Facing them was a tall, slender girl with dark chestnut hair. She waved and stepped out of the glowing portal in which she’d arrived. She studied their suspicious stares and tense body posture, looking momentarily unsure of herself.
“Hi, guys,” she said, smiling weakly. “There is a really, really good and totally non-evil explanation for this. I swear!”
Spike cocked his head, frowning and sniffing the air before relaxing his shoulders and giving Buffy a nudge.
“I think it’s okay, pet.”
“Who are you?” she demanded, ignoring the vampire’s reassurance and glaring at the girl standing in her front yard.
“Okay, now, see, this is gonna be the whole ‘really good and non-evil explanation part,” Dawn said carefully. “So just bear with me, here, ‘K?”
“WHO are you?” Buffy repeated.
“I’m Dawn. Your...sister,” the girl responded. “I mean, not in this dimension – cause you don’t have one here; and not in the one you came from, cause you don’t have me there – yet. But in my dimension, I’m your sister. The monks gave me to you.”
“I think she’s telling the truth, luv. She smells like you.”
Buffy turned her glare on Spike. “There’s that ‘ewwww’ thing we’ve talked about,” she grumbled, but relaxing at his verification that the stranger facing them on the dark sidewalk was related to her. She studied Dawn again, then nodded her head and started around her. “Okay, come on in the house and explain this to me – us.”
With a happy smile, Dawn quickly followed Buffy up the steps and through the now-open door. Spike came in right behind her, pulling the door closed behind him.
Buffy prowled around the strange girl standing in her living room, looking her up and down and seeking some sign that they were related. Something other than Spike’s nose... Suddenly it struck her. “You can’t be my sister,” she said, using her best “aha!” tone of voice. “You look like you’re the same age I am!”
Dawn rolled her eyes in a gesture that was so similar to what Spike had seen from Buffy that he barely managed to choke out, “Oh, she’s your sis, alright, Slayer. I’d know that look anywhere.”
“Shut up, Spike.” Buffy spared a glare in his direction, before confronting Dawn again. “I don’t have a sister – and certainly not a twin. Try again.”
“Which part of ‘alternate dimensions’ are you too feeble-minded to get?”
“Who are you calling ‘feeble-minded’, you dork?”
“If the shoe fits...”
“Your shoes won’t fit – because you’re not my sister! I don’t have a sister! Not in this dimension, and not in the one I came from.”
“I’m not FROM the one you came from!” Dawn’s voice had risen to a screech that had the vampire putting his hands over his ears.
“Oh.” There was a pregnant pause. “Why didn’t you say so?”
Dawn’s only response was another eye roll and a loud huff.
Spike stepped into the silence, beckoning the two girls to the couch and suggesting in a placating manner, “You sure fight like you’re sisters. I’ll give you that.”
The two girls sat on opposite ends of the couch glaring at each other until their lips began to twitch and Buffy mumbled, “We kinda were, weren’t we?”
“Well, yeah. I mean that’s what sisters do – sometimes.”
They sat for a few more minutes in abashed silence, then Dawn sighed and said, “I guess I’d better do what I came to do before I get yanked back to my dimension.”
“An’ what would that be, pet?”
“I promised my Buffy and Spike that I would try to find you guys and make sure that you’re all right.”
“Yeah, the one that took your place in Sunnydale? She’s my sister – from my dimension. She got sent there cause it’s earlier there than it is in my dimension and she has a chance to fix some things that went waaaay wrong for us.”
“What did you mean, ‘your Spike’?” The vampires voice was quiet, but the look on his face was intent and Dawn blinked as though she had forgotten he was there.
“The reason you got kicked out is because my Spike – the one that...”
“That died to save the world. Already got that scary story,” he said, smiling at her to show it was all right to talk about it.
“Yeah, that one. Well, he came back and then he did it again—“
Dawn grinned and continued as though he hadn’t spoken. “The last time, the Powers that Be gave him a choice of going to Heaven –“ she ignored Spike’s choking noises – “or joining Buffy in the other dimension’s Sunnydale. He picked Buffy.”
“ ‘Course he did,” he said absently, half-falling into the room’s only chair. “So, he’s with my Buffy and I got kicked here to keep this one from getting into trouble until we can sort out why we’re here...” He paid no attention to Buffy’s indignant “Keep me out of trouble?” but continued softly, “So, she’s got her vamp back, then. All souled up and everythin’.”
Dawn and Buffy exchanged anxious looks as they watched his face while he digested the news that the Sunnydale Buffy had her own Spike back in her life. While he had assured this Buffy that he was not yet in love with her older doppelganger, it was very clear from his behavior and treatment of her that he had feelings for the other slayer, and she wasn’t sure how he was going to handle the news that Sunnydale Buffy was with someone else – even if the someone else was a version of himself.
She breathed a sigh of relief when his face softened into a smile and he said, “So, she’s got what she wanted. The real thing this time. I hope I - he makes her happy.”
“She looked pretty happy when I saw them,” Dawn said with a smile. “They both did.”
“Well, good on them, then.” He cleared his throat and sat up straighter. “So what can you tell us about this world? And what makes you able to flit back and forth?”
“Um, that’s kind of a long story...which I’ll tell you!” she hastened to add when Buffy’s eyes began to narrow suspiciously. “But I’ll have to do it on some other trip, ‘cause I think this one’s about up.”
Buffy squirmed uncomfortably before blurting out, “How is Angel? Did you see him? Does he miss me?”
Panic swept over Dawn’s face as she remembered that in her dimension, Angel had dusted in the same battle as Spike. One look at Buffy’s face told her that secret was one she didn’t need to share just now. She stumbled on her words as she said, “He...I didn’t actually see him when I was in Sunnydale – and I didn’t think to ask about him. I suppose he’s still around – I mean, he would have been at that time in my world...” Her voice trailed off as the disappointment on Buffy’s face registered. “Tell you what,” she said brightly. “The next time I go there, I’ll ask about Angel. Okay?”
“Okay, sure,” Buffy said dully, not even trying to hide her disappointment. Dawn studied her for a second and then volunteered, “I’m sure he does miss you. I mean it’s not like my Buffy is still in love with him – she’s got her Spike back and...well, anyway, I’ll bet he really misses you.”
Over Buffy’s lowered head, she exchanged a look with the vampire who was torn between sympathy for the slayer and anger that she would still be so worried about his grandsire. Vowing to find a way to tell her more about Angelus and his past, he stood up and moved closer to the two girls, trailing them out the door. He rested a hand briefly on Buffy’s shoulder, giving it a little squeeze and saying, “I’m sure the big poof misses you, pet. The older you was a bit too much her own woman to suit him. He probably wouldn’t like her even if she did still want him.”
“That’s not as reassuring as you might think,” Buffy muttered. “I grow up to be such a bitch that my boyfriend doesn’t love me anymore? How is that supposed to make me feel better?”
Dawn paused at the spot where she had originally appeared and smiled as the sides of the portal began to glow. “I think I’m getting better and better at this,” she said happily. “The next thing I have to learn to do is to make it appear wherever I want it to, instead of wherever I landed.”
“Can...will you...I mean, if you go back...” Buffy straightened up and said firmly, “Will you tell Mom that I love her? And I miss her? And say ‘Hi” to Willow and Xander and Giles and Angel and...” Her face crumbled and she barely managed to get out “and everyone...” before a sob burst from her throat and she ran back into the house.
“I guess this has been kind of hard on her, huh?” Dawn said sympathetically.
“It has,” he responded simply. “It’s a lot for anyone to handle, never mind a young girl.”
“Good thing she’s got you, then, isn’t it?” Dawn looked at him with shrewd confidence.
He shook his head, trying to hide the smile on his face. “I’m not the Spike you know, pet. I’ll do what I can to help her, but I don’t love her... an’ I can’t replace the poof.”
“I’ve got faith in you,” Dawn said cheerfully as the glowing walls surrounded her. “Bye!”
With another loud ‘pop”, she vanished, leaving him standing on the sidewalk, staring at the front door. His vampire hearing allowed him to pick up the sounds of Buffy’s muffled sobs as he sighed and walked up the steps. After closing the door behind him, he looked longingly at the basement steps before growling and going into the living room. He shrugged off his coat and sat down to wait out the crying coming from the slayer’s bedroom. Not until her sobs had tapered off and her even breathing told him that she was asleep did he get up and, after turning off the lights and checking the doors, make his way downstairs to his bedroom.
He sat on the edge of the small bed that he had found in a used furniture store and put his head in his hands. It wasn’t that hard to imagine how Buffy was feeling when he thought back to his own world and the things he’d left behind. Buffy herself played a bigger role than he wanted to admit; as did Dru who, in spite of her behavior, was still his sire and the woman he had loved for over one hundred years. To the best of his knowledge, he had no family in this world, nor any friends other than Clem. With a start he realized that the only thing anchoring him here was the young blonde girl upstairs and his growing attraction to her.
“This can’t possibly end well,” he muttered to himself as he closed his eyes.
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