Between Funerals, Homecoming, and Paint Chips
High school was perhaps the one constant in Dawn's life. She got up every morning at seven, she showered, got dressed, did her make-up and ate, and then she hopped into Deb's truck and they drove to school. She went through her classes, hung out with her friends, more classes, and then cheerleading. Sometimes this was followed up with tutoring from her favorite linguist. That word alone, linguist, made Deb tease her mercilessly while Elle and Alessa only laughed. She wasn't annoyed by it though. Giggling over boys and making innuendos was a normal thing for a normal high school girl to do. Studying alien languages wasn't so much, but hey, neither was studying wendigo feeding habits.
This week Dawn she was earthbound. Not a problem, Cordelia was coming to visit and Sammi and Daniel were at a funeral for someone they'd met a while ago. Spike was in town too and there was a game coming up this Friday. A big game, and she needed more practice than she was getting. Not to mention she needed to be far away from Daniel for a little bit. Academically they were fine, if there was a tablet or codex to absorb all of her attention, then they were peaches and gravy. But as soon as he got too close and the scent of his cologne came into her senses, every teasing comment Deb made about linguists and speaking in tongues would come at her full force.
Something poked her in the neck.
“And you're dead.”
Dawn turned to hug the woman standing behind her, grinning madly as Cordelia returned her embrace. She still wore the same perfume and while she looked a bit rougher around the edges, a bit more frayed and a lot wiser, she looked happy to see Dawn. She looked happy in general, even if there was some pain around her eyes. The longer Dawn looked the more she could see it, but Cordelia Chase didn't fess up, she informed you when she was ready.
“Hey Dawnie.” Cordy leaned to see the massive duffel bag on the ground. “Captain yet?”
“Not yet,” Dawn shook her head. “But I have it on very good authority that the current captain is pregnant.”
Cordelia's eyes widened before narrowing. “How do you know it's going to end her?”
“Three reasons, she's the president of the chastity club,” Dawn held up one finger. “Second, her boyfriend is over the damn moon about it, and third, her mother is already filling out the paperwork to withdraw her from school.”
Cordelia tilted her head. “How do you know that?”
“Alessa works in the office.”
Cordelia nodded in approval before she gestured for Dawn to pick her bag up. The two of them walked to the field together, running into Alessa and Dawn's other friends before they hit the green. The former cheerleader offered to take the girls out to eat after practice, Elle declining in favor of a date while Alessa admitted much the same with Deb's older brother. Deb was up for a free meal whenever it was offered.
Cordelia watched with hawkish eyes as the girls practiced, standing beside the coach with arms folded and face all business. It was intimidating to have such close attention paid to their habits and techniques, to hear absolutely nothing from her as they performed. Even the coach felt intimidated by the woman, flinching whenever Cordelia pointed out a minor flaw in the team's behavior. As Dawn dismounted, caught by Alex and Kendra, she knew that Cordelia was going to become a permanent fixture from now on. Fixture and critic, because as Dawn walked back to her, the elder was commenting how each and every one of them was minutely off in their stances and how Dawn needed to focus on her grace more. Deb needed to focus on her balance and Elle was lacking in her endurance as much as Cory and Kelsey were.
“So?” Cordelia was jogging alongside Dawn. “Any boys?”
“There's...I mean...There is, but he's older than me, like you and Wesley older, but he's so cute and so nice and he gets this look on his face...” Dawn let out a sigh before spilling everything. Every single bit and the looks she'd found herself the focus of on their last mission and they way he acted when it was just them in a room. She told Cordelia all about his first wife and the way she was kidnapped, not the alien part, but most everything else. She talked and talked, about everything and nothing, words she couldn't even say to a master of language or one of the smartest physicists in the country. Feelings she couldn't share with her new uncle or her grandfather of the ever patient Murray. Things she could only admit to Cordelia.
“And the worst part? He probably doesn't see me as anything more than a friend,” Dawn's words were spoken from around a mouthful of ice cream. The run and subsequent stop for ice cream ended with sitting in front of the TV. “That or I'm just Sam's smart niece.”
“That really sucks,” Cordelia agreed. She stuck her spoon into the carton of ice cream before she continued. “And he's been married before. That makes things much more difficult.”
Dawn looked up at Cordelia, watching the elder's face as she plotted and planned. So far as stepmothers went, Dawn wouldn't have minded Cordelia. Not at all. Most people wouldn't help a teenaged girl trap a thirty-one year old linguistics professor. Most people would laugh about it and get angry that any sort of look had gone through Daniel's eyes when a seventeen year old girl fell on top of him. Not Cordelia. Cordy had been in this situation, and in a world like theirs, full of demons and vampires and long lived creatures and short lifespans, you took life by the horns and cut them off as a trophy. Last Dawn knew, Cordelia had several pictures of the demons she'd killed. Digital trophies. She'd sent Dawn each one in a text and Dawn did much the same when she could.
More recently she hadn't been able to send Cordelia much of anything. Hammond had been pretty specific about that. She did send her a picture of the Unas though. It had made Cordelia's day to see that those who'd imprisoned her came from something so primitive. She'd been saddened as well, finding a sad karma in that they were enslaved by multiple races through the centuries.
“Have you considered getting trapped in an elevator with him?”
“How am I supposed to make an elevator trap us together?” Dawn turned to look at Cordelia. “But I have been hoping a good many things might lock us together.”
“Dawn, you're a Summers. And more importantly you're my protege!” Cordelia was sitting up straight. “We are going to land you this guy...maybe not immediately, but very soon and he will be very Yours.”
The older woman stood up.
“Now, where's Spike?”
“Probably at Daniel's,” Dawn took another bite. “They live together.”
Cordelia pulled Dawn up by the arm, ushering her to put on shoes while she grabbed the keys to her car. Angel's car really, his Viper to be exact. She really had taken Angel for all he was worth, hadn't she? If Angelus ever came back, Dawn had no doubt that things would get messy for the brunette.
“Hm?” the woman kept her gaze on the road.
“Do you ever want to talk about it?” Dawn asked. “About Pylea?”
“Sometimes.” She turned when Dawn instructed her to. “I'll tell you about it eventually. Right now, I just want a big dose of normal.”
“Normal for us,” Dawn giggled.
Spike was more than pleased when he opened the door a few moments later. He had his own carton of ice cream in hand and Los Avengers was playing in the background. Last week Daniel had complained about his DVR space being taken up by soap operas, only until Dawn started asking him about a particular character or other. He'd slowly realized through her questioning that she had no sympathy for him. The wind had left his sails and instead he was treated to the backstory of the characters he complained so much about. She'd actually gotten him to the point that he had started talking to her about the show when he picked her up after school. He wasn't actually interested, she knew that, but he pretended to be so they had something to talk about.
“So, this bint decides it's a good idea to go and get herself knocked up, but it's with Barton instead of...well, I suppose a girl can't get knocked up by an android, can she?” Spike bit the head from a gummy bear before popping it into his mouth.
“I don't think so,” Cordelia shook her head. “What's up with Antonio?”
“Still a drunk,” Dawn answered. She reached across Cordelia for the bowl of cheese poofs in Spike's lap. “Although! Natalia has been hiding his tequila, so he might sober up.”
The three of them sat in Daniel's front room until Cordelia demanded Dawn go get some rest. Spike wasn't much better, pushing her towards the bedroom with every yawn that escaped the teens lips. As she wandered into the room, she became hyperaware that she was in Daniel's room. Sleep came quickly enough for the teen, riddled though it was by dreams.
“So this guy,” Cordelia sat down on the couch with a cup of coffee in hand. Good coffee too. Daniel Jackson had good taste in the stuff. No tea, he wasn't that kind of librarian type, he had coffee. “Tell me about him?”
“Danny boy?” Spike flickered through the channels. “'s alright sort. Got Nibelt's best interest in mind most times.”
“Most times?” Cordelia pulled her legs up under her.
“Mortal, got that age thing stuck in his head.” Spike paused for a moment. “Been married before. Sixteen year old out in a nomadic region. Came down to marrying the silly girl or letting her family stone her to death.”
“But he fell in love with her.” Cordelia didn't need to hear more. “So, aside from lingering guilt and the age issue, what's Danny actually think about Dawn?”
Spike gave her a grin.
“Calls her name out in his sleep.”
Cordelia's eyes widened before she let out a laugh. This was going to be much more fun than she thought.
Daniel expected his apartment to be unlocked. He expected to hear people on the other side of the door because it was Friday and that meant Dawn and Spike would sit down and watch Nikita. He didn't expect to open the door to find Dawn stretching under the intense scrutiny of a similar looking woman. Especially not in her uniform.
“I'm home?” he asked, setting his bag beside the door. Spike was no where to be found; most times that meant he'd gone hunting.
Dawn wavered slightly and he heard the woman make a noise. That must have been Cordelia. Dawn had described her often enough, praised her for her skill in the not-quite sport Dawn seemed so invested in. She was certainly a force of her own. He rubbed at his eyes when Dawn sank into the splits. He hadn't come home for this. He'd come home to get something, a note or two, change his clothes maybe. He hadn't come home to have his head filled of images from the Wrong and Terrible Things list.
“Good enough,” Cordelia sighed. “Go put your stuff in the car.”
Dawn swung herself into a standing position, the blush of exertion across her cheeks as she smiled at Daniel. She picked her bag up from beside his and headed down to the street. Leaving him alone with the very intimidating woman in front of him.
“So,” she crossed her arms in front of her. She was wearing a very unnerving smile. “You're Daniel.”
“And you must be Cordelia.”
“Is there anyone better?” She began collecting the yoga mats from his floor. “I'll be seeing you around. The cable guy hasn't been able to squeeze me in yet and Spike makes the best brownies I've ever had.” She stood upright, grabbing her purse from the couch. “See you Sunday.”
As she left his apartment, Daniel realized that his quiet and secluded life in Colorado, his small group of friends, was not what he thought it was. That it hadn't been for some time. He traveled the galaxy with an alien and two soldiers. He worked on top secret cases. He had a vampire for a roommate and his apprentice was technically old enough to have spoken more languages then he himself had ever known. His bendy Apprentice who needed to stay in her student role and go higher up on the list of Wrong and Terrible Things.
Daniel exhaled deeply before lifting his head. The sound of an engine turning over and peeling out came from below. That wasn't why he lifted his head though. That had very little to do with his action.
Dawn hadn't said anything to him.
Not a word.
“Are you sure?” Dawn asked as she looked over her shoulder at Daniel's shrinking apartment.
“I've been doing this since I knew how it worked,” Cordelia answered as she shifted gears. “I am never giving this car back.”
Dawn had an easy time believing her on both subjects. She still couldn't help but doubt that Daniel was going to come to tonight's game though. He was on a mission, and those were usually more important than high school football. Sam had told her as much; if she was honest, Dawn was kind of glad her aunt didn't go to her games. It would have made things weird. Sam at practice was one thing, she could ignore most everything and do paperwork and she didn't have to see hundreds of people staring at Dawn as she did dangerous stunts and risque dance moves.
That was one of the reasons she was nervous about Cordelia's plan. She wasn't exactly eager to have Daniel see her shaking it in front of hundreds of people either. Hopefully that primal brain part would kick in like Cordy said it would.
She hopped out of the car and headed for the field while Cordelia looked for a place to park. She could see the team stretching on the grass and more to the point, she could see the coach looking at the former team captain in shock and disappointment. Any doubt she had was replaced with a confident satisfaction at what she saw. Sympathy as well, Sandra deserved to have the full experience of high school life, but she should have been smart enough to at least take a pill.
Deb bumped her shoulder, smiling wide. The whole team was actually.
“So, we're taking a break from a funeral to watch a football game?”
The man shrugged and went back to his nachos. He was perfectly fine with leaving negotiations to see some kids tackle each other into the mud and fight over a ball. It wasn't hockey, but that would come in the winter. It was only a few months away. Jack's eyes were taken from the still empty field when a young woman stopped in front of them.
“You must be Jack.” She extended her hand “Cordelia Chase.”
“Jack Carter.” He extended his clean hand to the young woman. “Dawn's talked about you a fair amount.” The files on her were pretty interesting too. “Visiting?”
“Actually she moved,” Daniel answered. He nearly flinched at the look Cordelia gave him. “Sorry.”
Jack had to smile at what he just saw. Miss Chase was like a school teacher and Daniel was the kid who kept interrupting her lesson because she forgot some little detail. The woman joined them on the bench instead of scolding him. She had moved to Colorado to be a little closer to Dawn and further away from the craziness that was Los Angeles. There wasn't much left for her once Angel took off for Tibet. Especially after her friends decided to focus on other things. She hadn't had much choice but to leave herself.
“Well, I did have the choice to sell the Hyperion or not. And I suppose I didn't have to take Angel's car.”
“He's in Tibet,” Jack waved it off. “What kind?”
Jack liked this girl. He liked her very much. He did not like what he saw running out onto the field and he sure as heck didn't like the look that kept flashing across Daniel's face. He especially didn't like the knowing look Cordelia wore on hers. He might have liked her, but Jack was not going to let her play meddling matchmaker. No sir!
“You were great out there,” Cordelia greeted Dawn as the young woman exited the field. “A bit off on your dismount, but nothing we can't fix.”
Dawn smiled at Cordelia's words, a bottle of water was in one hand and her gear bag in the other. The adrenaline rushing through her veins and the chill of the Colorado evening was distracting her from any embarrassment she might have felt in Daniel's presence. She would have felt a fair bit too.
“Went pretty high kiddo.” Jack reached over to pat her on the head. “I have no idea what you did, but it went very high.”
“Thanks Jack.” Dawn ducked away from the hand, grinning at him. “Shouldn't you be at work though?”
“We sent a message telling them a highly important ritual was taking place.” Daniel was looking at her with an odd look and Cordelia was grinning at Dawn from behind him. The linguist continued his explanation, entirely unaware of the stare down that had started between Cordelia and Jack. “A four year rite of passage, with multiple tests of courage and wit.”
“Clever description of high school.” Dawn adjusted her bag on her shoulder. “A bit more like Sunnydale high, but all the same.”
“Sunnydale was it's own kind of test,” Cordelia took the bag. “Go. I can see Deb trying to get your attention.”
“She wants me to go to a party,” Dawn sighed. “And I really want to go, but-”
“Go.” Cordelia reached into her purse and pulled out a slice of plastic with Snoopy on the front. “Have fun, it's a post game party for a championship game. Call me when you're done and I'll pick you up.”
Dawn all but squeaked before she hugged the elder brunette tightly. A quick goodbye to the other two fell from her lips before she ran towards the equally as excited Deb. She was going to her first party since Sunnydale. Her first not school related event in which there was music and people her own age. Dawn waved at the three adults once more as Deb pulled out of the parking lot, pausing only briefly to pick up two of their teammates.
Being dirtside was getting better every minute. When she'd made it to the party without a call from Sam or Daniel or anyone else, she finally let herself relax. She could actually be a seventeen year old girl at a party down by the river. She could have a coke by the fire and flirt and gossip like she used to.
She looked over in the direction Elle directed her.
“Who is that?”
“That,” Deb leaned over. “Is Carol's older brother James. He's visiting from military academy.”
“He's cute.” Dawn went back to sipping her drink, watching him with her friends and giggling over Deb's decidedly active imagination. He was very cute, with sandy blond hair and a close hair cut. “He looks like young Daniel.”
“She's at a party?” Sam looked over as the went up the ramp. “Who let her go?”
“Cordelia,” Jack complained. He'd been in a sour mood since he and Daniel had returned from the game. The linguist himself had been strangely quiet. “Apparently dad's secretary is moving up here.”
Sam pursed her lips at the way Jack brushed the woman off. Admitted, she wasn't thrilled about what had just happened. The files on Cordelia Chase left a person wanting as well, but it wasn't her fault that her parents had been involved in the British mafia. Sam thought a bit more about what this meant. She might lose Dawn and the relationship they'd been building for the last month and a half. Dawn might not come to her for help anymore and if she was spending more time with Cordelia she might not want to go through the gate anymore. Another time she might have been happy to reach those conclusions. Sam was very unhappy to have them now. She was looking forward to the end of this mission so she could be there when Dawn went to homecoming with her friends.
Dawn could never focus on math when she was at Daniel's house. She just couldn't. Her house was always the best place to study that mind numbing subject. The cheerleader paused. She'd never called it her house before. It was always Aunt Sammi's house before. Her room at Aunt Sammi's house where she was staying had turned into her room in the home she shared with her aunt. Her friends and family were here in Colorado, the people who'd genuinely cared were here with her and she found herself not caring about what happened in Sunnydale or in LA. Okay, maybe she cared enough to not want the world to end via those locations, but that was the extent of things.
Cordelia set a cup of coffee in front of her. The woman's purse was slung over her shoulder and her car keys were jingling in one hand.
“I'm going to head home and see if my cable guy is actually going to come tomorrow.” She buttoned her coat up before leaning down to give Dawn a hug goodbye. “I swear, this place is destroying my wardrobe.”
“That's why we have Angel's credit cards,” Dawn laughed. “Be safe.”
“Thanks. Goodnight Dawn.”
Cordelia left her, the viper's engine sounding in the quiet dusk before it faded away.
Dawn leaned over to look at the sound system against the wall. Last night's party had been fun enough for Dawn not to worry about finishing her homework the day it was assigned. James had been cute enough for her to forget about Daniel every so often, but then he'd do something to remind Dawn of the man until finally someone had turned up the stereo of their car and Dawn got lost in the music. Well, if she was home, that meant she could turn the music on as loud as she liked and dance around the house like no one was watching.
Well, loud enough that she could enjoy it without upsetting the neighbors. She liked her neighbors here in Colorado because they didn't stare at her like she was destined for freakdom. They thought she was a modern day renaissance woman.
No, Dawn would not leaving Colorado unless it was for college and she would be coming right back every break she got.
The sound of an engine dying in front of the house made Dawn turn to the window. A familiar car was just outside, a familiar blonde stepping out, worn and tired as she came closer to the house.
“Hey, Aunt Sammi?” Dawn didn't like the way her aunt looked right now. She looked more than just tired, she looked afraid. “I was wondering if...wow. You look terrible.”
Sam's brow rose before the woman let out a breath. Almost a laugh, almost a sigh, the wear was falling away and a tired smile was creeping onto her lips.
“Thank you for pointing it out.” Sam came further into the living room, setting her briefcase down before she took a seat on the couch. “What were you going to ask?”
“Oh!” Dawn moved to sit beside her aunt. “I wanted to know if we could maybe paint my room.”
Sam was quiet, and just for a moment, Dawn wondered if maybe it wasn't her home after all. Sam's eyes were bright though, lit up with excitement and relief and even happiness.
“Yeah. We can go look at paint chips tomorrow.”
“So, now we can go get Dawn and bring her home and things can go back to the way they were.”
Buffy lifted her head at her sister's name. She'd thought her sister might have gone back to nonexistence after her death. This was the first time in a week anyone had even mentioned her by name or otherwise. She'd hoped Dawn might be reborn with her and their mother, that maybe things would work out for them and she'd been assured it would happen one day. Now Xander was talking about her as though she were alive.
“What do you mean go and get her?” Buffy asked. “Where is she?”
“I'm really sorry Buffy,” Willow came forward. “We tried to keep her, but CPS found out you'd died and they took her-”
“Where?” Buffy cut Willow off. She may have growled, she may have snapped, she didn't care.
“They took her to your aunt in Colorado.”
“But she's safe and we know she's there, so we can go get her.” Xander was already moving towards the door.
“No.” Buffy shook her head. “She's safe there. Sam's in the military-”
“And we know how good they are,” Xander snorted.
“She's my aunt, Xander. My aunt Samantha, and I trust her to keep Dawn safe.” Buffy leaned back in the chair she was in. Her mother's favorite. “Sam can protect her better in the middle of nowhere than I could here on a Hellmouth.”
“Do you want to visit her?” Tara asked softly. She'd been quiet since Buffy had risen. Offering a hand or a shoulder when no one else saw her cracking. “I could call her, find out if she's up for it.”
Xander and Willow both looked at Tara as though she'd betrayed them. Buffy could only listen as Tara explained that she'd had Dawn's number since she'd settled in almost five months ago. Dawn hadn't given her number to anyone else. Not even Giles. It made Buffy think. Why wouldn't Dawn trust the others? What had happened to make her so cautious? Buffy left her thoughts as Tara fell victim to the pushy natures of those around her. Buffy was ready to step in when Willow started coming forward. It wasn't necessary, Tara had her own words and Buffy wanted to hear them.
“Dawn asked me not to share it,” Tara finally cried out. “She finally has the chance to live a normal life. Dawnie just made it to captain of her cheer squad, she's back to having straight A's, and she has friends. Could she have had any of that here? With us?”
“Of course, she'd just have to be careful and...”
Xander's continued remarks were fading away as Buffy thought about it. No. None of them could really have a normal life in Sunnydale. Even Cordelia hadn't been able to keep going with her normal life once her eyes were opened. Buffy had actually liked Cordelia once they got to know each other. Even that first day, before she'd shown a cruel side, Buffy had wanted to be friends with her.
“I don't know yet,” Buffy spoke up. “I'm not sure if she needs to know I'm alive yet.”
“No,” Buffy cut Willow off. “It's Homecoming season. If she just made captain then she needs to focus on that.”
“It's cheerleading,” Xander snorted. “How hard can it be?”
“It's normal.” Giles finally grasped what Buffy was thinking. “To burst in with the news of Buffy's...return, would ruin Dawn. Her grades, her relationship with her aunt, her new friends, all of them would suffer.”
“It's better to tell her over Winter break,” Buffy nodded.
Or to not tell her at all. Dawn was living the life Buffy had always wanted and wanted her to have as well. She was happy in a way Buffy might never be again, and if she died between now and the winter, Dawn wouldn't suffer again. The hardest thing to do in the world was to live in it; she wanted to make Dawn's life as easy as possible.
I absolutely had to change Daniel' age. Even going by original air dates for Ssn6 of Buffy, he's 36. I didn't change it too much, and once he ascends/descends things will mesh together a bit easier. Especially after Dawn awakens and Portunas becomes a bigger part of her life. I also changed Dawn's age, just by a few years, to make things slightly less awkward. She's now seventeen -assuming some of you didn't pick up on that- and she will be about 19 when Daniel descends and rejoins SG1.