In Dawn Summers' experience, there were good days, bad days, nearly getting sacrificed by a Hell-God days, and then there were Tuesdays. Now, Tuesdays were not quite up to the standard of nearly getting sacrificed by a Hell-God days on the younger Summers sister's extremely bad days scale, but they tended to have their moments: like this one.
“Now, puny mortal, you will tell me where you have hidden the true Rosy Cross of The Golden Dawn, so that I may bring about the final rapture!”
Continuing in this vein with the usual combination of threats and ultimatums, the pasty-faced, black-cloaked sorcerer paced back and forth in front of the chair to which she had been quite securely tied. Honestly, Dawn could not believe that she had gotten captured by this guy. From what she'd seen so far, he wasn't much more than a cut-rate warlock who had taken the Harry Potter books way too seriously. Hence, he had created some sort of stick thing with peacock feathers glued to it which acted as his magical focus.
“Do not trifle with me, woman! Witness the awesome power of Lord Foncedemort!”
Waving his stick thing around ostentatiously, the Voldemort rip-off, started shooting an array of pretty multicoloured sparkles into the air. It sort of reminded her of when she and Buffy had been playing around with some sparklers last New Years before they were interrupted by a band of Fyarl demons. Seriously, she had to escape from here before Buffy found out, or she was never going to live this down. Honestly, if she knew where it was, she might just give him the Rosy Cross just so she could escape from this humiliating predicament. After all, from what she recalled, the Order of the Golden Dawn wasn't protecting anything which could bring about the apocalypse until 2010, and it was still only 2005. They could always steal it back later.
“I told you, already. I don't know where it is! Why would you even think I do know?”
“Do you take me for a fool, woman? I have already consulted with a powerful oracle, who saw in the ether that Dawn Summers concealed within her the secret to the world's destruction, so tell me where the cross is hidden!”
Oh, honestly, did this guy seriously think that there was only one object around which could bring about the apocalypse under the right circumstances? Those sorts of things were a dime a dozen. She seriously needed to get out of here before anyone saw-
Abruptly, a young red-haired woman jumped off a stack of crates in the empty warehouse where Dawn had been imprisoned, launching a flying kick at the half-wit warlock's head. However, before the attack could make contact, it impacted upon some sort of shimmering force field surrounding Dawn's captor, staggering him briefly, but doing no other visible damage.
The new arrival kept up her attack, launching a swift combination of punches and kicks toward the shield, none of which penetrated. Even so, each blow knocked the warlock off balance, preventing him from responding to her attack with magic, so Dawn figured that as long as the slayer who had come to rescue her could outlast Poncedemort's magical endurance, she should be fine. That was, of course, unless Poncedemort teleported himself twenty feet away atop a pile of crates. Jeez, maybe she hadn't given this guy enough credit. Sure, he was a dimwit with a laughable plan to bring about the apocalypse, but he at least had some serious magical tricks up his sleeve.
“So, you have finally arrived, just as I foresaw,” the black-robed magic-wielder intoned ominously, as power seemed to crackle around him.
“Huh?” his red-haired opponent replied a touch uncertainly. “You, you mean, you know who I am?”
Foncedemort seemed to deflate slightly at this question, before straightening up again and trying to look implacable.
“Well, no, but this is how these things always go in the books. The Dark Lord is opposed by a chosen hero who-”
“Wait, wait, just a second,” Violet interrupted. “Who says I'm 'opposing' you? I'm just here to rescue Dawn before Buffy finds out I let her get kidnapped. I mean, I suppose if you're doing something really dangerous, I might...” the teenaged slayer paused in thought for a moment.
“Hey, Dawn,” she said, turning her head towards the captive Dawn Summers. “Is this guy doing anything really dangerous? I mean, maybe he hasn't said, but bad guys do tend to spill all their plans when they kidnap you.”
Shaking her head, Dawn replied, “Well, not really. I mean, he could bring about the apocalypse in half a decade or so, if he really picks up his game, but that's still a ways off.”
“Huh,” Vi considered this information, as she started untying Dawn. On the one hand, this guy might bring about the apocalypse, on the other hand, it wouldn't be before she was legal to drink just about everywhere.
“Wait! What are you doing? Don't untie my captive! What about our epic fight to the finish?”
Taking a furious step towards Dawn and Vi, Foncedemort seemingly forgot that he'd teleported himself to the top of a large, rather unstable, pile of rickety crates.
“Stop right now, or I'll-urk!”
Thus, it was no surprise that upon stepping forward, he unbalanced the whole pile of crates, and ended up tumbling to the ground rather painfully.
By the time the dust had settled from the toppling crates and warlock, Dawn was untied and stretching her arms and legs out in order to counter the loss of circulation caused by the warlock's tight knots. Thus, as her charge appeared fine, Vi felt no guilt in walking over to take a glance at the so-called 'Dark Lord.' Unsurprisingly, he had hit his head during his fall and knocked himself out, simplifying the question of whether it was worth capturing him now or waiting for later considerably. Of course, when she reported his capture, she'd need Dawn to help her work out the details of what had 'really happened.' After all, Dawn getting kidnapped, even though it happened almost every second week, would definitely trigger a serious Buffy freak out, which neither she nor Dawn would want. After all, she was supposed to have been keeping an eye on Dawn as the most senior slayer assigned to the recently rechristened Stargate Project. Maybe they could say that Dawn had discovered some obscure prophecy in some ancient demon language predicting that this guy would someday threaten the world, so they'd gone after him. Then again, Buffy would probably not be too happy to hear that her little sister was gunning for major league evil sorcerers in her free time, and Giles would probably want to see the prophecy, so that might not be the best choice. Oh, who was she kidding? She'd just leave the story to Dawn. After all, no one was better at conning the bosses of the Watcher's Council than sweet, innocent, little Dawnie. That was how she'd ended up co-directing the Stargate Project after all.
How she'd convinced Buffy that working on what was almost certainly a portal to a demon dimension was safe, Vi had no idea. Of course, Buffy had ordered her little sister not to go through the portal if she ever managed to activate it, but, seriously, had Buffy met Dawn? Was it some sort of delusion brought on by being an older sibling? Vi had only been with Dawn at this project for two months now, and even she could tell that the second that portal opened up, Dawn would be diving through head first. Well, okay, she'd probably try to make sure that it was safe first, but there was no force on Earth that was going to stop Dawn from being on the first mission through that portal.
Dragging the warlock whom she had briefly fought by his left foot, Vi quickly moved to catch up to Dawn. The red-haired girl's friend and supervisor had apparently decided that she was well-enough to be getting back to work, so she was already pulling out her cell phone, which apparently her captor had not bothered taking from her, in order to call a cab.
“Hi, I'm Dawn Summers, and I'd like a taxi as soon as you can at, oh wait, just a second.”
Realizing that she had no idea where she had been taken, Dawn quickly made her way towards the nearest intersection, and glanced at the street names.
“Are you still there? Good. Anyway, I'm at the corner of Upper Thames and Bankside. Yes, of course by the river. So the taxi will be here in about 30 minutes. Great. Thanks. Bye.”
A couple of hours later, Dawn and Vi were back at the Council's headquarters outside of London, having just dropped off their captive with a pair of mini-slayers on guard duty. Of course, Dawn's erstwhile captor had almost woken up once or twice, but a quick blow to the head from either girl was more than sufficient to render him unconscious again each time before he came to full awareness. Now, they were finally ready to get back down to their project.
After the elevator doors opened to the bottom level of the basement, Dawn ran into Catherine almost right away. As it turned out, this was no accident.
“Oh, Dawn. I'm glad you're back. I'd just heard that you'd checked in from the people upstairs. I've been looking for you all morning.”
“Oh, sorry. So, what's the what?”
“Oh, sorry again. I mean, what's going on?”
The older woman's brief confusion at the turn of phrase was lifted by the smile lighting up her face,
“Oh, it's Daniel. I think he's made a breakthrough, although I haven't been able to get much out of him. I was hoping that we could call a meeting to discuss it.”
“A meeting? Sure,” Dawn replied. “I was just planning on looking at that weird gauntlet thingy the council had in storage. I'm pretty sure it's one of the magical focuses the Goold were supposed to have used while they were ruling Egypt, but I haven't had any luck getting it to work. Willow's stumped too. Anyway, it's no problem putting that off for a few hours.”
“Do you have anything pressing, Vi,” Dawn turned to ask her friend.
“Oh, um, no,” the red-head's face lightly flushed to match her hair. “I'm always happy to meet with Daniel, um, I mean about Daniel's work.”
Oh, right, Dawn recalled. Vi had developed a major crush on their new linguist in the month since he had arrived at the Watcher's Council. Of course, Dawn had no idea how this could have happened, since Daniel pretty well never left his office for anything, including sleep, but maybe it had developed while the two were sharing their coffee breaks. Apparently, while they shared little else, both Daniel and Vi were caffeine addicts, using the stimulant as a replacement for getting a good night's sleep. Vi said that this was the only way to survive looking after Dawn: a statement to which Dawn had maturely replied by sticking out her tongue. The young woman wasn't sure what Daniel's story was exactly, but it seemed that once he got his teeth into a tricky problem, little things like eating and sleeping became secondary to his all-consuming need to stare at the same baffling symbols for hours. On some level, Dawn shared Daniel's love of languages, having spent many hours torturing herself in attempts to learn the wide variety of languages written in cuneiform, and more recently tearing the older linguist away from his work for a few hours each day to aid her in her struggles to learn ancient Egyptian, but Daniel took obsession with linguistics to a completely different level. Honestly, the guy needed a life, or maybe sex: a sexy life would be ideal. Hopefully, if he ever developed more awareness of sexual signals than a brain dead earthworm, Vi could help him out with that. He was pretty cute, so Dawn might be tempted to help him out herself, except for one problem.
If Buffy found out, and she would find out, that Dawn was sleeping with an older man, then Buffy would murder her younger sister's star linguist and Egyptologist, setting the Stargate Project back for years. So, no matter how cute Daniel was, she would not tear off his clothes, tie him to a bed and ravage him. She would be generous. She would leave him for Vi. If Vi asked nicely, she might even tear off his clothes, tie him to a bed and then leave him for Vi. Mmmmm... that was a yummy image, no wait. She would resist. No tearing off Doctor Jackson's clothes. Resist.
“Okay, so I guess we just need to check Willow's schedule.”
“Yes, well, I suppose she is concerned with this issue.”
“Well, um, yes,” Catherine replied. “You recall that we had decided to let Daniel discover the truth of our world at his own pace, yes?”
“Of course. It was my idea, after all. If we tell Daniel that magic and demons exist, then he'll think we're crazy, but if we stick him in an environment full of magic and demons while telling him nothing, he'll eventually figure everything out on his own, at which point we can sagely nod, congratulating him on having discovered a truth few are ready to face. Provided he doesn't go crazy, it's like the perfect plan.”
“Yes, well, your plan may have hit a bit of a snag.”
By this point, Catherine, Dawn and Vi, had walked a ways down the hall, entering the older woman's office : the fifth door on the right. The eldest member of the project had already seated herself behind her desk, while Dawn and Vi sat in the two hardwood chairs in front of the desk. Honestly, Dawn had always found that the room reminded her of Robin Wood's old Principal's office at Sunnydale High. Hence she often felt like she was in trouble when she came to meet her fellow co-director. Fortunately, she had gotten used to ignoring that feeling by now.
“A snag? What sort of snag?”
“Well, I suppose it's this sort of snag,” Catherine responded, carefully opening the top drawer of her desk and gently pulling something out. For some reason, Catherine had been keeping a green, speckled frog in her desk. Interestingly, the frog had rings around its eyes which rather strongly resembled spectacles.
“Er, Catherine. Is that a frog?” This was perhaps not the most intelligent question Dawn could have asked, but to be fair, she felt a little befuddled at the seeming non-sequitur.
“Why yes. I suppose it is. It also happens to be Dr. Jackson.”
“What?” Dawn and Vi exclaimed in unison. Dawn continued alone, “I mean, how could that have happened?”
Vi's reaction was quite different, as she almost immediately snatched the currently amphibian doctor from Catherine's hands, cradling him gently. “Oh God, Daniel, are you alright.”
“Wait, Daniel, can you understand me?”
“Was that a yes? How about two ribbets for yes and one for no?”
“Ribbet, ribbet, ribbet.”
“Wait, no, that was three. Do you not understand, or are you just being difficult?”
While Vi and the linguist turned frog continued in this vein, Dawn was finally starting to recover from her shock and getting ready to work towards a solution.
“Well,” Dr. Langford replied to Dawn's query. “It was Willow.”
“Willow did this? But she's terrified of frogs.”
“That's exactly the problem. You see, I didn't get all the details, but according to Kennedy, Daniel stole Willow's favourite star chart and used it to play connect dots with a permanent marker.”
“Yes, that was my reaction too. I suspect we're missing some pieces of this story. Anyway, when Willow found out, she was so incensed that she turned Daniel into the most horrible thing she could imagine: a frog. Unfortunately, by the time I discovered what she'd done, she had mostly stopped being angry, having felt that Daniel had been punished enough. Thus, realizing that Daniel had become the object of her fears, Willow fled the room, and now refuses to come close enough to change Daniel back.”
“Right, I can handle this,” Dawn stated firmly. “You just stay here and look after those two.” She gestured towards Vi crooning at the frog in her arms. “I'll deal with Willow. Is she in her office?”
Dr. Langford nodded.
“Okay. I'll be back with Willow in a few minutes.”
Walking towards Willow's office, Dawn began to contemplate her strategy. Willow was a totally bad-ass wicca, so there was no way that she could force Willow to do anything. However, as she had long been aware, wicca of the Willow type were weak against guilt trips. Kennedy would defend her, of course, but with just the right attack vector, she would be able to carry the day.
Peering through the window on the door to Willow's office, she found, just as expected, Willow softly crying on the couch in her room, while Kennedy sat beside her, rubbing her back soothingly.
“I just feel so guilty, Ken. I mean, yes, he so deserved some retribution, but it might be days before someone powerful enough to fix him can make it here from the coven. If only I'd turned him into a worm or rat or something like that instead.”
Kennedy replied encouragingly, “Come on, Will, it's not your fault. Everyone makes mistakes, and there wasn't any permanent harm. Just settle down.”
“It's just, I was doing so well on the avoiding unnecessary magic thing, especially since I came here. I mean, I'm not sure, but I'm pretty sure that the gate thing is purely technological, or at least it shouldn't need any magic to run it, so I hadn't done any dangerous spells outside of field work with Buffy for months before this.”
“Like I said, Willow, it was an honest mistake. Everyone slips up sometimes.”
“You know,” Dawn cut in, abruptly opening the door while using her patented pointing out obvious facts which any idiot would know tone (some people called this a sardonic tone, but Dawn knew her name was way better), “one good way of making up for your mistakes is to actually, you know, fix your mistakes.”
“Dawn!” Willow exclaimed, startled by her appearance. Blinking at her for a few seconds, Willow gathered her composure, and replied in a tone filled with false lightness, “But, you know, I've already contacted the coven. They'll have someone way more experienced than me here to help in just three or four days.”
“Oh that's good then,” Dawn responded in her own falsely cheery voice, nodding happily at Willow. “I mean, as long as he gets better eventually, who cares how long he's stuck as a frog. I mean, it's not like being stuck as a rat had any harmful effects on Amy.”
“And, of course, this is only Daniel's first experience with magic, so maybe he won't turn into some sort of wicca-hating bigot who burns witches at the stake for chuckles in response to his traumatic experience.”
Willow winced a second time, and responding to her lover's distress, Kennedy interrupted Dawn sharply.
“Hey, Willow's done everything she can. She can't be held responsible for the occasional little slip up.”
“Of course,” Dawn nodded magnanimously. “Willow's done everything she can. I mean, it's not like she could turn him back into a human being right now after all.”
Wincing again, but suddenly worried, Willow spoke up, “You, you didn't bring 'him' here, did you Dawnie?”
The way Willow said 'him,' that whispered, fearful tone, remarkably reminiscent of the way she had once referred to the First or Glory, beings who had actually merited that kind of terror, was what sealed the deal for Dawn. Enough of this pussy-footing around. If Willow could go head to head with a Hell-God, then she could sure as Hell spend a minute or two in a room with a helpless little frog. It was time to bring out the big guns.
“All right, no more Mrs. Nice Dawn. Willow, you're coming with me, and you're going to fix Daniel before his tiny little frog brain forgets whatever great discovery he made this morning.”
“No excuses,” Dawn ruthlessly interrupted her old friend. “If you don't do it then I'm telling Buffy,”
Willow looked worried, but as if she might still weather that eventuality.
Willow started to look more concerned.
She could tell from her expression that now Willow was on the verge of capitulating, but one more push was necessary in order to force her surrender.
“ and I'll publish a notice in the Slayers monthly newsletter advising all personnel that Willow is turning anyone into a frog who looks at her funny.”
“Okay, okay,” Willow finally gave in, “I'll fix him. I just need to gather my mental strength. Gathering, gathering, gathering-”
“Okay, that's enough of that,” Dawn cut in. “We're doing this sometime today, so come on.”
With that, Dawn grabbed Willow's hand and pulled her up and away from both the couch and Kennedy, ignoring the slayer's glare. Honestly, this was ridiculous. Willow was one of the strongest people she knew. She should so be able to deal with a little amphibian phobia. Maybe if Dawn accidentally dropped her into a creek full of frogs, she'd get better. After all, wasn't the first step confronting your fear, or maybe that was admitting you had a problem. Whatever. The creek thing would definitely feel good, but Willow would probably get revenge, which would suck and disrupt her project. Thus, as a mature project co-director, she would take the high ground and not seek out revenge for Willow annoying her.
Now that Willow was prepared to face up to her fears, it didn't take more than a few minutes for Daniel to get back to normal. Of course, as usual, there were a few minor complications.
First of all, Vi refused to let go of Daniel until he was back to normal, worried that he might hurt himself or get eaten or something, so, when Willow transformed Daniel back to his original form, the two of them overbalanced the chair which Vi had been seated upon, causing both to topple over in such a way that Daniel landed heavily on top of Vi with his face mashed into her breasts. Naturally, Daniel was mortified at this turn of events, and wasted no time in getting off her and apologizing profusely. By contrast, Dawn found herself more than a little bit suspicious of her friend. After all, while Daniel was probably fairly heavy, slayers were awfully strong and had awfully good balance, and it seemed awfully contrived to her that the two had fallen in precisely the positions they did. She couldn't be certain, of course, but Vi was pretty sneaky, and, from the faintly amused expression on Catherine's face, her fellow co-director seemed to share her suspicions. Willow, of course, was too relieved that the frog was gone to notice much of anything except for Daniel, to whom she immediately began to apologize.
Dawn wearily sighed to herself. Even for a Tuesday, this was getting to be a bit much. Quickly acting in order to disrupt the rapidly growing mayhem, the young woman interrupted Daniel, Vi and Willow in hopes of addressing what to her seemed the most important matter of the day.
“Ah, excuse me, guys. Daniel, Catherine mentioned that you'd had something of a breakthrough before your, er, close encounter of the amphibious kind. Since we're all here now, I was hoping that you might be willing to share.”
For a brief instant, it almost seemed that Daniel would be willing to forget all about what had happened in favour of discussing his exciting new discovery. This was one of the great things Dawn had discovered about obsessive academics. Anyone else, upon experiencing the seemingly impossible, would break down or make demands or accusations, but an academic could almost always be tricked into beginning a long diatribe expounding upon his or her work instead. Unfortunately, just this once, even Daniel's work could not distract him from what had just happened. Instead, he seemed to gather himself briefly, before starting to look uncertain.
“Um, yes, I, well, sure, but first, um... well...” he seemed to trail off for a moment, as if wondering whether he might have gone mad without noticing. “Did anyone else see me turn into a frog?”
That was when Dawn realized it. Catherine had thought that Willow had ruined her plan to have Daniel discover the truth himself, thus saving them the effort of convincing him of the world's true nature. However, if she handled things carefully, rather than having ruined her plan, Willow may have brought it to fruition.
Nodding, as if she was just as befuddled as him, Dawn let her eyes widen in feigned surprise.
“You mean, you saw that too? So I wasn't hallucinating. How do you think it happened?”
At this reply, Daniel seemed a bit uncertain, as if he was worried someone might laugh at him for what he was going to say next. This was exactly the reaction Dawn had hoped to see. She had known that someone like Daniel Jackson would be able to figure the truth out for himself. Now, he just had to take the last step.
“I, well, I'm not sure. I mean, I can't think of anything on Earth which could have done that, so maybe...”
“Maybe...” Dawn prodded him on, waiting with baited breath.
“Well, we're working on what the ancient Egyptians believed might be a gateway to the stars, so could it have been aliens who noticed what we were doing?”
“Arrrgh! No. That's not it!”
How could she have been so stupid? Of course, Dr. I think aliens built the pyramids would jump to some sort of little green men conclusion. Whatever. She'd wanted to avoid this, but it looked like she would have to do it herself. One of Catherine's stipulations before agreeing to her plan was that if it blew up in her face, then she would have to take care of dealing with Daniel's confusion.
“What, but how do you-”
“Ugh... because I know exactly what happened to you. I was just hoping that you'd figure it out yourself and save me the effort of explaining.”
“Shut up for a minute,” Dawn said, raising a finger to quiet the linguist. “I guess I may as well go with the classics, so, Dr. Jackson, the world is older than you know.”
Daniel blinked a bit bemusedly at this pronouncement. This was not an unusual reaction, so Dawn was just about to continue when, of all things, he started asking questions.
“You mean that the Earth has been around for longer than the estimated four and a half billion years generally accepted in the geological community? I was under the impression that the radiometric data was highly conclusive.”
“No, that's not what I mean!” Dawn sharply retorted, annoyed that he had jumped to the wrong conclusion again and had done so before she had even finished her speech. “I mean that there were things on Earth before human beings!”
“Like the dinosaurs?”
“No! After them!”
“Wooly mammoths and sabre-tooth tigers?”
“No! Arrgh! Just shut up and let me explain. You know what. Screw this. We'll go with the short version. Demons? Real. Vampires? Real. Witches? Real.”
Dawn then proceeded to point at Willow.
“She's a witch, and she turned you into a frog, so deal.”
“What, but that's-”
“No!” Dawn ruthlessly interrupted Daniel again. “No more asking me questions! If you have any more questions, you can ask...” Dawn trailed off, as she cast a gimlet eye across the room, searching for weakness.
Catherine was, as always, unflappable, and had raised her eyebrow in that 'isn't this your responsibility, so take responsibility' expression at which she so excelled. That was one quarter to which the buck could not be passed. Vi, while she'd happily spend the time with Daniel, didn't really know the sort of dry, factual, historical information Daniel would want to know, so he'd just end up bugging Dawn again. However, there still remained Willow. The guilty, knowledgeable wicca would serve her purposes perfectly. Sure, Catherine would make her pay somehow for avoiding her responsibilities like this, but it would so be worth it for this day to just be over.
Daniel could spend tonight getting the inside scoop from Willow, who would thus feel better about turning him into a frog. It was almost like, in passing the buck, Dawn was doing her good deed for the day. Even more importantly, she could go home, sleep, and, by the time she woke up, Tuesday, with its lame kidnappers and zany hijinks, would be over. Tomorrow, she could hear all about Daniel's new discovery, why he had felt the need play connect the dots on Willow's star chart and look into that weird, probably goold gauntlet again. As long as she didn't get unlucky with the almost sacrificed by a Hell-God thing, tomorrow, as a Wednesday, could hardly be any worse than today had been.