Title: Black SunriseAuthor: ArjenLength: About 37.000 wordsSummary: She had made all these wonderful plans for Halloween, but when it was time to collect the candy circumstances forced Dawn to go with her sister. At least she could still go while dressed as her favorite assassin.Pairings: Nothing that isn’t canon.Rating: This story might not be suitable for young children.Fandoms: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, NoirChronology:Black SunriseDark, Darker, ...Disclaimer: All characters and other recognizable things are property of Mutant Enemy, ADV films, and whoever else wants to lay claim to them. Everything that I thought up is made using their property so I won’t claim that either.Feedback: Be critical, and my writing improves. Praise me, and I will feel good. A combination of these is my favorite.My thanks go to Era and The Unicorn, for their help in ensuring that this story makes sense and is readable.Background: Dawn was created early and the monks weren’t stupid enough to lead Glory directly to her. Dawn doesn’t have any knowledge of the supernatural at this time and is basically a typical annoying American twelve year old girl.Author’s note: This is the second version of this story. There is only one real difference. The Day After, which was originally a separate story, has been merged into this one as the epilogue. Yes, you were right, I was wrong. Enjoy your gloating. Aside from this, there are no major changes as the main goal of this rewrite was to improve readability. In other words, the story is the same but the words are different (and spelled correctly).
~~~~~~~~~~~~ is a change in point of view.Chapter 1
Walking down Revello Drive, Xander reflected on why he was in as good a mood as he was. There were two reasons for this. First of all, Giles had told them that there would be no vampires walking on the streets tonight. This in itself was a reason to be happy, but combined with the main reason for his happiness it was even better.
Tonight was Halloween. That night of nights. The time of sugary goodness. That night where he could act like a child without anyone saying anything about it. He couldn’t really understand why vampires thought it was tacky, but he was the first to admit he didn’t care either.
The only thing that put a slight damper on the evening was how Snyder, that troll who thought he fooled them by masquerading as a principal, had volunteered them into babysitting some kiddies. Xander didn’t let that destroy his good mood however. He would be in the company of his best friends and he was sure they’d have fun.
It was those two friends who he was going to collect now at Buffy’s house, and quickly checking his own costume he couldn’t deny the fact that it was far better than what they would be wearing. Buffy would be dressed as a brainless twit in an attempt to impress her bloodsucking boyfriend, and Willow... well, despite Buffy’s attempt to get his best bud in a rather revealing outfit, he was pretty sure she’d be going as her time-honored ghost.
Suddenly he was snapped out of his thoughts when he heard someone throwing what sounded a lot like a tantrum. After all, a normal conversation couldn’t possibly be heard from a distance like this. Well, it could if the noise had come from one of the houses he was passing right now instead of the one that was his destination.
Wonderful, he sighed in resignation. This wasn’t exactly how he’d wanted to start this evening, but there was a chance that it wasn’t nearly as bad as it seemed at first glance. Well, at first. What did you call that? At first hearing? Nah, that just didn’t have the same touch to it.
No matter. It probably wasn’t as bad as it sounded like. A shouting match like this wasn’t that uncommon with three headstrong women living in one house, but when they happened they were probably as friendly as a fight could get. If that made any sense.
It didn’t really matter how friendly those fights were though. Xander had no intention of actually getting in the middle of one. The best course of action would therefore be to first gather some intelligence. Hah! He was really getting into his costume now!
Once he knew who the participants in the fight were, and what it was about, he could always decide what to do then. Interrupting a ’conversation’ like this wasn’t something he particularly enjoyed, but if it could help his friends he was willing to take some flak. Having seen Buffy angry often enough to know that he didn’t want to be near her in those moments was therefore the main reason for Xander’s caution.
Well, that and the fact that Dawn’s tantrums weren’t to sneeze at either. Not to mention the fact that once their mother had reached her breaking point it showed that Buffy and Dawn had come by their temper honestly. One of his greatest fears—not that he’d ever admit it—was therefore that the three of them might have a row and he’d be pulled in. Or even worse, that he would be forced to pick a side.
Shivering at the mere thought of a disaster like that, Xander stopped himself from actually walking up to the door and listened from where he was standing on the pavement.
“Why can’t I just go alone?” Ah, that sounded like Dawn, and from the sound of the question it seemed like the other one was...
“I already told you why! It can be just as dangerous here as in Los Angeles.” Yep, he nodded his head. He had been right. The other participant in this family drama was indeed Mrs. Summers herself. Which meant that Buffy wouldn’t be in a bad mood because of this fight. The best possible scenario.
Unless she hadn’t spoken up yet. That was after all still a possibility, and the main reason he looked down the street in both ways instead of going up to the door. Not seeing anyone who might think his behavior suspicious—as if anyone in Sunnydale would actually think something like that—he turned back to listen.
“But why? This is Sunnydale, the most boring town in America! Nothing ever happens here!” Hearing that Xander almost choked in surprise. Dawn might not know anything about the Hellmouth, vampires, and the likes, but a statement like that was an invitation for disaster. Especially here in Sunnydale where every tiny action had consequences that had the nasty habit of biting you in the ass—or in the neck.
“I don’t care if nothing ever happens, I don’t want you to go alone and that’s final. Now you will do as I say, or you won’t go at all!”
“Oh come on mom.” Ah, Dawn had advanced to playing the sympathy card. While he couldn’t hear exactly what she said, it was obviously the last option the girl had left. Which meant that it might actually be safe to approach the house now.
Xander decided to wait another couple of minutes though. He was early anyway, and with the night this warm he didn’t mind standing outside a bit longer. A decision that proved to be the right one as a sudden shout of frustration came from inside the house. Dawn had lost the argument.
It was probably safe to enter now, but he also realized that it would embarrass Dawn if she found out that he’d heard how she’d lost an argument. So, in order to remain on good terms with all of the Summers women, it might be a good idea to pretend he hadn’t heard it.
Yes, that was a very good thing. Having made his decision Xander turned around and slipped away from the Summers residence. He didn’t want to go too far though, and after about a minute he turned back around. Putting his goofy smile back on, he then once again approached the house that contained four of the people who were most important to him.
Still pouting, Dawn didn’t react to the doorbell. Instead letting her mother open it. After all, she already knew who it was likely to be, and her mother’s greeting only confirmed it. “Hello Xander.”
“Hi, Mrs. Summers. I came to pick up Willow and Buffy. Are they ready yet?”
So the nicest of Buffy’s friends had arrived. At least he had missed the argument. Not that she doubted for a moment that Buffy would tell him about it anyway. After all, that was the kind of thing her sister always did. Which was simply unfair. After all she didn’t share every mistake Buffy made with her friends either, did she?
Honesty intervened here, and Dawn had to admit that maybe, just maybe, she might’ve shared one or two things with Jane and Sara. But that was different, and didn’t make her anymore happy about the fact that Xander would hear about her defeat in this latest battle of wills.
Xander had always been nice to her and she liked his jokes. She didn’t want him to think of her as some kind of spoiled brat, but this situation just wasn’t fair. How could her mother force her into this position? Just because her friends couldn’t come didn’t mean that- Before she had more time to think about the unfairness of her present situation she realized that Xander and her mother had entered the living room.
“Hi Xander.” She looked him over, mentally commenting on his costume. It didn’t look like it was anything special, and that made her wonder why he hadn’t had his parents pay for a better one. The soldier outfit looked like it came from a surplus store, and was obviously not entirely the right size for him. And despite the fact that it looked real enough, the toy gun obviously wasn’t of the highest quality either. Thinking it over for a moment she decided that it might just work anyway. Alright, her opinion might be a little biased because she liked him, but that didn’t really matter.
“What? Do I have something on my costume? Is it ripped somewhere?” Xander asked in a panicked voice while looking at the front of his costume in an attempt to find what she’d been staring at. Dawn felt her cheeks burn, and immediately felt mortified. Why was she blushing? She shouldn’t be doing that! Especially not in front of Xander! She really hoped he wouldn’t notice with all the make-up on her face.
“Sorry, I was just looking at your costume.” That had not been meant to come out like that! She could do better then squeak an answer! It wasn’t as if she had a crush on him or anything.
At least she certainly hoped not. Who knew what Buffy would do if she found out? Buffy had sworn revenge after she’d overdone the teasing a little back in LA. Well, she hadn’t really overdone it. It was simply that, like usual, Buffy had overreacted to the harmless little thing she had done.
And it wasn’t as if she’d done something really bad anyway. All she’d done was put up a sign, displaying a declaration of love from Buffy, at the school where the boy couldn’t miss it. Dawn still couldn’t understand why her sister had been so angry about it. The other kids at the school had forgotten about the incident within weeks.
“And what do you think? Does it look good?” Xander asked once he’d made certain there really wasn’t anything wrong with his costume.
As the boy tried some poses that were probably meant to display his manliness she had to stifle the giggles that threatened to escape at the ridiculous sight. He really wasn’t meant to do things like that, but it did manage to cheer her up. Instead of a verbal answer that might once again come out completely wrong she settled for vigorously nodding her head in confirmation.
When her mom spoke up it was obvious to Dawn that she wasn’t the only one who had trouble staying serious during the show. “Why don’t you take a seat Xander while I’ll have a look at what’s keeping the girls.”
“Sure Mrs. Summers. I’ll keep Dawn company for a while, I’m sure she’ll be able to tell me some embarrassing stories about Buffy that I can use to blackmail her.”
Mentally preparing a list of embarrassing stories about her sister that she could tell him Dawn almost missed her mother’s next comment. “If you’re thirsty I’m sure Dawn will get something for you.”
Turning to her mother in order to protest, Dawn caught the warning glare in the woman’s eyes and decided that it was probably best to do as her mother ordered. A small peace offering might be a good idea. Besides, she’d gotten thirsty herself from all that shouting earlier and this way she could get something for herself as well. “Sure, what do you want Xander?”
Sitting down while Dawn got him his coke, Xander wondered at the way the two Summers women could act as if there hadn’t been a fight. If he hadn’t heard the two of them earlier Xander doubted that he would have noticed Dawn initial reaction to being volunteered as serving girl. He had no idea why she had submitted to her mother’s will in the end, but then he had never claimed to be an expert when it came to the female mind.
When Dawn returned with his drink she seated herself on the couch across from him with her own glass. Sipping on the sweet drink he took the opportunity to do his own examination of her costume. It was definitely out of the ordinary, and no matter how hard he tried Xander couldn’t think of what she might be dressed as. Except for the fact that she was supposed to look Japanese that is.
While most of her arms were bare, her forearms were covered with some weird sleeve-like things. Those sleeves were attached to her middle finger and had some kind of bracelet type thing on the other end. Something similar was the case for her legs which were, or rather weren’t, covered by a short skirt—well two small pieces of cloth that covered respectively the front and back—while the lower part had received a similar treatment to her arms. How had she convinced Mrs. Summers to allow her to wear that?
Oh, of course. How silly that he hadn’t noticed before. She wore some kind of tights or stockings under it. Tights were the thick ones, weren’t they? Whatever, it made a lot more sense like this, and was probably how she’d convince her mother to allow her to go out in such a revealing outfit. Because it didn’t end with her legs, although the rest wasn’t quite as revealing.
Her torso was covered by two crisscrossing pieces of the same golden cloth that was used for the rest of the outfit, while around her neck and middle she wore some kind of silver rectangle thing beset with a large blue stone. Perhaps feeling uncomfortable under his scrutiny she suddenly placed her feet on the couch so she could rest her chin on her knees, and he got a look at the shoes she wore. Well, shoes wasn’t the right term.
“Are those sandals? Do you still have to pull on the shoes that go with the outfit? Because I’m not sure if that combination works well.”
Dawn moved so quickly that he could hardly believe it. If he hadn’t known Buffy was the Slayer he might have suspected that it was the younger Summers girl instead. Slayer or not, she managed to make him lose sight of the unexpected footwear within the blink of an eye, and when he looked up at her face in amazement he noticed a faint blush underneath the make-up.
“It’s part of the costume,” came out a little muffled from what now looked like an embarrassed little girl.
If it was part of the costume he didn’t really know why she was so embarrassed over it, but he hoped he could make it up a little with his next words. “Well, I think you look really cute in your costume.”
This however didn’t appear to have the desired effect as she blushed even harder before covering her face with her hands. An action that he thought looked really cute as well, and made him wonder how it would be if he had a little sister like that. Knowing his parents however he doubted she would have been able to act as carefree as the girl in front of him.
It was only moments later that his attention was once more directed at Mrs. Summers as she came down the stairs. “It won’t be long now Xander. They’re almost finished.”
“Thank you,” Xander politely answered before ruthlessly suppressing a sigh. They were girls after all, and they always seemed to take forever to get ready. Why was that anyway? It was probably something genetic. He wasn’t quite sure if that sort of thing was possible, but ever since he had heard the term it had become his way of explaining all the weird behavior women and girls could exhibit.
“Dawn? Are you alright?” The slightly worried tone of the older Summers tore his attention back to Dawn in time to see her give a slight nod from Dawn. As Mrs. Summers then turned to him for an explanation Xander could only tell her what he’d said to the girl. Not that he believed it would in any way be useful, but the knowing smile that appeared on Mrs. Summers’s face told him that she understood what was going on. Which was good as he was sure that she’d be able to handle the situation. Whatever the problem actually was.
“It has finally happened, hasn’t it?” she asked her daughter while sitting down next to her.
A nod was the only response she got, not that Xander thought that was a very useful thing. Shortly after that though, Dawn turned to look at her mother with pleading eyes and asked a strange question. “Please don’t tell Buffy.”
Don’t tell Buffy what? The situation was becoming weirder every minute, and he had a feeling that it had something to do with him. Not that he knew why or how, and that was something he actually wanted to have cleared up. “Are you okay, Dawnie?”
“She’s fine Xander, it’s a girl thing.” While the answer didn’t come from the girl he’d asked, Xander knew there was no point in prying for more information. Not that he wanted more information. Oh no. This was a girl thing. Girl things were to be avoided at all cost. He’d learned that from experience, and had no intention of risking either his physical or mental health. During one of those girl things between Willow and Buffy he’d discovered that there was something worse than having your question ignored.
If he hadn’t been as strong as he was, Xander was fairly certain that he’d have had nightmares ever since. There were some things he really didn’t want to know, and Buffy’s opinion about Angel was at the very top of that list. Ugh, he shivered at that memory. It was best to let sleeping dogs lie, and that counted for this situation as well. “Okay. That’s good. Yes, that’s very good. No need for more information. Please.”
Mrs. Summers gave him a knowing smile, and turned her attention back to Dawn. The two of them talked quietly for a while until the older woman spoke up a bit louder again. “Your make-up is a little messed up. Do you want me to fix it, or would you rather stay home after all?”
The horrified expression he could feel forming on his own face was mirrored on Dawn’s face. “Stay home? This is the night of free candy! Why would she want to stay home when she can go out to rob little old ladies of their sweets?”
When the two of them both turned to him with a surprised look he had a feeling they had forgotten about him, and for a moment he wondered whether he had stepped out of line by listening to their ‘girl-talk’. That moment passed quickly however as Mrs. Summers turned to her daughter and looked at her with a smile that seemed to convey a lot more than Xander could make out as it caused Dawn to once again blush.
The situation was now officially starting to freak him out, and he wondered how long it would take for his friends to get ready so he could get back into the sane world. It wasn’t that Buffy and Willow never acted strange with their girl things, but he was at least used to their behavior. The sight before him was completely different, and he had no idea how to deal with it.
He no longer had to figure out how to deal with it however as Dawn answered her mother. “Could you please fix it? I do want to go, and I’m really sorry about earlier.”
This time he at least knew what it was they were talking about, even if he wasn’t meant to, and he was happy the two of them had made up. Although he now realized that with Dawn’s sudden strange behavior she hadn’t gotten around to telling him any embarrassing stories about his favorite Slayer.
Sitting quietly on the chair while her mother fixed her make-up, Dawn was acutely aware of her earlier embarrassment. With the way she acted she was surprised Xander hadn’t noticed anything, but unless he had put up an Oscar worthy achievement he really didn’t have a clue. Thank God for small favors, but how could she act like that?
She was twelve years old, and in her own opinion pretty smart. The whole blushing thing about some stupid boy was really childish and shouldn’t be happening. Sure, it wasn’t her first crush—although she thought she’d hidden the others fairly well—but this kind of behavior was really extreme. It was the kind of behavior one expected from silly little girls, like Buffy, and not by Dawn Summers.
She needed to get over this silly crush as soon as she could. Well the easiest way to do that was by simply vowing to herself that she wouldn’t be crushing on her sister’s friend anymore. So she did.
That should do the trick, happy that that nonsense was sorted out she shifted a little in an attempt to find a more comfortable position. “Sit still Dawn, I can’t work like this,” her mother sighed, but Dawn didn’t pay any attention to the words.
Instead she was fascinated by the way Xander was sipping from his glass of coke, and for a moment she wondered what it would be like if he pressed those lips to hers. She imagined how it would be if she got up now, walked over to him, threw her arms around him and kissed him. He would hesitate at first—probably scared of Buffy’s reaction—but it wouldn’t be long before he’d give in to her insistence and part his lips to allow her tongue entrance to his mouth.
Sighing in wonderment it took her a while before she realized Xander was looking at her in surprise. Oh no! She’d been staring at him, and now he might suspect something. Quickly she turned her attention back to her mother before she might do something even worse. It was already too late though. The heat in her cheeks clearly told her that once again she was blushing like a silly little girl.
Her mother’s annoyingly knowing smile didn’t help matters much either, and for a moment she debated cursing her mother for that. This was not a funny situation, and she really shouldn’t act like it was. This was possibly the worst thing that could have happened to her. If she had to act like this because of a boy, did it really have to be one of her sister’s best friends?
Yes, she decided. Life was unfair. Maybe she should stay inside tonight anyway? On the one hand it would be so wonderful to be near him for that time, but on the other hand it would be so frustrating when, with her sister around, she couldn’t even show him how she felt. In order to clear her head from these disturbing thoughts she closed her eyes and focused on the strange smell of the make-up.
With her eyes closed her mind quickly drifted back to the scene she’d imagined earlier. As the wooden chair disappeared from underneath her, and was replaced by a pair of uniform clad legs, Dawn leaned forward. Resting her forehead against his she peered into those deep brown eyes that were completely filled with love and adoration for her.
Raising her head a little she gave him a short kiss on his forehead before leaning back and allowing her hands to explore his face. Letting her fingers play over his cheeks, over his closed eyes, his nose, and even his ears, she explored like a blind person would. Both of them sighed in pleasure at her touch, and leaning in closer she took in his unique Xander-scent. This was incredible. Once again she brought her face in line with his, and moved to kiss him.
“Ah, finally,” Xander sighed, clearly wanting the same thing as her. No. Wait a minute. The words were right, but the tone was completely off. Opening her eyes, she blinked to allow them to adjust to the sudden light. Xander was standing and looking at the stairs where her sister was now walking down. No! Not fair! He was hers, and hers alone!
Why was he praising her sister like that? Buffy was only wearing some kind of silly noblewoman costume! He should be paying attention to her! She was dressed really, really, cool. And even if she hadn’t been, he should still have been paying attention to her alone. He belonged to her, and Buffy wasn’t even interested in him. Wasn’t she dating someone else anyway? Then why was she encouraging Xander’s flirting? He wasn’t supposed to be doing that!
She needed a way to bring his attention back to where it belonged, but how? Yes! If she told him those embarrassing stories about Buffy he would understand how ridiculous her older sister could be and forget all about her. No, not forget since that might mean he wouldn’t come here again, and that wasn’t what she wanted either. He could forget about Buffy once he was firmly hers, but not before.
Making him stop thinking of Buffy as someone he could fall in love with was the goal though, and the stories would help in that regard. Because Xander belonged to her and only her! No! Those feelings were wrong, she shouldn’t be so possessive of him, she had watched enough television to understand that might just drive him away. But thinking of him dating, maybe even kissing, someone other then her made her feel cold all over. Only the thoughts of his earlier words, how he had said she was cute, warmed her a little.
“Done.” Her mother’s words shook Dawn out of her reverie and she looked at the mirror that was held up in front of her. It looked perfect. Unfortunately the only people who were likely to recognize just who she was supposed to be weren’t able to come tonight. There was something missing though... Of course! Quickly thanking her mother she hurried off to get the remaining items that came with the costume.
“Hey! Watch it Dawn.” Oops, so she ‘accidentally’ brushed a little too close to her sister messing up her stupid dress. It was a ridiculous costume anyway, and she still didn’t understand why Buffy would want to dress like that. It would help her in her case with Xander though. Nobody could possibly believe that anyone who dressed like Buffy had could be better than someone wearing a cool costume.
Not paying any attention to her sister, she ran upstairs where she almost crashed into the walking sheet that was coming down the stairs
“Dawn!” A ghost? From what Buffy had been telling during dinner she thought that Willow had been meant to go as some kind of hooker or something. Oh well, even if Willow had been a serious threat to her plans of seducing Xander, this could only help Dawn. Not bothering to figure out the reason for the sudden costume change she apologized with a shout of “Sorry!” and continued on to her room.
Once there she grabbed the three items that would complete her outfit. The things that defined exactly who her character was. Holding them in her hands she wondered where she could put them. The Anime had never been clear on how they carried their weapons during those final two episodes, but that was probably because the artists didn’t have to pay attention to that kind of details. It did leave her with a problem though as the outfit wasn’t exactly created for carrying things around.
Eventually she found a solution and slid the student card into one of her sleevethingies—what were they called anyway?—and she managed to hide the other two items somewhere on her back. Some kind of spinal sheath would have probably been best for that, or at least something in which she could easily carry the weapons. It might be a ceremonial outfit, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t supposed to be something she could put the weapons in. Of course, they did fit where she’d put them now, but she didn’t like that nobody could see them there. Unfortunately the only other possibility was to carry everything, and that didn’t sound like fun either.
Looking in the full-size mirror adorning her closet she admired the way she looked so much like the girl she wanted to imitate. And Xander had thought she looked cute as well! Sighing at that thought, Dawn wondered once again about the unfairness of it all. Had her original plan gone through she wouldn’t even have been home when he had arrived, and she could have lived in blissful ignorance about what she still thought of as a ridiculous crush.
She was far too young to be able to unravel the mysteries of the heart though, so she might as well surrender to it. Wow, she blinked in surprise, that actually sounded profound. It was time to go now though. Smoothing her costume again, Dawn gathered her courage and left her room.
“Dawnie is coming too?” she heard Xander ask.
“Yeah, mom won’t let her go out alone and now we’re stuck with her.”
“Ah come on, it won’t be that bad.” Thank you! Her heart soared as her chosen future husband defended her.
“I don’t like it but mom didn’t give us any choice. Oh well, what’s one more annoying little brat among many?” Aargh! Why couldn’t her sister act like she at least liked her? One day she’d get her back for all these comments.
Suddenly a smile appeared on her face as she remembered that telling those stories to Xander would serve as a way of getting back to her sister as well. The walk to Sunnydale Highschool was a pretty long one and she was certain that during that time she could tell him quite a number of stories.
With the smile still on her face she went down the stairs where she was greeted by her sister’s sour-looking face, Xander who looked anxious to get underway and, Willow who despite Buffy’s best attempts still looked like a walking sheet.
“Finally, we’ve been done for hours now. Can we go, or is there anything else you need to do?” Her sister’s greeting wasn’t the nicest Dawn had ever received, but considering the company she decided it was best if she acted like the mature one.
“Nope, I’m done,” she smiled. Having her sarcastic barbs ignored always managed to rile Buffy up a little. “Why don’t we go and rob some little old ladies of their sweets?”
She couldn’t see it as she had passed them on the way to the door, but she was pretty certain the older girls were both glaring at Xander. The sound of a slap seemed to confirm it, and for a moment she debated doing something about it. No. Xander could handle himself, and there were times that getting under her sister’s skin was more important anyway.
“Ow! What did I do?” See? He could handle himself.
“I know she got that from you, and you really shouldn’t tell her things like that. She’ll always use it to annoy me.” Yep, and there was nothing that Buffy could do to stop her from using everything she had.
They had collected the group of small fry and now the four of them were escorting the little monsters around. Strange how almost every one of them appeared to be dressed as their inner selves. Despite their appearance however, the kids were behaving themselves so far, and they seemed to have taken his speech to heart. Seeing them using the tricks he’d discovered over the years made Xander proud of the children. It was always a special moment when your knowledge was used for a good cause.
The only one in the group who didn’t seem to act like he’d expected her to was little Dawnie, and he wondered why that was. During their walk to the school Dawn had entertained the three of them with as many embarrassing stories about Buffy as she could. Which seemed to indicate that she’d been alright at that time. And boy, he had enjoyed those stories. He couldn’t wait until he’d get an opportunity to rub some of Buffy’s mistakes in her face.
While the initial stories had been fun, it had gotten even better later on as Buffy had retaliated. As a consequence, Both Willow and he had been treated to a show where the Summers girls tried to out-embarrass each other. Xander never knew that so many stories could be told in such a short time, but as with everything all good things eventually come to an end.
Dawn had just been going on about a rather interesting story concerning a boy Buffy had a crush on, which seemed to be a recurring theme in Dawn’s stories, when Buffy had interrupted. Now, his friend had interrupted before, but this time it was different. From the way she’d blanched Xander figured that she’d recognized the story for what it was, and had decided that it would be best if he and Willow didn’t hear this one.
Buffy had cheated there however, and made Dawn a promise that was better than anything he could offer in return. If Dawn saw someone she knew she could go along with them; as long as she promised in return that the two of them would meet up again before going home.
As it was the best opportunity for Dawn to get out from under her sister’s supervision, she’d jumped at the opportunity. He had almost felt like begging her to continue the story anyway—it had to be really good if Buffy’s reaction was any indication—but his manliness had stopped him from doing that. Well, that and the fact that it wouldn’t help anyway.
Dawn had known his opinion about it though, and had shyly winked at him when Buffy couldn’t see it. Then when she’d made the promise the girl had inserted a single word that would ensure that he’d undoubtedly get to hear the story at a later date. She wouldn’t tell the story NOW.
After that promise the girl should have been happily looking around for friends so that she wouldn’t have to put up with her sister anymore. That wasn’t the case however as Dawn was barely paying any attention to the other children on the streets. This needed an explanation and who better to find out what was wrong then the Xandman? “What’s wrong Dawnie?” Xander asked as he started walking next to her.
“Nothing.” Okay... he doubted he would have believed that had he been both blind and deaf, and the way she looked and sounded made it even more obvious to him. Dawn needed to get something off her chest, and it wasn’t her costume. Wasn’t she cold in that anyway? Her legs might be encased, but her arms were still pretty bare.
“R-i-i-ight,” he drawled, “and what makes you think I’d accept an excuse like that?”
Not receiving a reply, Xander tried it another way. “Now, why won’t the beautiful lady tell this brave knight what her problem is? He can then go and slay that particular dragon for her so that she can once again be at peace.” Humor had always been the best way for him to get things done, even if people didn’t always agree with that sentiment.
The result he got wasn’t exactly what he had expected. Instead of laughing and explaining the situation, Dawn was blushing. He still didn’t know how to deal with that though, so he therefore chose what lesser minds might call the coward’s way. He ignored her blushing and waited for her to react in a way he could deal with. Eventually she did: answering his question with one of her own. “Since when are there knights in the United States army?”
“You wound me, milady.” Putting his hand over his heart he pretended that this was indeed the case, and this time he was rewarded by giggling. Success! “But you still haven’t told me what the problem is.”
“It’s nothing really.”
“Oh come on, this is me. You know you can’t hide anything from the Xandman.”
This time he wasn’t certain if he liked the burst of laughter, but decided to take it in the most positive way he could. Once he figured out what that would be. “I’m sorry Xander, I didn’t mean to laugh at you, but that sounded really silly.”
Ouch, that didn’t make him feel a lot better about the laughter, but he was on a mission here and wouldn’t let a little ridicule stop him. “That’s alright. I’m used to being treated like that.” Pinking away a fake tear he played upon her sympathies in order to get her to open up.
“Oh, I’m really sorry Xander.” Throwing her arms around him the girl looked up at him with watery eyes. “I won’t ever do that again, please forgive me.”
Once again mystified by the ways of the female mind Xander was at a loss for words. “I, ah. I don’t... I mean I do... I mean... I forgive you. Now, why don’t you tell me what’s wrong so I can help you with it.”
“Hey Xander!” Looking over at Buffy who was staring at him and Dawn he wondered what she wanted. “Will you please stop groping my little sister? I would like to be able to enjoy the candy, and having to look at that just makes me feel sick.”
Dawn let go of him and turned towards her sister. “I was just asking him for something! There’s no reason for you to be angry at him. I was the one who... oh no.”
The last part of Dawn’s speech came as a groan, and its timing coincided with the glint of sudden realization that he recognized in Buffy’s eyes. Dawn probably understood what that was about, and he had a feeling that he should as well.
Xander had no doubt that he find out soon though as Buffy seemed more than willing to share her newfound knowledge. In fact, if her grin was any indication, Buffy seemed to be enjoying this situation very much. Well, it appeared that the earlier truce was about to be broken, and as Buffy opened her mouth he was anxiously awaiting her words.
Before his friend had a chance to speak however, the whole world seemed to turn inside out.
* * *
What happened? Grabbing his weapon, the soldier took stock of the situation. He was standing in the middle of what appeared to be an American street, but that was where normality ended. He was surrounded by a group of little monsters who seemed to be running around aimlessly. Three other humans were around him as well, although they didn’t look very normal either.
The one he noticed first was a blond girl dressed in expensive clothes that even he knew had gone out of style at least a century before. The reason that she was the first one he noticed had nothing to do with her looks—although they were nothing to sneer at—but with the way she was screaming like a banshee. Screaming for a knight to save her. Where did she think she was? In some kind of fairy-tale?
A redheaded working girl was looking around in confusion, and he figured that despite that confusion she was the most likely one to have any answers for him. After all, the other human was a young Japanese girl who was wearing some kind of weird ceremonial garb. At least he hoped it was ceremonial. Although... wouldn’t it be ceremonial if she was a deranged cult-member as well? Whichever it was, she obviously wasn’t the person to ask for information.
The working girl was staring at the children, and as he had no intention of shouting to get her attention he walked over to her. Standing behind her, she still hadn’t noticed him, and with a frown on his face he made to grab her.
He blinked and tried again.
He blinked again. “Okay, this is weird.”
The working girl heard him talk and turned around only to immediately start talking. “Xander! Do you know what’s going on?”
Great, his only potential source of information was so confused that she was as useless as the other two. “Who’s Xander?”
“What? You are of course. Alexander Lavelle Harris, who prefers to be called Xander.” Ahh, so that was his name. The girl wasn’t as confused as he had believed after all, now he just needed to find out what had caused this sudden bout of memory loss. And to have an explanation of why his hand had gone straight through her body when he tried to grab her.
“Thank you for telling me ma’am, I’m having some problems with my memory. I take it that I know you?”
“Of course you know me!”
“I’m one of your clients?”
“What?” Now it was the redhead’s turn to gasp, and he wondered why she seemed so upset at his words.
“You are a working girl, aren’t you? And since you seem to be familiar with me I assumed... My apologies if I have offended you.”
“I... I... I...” She didn’t appear to come out of her words, but eventually she managed. “I am not some kind of two-bit whore, Xander Harris!” She tried to slap him, but her hand went straight through the arm he had thrown up to protect his face before continuing its journey through his head. He shivered at this repeated proof that the girl was intangible.
“What the hell is that!” Xander yelled as he could no longer stand not knowing how someone could possibly be intangible.
“I don’t know!” the girl screamed back at him.
He stopped himself from screaming again. Now was not the time. Strange things were going on, and he really needed more information so he could decide on what to do. At the moment he was debating whether to look for the nearest army-base or a mental institution. Somehow he had a feeling that he wouldn’t have any trouble if he wanted to be dismissed by being given a section eight.
Focus! Okay, the girl was not a working girl. He’d figured that part out already. It made some sense as well as she obviously was a bit young for that job, not that that stopped some people, and with her, ah, handicap it would have been difficult to make money that way anyway.
“Look lady,” Xander, if that was his name, said as he once again bravely suppressed the shivers that threatened to run down his back, “I really am sorry about thinking that you’re a working girl. I would be really grateful though if you wouldn’t put anymore of your body parts inside me. There is obviously a lot going on here, and that might just put me over the edge again. Now, as you seem to know me I’d like to put the two of us on a more even footing by asking you for your name.”
Shooting daggers with her eyes the girl nonetheless answered his implied question. “I’m Willow.”
“Okay then, Willow, you seem to be the only one around here who has even the slightest idea of what’s happening. Therefore, I would kindly ask you if you could you perhaps stop trying to glare me to death, and explain what the hell is going on around here!?” The last part he shouted in her face, using a time honored technique of how to get more information.
For a moment it seemed to work as the girl took a step back, but that didn’t last and she soon proved once again that she could yell as well. “Xander Harris! You are not in any position to yell at me. Not after what you just called me!”
Rolling his eyes he repeated his request for information, and this time she seemed more impressed as she actually got around to answering the damn question.
“You didn’t have to yell at me,” the redhead pouted, before asserting herself once more. “And I don’t know what’s going on anyway. Oh, but maybe Buffy does!”
“Buffy?” He stopped himself in the nick of time from asking if that was one of her colleagues. She was pissed enough at him as it was, and he didn’t need to make it worse only because Buffy was the sort of name he’d expect for an exotic dancer.
When the redhead, Willow he reminded himself, turned to the fairytale princess he realized he had made the right decision. With his luck the useless piece of decoration was probably a member of some kind of powerful family, and would have busted him down to permanent KP had she heard him say something like that. With his luck? That had come out so very natural. Did that mean that kind of thing happened to him often?
“That’s Buffy? The one you think can give us answers? She looks even more useless than you do.” Okay, so he didn’t feel like holding back every comment. If they didn’t like it they shouldn’t give him openings like that, and besides the girl was starting to annoy him.
“I don’t understand.” The girl seemed lost now that she had realized that the decoration piece was indeed that. Taking the opportunity he checked the blonde out and had to change his opinion slightly: while she was still obviously only good for acting as decoration she was a very nice one.
“Willow? What’s going on?” Those soft-spoken words came from the Japanese girl who apparently was familiar with the redhead as well.
“Oh Dawn, I almost forgot about you. Are you alright?”
“I’m fine, what’s going on?” The question was rather intent, and he had a feeling there was something a little off about the girl. As the redhead didn’t seem to notice he figured it was probably normal for the young girl and he gave it no more thought.
“I think everyone has changed into their costume. Well, everyone but you.”
“Changed into their costume? What are you talking about woman?” He had no time for that kind of nonsense. It almost sounded as if the stupid girl believed in something as ridiculous as magic. Of course, when Xander then realized that people that you couldn’t touch weren’t real either he swallowed nervously, and grabbed his M-16 a little tighter. He really didn’t understand what was going on, and he really wanted his memory back before something even worse happened.
“It’s Halloween and we were all dressed up, I was dressed like a ghost and now I am one.”
Snorting he couldn’t help but comment on that. “I never imagined that is what ghosts dress like. Had I known that I might have been more interested in Casper.” At their strange looks he quickly added to that statement. “For the female guests of course, geez, what kind of sicko do you think I am that I’d be interested in a little boy?”
“I wore this underneath the sheet!”
“Why? To flash innocent children?” This was fun. If it hadn’t been for the strange situation he might have spent the next hours baiting her.
“NO!” Oh goody, now she was turning an interesting shade of red as well. He couldn’t even remember seeing that particular shade on a human before. Okay, with his memory gone that didn’t say much, but it still looked far from healthy. Nonetheless, he once more focused on the rest of the explanation.
“Okay,” the girl said once she’d calmed down again. “Your name is Xander Harris...”
It was a rather strange tale and he had some trouble believing he was supposed to be some kind of schoolchild; especially one that sounded as much of a geek as she described. But it might explain the decoration piece, who by now had thankfully turned quiet, and the little critters who had scattered.
“So, if I understand what you’re saying, this is all some kind of weird magical thing that has caused pint-sized demons and Dracula wannabe’s to run around?”
“Well, yes?” The girl sounded as if she was hoping he would believe her, but would understand if he didn’t. Problem was, he had no idea whether to believe her or not.
“But apparently, there are others as well? Little kiddies that are dressed up like their favorite heroes who undoubtedly will try to save everyone?”
“Yes?” He was happy to hear she sounded even more uncertain then before.
“And you’re absolutely sure that you aren’t just some kind of delusional kid who died after reading too many fantasy books, and has decided to spend her afterlife annoying me?”
“No! I mean yes.” She appeared to have some difficulty finding the right answer to this question, as he had intended. “I’m not delusional, anyway how would you explain my being a ghost then?”
Xander shrugged. “Just because I’ve never seen a ghost before doesn’t mean they don’t exist even if I hadn’t expected them to look like a working girl.”
Yep, there was the interesting shade again. “XANDER!”
“Alright, say I believe you. What can we do about it?” Not that he did believe her, or at least not the part about him being some kind of schoolkid. Who did she think she was fooling?
“I don’t know.” Wonderful, the playmate of the year didn’t know how to handle her own delusions.
“Magic?” This came once again from the soft-spoken girl, and he wondered if she was even capable of saying anything louder then a whisper.
“Ehm, yes Dawn. I know we didn’t tell you but it’s dangerous, a-and Buffy thought it better if you didn’t know?” He couldn’t predict how the girl would react to that, but had someone told him that he hadn’t been informed of the threats in the world because they were dangerous he would be pissed. After all, how could you protect yourself against something if you didn’t know it was there?
Wait a minute, he just realized something. “You mean to tell me that the only person here who could possibly corroborate your story doesn’t know anything about all this?”
“Yes?” Once again he could hear the question mark in her answer and he was getting really tired of this. Action was needed, that he could understand. Thinking about the bigger issues was for the officers, not for a simple grunt like him.
“Is there someone else you know who might not be infected with whatever magical ray has been used, and who might possibly understand what is going on?” Maybe if he treated her like a little kid she would understand him.
“Giles! Giles will know.”
Finally, something useful if this Giles wasn’t just another figment of her imagination of course. “And where can we find this Giles?”
“I don’t know.” Sweet merciful god, why did he have to deal with a delusional ghost? “Oh wait, he’ll be at the library.”
Okay, at the library. For a moment he looked up and indeed there was no sun to warm his body, only a beautiful starry sky with a nearly full moon. “This Giles is at the library at this time of night?”
“Yes, he’s the librarian at school, and he said he’d be there tonight.”
At school. Could this whole situation become even more ridiculous? He needed to ditch this girl, not even the fun of baiting her could stand up against this nonsense.
“Okay then,” he put a smile on his face that he sincerely hoped looked real, “why don’t you go get him, while I’ll take these other two to a safe place.”
“Good idea, if there are any vampires around they need to be protected.”
“I don’t think you have to worry about that. Even without killing them I’m sure I can handle a couple of pint-sized vampires.”
“I meant real vampires.”
“Ehm, yes I kinda forgot to mention them. Vampires and demons are both real, and while they aren’t supposed to come out at Halloween maybe with this going on they will.” That came out so fast he had a little trouble following it, but once he understood he quickly looked around again to see if there was any danger.
The Japanese girl was still standing next to him, and he approved of the way she was also looking for any possible threats. While the blonde wasn’t doing anything useful, she had at least given up whimpering in favor of listening to the redhead. Aside from the four of them, he couldn’t see anyone on the street though. Which was weird enough during Halloween. Still, without a soul in sight there was nothing to worry about. Oh. Wait. Wasn’t it vampires who didn’t have a soul?
“Thanks for telling us this so soon.” This time Xander didn’t even try to conceal the sarcasm in his voice. He still wasn’t certain the girl was right in the head, maybe she had died because of some kind of head injury, but if she was legit she might have told him about this a little sooner. Preferably the moment she first opened her mouth. “I take it that I am allowed to shoot them?”
“Bullets don’t work on vampires.” This really just kept getting better and better, didn’t it?
“What’s next? You’re going to tell me this is a resting place on the path to hell?”
Willow looked surprised at his comment before she smiled a little. “How did you know?”
No, there was no way that she could be serious. Xander was fairly certain he had all the information he needed for now, and he really needed to get rid of this crazy fool. “Okay little lady, if that’s what you believe I won’t tell you different. Now, why don’t you hop along and find your librarian while I take care of these other two.”
She looked crushed that he didn’t believe her, and tried to defend herself. “It’s not really a resting place, but there is a gate to hell here, a Hellmouth.”
“Sure thing, honey, now since you at least seem to know your way around here. Where can I take these two?”
“No, I’m serious here. We get all kinds of dangerous creatures. A-and everybody comes here to end the world. Oh, and for like sixty years there was a master vampire trapped at the Hellmouth itself by an earthquake.”
Right. Well that didn’t really answer his question, but she had made him curious. “Where exactly is this Hellmouth then? In some sort of cave?”
“Yes, beneath the Highschool.”
Ehm, okay. So this very dangerous place was right under a school. Sure, that made sense. “Does that mean that students try to blow it up?”
“No! You can’t blow up the school, that’s where you learn things.”
“Oh, you’re one of those. You are aware that you don’t exactly dress like a typical bookworm, don’t you? And how do you turn pages anyway? It’s not like you can touch them,” Xander teased the ghost with a smile.
“It’s Halloween! I don’t actually dress like this normally!”
“Yeah, whatever. So to return to the important stuff. Where can I take these two?”
While the redhead was opening her mouth for a reply, the decoration piece showed she could do more than scream and whimper. “Sir knight?”
Did she mean him? Looking down at his uniform he didn’t think he looked like some kind of fool dressed in tons of steel, but he answered anyway. “What?”
“Once thou art finished with the courtesan-” He didn’t hear what else she had to say as the look on the face of the so-called ghost caused him to burst out into laughter.
The blonde looked at him mortified, probably thinking he was laughing because of her, but he just couldn’t stop laughing long enough to explain it to her. Willow apparently had enough of it, and once again tried to slap him. Alright. He now officially had enough of that. Didn’t she know how strange it was to see someone’s arm sticking out of you?
“Cut that out. You can go to Buffy’s place, I’m sure Dawn can take you there.” Great, to the house of the decorating piece. Xander wondered if she actually fit in with the rest of the decor.
“You know where to go, small fry?” He looked down at where he had last seen the girl, but she seemed to have disappeared. “Small fry?” Looking around for her he couldn’t see her. It was then that the blonde finally got to say what she’d wanted to tell him.
“It is as I wanted to say, sir knight. The young girl departed while you were discussing the dangers of this horrible place.”