SPOILERS: The Body, Forever and the Gift
RATING: PG-13 for Horror
ARCHIVING: Essential-Imperfect, Buffy Fiction Archive. All others please ask.
SUMMARY: Sometimes these ... things ... get a little off.
NOTES: AU What-if fic. What if Forever had ended differently?
FEEDBACK: Is like air and highly addictive. In other words, yes please!
DISCLAIMER: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all related characters belong to Joss Whedon, Sandollar, UPN, et al. I'm just taking them out for a little exercise. Italicized fragments are taken from Lewis Carroll's poem 'The Jabberwocky' as written in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
THANKS: A thousand hugs and Hershey's Kisses to Moonwhip and Arrie for the fabulous beta!
"You'll be home before dark . . . Won't you? You know I don't like you out after dark."
"If I'm not home who's going to read to you?" Dawn speaks without looking up, instead industriously applying herself to the task of opening jars.
This is their morning routine. They exchange questions and answers and Dawn pretends that normal isn't just a word. She stands at the kitchen island studiously spreading peanut butter onto bread and Joyce leans against the sink, staring out the window into the brightening world.
At night Dawn reads her mother 'The Jabberwocky.' She reads it twice and sometimes even three times before Joyce will close her shiny-bright eyes and sleep. When she is restless Dawn reads it again.
Dawn's mother has eyes that are fire bright and fine. She also has quick, sharp fingers that claw and catch. Everyone has learned to dodge.
"Oh," Dawn's mother whispers. "What pretty, pretty birds and oh, look such a pretty, pretty cat."
Dawn swallows hard and pretends not to hear. Her hands pause for only a moment before pressing the knife deep into the jar of peanut butter.
"How exciting. How pretty. How red, red, red!" Dawn's mother squeals with excitement, her body squirming in childish delight.
"Spike will be here soon. He'll keep you company until I get home."
"Oh, Spike!" Dawn's mother is ecstatic. "I like Spike. He makes me tea and we watch television and maybe if it's cold we'll have hot chocolate with little marshmallows." She claps her hands at the thought.
"Dawn. Oh, Dawn." Dawn's mother moves away from the window to stand close. She reaches across the counter to cup her daughter's cheek, tilting her head up to stare into shiny-bright eyes. "Such a pretty little girl I have." Joyce smiles and runs her other hand through Dawn's hair. "And what pretty hair," she says before she tugs.
Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Dawn snatches her head back and rubs at the stinging spot on her scalp. Her eyes tear from the pain. Dawn runs her fingers through her hair and across her eyes. The short cap of mahogany was easy and efficient, a deterrent. Anya said it made her eyes and mouth look too big.
"Like a doe," Willow had said.
"Pretty, pretty, pretty," Dawn's mother whispered, transfixed by the short, choppy locks. She pulls Dawn's hair anyway, only now she has to stand closer.
Dawn's mother smiles bright and vacant except for her eyes, malicious and sly. "Yes," she says. "Such pretty hair."
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!
Dawn's mother turns away, the amusement of cruelty momentarily forgotten. "Will Spike let me go outside, do you think?" Her voice is sad, her brow gathered into a frown. "Spike never lets me go outside."
"I'll call Willow before I leave. Maybe she can take you . . ." Picking up the knife again Dawn reaches for the jar of peach preserves.
Dawn's mother likes the idea and hops from one foot to the other, dancing around the narrow kitchen. "Oh, yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes." She stumbles against the island and stops, gleaming bright eyes. "I like Willow. Willow will take me to the park. In the sun. In the street. Outside of the yard?"
Dawn's mother doesn't go out often. The doors of the house are locked tight and the windows even tighter. Now, they have security bars. She's broken windows before. Three years ago, after Buffy died, Willow weaved a spell around the house. Dawn's mother cannot cross out of the yard.
There is a knock and Dawn's mother flies to the door with glee. She tugs at the knob and turns, but it refuses to budge.
Dawn's mother is not happy with the stubborn door.
"Damn! Door!" she mutters between clenched teeth. She twists and she pulls and she curses a cloud of vile, black words.
Ignoring her mother is an art Dawn has mastered. Leaning close, she flips the deadbolt and the door springs open. Beneath the weight of pulling and the eager entrance of a smoking bundle, Dawn's mother falls.
"Took your sweet time, pet," Spike says as he shakes off his steaming gray blanket. His piercing eyes see the jars on the counter and the woman on the floor. He smoothes a cool kiss across Dawn's pale head.
Dawn closes her eyes to the press of lips at her temple, her body sighing into the greeting. "Mom couldn't manage the lock," is all she says.
"Spike. Spike. Oh, Spike," Dawn's mother squeals from the floor. She does not like to be ignored.
Spike turns away and reaches a hand, cool palm to cold, and helps her to stand. "Joyce. How are you today?"
Dawn turns back to her sandwich and carefully cuts it into two with a steak knife. She is equally as careful to wrap the halves in butcher paper, taping the center closed. Like buzzing in her ear, Dawn hears her mother's voice chattering inanely about spiders and buttons and the cats that stalk their back yard. Dawn blocks out the details. She has learned to do that very well.
Gathering up her supplies, she returns the jars of peanut butter and preserves to the refrigerator. She carries the knife and a plate to the sink. Turn on the water. Reach for the soap. And she stops, transfixed.
He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxnome foe he sought --
Dawn stands there with the water running and the plate in the sink, and notices how the light reflects off the blade in her hand.
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.
She stands there with the sound of running water filling her ears, and her doe eyes staring back at her through the reflected light. She turns the knife this way and that. She tilts her head, as well, and studies the curve of light off silver.
Dawn is careful to clear her mind and think nothing thoughts.
She is very careful and the knife is very sharp.
And, as in uffish thought he stood,
She tilts the knife again and adjusts her head accordingly, imagining the play of life and admiring her contorted features in the blade. Too big lips and eyes. What a terribly sharp knife. But these are not proper non-thoughts and startled the knife slips from her hand.
It clatters into the sink and just as quickly as that; a hand reaches over the side. Sharp fingers twitch it up cat-fast and sure.
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
Dawn looks up into the wide smile and shiny-bright eyes of her mother. She is startled and still and she should have known better. Now there is no time to dodge.
"Oh, baby," Dawn's mother whispers. "Baby. Precious girl."
And burbled as it came!
She, too, is fascinated by the way the light reflects off the bright, shiny blade.
One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
Dawn sees the flash, she will not close her eyes, and watches as another, paler hand encircles her mother's cold wrist.
"Now, now. None of that," comes the silky voice. "You play nice or I won't call Willow to take you out."
Dawn's mother frowns. Her wide smile and shiny-bright eyes dim. "Out?" she asks. She twists in Spike's grip, earnest. "Out in the sunshine? In the grass? In the blue, blue, blue sky?"
Spike curls his mouth into what might be a smile but for the fangs. "Out in the grass. Out in the sunshine."
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
Dawn's mother is happily distracted. Her face lightens and she pulls away from the restraining hand around her wrist. Dawn can hear her muttering her way up the stairs. "Outside. Outside. In the blue. In the light. In the sunshine. I have to get my shoes . . . A hat . . ."
And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Spike stares down at Dawn, his eyes are piercing, assessing, so blue. "Alright then, love?" he asks.
Dawn blinks carefully and Spike ignores that for a moment her eyes are as bright and shiny as her mother's.
"Fine," she says. "Fine." And for now she believes it. "I have to get going. I want to visit the cemetery before class."
He watches her carefully rinse the knife in the sink, dry it and lock it away. She replaces the key on a ring before handing it over to Spike. She never meets his eyes.
"Don't forget to call Willow."
"I won't," he says as she moves towards the door.
"Dawn!" he calls her back. She stops but does not turn around. "Have a nice day."
Her nod is so small he might have missed it.
"Tell Mom I'll be back before dark."
'Twas brillig and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.