And now, the long awaited exposition chapter. Because seriously, what else is a three hour and thirty-seven minute trip in a 417 foot tube good for? Up until now, I've resisted doing this chapter on two grounds: I didn't want to nail down details until I'd finalized things in my head, and also because it would be redundant from an in-universe perspective. After all, Dawn's already talked to the adults about certain things before the story starts. Why would she do it again? Just so we can read it? That's a little silly, especially since she was about to meet her new red-haired traveling companion, who knew little to nothing about her…
"So… are you really from another universe?"
"Didn't we already do this one?"
"I tried. You complained about the existence of mornings."
"Oh. Right." Dawn looked away from where the Connecticut coastline was zipping by outside the window, raising an eyebrow at Jean. "Isn't me talking about 'my world' versus 'this world' enough an answer for you?"
An uncertain look stole across Jean's face as she contemplated Dawn's non-answer, and then she shook her head. "Not being from this world doesn't automatically make you a dimensional traveller, if you think about it. You could be an alien… a shapeshifting alien who's made herself look human. And maybe you, I don't know, abducted Emma Frost at some point so you could sample her DNA and pose as her sister?"
Try as she might, Dawn couldn't manage to contain the snort of laughter that the redhead's words elicited. "I'm an alien. Who abducts and probes someone before doing a really bad job of trying to insert myself into their life. That's somehow more believable to you than me being a dimensional traveller?"
"Yes. Especially because a nice thorough probing would explain how unpleasant Emma is." Jean pulled her phone out of her pocket, poking at it for a few seconds before holding it up and imitating the expression on the blonde girl displayed on the screen. For some reason, the phrase 'constipated chipmunk' came to Dawn's mind. Except… did chipmunks even get constipated? Nuts were awfully high in fiber… "Oh, look at me. I'm Emma Frost. My ancestors came over on the Mayflower
and I talk with no Rs. I'm too good to be polite to you, much less go to your school."
Oh God. The Frosts - or at least Emma - were non-rhotic? Dawn burst out laughing; while she'd known they were from Boston, she hadn't expected that. Her new body was related to snooty old money with a bad accent. How much worse of a Beantown stereotype could you get? "Seriously? She's Emmer Frahst? That's priceless. I'm gonna feel like I'm living in a Mayor Quimby focus episode or something. But while I'd love to ask a few innuendo-laced questions about why you spend time thinking about my sister getting 'probed', I think you've earned a few honest answers. Yes, I'm from an alternate reality. Things are too similar here for me to call it an alternate universe. And before you ask, I'm not freaking out because we had an outsider pop into our reality back home once. She got sent back home eventually. So there's got to be a way to send me home… if I decide I want to go back."
Jean went from smiling to blushing brightly to furrowing her brow in thought over the course of Dawn's ramble. "If you want to? Why wouldn't you want to go back?"
"Are you kid… oh, that's right, you weren't there for that talk. Okay, long story short? Before I came here, I lived in a town called Sunnydale. Another name for it? Boca del Infierno. The mouth of Hell. That's why I saw so much weird and nasty shit. And while I knew all about it, I was the normal girl in a group of people who were trying to fight it. The others? My sister had superhuman powers, two of her friends were witches, her best guy friend was dating a girl who was over a millennia old, and the father figure of the group was like a walking supernatural library. Oh, and he could do some magic, too." Dawn knew that technically she was far from 'normal', what with being the Key and all, but that wasn't something Jean needed to know about. Besides, did it really count as something special if all it did was make people want to try and kill her? "And on the domestic front? My dad divorced my mom when I was ten. Ran off to Spain with his secretary a year or two later. My mom died almost a year ago. Aneurysm. Oh, and my sister's died twice so far."
Mouth opening and closing, Jean let out a few incoherent noises before finally managing a response. "I… wow. That's horrible. I mean… yeah. I can see why you might not want to go back to that. And…" The redhead paused before frowning. "Wait. Your sister's died twice?"
Dawn nodded. "She got better both times. The first time with CPR, and one of her witch friends used magic to resurrect her from the dead the second time. While I'm totally 'yay, no more dead sister' on one hand, on the other hand? She came back… different. Wrong. I'm guessing it has something to do with being torn out of heaven, but hey? What do I know? I'm the token normal girl. But anyway, at the end of the day… when the girl with the superpowers gets dead twice? It makes you start thinking about your own mortality. I'd kinda like to live long enough to graduate high school. Preferably college too." Leaning back, Dawn gestured across her body and out the window at the wider world. They were currently somewhere between New York City and Stamford, Connecticut; Dawn didn't know exactly where, but the trees mixed with occasional glimpses of rocky shore and water were scenic enough. "Here? I don't know if supernatural evil exists, but if it does? I'm not helpless anymore. Not to mention that I'm away from my neurotic sister and her magic junkie bestie. Sure, I'll never be able to seduce Xander or anything, but sacrifices must be made."
Silence reigned as Jean processed the information she'd been given, and Dawn continued to stare out the window at Long Island Sound. And trees. And more and more buildings, which made her think they were getting closer to Stamford. Her traveling companion seemed reasonably bright, at least based on their interaction so far, and so Dawn didn't doubt that the inquisition would continue once the redhead had a chance to mull it all over. Sure enough, Jean eventually broke the silence with a question… that was not one that Dawn had expected of her. "So, you said you were a normal girl back home, but obviously you're a mutant now. How did that happen? I mean, do you know? Or did you just wake up here different and it was a complete surprise?"
Turning back to Jean, Dawn placed her left hand on the armrest between them and shifted it into diamond. "It was a little bit of Column A and a little bit of Column B, to be honest. I knew I was going to be some sort of superhuman, but not the exact details. Not sure how I feel about the powers Hallie gave me, but telekinesis and a diamond form is still better than nothing and more nothing. And it could be a lot worse. Considering who and what Hallie is, I'm surprised I didn't end up as a girl version of that abomination that the Hulk fought in Harlem." Maybe Hallie wasn't as mean as Anyanka… or maybe she'd feared how the Slayer might react to someone turning her sister into a veiny green beast with rage issues. Either way, Dawn was very much aware that her wish to 'be all super-powered and useful and not a helpless little girl Buffy has to protect' could have turned out far worse for her. Pausing, she tilted her head to the side and then returned her arm to normal before leaning across Jean's lap to get a better view. Speaking of green… "Two rows up, in the solo seat on the left side of the aisle. Is that who I think it is?"
"Hmm?" Jean followed Dawn's line of sight before letting out a soft groan. "How the heck did I miss her getting on the train? I mean, she's wearing all green…"
"Don't know. Train starts before New York, you know. She could have been there when we got aboard. I'm not even going to pretend I think it's a coincidence that she's on the same train as us, though. Which means we can skip straight to… what does she want?" Dawn took a moment to pout at the fact that she had not in fact been granted her fraternal twin's telepathy before deciding to proceed with the old-fashioned method for getting answers. Bringing her fingers up to her lips, she let out a piercing whistle that caught the attention of all forty-two other passengers of their car. Including… "Hey! Lorna! C'mere!"