Title: Accidental Pen Pals
Chapter Title: Kerouac Style
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. The airings of the episodes for each will not quite match up. In BtVS, it is after the first few episodes and Willow has returned. In Dark Angel, it is several episodes in and Joshua has been living in Sandeman's house for some time and has been painting, but has not met Annie at all.
Feedback: Always welcome!
Distribution: Ask first please.
A/N: This is a response to the Pen Pals Challenge (an extremely old challenge, that I could no longer find on the TtH site) as follows:
The BtVS/AtS character of your choice and the crossover character of your
choice become pen pals.
How does it happen?
Why do they discuss?
Do they ever meet?
Is romance in the air? Or just friendship? Maybe intense dislike?
Accidental Pen Pals
Dawn was tired and worn out, yet strangely high after getting home with her sister from school that day. Buffy was still settling into the routine which had just shifted again with the new routine that they had been expecting, but had just begun this month. Both Dawn and Buffy had known that this was going to be extremely stressful, the re-opening of the Sunnydale High School. Dawn didn't have to go over everything again in her mind. Being located over the Hellmouth was enough to say. It said it all.
And being attacked by controlled Zombies and being dragged down to the basement on her very first day had been a special welcome that Dawn could have done without. But that at least had garnered her first friendships at high school, with Kit and Carlos, who were probably just as much of outcasts as it looked like Dawn was going to be. It had also garnered Buffy an offer of a part time job. And while it did not pay much, at least it was money coming in, some security and stability, which Child Protective Services would be happy about and it positioned Buffy ever better than they could have hoped.
So now, her older sister, the Vampire Slayer, was able to hang around the school, to watch out for demonic activity and trouble, without raising eyebrows and constantly having to come up with excuses. Buffy could only check on Dawn physically so many times before the teachers would do something about it.
“So you got homework this weekend, Dawnie?” Buffy asked of her younger sister after she had stowed her coat and purse at the coat rack next to the front door. Dawn had already toted her back pack over to the dining room table and was pulling out her chair. One of the agreements that she and Buffy had was that she'd get her homework done immediately after school and before weekends, so that she had it done in case of any problems coming up. Whether it was Hellmouth related or not.
“Just a few things left,” Dawn answered as she positioned the chair she chosen to seat herself in to her liking. Her sister nodded approvingly, stroking Dawn's hair once as she passed by.
“I'll go get us a snack then, huh?”
Her sister didn't bother to wait for Dawn's reply, which didn't bother Dawn. Buffy, now that she had settled into the routine of trying to be the responsible adult, not that she would say Mom, because both Buffy and Dawn admitted readily that she couldn't replace Joyce Summers, but still, it was a lot easier than it had first been. And snacks after school was something they always had. Dawn dug the two notebooks out of her backpack that she needed. She could hear her sister looking through the refrigerator and leaned over to catch her attention.
“Hey, do you think Willow would let me borrow her laptop tonight?” she called out. There was a pause and then Buffy's head popped into view.
“She said it was fine if you needed it for school,” Buffy reminded her. “Is it for school?” Dawn nodded quickly.
“We got an assignment in government today,” she explained, referencing one of her classes, pulling the worksheet out in case Buffy wanted to confirm things. “We're supposed to contact the Chamber of Commerce in each of three cities in one state and gather information on all sorts of stuff,” Dawn gave her older sister a quick overview. It was a fairly simple seeming assignment, but Dawn could see that it was going to get very involved. “It's a quarter long assignment,” she went on as Buffy came closer to look at the sheet that Dawn held out to her, nodding as well. “We get to give presentations about the cities we learn about.”
“Kind of Kerouac in the classroom, huh?” Buffy grinned at her sister. She kind of liked the idea. It wasn't as if she could offer to take Dawn on a tour of the United States and judging from Xander's refusal still to talk about his cross country road trip that wasn't, she did not especially like the idea of unleashing her still under aged teenage sister on the unsuspecting world.
“Pretty much,” Dawn agreed. “We're supposed to pick a large city everyone is familiar with, a moderately sized one and a small town. The qualifications are listed on the sheet.”
“So do you get to pick your state? Or were they assigned?” Buffy wondered.
“They were assigned,” Dawn sighed. She could see her sisters eyes were calculating. “And no one got California. Mr. Bern thought that was too easy.”
“Oh please, say you got Hawaii,” Buffy teasingly pleaded. “If it was school and work related, we could so take a vacation there.”
Dawn grinned widely. That had been her thought too when Mr. Bern had been handing out the note cards with each students assigned state. “Nah, I got Washington.”
“D.C?” Buffy's brows furrowed and then she quickly corrected herself. “Which is a district and not a state. So hence Washington state. Do you know which cities you're gonna pick?”
“Well, I'm thinking Seattle, cause it's well known, but I'm not sure about the others,” Dawn offered. “That's why I need the computer. To research the towns and pick some, and also to get the addresses for their Chambers, so I can mail off these letters.” She pulled the form letters that the teacher had provided from the information pack and let her sister see. They were a quick overview of the project and the kind of things the students would need to accrue for the project. “Mr. Bern also said that we should pick several places, since there was no guarantee that the city would respond.”
“Yeah,” Buffy scoffed, “but don't most of them have like a tourism thing that you could go through?” Dawn nodded.
“That would probably be the easiest way,” she agreed. Even as she read the letters more thoroughly, Buffy continued to play with Dawn's long brown hair. It was a long standing habit she had and Dawn doubted that they'd ever grow out of it.
“All right then,” Buffy agreed, setting the sheets down. “As soon as Willow is home, ask to borrow the laptop. There are envelopes and stamps in the drawer of the hall desk. Anything else?”
“Just three questions in algebra that I didn't get a chance to finish,” Dawn assured her. Buffy grinned and headed back to the kitchen.
“So definitely snack time then,” she deiced.
As Dawn had inferred and already knew, it was no problem to borrow Willow's laptop. And in fact, Willow had added to Dawn's ideas of what cities to contact, having been up there when she was younger, visiting relatives with her parents. Of course, that had been back before the Pulse had occurred. Willow had, of course pointed out that a lot of the bigger cities had it worse than the smaller towns in some terms. Sunnydale itself, that seemed to come with a selective memory wipe about major events the moment a person moved in, was unable to ignore this happening as it was a countrywide scale attack that caused ripples around the world.
But true to the American spirit, they had persevered and the country was slowly moving on. True there was more corruption around, but again, that didn't seem to affect Sunnydale. It was still demons and vampires ahoy, always would be. After ten years, it was just another fact of life, although Buffy had commented once that she was extremely glad that she wasn't the slayer when it occurred. She could only imagine the chaos that would have ensued while humans were panicking over that. Giles had simply shuddered at his memories and knowledge of the demons that had come out of the woodwork, only to be beaten back by every ounce of strength that the Slayer and watcher's council could muster. It had taken a while, but things eventually went back to the status quo, with the Hellmouth being the major concern.
Willow had echoed Buffy's suggestion to Dawn that she try locating tourism bureaus along with the chambers of commerce, since it broadened her scope of information and the likelihood that she would be answered.
Dawn had considered that and agreed, but it was when she was narrowing her list down to her top three choices for each of the required cities or townships, that Buffy popped her head back into the dining room. Her hands still had traces of dish soap bubbles, proof that she was hurrying through the dishes.
“Hey Dawnie, didn't one of your friends from junior high move to Seattle?” she asked and Dawn glanced up at her sister in surprise. Buffy actually remembered something to do with her sister from a few years ago.
“Uh yeah,” Dawn answered after she thought for a moment to recall the girls name. They hadn't actually been close friends, but Jeanine had been to all the same slumber parties that Dawn had, so, ergo Buffy logic. “Jeanine and her family moved there just after seventh grade started. Why?”
“Well I was thinking,” Buffy quickly wiped her hands on the towel draped over her shoulder, to prevent dripping, though the soap was now running down her arms, “that maybe you could write to her as well and see if she'd send you some of that stuff. Or maybe kind of get, like a insider's look at the seamier side of Seattle.”
“You've been waiting to use that alliteration all night, haven't ya Buff?” Willow grinned from her paperwork that she was studying. Dawn had wondered what it was, but it could have been any number of things ranging from homework from the Coven to whatever new big bad was going to pop up this year.
“Just an hour or so,” Buffy grinned.
“That'd be fine,” Dawn nodded and then realized the major problem inherent in that. “Except, I don't think I have her address. I mean, she gave it to everyone before she moved but I don't think I kept it.”
“Oh, okay,” Buffy shrugged. “It was just an idea.” And unperturbed, she returned to her chore.
“You know,” Willow pointed out reasonably, “if you know her parents names, you could probably look her address up on line.”
“I could, maybe I will,” Dawn offered. Her pencil scratched along the paper as she finally weighed the careful thought in her mind and then slashed through the loser of the final choice. “There, I've decided.”
“So where are you going to write Dawnie?” Willow asked curiously, leaning forward.
“Well, for the three major cities, I'm going with Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane,” Dawn explained as she slid the list over to her redheaded friend. “And then I was thinking Mount Vernon, since it's fairly well known and Okanagon, because I might be able to work something in about the Okanagan lake monster up in British Columbia.”
“An interesting idea,” Willow mused, pursing her lips and then nodding. “As long as you stay in the realm of the fictitious.”
“Yeah, totally,” Dawn agreed. She heard one last clink of dishes upon dishes and then Buffy returned to the room, this time bearing a different towel with which to dry her hands. She moved to stand beside Willow and read off the list to herself from over her friends shoulder.
“There's a town in Washington called Starbucks?” she demanded wryly. “Is that where they make all the coffee? 'Cause if the trip to Hawaii is out, then I vote we go there.”
“It's Starbuck, Buffy,” Willow chuckled, “emphasis on the uck and oh that suddenly sounded bad coming out of my mouth because I am suddenly realizing what rhymes with that.” She threw an apologetic look at her best friend.
“And now so is Dawn,” Buffy pointed out. “But seriously Dawn, Forks?”
“What?” Dawn protested, even though her eyes were twinkling. That had been the city she had been deliberating over. And had finally chosen, for more reason than what her sister would obviously be thinking.
“Aside from the fact the you go into guy coma every time Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner are mentioned, I don't think there's much more about the town you can report.”
“Well that's exactly it,” Dawn enthused. “See, there really wasn't anything about Forks until they shot the movie there. So now it's all bundling industry. It'll be cool to explain the good changes and the bad changes because of international attention to a little town.”
Both the older women stared at her for a moment, gaging the sincerity of the teen's words. She felt herself squirming guiltily under the weight of the combined looks.
“Okay, and it would be easy to research because they just put out a Twilight documentary about Forks and I so want to get it,” Dawn added as quickly as possible. “Please, please, please Buffy!”
“We'll see Dawn,” Buffy chuckled, gleeful at having sussed out the truth so easily. “Try the old fashioned way first and then we'll see about using the cliff notes version. Or, can they be called cliff notes when it's a video?” she asked of Willow, who shrugged and slid the list back to the teen. Dawn picked it up and slid the sheet into the appropriate folder. Now all she had to do was address the envelopes, put in the cover letters and mail them off and even Buffy wouldn't expect her to do that tonight, since hey, night falling, Vampires on the loose.
“Well, it's about that time,” Buffy sighed, glancing out the front window. Darkness had fallen while they were busy. She started moving off to the front door to retrieve her coat and her weapons. “I shouldn't be out too late. Just make a quick sweep around town and then I'll be back. Dawn, in bed by eleven.”
“Okay Buff,” she smiled back. That was one of the rules as well and Dawn had no problem with it since weekends were made for sleeping in. “You got your cell phone?”
Buffy held up her soft pink model that was nearly identical to the model that she had purchased as a back to school gift for Dawn. It had taken them a while to be in the position to afford the phones and cell plans that went along with them and Dawn had so far used hers judiciously. She didn't think Buffy would take it away from her because it had already proven itself invaluable as a weapon. But she was still mindful of two things. One, that they didn't have unlimited amounts of money to pay for extra texting, and at this point, there were very few people that Dawn had in her circle of friends that had cell phones as well.
“Dawn?” Mr. Bern called quietly after nearly all of the other students had filed out of the classroom. Three weeks since the start of school had passed. Over two weeks since she had sent her letters to the different townships in Washington State. And of course, it was just her luck that today, they'd had to report on their progress with the project and she was the only one in class that wasn't in place to move ahead. All because stupid Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane hadn't responded. Dumb cities. Stupid Chambers of Cretins. “A moment please?”
Dawn adjusted the strap of her back pack over her shoulder and waited as Kit gave her a sympathetic look. It was nice that they actually had one class together, though it had been a surprise to them that first afternoon. For some reason, they'd never gotten around to discussing their schedules when being herded around the school basement by the zombies of hell.
“Yes, Mr. Bern?” she asked quietly, wondering what kind of trouble she was going to be in and what kind of lecture she was facing and thankful that at least Mr. Bern had the good sense to approach her in private, rather than lambasting her in front of her classmates as some teachers were prone to do.
“Well Dawn,” Mr. Bern began, leaning back in his chair and looking up at her tall form. “I note that you're having a bit of a problem with your project. I thought we could discuss that quickly. Or is there somewhere you needed to be?”
Dawn quickly shook her head in the negative. “Well,” she quickly amended, “I have to meet my sister. I ride home with her.”
“Miss Summers, Buffy?” Mr. Bern smiled gently and then nodded. “Will she wait?”
Dawn nodded. “She'll understand or come looking for me, since she knows my schedule.”
“All right then, we'll make it quick,” he decided and then gestured at one of the front seats. Dawn understood and gracefully slid into it, letting her back pack slide down her arm and settling it onto the floor. Mr. Bern leaned forward, clasping his hands together. “Now Dawn, I am aware that you've been unfortunate enough to have not received any return information from any of the three major cities that you chose.” Dawn nodded, a small frown playing at her lips as she tried to figure out where he was leading up to. “Honestly,” he continued, letting out a small chuckle, “I didn't really foresee that kind of a problem.”
“Neither did I,” Dawn agreed with a small laugh of her own. At least he didn't seem upset with her.
“So here's how I see things as they stand,” Mr. Bern nodded slowly. “We're going to have to find something so that you can keep up with the rest of the class.”
“Well actually, my sister had an idea,” Dawn volunteered immediately. Mr. Bern perked his face up and gestured for Dawn to continue. “See, there was a girl in my class in junior high and she moved to Seattle. We were thinking that maybe I could write to her and see if she could help. Actually, Buffy thought she could give me like, an insider's look at the city, not just what the tourism board sends out.” She held her breath for a moment as she watched her teacher process the idea.
“That's a good idea,” he decided, “though I can see a few pitfalls.”
“Like Jeanine might not remember me,” Dawn sighed.
“Or perhaps they might have moved on again,” Mr Bern added. He loosed his hands to rub a finger over his chin in a thoughtful manner as he leaned back in his chair. “I'll tell you what Dawn, you go ahead and write to your friend and see if she can help you out. And in the meantime, did you get responses from the other small towns that you wrote to?”
“I did,” Dawn confirmed. “All three.”
“Excellent,” Mr. Bern beamed. “Because I really liked the presentation you gave of that movie town. You're ideas about the new commercialism and socio-economic climate changes is a very advanced study that I would like you to see through. I like enough of what I've heard so far that I want you to include it however you can manage. In fact, what I would be willing to do in your case is allow it to serve as your major recognized city, even though it doesn't actually fill all of the project specifications, if you are unable to get another major city to reply. You can substitute one of the smaller towns in and then that way you won't end up falling behind the rest of the class.”
“Cool,” Dawn breathed out. This little impromptu meeting was turning out better than she had thought.
“Of course, you'll be able to use whatever media and other resources you can find to research the town fully,” Mr Bern was suddenly smirking at her and Dawn held her breath for a moment. “Such as a very popular documentary making the rounds of the video stores at this moment, I imagine.”
“Oh,” Dawn realized what he was talking about immediately. “You know about that, huh?”
“I've two daughters in junior high Dawn,” Mr. Bern grinned. “Of course I know. But really, your approach was very ingenious. I would give you one hundred percent if that were a gradeable course in school.” Dawn giggled at the thought. Turned out Mr. Bern wasn't so bad after all.
They were interrupted by a soft knock at the door and Mr. Bern's head swung around as he called entry into his classroom. Neither were very surprised when it opened and Buffy stuck her head inside.
“Everything okay here?” Buffy asked with as much tact as she could muster. Her face held the look of someone facing a not altogether unexpected firing squad.
“It's good,” Mr. Bern nodded at her. “We were just finishing up.” He turned back to Dawn, who strove to look attentive and scholarly before her sister. “So Dawn, go ahead and try and get a copy of that documentary. It will help immensely with your research. And there are some good web sites, I'm sure that will help.” He spread his hands out in an apologetic gesture. “I'd offer up my own copy, but I doubt my daughters would allow me to remove it from the house.” He winked with his left eye, the one on the opposite side of where her sister waited and Dawn had to bite back a giggle. He pushed back from his desk and stood and Dawn did the same, retrieving her bag.
“And I'll go ahead and write to my friend and see if she can help,” Dawn agreed, remembering his comments from earlier.
“Excellent,” Mr. Bern beamed again and Dawn caught Buffy's look of surprised pleasure as she regarded them both. “I'm really looking forward to hearing you expand on what you presented today Dawn. And let me know if you run into any more problems. Compromise is a part of life.”
“Yes sir,” Dawn nodded. Mr. Bern walked with her the few steps to the door as her sister backed up to let her out. He bade them both a good evening and then turned away to start retrieving his own belongings in preparation for going home. Dawn politely pulled the door shut behind them.
“So,” Buffy began, a familiar knowing glint in her eyes, “we stopping by the video store before we go home?”
“Hey, you heard Mr. Bern,” Dawn replied teasingly.
“I heard, I heard,” Buffy grumbled as she nudged her sister towards the main office so she could retrieve her own belongings. “Jeeze Dawn, manipulativeness to this level to get your own way?”
“Yeah?” Dawn asked with only a hint of teenaged scorn, but then had to laugh when Buffy pretended to wipe a tear from her eye.
“So proud Dawnie, really!”