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,
was one student who appeared to actually be paying attention. She must be
new, Dawn thought, puzzled. Blonde, with studiously disheveled hair, the
was taking notes feverishly, eyes riveted to the front of the classroom. As
Dawn stared in astonishment at the bizarre spectacle, the girl turned
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
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."
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
in eighth grade--" she slanted a look towards Dawn--"and you have no idea
I'm talking about, do you."
Dawn looked apologetic. "Not really."
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
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.
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.
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?"
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
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
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?"
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
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,"
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.
"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.
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.
one eyebrow. "Okay," she said.
"O-okay?" Dawn asked incredulously.
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.
says 'sure,'" she relayed dubiously. "It might be edible."
As it happened, though, by the time Chloe arrived Buffy was diligently
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.
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.
everyone!" Xander's cheerful voice floated in. "Anyone up for a little
old-fashioned Hellmouthy demon-ass-kicking?" He stopped short at the sight
"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.
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."
relieved. "That would be better," she said.
"Sure," Dawn said
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."
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
Ice cream acquired, the two girls sat cross-legged on Chloe's bed with
and spoons in hand. "I thought of another one. We had a guy who could suck
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
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
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
compare monsters some more. Did you ever get anyone who could move things
telekinetically or levitate things when they were really happy?"
hung in the air.
Dawn took a deep breath. "Yeah, actually," she said
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
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.
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.
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
strawberry and coffee and chocolate, and when Dawn flicked her tongue
them they parted slightly, letting Dawn deeper in. She was drowning.
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
"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
feeling flat and empty. "I really didn't mean to...if you didn't want..."
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.
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
the last making her giggle.
As Chloe's mouth moved with excruciating
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.
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