Part 3: Understanding
Disclaimer: I own nothing. All the Anita Blake ‘verse characters belong to Laurell K Hamilton, Dawn belongs to Joss Whedon and Islington and the Black Friars beloeng both to the city of London and to Neil Gaiman.
6 months later
Dawn absently patted her hair to make sure that it was staying up in the elaborate knot the hairdresser had decided to torture her with. She wasn't entirely comfortable with displaying this much neck around so many vampires but the formal dress she was wearing demanded an equally formal hairstyle. At least Jean Claude allowed her to choose her own clothes to these functions. The first PR event he had wheeled her out to (watch the Master vampire take care of the helpless orphan) he'd attempted to dress her much as he did for the rest of the entourage. The dress, which had been equal parts St Mary's School for Girls and the Rocky Horror Picture Show, had been sent back with a polite note explaining that, while Dawn was grateful for the gesture, she'd been dressing herself for several years now and had every intention of continuing to do so.
Looking over at Anita and Jean Claude holding court in one of the corners of the room, Dawn was hard pressed to hold in a snort of amusement. She wasn't entirely sure how Anita was managing to breathe in the laced up corset that Jean Claude had obviously selected for her. Given the choice, Anita would live in T-shirts and jeans, not tight fitting corsets and skirts slashed to the hip. She took a moment to try and guess where Anita was hiding her customary arsenal. Dawn wasn't entirely sure what she thought about Ms Anita Blake. There was a coldness to her that made Dawn wonder how much of her humanity Anita had lost during her career. It was strange when you thought about it. If you placed body counts side by side, Buffy had easily topped Anita's total career tally by the time she was about sixteen, but five years of accumulated slays later, Buffy had still retained a basic level of humanity that seemed to be missing in Anita.
Dawn wasn't quite sure what it was about vampires that drew them to the women designated to kill them. You would think that having been desperate enough to avoid death the first time around that they allowed themselves to be vamped, that they would then have better survival instincts than to fall in love, lust whatever with the local vampire killer. Buffy had had Angel and then later Spike lusting after her. Dawn spared herself a smile at the thought of her favourite Big Bad, and here Anita's every move was watched by Jean Claude, Asher and to a lesser extent, Damian. Dawn hadn't quite worked out what the deal with Damian was. Cherry had gossiped that the vampire was in love with Anita as well but he didn't seem to be paying her as much attention as late. Dawn supposed she could just ask Damian, but she didn’t want to alienate the last acceptable escort that Jean Claude could offer. This was the second time Damian had drawn the short straw and been landed with Dawn duty, but she got the impression he didn’t mind too much. She had a decided soft spot for the vampire with the red hair and green eyes he had instantly reminded her of Willow. He was nice and more to the point offered a welcome buffer to the exuberance displayed by the rest of the Circus inhabitants.
Jason had been struck off her acceptable list after an evening spent removing his paws form her ass. He was nice in a hormonally charged puppy sort of way but Dawn had her limits and Jason had overstepped those by the time they had left her front porch to go to dinner. Jean Claude had then offered the Ulfric as a more suitable date. A suggestion that Dawn had blushingly shot down. Intellectually she knew that the horrendously embarrassing crush she had had on him while she was at school was a figment of a perverse Power's imagination but that didn’t make it any less cringe worthy. The flash of recognition and indulgent smile Richard had worn when he was introduced indicated that he probably remembered her gushing valentine as well. Bastard.
After exhausting the possible werewolves Jean Claude could bully into escorting her to these events, he had moved on to the vampires. The evening with Asher had not gone well. Dawn was sure that there was a rule about dating anyone with better hair than you have and she really should have paid attention to it. That went doubly true for pretty men who have enormous chips on their shoulders. Yes, she understood that some crappy things had happened in his life but honestly, there were other people who managed to live their lives with out the emotional equivalent to a neon "Woe is me" sign. Okay, so telling him that was possibly not the most polite thing to have done but in her defence her afternoon nap had been plagued with visions of Sunnydale and she hadn't been feeling particularly charitable towards anyone else's pain that night. Asher had left her in the middle of the dance floor in a complete snit and refused to escort her anywhere again.
Enter Damian. Dawn smiled him as he handed her a glass of mineral water pulling her from her thoughts. Damian's speech was always careful. He rarely seemed to speak without thinking. A trait that Dawn could definitely admire, although if she had spent the better part of a thousand years living with a sadistic bitch she'd probably have learnt to watch her tongue as well. Damian watched her carefully as she drained her glass and handed it to a passing waiter.
"Would you like to dance?" he asked politely.
Dawn grinned her agreement and the two of them quickly joined the other dancers. Damian nodded politely as they waltzed past Jean Claude and Anita who appeared to be in rather a heated conversation. Dawn tilted her head towards the other couple. "What's up with those two?"
"Anita has been asked to speak at a conference in London next month and Jean Claude has yet to secure her permission from the Master of the London," he explained.
Dawn stilled at the mention of the English city. Fragments of memory rose to the surface before flooding her brain in a wash of feelings. Islington's madness and the fear of the Black friars as they desperately tried to protect her.
Damian shook her gently. "Dawn, are you alright?"
"What?" Dawn asked stupidly, shaking her head in an effort to clear the fog from her brain. "Sorry Damian. I got distracted there for a moment."
The vampire was looking at her in genuine concern. "You went cold all of a sudden and it was like you weren't there. Are you sure you're not unwell?"
"Nah, I'm good," Dawn attempted to reassure him. "I am in the mood to continue this dance though." After several circles around the floor, Dawn interrupted their casual conversation. "Damian, you’re the oldest person I know."
"I'm currently the oldest vampire in the city, yes."
"Since you've been around so long, I guess you must have lost a lot of people that were important to you."
Damian nodded in agreement. "Is this about your family?"
Dawn screwed up her nose slightly. "Sort of," she said. "I guess I was wondering how you cope with constantly losing people."
Damian stopped them mid twirl and pulled her away from the rest of the dancers to give them a little more privacy. "I don't know," he admitted. "You just do. In the past there were times when the pain was so fresh that I debated waiting for the sun to come up." At Dawn's nod of encouragement he continued. "But then their lives would have been wasted. As long as I remember them, there is something of them left in this world."
Dawn's smile was bittersweet as she took a moment to go over what he had said. "That's rather profound." She reached up and impulsively hugged Damian. "Thank you."
"As you said, I have had a lot of practice in how to survive grief."
"Would you teach me?"
Damian smiled in honest pleasure. "I would be delighted to."