We are now in Season Six.
Dawn sat in her room, pretending to read. She was getting so good at pretending – that she was OK, that she wasn’t lonely, that she was recovering from her Mom’s death, that she didn’t hate her sister for being so – so – distant since she’d been brought back from – well, wherever she’d gone when she died.
Suddenly she looked up, her heart racing – there was a scratching sound at the window, the sort of scratching experience had taught her could only be made by very long nails – or claws! She swung her legs off the bed and crept across the room. With a swift thrust of her hand, she pushed open the window and stared at what was climbing into the room.
Three weeks earlier:
The second she turned down the side road, Dawn knew she was in trouble. It cut ten minutes off her route home from the mall and Buffy had only agreed to her going shopping with Janice on the understanding that she got a ride right to the door. But Janice’s mom was taking her to Los Angeles for the weekend and had believed Dawn’s fib saying that Xander Harris was picking her up from the coffee shop.
“As if I need a baby-sitter!” Dawn had scoffed as she’d set off to walk home. “I can take care of myself. Jeez, anyone would think I was still thirteen the way they all crab.” But she hadn’t realised quite how late it was until she got clear of the shops and the dark settled around her. All she wanted was home and her bed and the short-cut seemed a good idea.
She smelt the cigarette smoke first, then shapes began to move in the shadowy doorways and a low growling set her nerves tingling. She backed away, hands held out in front of her, desperate for a weapon but the black shapes came closer and closer and know she could see the glint of claws and hear teeth snapping.
Feverishly, she reached behind her and, miraculously, the door opened and she was going to escape – but the door jammed – the few inches it gave only letting a little light escape from a weak bulb just inside. But that was enough to show Dawn what her attackers looked like. And her heart sank. They stood as tall as her, lavender-coloured skin, a face where the waist should be, arms instead of a head and long claws on each of the seven fingers. She knew what they were only too well. A pack of Lynfra demons!
She clenched her fists: she’d fight them as best she could, but oh, how she wished Buffy or Spike would appear right now.
Suddenly, one of the demons chattered and clicked, waving its arms around urgently. The others backed away into the shadows, grumbling. The demon eased towards Dawn and an arm with claws on the end swooped down towards her face. “Hi, Dawn!”
“Eriddny?” Dawn’s squeal of recognition made the demon girl wince.
“Jeez, mind my ears! Yes, it’s me. Hey, it’s good to see you again.”
Dawn wasn’t at all sure where Eriddny’s ears actually were, but she lowered her voice. “You’re – hey – you’re as big as me now.” She stared at the demon; the little child in silver shorts had gone. Eriddny was wearing black jeans, decorated with silver chains and the face in her waist was painted white with thick black eye-liner round each eye. The black lipstick she was using only made her fangs glow whiter. As she had once foretold, her feet were now much bigger, and her Doc Marten books only emphasised the fact!
“We grow up fast. My Mom’s always moaning that I need new clothes. She can’t wait till I’m fully grown and my fur comes in. Then I won’t need clothes at all!”
“Cool. Er – how is your Mom?” Dawn asked, her heart lurching as she remembered the eight-foot monster who had nearly killed her.
Eriddny waved her arms from side to side, which Dawn took to be a sort of Lynfra shrug. “You know what moms are like. Bossy and bitching all day long. Always in my face about how untidy my nest is, why don’t I work harder at school, why don’t I wear pretty clothes? And she hates all my friends! Well, yours must be the same.”
Dawn felt the swift, hot sting of tears and blinked them away. “Mom – died. Just after we met last time.”
“Wow!” There was a long silence. “That sucks, Dawn. Who looks after you now?”
“Oh God, don’t ask! My sister, Buffy. You remember, the Slayer?”
Eriddny frowned. “I don’t think so, but there was a cool vampire guy, wasn’t there? He gave me his wrist to suck. His blood made me feel so much better.”
“Spike.” Dawn nodded. “He used to be my friend, but he’s just crazy about my sister so we don’t have any fun any more.”
“Where you going now?”
“Home. Been to the mall.
“Huh! We can’t wait to get away from the mall! Our moms can always sense where we are and what we’re doing.” Eriddny collapsed onto the ground, her back to the wall, and sat admiring her boots. “Got a ciggie?”
“No – ” Dawn was about to say she didn’t smoke, then stopped. She sat down next to the Lynfra girl. “I ran out.”
“Me too. And we finished all the beer ages ago.”
Dawn glanced down the road to where the other dark shadows were still lurking. “Your friends?”
“Yup. Mom says she doesn’t know why I hang with them, but yuck, you should see the silly little mauve things she would like me to be friends with! Gross nestlings. They’re still shedding glitter! I stopped doing that ages ago. Look, I’m beginning to get fur.”
She proudly swung an arm down from the top of her body and Dawn thought she could just see prickles breaking out through the surface, obviously the start of the thick purple fur that would cover Eriddny’s body when she was fully grown.
“That’s – great.” She flailed around in her mind to think of something she could brag about. “I need a bigger bra size now!”
“Cool. Is that important to humans, then? Having big boobs to carry around all the time?”
Dawn frowned. “Sort of important, I guess. Buffy hates me asking for new bras. She’s just jealous – I’m getting bigger breasts than her!” She was desperate to ask Eriddny where her breasts where, but decided that perhaps it was better if she didn’t know.
“She sounds a real pain, like my Mom.”
“Oh, she is.”
“Hey, why don’t you come and hang out with us some time? We can practice our human talk and I'll teach you Lynfra. It’ll be fun.”
Dawn hesitated. She knew exactly what Buffy would say about her spending time with a group of demons, but then, perhaps on second thoughts, she wouldn’t be that bothered. She hadn’t seemed concerned about anything much since she got back from being dead. Except for Spike and she tried to hide that from Dawn as well. Honestly, why did her big sister think she was still about four years old?
Everyone had the own lives, except for her. Willow and Tara, Xander and Anya, Buffy and Spike. She was the one completely on her own: the nuisance, the one everyone spent time having to consider, making her feel in the way all the time. And she never had any time to herself. They knew what she was doing every second of the day. Even going to the mall with Janice had to be discussed before she could say Yes.
But Eriddny was her friend. No one knew about her. She was a secret that no one would ever discover!
“What about tomorrow night?”
“Great! We’ll see you here. Oh, and Dawn, bring some booze with you. We have loads of trouble getting beer.”
Three weeks later:
Spike rolled over onto one elbow and stared down at his lover’s face. Her hair lay in a damp tangle across her bruised mouth and he pushed it aside before bending to kiss her. “OK, Slayer, that was – well – I think I’ve run out of useful adjectives, pet!”
Buffy opened her eyes and gazed absentmindedly up at the crypt ceiling. “It was very nice.”
“Nice! Nice!” The outrage in Spike’s voice startled her. “Listen, Goldilocks, my skills at making love have been called many things over the years, but ‘Nice’! God, I hope not.”
Buffy rolled over onto one elbow to face him, trying not to smile. “And how many women have you actually had sex with over all these years to give you these compliments? I’ll give you Dru – and I can well imagine that Nice isn’t a word in her vocabulary - but who else, Lothario?”
“A gentleman never kisses and tells,” Spike said loftily, knowing that what she was insinuating was very true. He’d always been a one-girl guy. Liam had been all for the rape side of life. Somehow he’d never fancied that himself. He’d enjoyed the killing and feasting and fighting. Still, he wasn’t going to admit that to the Slayer.
“Anyways, I was thinking,” Buffy said, deciding to let him off for once. “I’m worried about Dawn.”
Spike threw himself back on the bed and groaned theatrically. “Oh yes, it’s Tuesday, isn’t it? Must be 'worried about Dawn day'. Hey, there was a radio programme in England in the 50s called Mrs Dale’s Diary and she started out almost every broadcast with the words, “I’m worried about Jim.” Jim was her husband, you see, and he was a doctor and – “
He yelled as Buffy’s hand grabbed him somewhere tender. “Enough Memory Lane! This is serious. She’s starting to bug me big time.”
Spike sat up and pulled his lover close to his chest, wrapping his arms round her. “OK, sweetheart. What’s she done now?”
“I think she’s started going around with a weird lot of kids. I can smell cigarette smoke on her clothes – and talking of clothes, have you seen what she’s wearing lately? Everything has to be black, even her underwear! And I think she’s been drinking beer.”
Spike frowned. “OK, not that big a deal. She’s just being a teenager. You can’t keep her as a little girl for ever.”
Buffy sighed. “I don’t want her to be a little girl. And OK, teenage behaviour. That I get. But – oh, I don’t know, Spike. This just seems weird. I’ve asked her about her new friends and she just says I don’t know them. I think there’s a girl called Dani. That was the name Dawn mumbled at me last night. She must have just moved into the neighbourhood. She certainly doesn’t go to school with Dawn.”
Spike yawned. “Listen, I’ll have a word with her, if you like. She might well tell me. We’re mates. And don’t worry about it. She’s just growing up, experimenting. A couple of cigarettes and a bottle of beer aren’t going to kill her. At least she’s not out trying to be a Slayer, killing vamps and demons!”
Buffy laughed and pulled him back down onto the bed. “Yes, that’s one worry I haven’t got! Now, show me Nice again.”