small town girls




by shell

Summer school is hell, Dawn thought glumly. But not the usual Hellmouthy oh- look- it's- another- apocalypse- minded- demon/witch/minor god kind, which at least had the advantage of being interesting. No, summer school is the it's- a- gorgeous- summer- day- outside- and- everyone- else- is- on- vacation- but-you're- stuck- in- here- with- the- rest- of- the- losers- gradually- losing- your- few- remaining- brain- cells kind. She briefly considered propping her eyelids open with erasers but rejected the idea as far too obvious. Then again, considering that the rest of the class was redoing their manicures, messaging each other on their cell phones, or napping, she would probably still look like a stellar and attentive student. Dawn frowned. Actually, there was one student who appeared to actually be paying attention. She must be new, Dawn thought, puzzled. Blonde, with studiously disheveled hair, the girl was taking notes feverishly, eyes riveted to the front of the classroom. As Dawn stared in astonishment at the bizarre spectacle, the girl turned towards her and smiled, a dazzling burst of goodwill. Embarrassed at being caught looking, Dawn smiled back weakly and looked down, hoping the blush would go away soon.

As the bell rang and the classroom turned itself inside out, disgorging a mass of jostling, clanking students, Dawn almost tripped over the girl, who was standing near the door, scowling at a printed schedule. Come on, be friendly, she goaded herself. "Um, h-hi, are you looking for a classroom?" she finally got out. Smooth, Dawn, she thought, angry with herself for sounding like such an idiot.

The girl looked up. "Brilliant deduction, Holmes," she said mildly, tempering the acid words with another million-watt smile. She stuck out her hand. "Chloe Sullivan."

"Dawn Summers," Dawn managed. She peered at Chloe's schedule. "Oh, Science 138. That's right next to my next class."

As the two girls made their way down the hall, Chloe asked, "So, I take it you're a Sunnydale native?"

"Well, sort of." Dawn said. "I came from L.A. originally, but I've lived here for a while now."

Chloe nodded. "I grew up in the big city too--Metropolis--but my dad got a job in Smallville when I was in eighth grade--" she slanted a look towards Dawn--"and you have no idea where I'm talking about, do you."

Dawn looked apologetic. "Not really."

Chloe shrugged. "It'd be pretty weird if people in Southern California were familiar with the geography of Lowell County, Kansas."

She quirked an eyebrow at Dawn, who felt marginally better; trying to make conversation, she ventured, "So, what brings you to California?" She immediately regretted the question.

Though Chloe's smile didn't waver, it looked forced now. "My dad worked at a plant in Smallville which closed, and everyone was laid off," she said.

"Oh, I'm sorry..." Dawn said awkwardly, feeling her words to be inadequate.

Chloe shrugged again. "Well. Anyway, we were going to move back to Metropolis, but then Dad got an offer he couldn't refuse, so here we are." Her sweeping hand gesture seemed to indicate not only the hallway, but all of Sunnydale, in all its bizarre glory.

"Yeah, well, um, it's kind of an interesting place to live," Dawn said weakly. God, I really should try to warn her somehow, she thought, but how am I supposed to do that without her deciding that i'm completely insane...?

Her train of thought was abruptly derailed when they arrived at Science 138. "Um, this is where you get off, I guess," she said brightly.

Chloe stopped. "Well...thanks," she said. She regarded Dawn thoughtfully. "Honestly, I know I'm at the bottom of the social hierarchy here as a new arrival, but I was starting to wonder whether anyone was going to talk to me at all. Though I did wonder if maybe the girls here just couldn't see me over their cleavage."

Dawn almost choked. Chloe's deadpan comment was such a perfect summary of her own attitude towards most of the Sunnydale High girls that she didn't know quite what to say. When she was able to breathe again, she said, "Well, hanging out with me is probably not the best move, social hierarchy-wise, but, um..."

Chloe tilted her head and smiled at Dawn beatifically. "Really, I'm not worried," she said.

Dawn knew she should say something in response, but found herself oddly tongue-tied. The two girls looked at each other for a long moment as the noise and flurry of the hallway swirled and rattled around them.

"Well, I'll see you tomorrow," Chloe finally said, with one last brilliant smile.

Dawn watched her go, feeling confused. What just happened? she asked herself.


"Buffy, please!" Dawn implored for what was probably the hundredth time.

Her older sister looked at her with a resolute glare. "Dawn. It is. way. dangerous. What part of that don't you understand?"

Dawn bit her lip in frustration. "Buffy, it's just patrol. You do it all the time. And," she added quickly when Buffy looked as if she was going to interrupt, "I'm your sister. The monks made me out of you. Why don't you think I can take care of myself?" Suddenly Dawn felt tears pricking her eyelids. "I thought things were going to be different," she said coldly, trying not to sniffle. "But I guess nothing really changed, after all."

Buffy looked horrified. Dawn felt momentarily guilty, though she hadn't exactly intended to play on Buffy's remorse from last year. It had just come out that way. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean" Dawn began.

"No, that was fair," Buffy said softly. For a moment, there was a waver in her voice, but it firmed as she went on. "I did promise. Okay. But just graveyard patrol, and if I say to get out, you have to listen. Promise?"

"I promise," Dawn agreed quickly. Try as she might, she was unable to completely suppress her excited bounce.

Buffy smiled wryly. "I wish I had your enthusiasm. Hey, no going all Faith-y on me, okay?" she added with sudden anxiety.

Dawn made a face at her sister.

Buffy made a face back, and for a moment it felt the way it had once, at least in her created memories, where the worst thing either of them had to worry about was getting in trouble with Mom or kids in school being mean. Not that her real life had ever been that simple.


The sisters strolled through the moonlit graveyard in silence. Dawn was sure that Buffy was still castigating herself for letting her sister come along, but she didn't care. For once, Buffy wasn't totally shutting her out. Maybe things really were changing.

Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted by Buffy grabbing her arm and whispering, "Dawn. Wait. Look, there's some girl over there with a death wish."

Dawn looked. A slight figure in a long dark coat was sitting on a gravestone. The figure had stylishly rumpled blonde hair..."I know her," Dawn whispered back. "Well, I met her at school, anyway. She's from Kansas."

Buffy groaned. "Great. Well, maybe in Kansas graveyards are the cool hangout of choice, but perhaps we could convince her that the Bronze is a better call in Sunnydale." She looked hopefully at her sister. "Dawn, could you go over there and talk to her, see if you can persuade her to leave before the things that go bump in the night start crawling out?"

Dawn squared her shoulders. "Sure. I'm on it." But what on earth am I going to say? she wondered.

"Hi, Chloe," Dawn said cheerily.

Chloe spun around, looking extremely startled. "Dawn? Hi! What are you...?"

Dawn shrugged. "I was gonna ask you that, actually," she said. "My sister and I were walking over there"--she waved vaguely in the direction of the sidewalk--"and saw you in here. Um, just out of curiosity, do you usually hang out a lot in graveyards?"

Chloe regarded her thoughtfully. "Not really," she said. "But I had heard that the cemeteries around here were unusually interesting."

Dawn wondered if she had really heard the undertone of challenge in the other girl's voice. She mentally vowed to find out who had told Chloe that Sunnydale cemeteries were "interesting" and personally kick their asses. Out loud, she chuckled weakly and said, "Yeah. Well. The thing is, we have some strange people in Sunnydale. Um, they've all read, like, way too much Anne Rice or something, and they think it's really cool to act all vampire-y." She glanced at Chloe to see how she was reacting, and encountered a look of profound skepticism.

"Really," Chloe said thoughtfully. "That doesn't sound very dangerous, though--Goths with delusions of vampiricism..."

"Um, some of them do lots of drugs and have this unfortunate tendency to, like, attack random passers-by, too," Dawn said desperately.

Chloe still looked depressingly like someone who wanted to stand there and ask questions about the weirdness that was Sunnydale all night, and Dawn was still hoping to get her out of the graveyard before...she groaned inwardly. It was too late.

Over Chloe's shoulder, she saw the earth shaking. A new vamp. Chloe noticed Dawn's stare and turned to see. Her eyes widened.

Dawn did the only thing she could think of on the spur of the moment. She screamed "Buffyyyyy!" at the top of her lungs.

Like a small blonde whirlwind, Buffy appeared. As the new vamp erupted from the ground, fangs bared, she flew at him, kicking and punching. Though Buffy had a stake in one hand, she didn't use it until she and the vamp were behind a discreet clump of trees. Then the vamp screamed, and a corona of dust radiated around the trees.

Buffy emerged a second later, jauntily dusting herself off. "Pesky, those drugged-out Anne Rice wannabes, but once they realize they've met someone with mad martial arts skills, they don't stick around for long," she said cheerily.

Dawn stole a glance at Chloe. What she saw made her groan inwardly. Her sister might be destined to save the world from the forces of darkness, but she was not large with the smoothness.

If Chloe had been suspicious that something weird was going on before, now she was convinced of it.

But Buffy was still talking. "So. Now that we're all caught up on the hazards of Sunnydale, maybe you two would like to go hang out somewhere nice and well-lit, like the Bronze?"

Dawn could hear the undertone of pleading in Buffy's voice, and spontaneously decided to humor her sister. "Sure. Chloe, wanna come? You should see this place, since it's basically the only club in Sunnydale," she offered helpfully.

Chloe looked as if she were going to say something, then apparently changed her mind. "Sure. I could do that," she said slowly.

Buffy looked relieved. "Oh, and I'm Buffy Summers. Dawn's sister," she added as an afterthought.

Chloe nodded. "So I gathered. Chloe Sullivan," she said, offering her hand.

Buffy took it briskly. "So. You're headed to the Bronze, and I'll come meet you there soon, okay?" she said.

Dawn nodded. "Uh-huh. C'mon, Chloe."

The two girls were a good few blocks down the sidewalk before Chloe cleared her throat. Uh-oh, thought Dawn.

"So...Dawn. Come clean. What's really going on here?" she demanded.

Dawn tried not to meet Chloe's eyes. "Y-you heard Buffy. Weird, vamp-wannabe druggies. That's all."

Chloe stopped and grabbed Dawn's arm, forcing her to look up. "Listen," she said softly. "Maybe you're thinking that if you tell me the truth, I'll think you're delusional or something. But you've got no idea what it's like where I come from. In Smallville, we have these bizarre-o meteor rocks that came down, and ever since, really strange things have been happening that everyone pretends don't. I have an entire wall's worth of news clippings about the strangeness that is Smallville. So please. Tell me."

Dawn stared at Chloe for a long moment. The intense expression on her face was almost blinding. But Dawn was almost sure that, just beneath, there was a part of Chloe that was expecting to be lied to, expecting to be rebuffed and shut out. More than anything else, that made her want to open up.

"Fine," Dawn said flatly, looking down. "Sunnydale is on a center of mystical energy convergence that we call the Hellmouth. We get vampires, and also witches, assorted demons, and the odd minor god. My sister is destined to fight the forces of darkness. They call her the Slayer." She looked over at Chloe, half-expecting to see shock, horror, or incredulity.

But Chloe was blinking thoughtfully. "Wow," she said finally. "I see." Suddenly, her face crinkled up and she began laughing helplessly.

"What?" Dawn asked defensively.

Chloe wiped tears away. "Sorry, it's just...what are the odds that I'd end up in a place like this after leaving a place like Smallville, you know?" she gasped.

After a moment, Dawn saw the humor too, and besides, Chloe's laughter was contagious.

By the time that Buffy showed up at the Bronze, they were into Dawn's second soda and Chloe's third cappucino, as well as several years of Sunnydale and Smallville history.

"Okay, so did you ever have a guy that turned into a giant bug?" Chloe was asking.

"Not exactly, but we did have one preying-mantis substitute teacher and a demon assassin made of maggots." Dawn answered, giggling.

Then she saw Buffy making her way over to their table. Jumping up, she intercepted her sister. "Buffy! Hi! Um...I kind of, well...told Chloe about Sunnydale," she trailed off.

Buffy raised one eyebrow. "Okay," she said.

"O-okay?" Dawn asked incredulously.

Buffy shrugged. "Hey, I just didn't want your new friend to think you were insane," she said. "But if she believes it...well, maybe she'll avoid the cemeteries from now on, at least."

Shaky with relief, Dawn threaded back over towards the table.

Buffy sank down gratefully. "The vamps were just not quitting tonight," she muttered, pillowing her head on her arms. "Tell you what," she continued in a slightly muffled tone. "If you let me nap for a minute here, I'll take you both home, okay?"


"Buffy, can Chloe come over for dinner tonight?" Dawn called out, hand over the mouthpiece of the phone.

"No, of course not, she's been over every night this month, but this time is different. Sure," Buffy called back. "I'm sure we can locate food of some type."

"Great," Dawn groaned.

"Buffy says 'sure,'" she relayed dubiously. "It might be edible."

As it happened, though, by the time Chloe arrived Buffy was diligently chopping tomatoes.

Dawn, coming through the kitchen, made an exaggerated face of surprise. Buffy made a face back. "Hi, Chloe," she said cheerfully. "I'm told that it's impossible to wreck burritos. Wanna help us prove that wrong?" With three choppers and can-openers, dinner was ready in surprisingly little time. Just as they were sitting down, the phone rang. Buffy sighed and darted over to answer it. "Hello--Giles! Hi." Dawn sat frozen. "Oh. Well, thanks for letting me know. Uh-huh," Buffy went on. "Uh-huh. Well, keep me posted. Okay. 'Bye." She hung up. "That was Giles," she explained unnecessarily. "He just wanted to check in and to let us know that, well, Willow is doing better." "Good," Dawn said woodenly. Chloe looked at her curiously, but didn't say anything. The dining room was rather quiet, until small talk seeped in and gradually filled the silence.

After dinner, Buffy offered to take everyone out for ice cream.

Dawn agreed without much enthusiasm. Although she had no desire for ice cream, it was better than the alternative, which was being alone with either her thoughts or Chloe, who still looked like she wanted to ask questions.

As the three were pulling on their coats, there was a knock at the door. "Now who could that be...?" Buffy wondered aloud as she went to open the door.

"Hey everyone!" Xander's cheerful voice floated in. "Anyone up for a little old-fashioned Hellmouthy demon-ass-kicking?" He stopped short at the sight of Chloe.

"Hi, Xander. Don't worry, Chloe knows all about the Hellmouth," Dawn said reassuringly.

"Well, in that case, hello and welcome to Sunnydale. Xander Harris, at your service," he said, bowing elaborately.

"Chloe Sullivan," Chloe replied.

"Pleasure. So, not to be too workaholic, but Buffy and I should really get with the patrolling--I hear rumors of unease," Xander said apologetically. "Hate to break up the party, though."

"No problem," Dawn said brightly.

Buffy eyed her with suspicion.

Dawn rolled her eyes theatrically. "Is it okay if the sixteen-year-olds stay here in the very secure Summers residence?" she asked.

Buffy frowned. "I'd feel better if you weren't alone," she objected.

"We could go over to my house," Chloe offered. "My dad should be home by now."

Buffy looked relieved. "That would be better," she said.


"Sure," Dawn said wearily.


Chloe's bedroom was chaotic but interesting. The wall of newspaper clippings was there, as were scattered piles of Chloe-looking clothing and books of a random and varied nature.

Chloe's cell phone started shrilling almost as soon as they entered, from its charger beside the computer. Chloe snatched it. "Hello? Clark! Hi!" Her tone brightened. "No, I can't really talk, sorry, I have a friend over. Well, okay, really quickly. Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Well, that does sound like Lana might break up with Whitney."

She rolled her eyes at Dawn, and mouthed, "Sorry," then went back to the conversation. "Uh-huh. Well. That could be. Mmm. Sure, call me tomorrow and tell me how it goes. Okay. You too. 'Bye!"

She hung up and sighed. "The boy never learns. Hey, you want ice cream? We have some..."

Oddly, Dawn felt much better about the idea now. Though it certainly had nothing to do with not wanting to disappoint Chloe's look of hopeful enthusiasm. Definitely not.

Ice cream acquired, the two girls sat cross-legged on Chloe's bed with cartons and spoons in hand. "I thought of another one. We had a guy who could suck the life out of people by touching them. Did you have anyone like that here?" Chloe asked with a mouthful of espresso chip.

"Um, there was this Inca mummy girl who sucked the life out of people by kissing them," Dawn replied around a mouthful of strawberry fudge.

"Similar concept, I guess," Chloe conceded, leaning over to snag a spoonful of Dawn's ice cream. She tilted her head to one side. "So..."

Dawn braced herself.

"Look," Chloe said gently. "Don't tell me if you don't want to, but I could tell that the phone call over dinner really upset you. If you want to talk about that, I'm here. Otherwise, we can compare monsters some more. Did you ever get anyone who could move things telekinetically or levitate things when they were really happy?"

The question hung in the air.

Dawn took a deep breath. "Yeah, actually," she said quietly. "Willow could."

Chloe didn't say anything, but she reached over and took the ice cream, then squeezed Dawn's hand.

Dawn closed her eyes. It was easier to say if she didn't look at anyone.

"Willow's...she met Buffy in high school. She's Xander's best friend. She used to call me Dawnie."

Short sentences helped, she found. "This year...she kind of got out of control. Her girlfriend T-tara left her, and she finally tried to quit."

Dawn tried to just tell the story, reduce it to its simplest elements, leave out the worst of the heartbreak. "A-anyway, she s-stopped." Again, she tried to avoid thinking about it. It made her brain hurt.

Because Willow was the sweet, shy, big-sisterly friend, but she was also the scary monster who had dragged her through horrible sordid magic crack-houses, and said horrible things while looking straight at Dawn through blackened eyes.

She bit her lip hard. "And they got b-back together," she continued. "But then this guy who hated Buffy came to shoot her. Buffy lived. Tara didn't. I found her."

Then Chloe's arms were around her, soft and reassuring. "Willow got all vengeance-y and tried to destroy the world," Dawn whispered, voice breaking. "Xander stopped her. But I can't...I can forget the things she did...I just can't..."

"Oh, god," Chloe whispered, sounding shaky. "I had no idea. I'm so sorry."

Dawn had been sobbing for an eternity now, her whole body wracked with tears for all that had been lost. As she slowly came back to herself, she felt exhausted, drained. But she was held in Chloe's arms. Her head was pillowed on Chloe's shoulder. She was getting Chloe's sweater wet.

But when she tried to move, murmuring apologies, Chloe held her firmly in place. Dawn acquiesced with very little struggle, settling comfortably into the softness of Chloe's touch.

She wriggled closer, her lips brushing the side of Chloe's neck. There was a small involuntary gasp from Chloe. Without thinking, Dawn did it again, pressing her mouth to the same place. She suddenly felt vamp-like and giggled to herself. But she didn't want blood...she just wanted Chloe to make that noise again.

Experimentally, she raked her teeth over the spot. Chloe pulled away, looking questioningly at Dawn. But Dawn didn't have any answers. She just wanted to lean over and kiss Chloe. So she did.

It was so soft, Dawn thought wonderingly. Chloe's lips were soft and tasted of strawberry and coffee and chocolate, and when Dawn flicked her tongue against them they parted slightly, letting Dawn deeper in. She was drowning.

Chloe's tongue on hers, slipping in and out, was all that she cared about. But Chloe was pulling away, looking extremely startled. "Dawn. Wait. Um. What was that...?"

"Um, cuddling with slight overtones of smooching?" Dawn offered hopefully. "Chocolate tastes good on you," she added as an afterthought. "But. Um," Chloe was blushing. "I'm sorry, I kind of mauled you there," Dawn said, feeling flat and empty. "I really didn't mean to...if you didn't want..."

"No! Not at all!" Chloe said,looking shocked.

Dawn looked down, letting her hair fall over her face. "Okay," she said

. Chloe sighed. "Dawn. Listen. I was surprised there for a minute. But I like you. Really. A lot. Do you want me to demonstrate?"

Dawn looked up hopefully. "Yes?" she ventured.

"Okay," Chloe said, smiling again.

Dawn closed her eyes. Deft fingers were brushing her chin, tilting her face up. Infinitesimally soft lips brushed her cheek, her forehead, and her nose-- the last making her giggle.

As Chloe's mouth moved with excruciating slowness to her neck, she caught her breath. When Chloe began to nibble her earlobe, Dawn let out an involuntary moan. Suddenly she felt Chloe chuckle. "W-what?" she asked fuzzily.

Chloe looked up, still smiling. "Sorry, it's just--this is so incredibly normal," she said.

After a moment, Dawn started nodding. "You're not a vampire or even a witch," she pointed out.

"True, and you're not a homicidal meteor-rock mutant, psychokinetic or otherwise," Chloe agreed. "And neither one of us is under the influence of a hypno-handshake, or a mysterious flower..."

"Or a curse, or a demonic hallucinogen, or a-a spell," Dawn continued.

Chloe traced a finger along Dawn's cheekbone. "Just you, and just me," the other girl said softly.

"No weirdness." Dawn closed her eyes and leaned into the touch. "No spells," she repeated thoughtfully. Suddenly she began to giggle again.

"Oh, my God. I told Mom a long time ago that I wanted to be like Willow and Tara...and I thought I meant with the spells and the wicca..."

"Little did anyone know," Chloe said, looking amused. She smiled at Dawn brilliantly. "So...want to see if we can levitate?"