|Story Title:||Miles To Go Before I Sleep|
OrphanKey!Dawn visits the Unexpected Universe
Music Referenced: Homeward Bound, Simon and Garfunkel http://youtu.be/RsTNxVtS4c8
|Thanks:||Thanks to YOU for reading! Without you none of this would mean anything! Giant thanks also to Anona for betaing this chapter, including her grammatical and punctuation corrections, wonderful commentary, and final review. Also thanks to Capella42 for her insightful suggestions that made the whole story better. All mistakes are mine because I simply cannot stop fiddling right up to the very last moment.|
|Rating / Warnings:||
Early Evening, Monday, September 5th, 2011, Unexpected Universe:
Dawn was struck dumb as she, Spike, and Xander walked through the halls of Sunnydale High – the old high school. She was no less awestruck as they walked through the streets of Sunnydale back towards Crawford Street. Sunnydale was still here, still whole. It had changed over the years, as time did to all things, but it was Sunnydale. It was home. Whoever said you can never go home again had been wrong – you could go home and it felt surreal.
The whole Weckerly clan, as well as Anya and JJ, were waiting for them in the great room of the mansion. After Dawn, Spike, and Xander had left the high school, Spike had called home to say they were back and would be there shortly.
Dawn couldn’t believe Buffy and Spike were living in the house she always considered to be ‘Angel’s mansion’. There had been so many bittersweet, and just downright bitter, memories there for Buffy. Dawn was glad to hear that the house on Revello was still ‘in the family’ so to speak, and Xander promised she could visit anytime while she was here.
Spike held the garden door open for Dawn and she entered first. When Dawn stepped in, Buffy handed MacKenzie to Bess and the Slayer rushed over to the door to greet her sister. Dawn shrieked in joy and threw herself at Buffy, nearly toppling the Slayer over in with her enthusiasm.
“My God, Buffy! I never thought I’d see you again,” Dawn moaned against her, tears streaking her face. “I missed you so much. I can’t believe this … this whole thing is like a dream. I mean … I know Spike said you were here, but … my brain just couldn’t totally process it! You’re really here!”
Buffy hugged Dawn to her tightly and smoothed her long, brown hair comfortingly. She had grown even taller than what Buffy remembered; she’d grown into a lovely young lady.
“I’m so sorry, Dawnie. I’m sorry we left you. We tried to get back, but…” Buffy began.
“I know. Spike told me,” Dawn interrupted, pulling back to look at Buffy as she wiped her tear-streaked face with her hands. “My God, you haven’t changed … at all! What … you aren’t a vampire, are you?” she asked, only half-joking.
Buffy laughed as tears leaked from her eyes too. “No … but I’ve died a couple or three times. I think death becomes me,” she teased. “Look at you, Dawnie. You’re all grown up. You’re so tall! And … so beautiful.”
Dawn smiled and ducked her head a bit, tucking some stray hair behind her ear self-consciously. “Thanks,” she muttered as she looked around at the other people gathered around them.
Spike had been swamped by Annie, Dani, and Billy; Xander by Anya and JJ.
“Let me introduce you,” Buffy offered, wiping at her own tears and turning to face Spike.
“The two little blonde monkeys currently clinging to Spike’s neck are Danielle Dawn and William Rupert,” Buffy began.
“Danielle Dawn?” Dawn repeated, looking from Dani to Buffy.
Buffy smiled. “Yeah – after you and Willow,” Buffy confirmed. “Dani, Billy! Stop strangling your father and come say hello to your … Aunt Dawn.” Buffy smiled sadly at the moniker. Everyone in her circle of friends was known by ‘Aunt’ or ‘Uncle’ to the kids, but Dawn really was their aunt … one dimension removed, or something like that. That still counted, right?
Spike set the twins down on their feet and they both came over to shake hands with Dawn, as they’d been shown to do by their father. Dawn dropped down to one knee to be at their level, and pulled them into a giant double-hug instead. “I never thought I’d have any nieces or nephews. It’s so wonderful to meet you guys!” she gushed over them.
“We have lots of Aunts,” Billy told her earnestly. “But you’re the fairest maiden of them all.”
“Oh, aren’t you sweet?” Dawn burbled, hugging them both tighter.
“He’s just doing his Prince Charming impersonation,” Dani objected contritely. “They’re doing ‘Cinderella’ at school this fall. He thinks he’s some kind of movie star actor … like Shrek or Quasimodo or something.”
“I am not acting! She is the fairest!” Billy objected, scowling at Dani around the back of Dawn’s head.
“You say that to every girl you know,” Dani contended, rolling her eyes.
“I do not! I don’t say it to you!” Billy argued as Dawn released them.
"Only 'cos you know I'd sock you if you did," Dani retorted, sneering at her brother. Billy shot another remark back at her as they shambled away, heading back towards their father, still arguing.
“God, they’re so cute! Like little dolls! Are you sure they’re yours?” Dawn teased, as she stood up and faced Buffy.
Buffy laughed. “Well, they’re half Spike’s so that probably explains your attraction … and the constant bickering.”
Dawn flushed slightly but laughed. “That was a long time ago.”
Buffy gave her a knowing smile – you never really get over your first crush. “This is Bess, our oldest daughter, and MacKenzie, our youngest,” Buffy continued, turning to where Bess was standing, still holding the baby.
“Hi,” Bess greeted her, shifting the baby to her left arm so she could shake Dawn’s hand. “I’m the other vampire of the family – not Buffy. I’m a Slayer, too.”
Dawn’s brows shot up. “Really? Are you … like Spike? You have a soul?”
“I have a soul, but not really like Spike … I’m prettier, stronger, faster, and better in a fight,” Bess joked.
Dawn laughed and cast a glance at Spike, who was now digging in the duffel bag for the gifts he’d gotten for the kids and pretending he hadn’t heard Bess. “That’s really … wow. How old are you … about fourteen, fifteen?”
Bess smiled. “A hundred and twenty-three,” she revealed, grinning.
Dawn’s mouth dropped open and she looked from Bess to Buffy. Buffy rolled her eyes. “It’s true – it’s also a very long story.”
“Which I can’t wait to hear…” Dawn gawped, looking back at Bess. “Don’t tell me, the baby’s twenty-five?”
Bess laughed and jiggled MacKenzie lightly in her arms. “No, she’s thirteen months.”
Dawn reached for the redhead and Bess passed the baby to her. “Where did the red hair come from?” Dawn asked as she nuzzled her face against her youngest niece’s. “I don’t remember any of our relatives having red hair.”
“Best theory: Spike had rust in the pipes,” Buffy teased.
“OI!” Spike objected from the other side of the room. “Not bloody funny, Slayer.”
Buffy, Dawn, and Bess all laughed at his disgruntled look. “That sounds like another story I need to hear,” Dawn whispered to Buffy.
Buffy grinned slyly and gave Dawn a wink. “We’ll talk,” she whispered back.
“I heard that …” Spike informed them over the shrieks of delight from the younger kids as he gave them their presents.
He’d gotten Billy two books: one about the history of San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf and one about the Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906. Dani got an authenticated, autographed Barry Bonds baseball, and Xander brought JJ a vintage Joe Montana San Francisco 49ers football jersey, which Spike actually bought as a token of thanks for Xander coming along with him on the mission. Needless to say, Spike's wallet was barely clinging to life, in desperate need of a transfusion, by the time they'd gotten home.
Buffy and Dawn giggled like school-girls who’d gotten caught passing notes in class as Bess took the baby back and wandered away. Buffy and Dawn then turned to Annie. Buffy smiled softly, and took Annie by one hand and Dawn by the other. “Annie, I want you to meet someone I think you’d really like to spend some time with and get to know. This is Dawn – she was my … errr … Buffy’s sister in the other dimension and … the Key. Dawn, this is our eldest daughter, Annie … our Key.” Buffy always made the distinction between Annie being the 'eldest' and Bess being the 'oldest'; it was a fine line, but she knew that Annie took being the big sister – the first born – to heart.
Dawn gave Annie an understanding smile and pulled her into a hug as Buffy released their hands. “It’s so amazing to meet you. I guess I always thought … well … that I was the only one … the only freak in the whole universe,” Dawn admitted, blinking back tears.
“That’s exactly what I thought,” Annie agreed, returning the hug and trying to contain tears of her own. “Mom said Dad and Uncle Xander were gonna bring me a surprise … but I never thought it would be this.”
Dawn pulled back and beamed at her. “I have so much to show you and tell you and ask you!” Dawn exclaimed excitedly. “Oh, this is just so awesome to actually meet another living person that has this … stuff … this spooky ancient energy, inside.”
Annie smiled widely. She couldn’t agree more.
“OI!” Spike called, interrupting them. “Where are my choco-holics? Tired o’ carrying this bloody stuff around,” he groused. “I’m not a pack mule, ya know.”
Buffy, Annie, Bess, and Dawn headed over to him. Annie beat the others there and flung her arms around her father. “Thank you so much for finding her.”
“Anything for you, pet,” Spike replied, hugging her tightly. “Right then – you lot can fight over what’s left in the bag.”
Annie released him and began to dig into the duffel bag. “Dirty socks?” she asked, pulling out a pair of Spike’s socks. “Mom can have those…” she decided quickly, tossing them aside.
“OH! Chocolate! Ghirardelli’s!” she shrieked as she got to the good stuff and began pulling the boxes and bags of chocolate out.
Buffy laughed and finally got to welcome Spike home. She leaned into him, wrapped her arms around his neck, and he encircled her in a tight embrace. Spike captured her lips in a kiss passionate enough to make Dawn blush and look away. She busied herself by helping Annie sort the chocolate out.
“Welcome home,” Buffy murmured to him when the kiss broke. “I’ll give you a more thorough welcome later,” she whispered into his ear.
Spike smirked. “Can’t wait.”
“Did you guys have any problems?” she wondered, pulling back to watch Annie, Bess, and Dawn as they looked over all the different kinds of chocolate Spike and Dawn had gotten.
Spike snorted. “Just Harris. He’s bloody insufferable,” Spike complained.
“That’s funny, I think I heard him telling Anya the same thing about you,” Buffy teased.
Buffy dropped another kiss on his lips. “Thank you for finding her.”
“Can’t say no t’ my best girls, can I?”
Buffy bit her bottom lip and smiled at him. “Love’s bitch?”
“Always and forever, pet.”
Dinner that night was a raucous affair with all the kids wanting to share stories and ask questions of Dawn. Except for that one Thanksgiving their Grandpa Summers had visited, they’d never known anyone that knew their mother when she was little. Although things weren’t exactly the same for their mother as what Dawn related, it was close enough to delight the kids and embarrass Buffy.
“So,” Dawn was saying, trying not to giggle. “Buffy just stands there like a big, dumb rock! She’s supposed to be the middle Billy Goat and the Troll keeps asking her … Oh, I don’t remember, something about crossing the bridge and she’s supposed to tell him that she’s too little to eat, that a bigger goat is coming, but she just zoned out. Total stage fright. The other kids tried to keep going without her – pushing her out of the way. It was soooo funny. I think when they finally dropped the curtain, Mom had to go back and get her – she still wouldn’t move.”
“You weren’t old enough to remember that,” Buffy asserted dourly as the kids chuckled.
“No – but Mom told the story often enough. It was one of her favorites,” Dawn retorted happily. “And there was a picture of you in that goat costume. You still looked like something had sucked your brain out when she took it – just the vacant, zombie stare. A zombie-fied goat! You hated that picture with a passion! It was in that old blue photo album …” Dawn’s voice got quiet and trailed off. She cleared her throat and looked suddenly sad. “We lost all that … stuff. We didn’t know the whole town was gonna, you know … implode. We didn’t take anything with us. I don’t even have a picture of you, Buffy … or Mom.”
“Oh, Dawnie – I never … I never thought of that before. I … I have those old albums. We’ll get some copies made for you to take back with you,” Buffy offered, giving her a sad smile.
Dawn nodded gratefully and took another bite of pizza.
“Grandpa Summers said Mama set a school on fire,” Dani offered. “Is that true?”
Dawn's eyes went wide as she smiled and nodded, letting her melancholy go. “Totally! That was back in L.A. She said there were vampires, but … I think she’s just a pyromaniac at heart. And, in my world, Buffy blew up the high school right here in Sunnydale. KA-BOOM!” Dawn demonstrated by flinging her arms in the air. “Oh! And she took out a big part of the mall with that rocket launcher. I’m really surprised they let her back in there. Of course, where I come from, your dad takes the prize for blowing things up. He blew up the whole town!
“You guys have some really destructive parents,” Dawn said conspiratorially to the children. “You need to keep a very close eye on them. They need constant supervision ... maybe you should look into keeping them on leashes when they go outside.”
The kids giggled and looked at their parents, who both just shook their heads and rolled their eyes.
After Buffy and Spike got the younger kids put to bed, and Xander, Anya, and JJ went home, they sat with Annie and Dawn at the kitchen table talking long into the night.
“Her name is Gertie Greenbriar,” Dawn was telling them as she wrote it down on a pad of paper. “She’s a witch of the coven near London, although she doesn't live there anymore. She specializes in earth energies. She’s very … ummm … in touch with the earth … all ‘tree of life’, cosmic energy, and new-agey. She’s got some … quirks, but she’s really nice and she can help you learn how to feel and use the earth’s natural energy and magic to move between hot-spots.
“She can help you create the amulet, too,” Dawn continued, pulling her amulet out from under her shirt. “You have to make it yourself … you have to choose each stone, you have to do the engraving and the soldering and everything.”
“Gotta dig the bloody silver up outta the ground, too?” Spike asked, scoffing.
Dawn gave him a patient smile. “It would be better if you could, but … no, I didn’t. I actually used … well, something dear to me. Do you remember that old skull ring you gave Buffy that time Willow’s spell went … off?”
Buffy and Spike both nodded.
“Well, I sort-of had that …” Dawn cleared her throat uncomfortably. “I kept that ring – I had it on a necklace that I used to wear all the time. It’s one of the few things I had to remember you guys by, but the amulet needs all the energy you can put into it. It needs to mean something to really work well. It needed to be connected to me, so I melted that down and used the silver from it,” Dawn revealed.
“I know it sounds crazy – believe me,” Dawn continued, rolling her eyes. “When I first met Gertie I was … well … skeptical. But she really knows what she’s doing. Each stone, each crystal has an energy … a resonance of its own. You have to use crystals that match your own personal … vibe and the more of yourself you can put into it, the better it works.”
“How can you … tell? … About the stones, I mean,” Annie asked, looking doubtful.
“You hold it in your hand or against your heart, then you have to really concentrate, let your mind go quiet, and just feel. It isn’t easy. At first, I just pretended to know what she was talking about and picked crystals at random, ones I thought were pretty – the amulet didn’t work. It didn’t do anything.” Dawn snorted a laugh at the memory.
“She’s so … earnest though, that I kept trying to get what she was trying to show me. To be honest, I was starting to think that either she was just a total fruitcake or I was just a complete idiot. I was about to give up when she introduced me to Shiro.”
Dawn wrote another name under Gertie’s on the paper. “Shiro Watanabe. He’s Japanese and he’s … amazing. He’s a true master of geomancy and earth magic, but he’s also an amazing teacher of Eastern meditation.
“It wasn’t until I had worked with him on really stilling my mind and opening myself up to the energies that surround us that I could begin to feel which crystals were in tune with my own chakras. It took a lot of time and concentration. I won’t kid you; it wasn’t easy, but I did it and now …” Dawn shrugged nonchalantly. “I can skip from Stonehenge to Diamond Head to Ayers Rock to Machu Picchu to the Great Pyramid like...” She snapped her fingers.
Annie’s eyes brightened. The Great Pyramid? Machu Picchu? Stonehenge? Ayers Rock? Those were all posters on her walls. Those were all places that she longed to see. Was that just a coincidence?
“But, can’t you just use blood to open those portals?” Buffy wondered. “And not go through all … that?” Buffy waved her hand at the amulet.
Dawn shook her head. “They aren’t really portals exactly … it’s … they’re places of mystical energy which are connected over the earth by ley lines … Dragon Spines. I can pour blood over them all day long and nothing happens.
“I’m actually using the Key energy to tap into them, but they aren’t like normal portals. I have to use the amulet to bend the energy to my will and actually create a doorway. I have to know where I’m going and really concentrate on that place so I open the right path. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like you’re opening a curtain to step through. On one side of the curtain might be England, and on the other side is California,” Dawn continued.
“The amulet can use the Key energy to open existing portals between dimensions, like I did when we came here, or it can actually create a doorway between the mystical hot spots of the earth. Once I step through and I close the door, then it's like it was never there; I have to create a new one to go back.”
“Can you create portals between dimensions, too?” Buffy wondered.
Dawn grimaced a little and shook her head. “To be honest, I’ve never tried. That’s … well … if I get it wrong, I could end up somewhere pretty bad and I may never be able to get back. I’d really hate to end up in Glory’s hell dimension by mistake. I don’t think she’d be as nice to me there as she was here,” Dawn joked darkly. “If I mess up here on earth, the worst that can happen is I end up in Australia instead of England … I just try again. Of course, I also keep my passport on me all the time and some currency from the different countries I typically access ... just in case I have to get home the old-fashioned way.”
Buffy and Spike both nodded their understanding. “That’s still really amazing … what you can do,” Buffy told Dawn. “It would’ve never dawned on me to even … look into something like this for Annie,” she admitted.
Dawn nodded. “I had never thought about it either – it was really just chance that I went with Willow to the coven a few times and met Gertie. She was the one that saw the potential … or felt it …” Dawn grimaced a little. “Did I mention that she’s a little … quirky? Really powerful and, man, is she smart – she might be an honest-to-goodness genius, but … she’s just a little bit … off center.”
Buffy took the paper that Dawn had written the names down on and tacked it up on the bulletin board with her other important papers. “Well, she should fit in here perfectly.”
Next: Dawn and Annie spend some time together, Giles and Anya find another surprise in the vault at Council headquarters, and Billy has a little surprise of his own for Mom and Dad.
Homeward Bound, Simon and Garfunkel
I'm sittin' in the railway station, got a
ticket for my destination
Homeward bound, I wish I was homeward
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