By Barb C
Notes: Barbverse. Written for fenchurche for a fandom_aid prompt she gave me TEN MILLION YEARS AGO. Sorry for the delay, Fen, I suck.
Summary: There were a lot of things she and Charles didn't have in common, but at least she'd never had to go through the OK-so-vampires-are-real-no-I'm-not-crazy dance with him.
Dawn had practiced her lines in the rear-view mirror all the way to the Hyperion: "Hi Angel! Hey, I was in L.A. visiting Dad, but he had a last minute emergency meeting at work – as usual, ha ha, that's my Dad, right? So I thought I'd drop by and see if you guys needed anything translated!" Breezy. Cool. Casual. Totally not stalkery. But it was Charles Gunn who opened the front door when she knocked, not Angel, and she spent several cool-and-casual points staring up at him like a stage-struck goldfish.
"Um," said Dawn. Why did he have to be so darn tall? "Damn it."
Charles raised an eyebrow. "I can shut the door and we can pretend I'm not here if you want."
"No, no, no." Recovery mode, stat. "You just threw off my groove. I was going to be subtle. I had a whole devious plan worked out for finding out whether you were here, and now you've ruined it by being here." She waved an imperious hand. "Screw subtle. Invite me in and offer me a beer."
He grinned, and took a step back. "And here I went to all the trouble of bribing the rest of 'em to be elsewhere when Willow said you'd called. I'll hand you a beer, but that other thing's not gonna happen."
Dawn rolled her eyes and brushed past him into the lobby, twirling around with her arms spread. "See? Not a vampire. Happy now?"
"Thrilled beyond words." There was note in his voice that wasn't joking at all.
"The not bursting into flame should have been a clue." Dawn followed him downstairs into the Hyperion's cavernous and seldom-used kitchen. There were a lot of things she and Charles didn't have in common, but at least she'd never had to go through the OK-so-vampires-are-real-no-I'm-not-crazy dance with him.
"You coulda found that ring Angel tossed in the ocean," Charles pointed out, rooting through the refrigerator, and handed her a bottle – Bud Light; Spike would have a cow, but honestly, she wasn't here to savor the local microbrews. "Here you go. Upstairs?"
Two hours and most of a six pack later, they were sitting on the roof of the Hyperion, looking out across the smog-hazed Los Angeles skyline. Sunset painted a fading wash of scarlet across the western horizon, and high overhead, the lights of a passing jet blinked, brighter than the first faint pinprick scatter of stars. That was one more thing she and Charles didn't have in common – he liked heights.
"Wouldn't have asked you up here if I'd known they bothered you," Charles said. Looking anxious, like he was about to ask if she wanted to go down.
"I'm not scared of heights," Dawn clarified, taking a sip of her beer. "I just don't like them. Because my sister died jumping off of one. Though she came back, so I'm never sure it counts."
Charles's mouth twitched, rueful. "So did mine. It counts."
That was one of the things they did have in common. Dawn threw him a look beneath lowered lashes. "Vampire?"
"Vampire." He took a swig of his own beer. Over and done for, said the set of his shoulders, but his eyes said otherwise.
She'd heard the same note in Xander's voice on the rare occasions that he mentioned Jesse, or the ever rarer occasions when Spike mentioned his mother. Dawn kept her own voice as neutral as she could manage. "Wanna tell me about it?"
He sighed. "Not particularly."
If she‛d been a little less buzzed she might have had the sense to shut up, but it was too late for that now. She set the beer bottle down instead. "If we're going to be... anything, I need to know this stuff."
He snorted. "What do you want to hear? That I chained her up in the basement and fed her pig's blood and tried to reform her, and only staked her as a last resort?"
"I need to know," she repeated, stubborn.
"Yeah, well, Alanna didn't turn out like your pal Spike." Or Harmony, or Kennedy, or Sam Lawson, or – Charles‛s voice was as dark and flat and bitter as one of Spike‛s English lagers. "She came back a fucking inhuman monster, and I put a stake through her heart."
"I‛m sorry." After a minute, "And I do get it. Spike notwithstanding." Now wasn't the time to argue that Harmony and Spike and Lawson hadn't turned out like that at first, either – and she suspected Gunn knew that just as well as she did anyway, and the knowledge only made it worse. It was one thing to believe you'd killed the monster that killed your sister; a hard thing, but one you could live with. Another thing entirely to suspect that maybe you'd killed at least a part of your sister along with it. Dawn leaned back against the refrigeration unit, gazing up at the retreating lights of the plane. "I brought my Mom back from the dead with black magic."
Charles choked on his Bud. "The hell?"
"Well, I tried. I chickened out when it started looking like it might work, and sent... I don't know what exactly I sent back. But it was probably... probably at least partly her." She tossed back the last of her beer, defiant. "You know why I chickened out with Mom? It wasn't because it was wrong. It was because whatever was coming back was seriously messed up, and – and I couldn't do that to her." A sob came out of nowhere, catching her by surprise, and she choked it back. "But I always wondered, afterwards, just how much of her it was. I mean, how much does it have to be to count as you? And that's why I helped Willow bring my sister back. And I'm not sorry, either. With Buffy, it worked. I got my sister back, all of her, and I'm glad. I'd do it all over again."
He was quiet for a long time, a dark silhouette against the fading sunset, and Dawn was suddenly afraid that she'd messed everything up before it had ever really gotten started. But she still remembered the summer Buffy had been dead as if weeks lay between her and it, not years: the long, hot, dreary days without even school to distract her; the short, sultry nights, when she hung out with Spike, each of them trying desperately to hold it together for the other one's sake. Facing an uncertain future (What if Mr. Giles can't contact Dad? What if he can and Dad doesn't want me?), all in the knowledge that It should have been me. The constant clench in her chest, as tight and hurtful as the look in Charles‛s eyes now.
She leaned over and laid a hand atop his. Just drunk enough to tell the truth. "I'd bring your sister back if I could."
That look in his eyes didn't go away, not entirely (maybe it never did, even when they came back?) But his hand closed around hers, and he smiled. "You're one scary woman, Dawn Summers. I like that in a girl."
If she leaned a little closer, they'd bump shoulders. "Don't tell Buffy, please? She thinks I've learned my lesson about messing with forces man was not meant to know."
Dawn shrugged. "I am a force man wasn't meant to know."
"You think maybe this man could get to know you a bit better?"
There wasn't much they had in common, Dawn thought as their lips met. But what they did went right to the bone.
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