Title: Accidental Pen Pals
Chapter Title: Care Package
Author: Restive Nature
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to BtVS or Dark Angel. They belong respectively to Whedon & Mutant Enemy and to Cameron/ Eglee. No infringement is intended and this fiction is for private enjoyment only.
Type: Friendship/ Humor
Pairing: Dawn/ Joshua (as friends)
Summary: All she asked for was a little help on a school project... but this IS Dawn we're talking about here.
Spoilers/ Time line: This is Season 7 for BtVS and Season 2 for Dark Angel. But things have been skewed for BtVS so that the show fits into the Dark Angel format of Post-Pulse.
Feedback: Always welcome!
Distribution: Ask first please.
A/N: This is a response to the Pen Pals Challenge. For challenge details, please see the first chapter.
Accidental Pen Pals
I am so very sorry for making you worry. It was not my intention. Just as you were having trouble before, so was I. It is very painful for me to write this, but I do not want you to feel as if you have done anything wrong.
I am sad and have not written back to you because my younger brother, Isaac was killed. There were many things wrong or maybe I should say bad for Isaac. He was hurt and scared and did not know what he was doing. And because he was scared, he was hurting other people. I feel pain in my heart, because I knew this, but I did not do the right thing to stop him, when it mattered.
I have dreams now too, like yours with your mother. I hear the bad things in my head. I wonder if I had told someone, or found Isaac before he was so badly hurt, if it could have been different. My father wanted me to take care of him, to watch out for him and I failed. I hear this most often in my dreams. And I hear too that my friends will turn away from me when they see and think of Isaac, who looked so much like me. That Max will realize I truly am a monster, even though it was her that Isaac tried to hurt last. That Cindy will see blood on my hands or Logan, who is a good man and tries to help us, will turn away not only from me, but from Max, who loves him. I fear most the look that will be on my father's face when I tell him that his beloved son is dead.
These are the dreams that haunt me, even when I am not asleep. And now I am scared that you will not want to be my friend, knowing that I am not a good person. I didn't stop my brother. People were hurt and some people died. Not just Issac. I hid him and the truth about him away from others instead of asking for the help that deep inside, I knew that he needed. I just did not think that anyone would understand.
I am sorry if this makes you feel differently about me. I will understand if you no longer wish to be friends with me. I will cherish the letters that I had from you, for the rest of my life. They have been like sunshine in my life.
I am so so so sorry about your brother. I have no idea what to say. I never imagined that you were dealing with something so monumentally huge. And I also don't know whether to be outraged that you would think I don't want to be your friend because of some mistakes that you might have made that turned out so tragically. Or extremely pissed off that your friends seem to have never shown you that nothing could turn them away from you. Maybe they've never had the chance until now. I hope they are as true to you as our real friends have been to Buffy and I.
I'm glad my letters have meant something special to you, because yours mean the world to me. They are something sweet and innocent, brightness in the dark and dreary that I sometimes live in. They are untouched by everything around me, one place where I know I can always be myself, with nothing threatening to take any part of me away. Maybe that doesn't make any sense to you, but it's how I feel.
For now, please take care of yourself. Make sure that you eat, even if you don't feel like it. And talk to any and all of your friends. I know it's hard and I know I had trouble myself with that when I was mourning. But standing outside of this, seeing it from a distance, I would hate for you to make yourself sick over this. Physically or heartsick for that matter. When you're ready to talk, go ahead and write back. And I'll continue to write to you, unless you don't want to right now. Just let me know.
Dear, dear Dawn,
Thank you so much for the care package. Of course I would love for you to keep writing to me. These letters, they mean so much to me right now. And now that I have had a little time to reflect, everything you wrote to me was very true. My friends remained true. Even when I did not want to talk, when I wanted to be left alone, they were all there for me. Even you. Max came by every day to make sure that I ate. Cindy even made special cookies to tempt me. And Logan brought a very special piece to mark Isaac's grave with. When I saw the tears that he did not cry, I knew then that we would be okay. He is a very good man.
I took the time to read again the letters that you have sent me recently. I smiled when I read about RJ and I knew, without having to read the next letter to know, that he was a crush. That is a very funny word to use for a romance feeling. Is it because at any moment you would feel that your heart is crushed if the object of the crush doesn't notice you? I knew that it was just a starting feeling or not big yet, because you talked about how RJ looked, or what he did. You did not say what his passion was, how he treated you, the things you shared. I do not think a teacher counts. Ha ha.
I have never had a crush, as you put it, on someone. There have been girls and women that have been nice to me. But they are more like friends. I think it would take a very special girl to like someone like me. And I don't think there are many out there in the world. I have my friends and I am content. For now at least.
I do not have much more to say. So I will go warm up some soup that Max left for me, because I do want you to know that I am trying to take care of myself. I decided that I need to be okay, because who will remember Isaac and the wonderful things about him, but me? Maybe I still have something good to offer this world.
I am so glad that you said that. The last line you wrote last time. So many people don't realize that even the little things they do can matter so much. I remember my mom, of course, but the things I think most on are things like, how she would come up behind me and hug me around my middle. How she called me Punkin belly. The feel of her hand as she checked my temperature on my forehead. The smell of her perfume when she helped me with homework. Those are my strongest memories of her.
She always believed that we all had something to contribute to the world. And with Buffy and I, when it wasn't what she or we or anyone for that matter expected of us, she still saw the strength in what was there. I remember once, my sister was in trouble with school. And not just her grades. The principal was a really gross little troll who seemed to hate children. I really don't know why so many of those types want to be teachers. Anyway, he put Buffy in charge of the parent's night, when all the parents go to the school to see the projects that the kids are working on. And talk to the teachers of course.
Well, Buffy tried her best to make sure everything was perfect. And it started out okay, even though we all knew that the teachers weren't going to have good things to report about her. But then, a gang of rowdies crashed the school, looking to deface it or something. And a couple of the guys, they were on drugs or something and they got violent. But it was MY sister that kept everyone safe. And my mom saw this. And she told Buffy that it didn't matter what her grades or her teachers said. When it mattered, my sister had her priorities right.
You know, it was only recently that Buffy and I started to understand each other. I think I can tell you that I was jealous for so long of her. She's a very special person. But I get now that it wasn't something that she went looking for. It's hard for me to remember that sometimes. She's my sister, always. But sometimes she has to put that aside to take care of other things. It felt for the longest time that she didn't want the burden of taking care of me, that she didn't want me around. I never understood why. I felt like she hated me, that I came along and ruined this perfect little life that she had. I get now that it wasn't perfect then, and it's not perfect now.
At least she let's me into her life too, instead of circling around it, desperate to be noticed. I used to sit in front of my mirror sometimes, feeling like a ghost, like no one could see me. Maybe I had to see myself first, before I knew what I wanted my family and friends to see of me.
Oh, I'm sounding so strange. I guess feelings are like that. And I had totally meant to cheer you up. But thinking of my Mom, missing her always and seeing Buffy trying so hard to be like her... It makes my throat close up a little and I get this funny taste in my throat and oh! I was going to ask you and before I forget, but mostly because I don't want to start crying about my mom, what kind of cookies do you like? I sent the chocolate chip ones because who doesn't love chocolate chips? But really, what do you like? And what's your favorite food? I like to experiment, but well, that doesn't always turn out so well.
Let me know!
“'Nother letter for your sweetie there, Dawn?” Xander's voice asked from behind her and Dawn jumped in her seat. Spinning around, she mock glared at Xander.
“He's not my sweetie,” she protested, relieved that she had already just sealed the letter. Now it only needed addressing, which she turned to do before she forgot and the letter got lost in the sea of papers that she regularly brought home from school. “We're just pen pals.”
“You sure about that?” Xander grinned as he leaned on the back of her chair, reading over her shoulder. But it was just her math assignment that was on top of the pile. “That's an awful lot of letters between you two.”
“I'm sure,” Dawn grinned. It would have been hypocritical of her to say that she hadn't had the occasional thought that it would have been totally cool if she had a pen pal that was a complete sweetheart of a hunk that exchanged letters with her. Getting to know who she truly was before the curiosity could no longer be contained and he showed up on her doorstep to sweep her off her feet. And then they could all ride off into the sunset together. Dawn snorted to herself as the silly grin grew.
Yeah, as if!
And while she was at it, her parents would be living and together, totally accepting of anything that came their way. Demons and Vampires wouldn't exist and Buffy would be the big sister that every kid wanted. Not because she knew five ways to kill a being with just one hand, but because she'd be cool with letting her little sister borrow her leather pants whenever she wanted.
“We live in the real world Xander,” she added with a sigh that was only part mournful for a fantasy life that would never come true. Wishes were just that because the reality of them was just that. Reality was harsh and cruel sometimes. But it was beautiful as well, to balance out the hardships. That's why there were two different words for such concepts. She knew that now. A lesson painfully taught on Buffy's last birthday. All because Dawn had been a needy little brat.
“Well, real world or no,” Xander sighed, “we've got some real work to do. You coming?”
“Yeah, I'll be right there,” Dawn nodded. She finished writing out Joshua's address with a flourish and then rose to place the letter on the mantle piece. If she didn't get to it herself, she was pretty sure that Buffy or Willow would for her. She smiled as she moved out of the dining room, flipping off the light switch as she went. It was good to have the family of friends that she did.