulder, and she would leave it at that.

Micah, Anita and Zerbrowski had stayed with her and questioned her for about another hour that day, the detective taking down notes on her family, her address, her school information. She had to go into an explanation about the destruction of Sunnydale, which left both Anita and Zerbrowski with polite faces, and she knew that they didn’t believe her.

Dawn prattled off the numbers where they could reach her sister, and they left with the promise to return when they discovered any new information.

It was on that second day, as she sat still watching a nurse check her blood pressure, that Zerbrowski and Anita returned. Dawn watched them walk in, the nurse scribbling something down onto the chart at the end of her bed before leaving.

“Hi,” Dawn said.

Zerbrowski gave her a small smile, but Anita simply regarded her with an unfathomable expression.

Dawn glanced between the two, her gut twisting into butterflies. Not the good type. “Is something wrong?”

“Sunnydale, California.” Anita said.

Dawn frowned, perplexed. “What about it?”

“It doesn’t exist.”

Dawn frowned. “I know.”

“You know?” Anita said, sounding outraged.

“Yeah,” Dawn blinked. “Remember the part of the explanation where I told you it turned into a giant sinkhole and everyone who lived had to move?”

Anita scowled darkly as Zerbrowki shook his head.

“What Anita means,” he said. “Is that Sunnydale doesn’t exist. At all. There’s no records, no maps, nothing. There’s not even a sinkhole.”

Dawn felt the world collapsed from underneath her. She knew she was still sitting on the hospital bed, but it felt like the universe had dropped away from her and left her with nothing but cool air and horror.

“But, where did it go?” she whispered through numb lips.

Anita sneered. “Or you could ‘fess up and tell us where the hell you’re really from.”

“I didn’t lie!” Dawn protested. “I told you everything you need to know!”

“There is no Sunnydale, and no record of anybody named Buffy Summers. We located a Joyce Summers in L.A., but she was very much alive and knew nothing about you, and had no daughters named Dawn. There was no records of any woman by that name dying from an aneurysm.”

Dawn licked her lips, trying to will herself to feel something other than the numbness that was settling into her skin and corroding her towards a feeling of dark ice. If there was no Sunnydale, and she had no mother, and no Buffy, did that mean that she truly didn’t exist anymore?

Maybe she was no longer in her world. Maybe she was in…

“Is this Hell?” Dawn asked, staring at them. She wondered, not for the first time, if this was how Buffy had felt after being torn out of Heaven. When no one offered up a response, she demanded again, “is this Hell?”

“What?” Anita finally said, shocked.

Dawn turned her face away from them both, letting her eyes close. “I don’t want to be in Hell.”

“It’s Saint Louis,” Zerbrowski said slowly, as if speaking to a child. “Don’t you remember?”

“No,” Dawn said stubbornly. “Without Buffy here, this must be Hell.”

Dawn refused to say another word, no matter how hard they all tried to get her to. They tried everything legal; coaxing her, bribing her, threatening her. But Dawn wouldn’t sway, because if she had wound up in Hell and Buffy wasn’t there to protect her anymore, then Dawn would be strong enough to live it through to get back home.

And as soon as she got her memories back, she would find whoever sent her here, and she would make them pay.
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