Title: How Come They Call It A Nightmare?

Author: mistymidnight

Rating: G

Disclaimer: While I can safely say I own the fic, I don't own any of the characters—Joss Whedon won't share… :-P

Spoilers/Timeline: Season one

Summary: Dawn has a nightmare and it's up to Super-Sister Buffy to make things better.

Author's Notes: I think gidgetgirl requested this one too, but I'm too lazy to check my old emails. Anyhoo…

            As I wrote, I ended up tying the nightmare in with Dawn's story line.

How Come They Call It A Nightmare?

            Everybody sat around the kitchen table. Dawn, Buffy, Mom, Dad, Willow, Xander, and Giles. Even Cordelia was there, painting her fingernails. "Do this look right to you?" she asked Dawn, waving her hand in front of her face for inspection. Then she quickly snatched it away again. "Oh, that's right. You wouldn't know. You don't belong."

            Dad shook his head and said, "One burns down gymnasiums, the other one just sits there with a spider."

            "I hate spiders," Dawn reminded him.

            "Little Miss Muffet," Mom said, bobbing her head to the rhythm of the rhyme, "Sat on her tuffet, eating—"

            "What is a tuffet, anyway?" Buffy interrupted.

            "Shh, your mom's talking," Willow elbowed her.

            "—her curds and whey," Joyce continued. "Along came a SPIDER that sat down BESIDE HER and frightened Miss Muffet away."

            "I ask again, what's a tuffet?" Buffy asked. "And who in their right mind eats curds and whey, anyway?"

            "THEY eat curds and whey," Mom replied vaguely, gesturing around the kitchen, but not at the people seated there. "The ones who can see Little Miss Muffet."

            "Mommy, you're scaring me," Dawn whimpered.

            "I used to read that to you all the time," Mom said dreamily. "When you were little. I'd hold you, and you belonged to me. But not anymore. You belong to them."

            "Who?"

            "Them," Mom repeated, making the vague gesture again. "I hoped for better for you, sweetheart."

            "I think we all did, Joyce," Dad said. "Don't blame yourself."

            "I know. I don't. You can't place blame about a THING like Dawn."

            "I'm not a 'thing'," Dawn insisted. "I'm your daughter."

            "You fooled us all, Dawnie," Xander said seriously. "That's not something we can just forgive, badda-bing, badda-boom."

            "I don't think you meant to," Willow said, trying to be soothing, "but you did. And that's what bothers us."

            "I didn't!" Dawn cried.

            "Denial is for people who are weak," Cordelia remarked. "Hyenas pick off the weak, you know."

            "Dark hyenas," Mom mumbled. "I can't stop them. No one can."

            "I'm sorry, Mommy," Buffy said quietly.

            "I don't blame you," Mom said, then pointed at Dawn. "I blame it."

                                               

            Dawn sat on the merry-go-round, all alone. The music was flat, making her loneliness seem even worse.

            "Yer done! Ride's up!" called a voice near the carousel. Dawn looked over to see who it was and saw Willow, wearing a striped shirt, stained with various things, crumpled, and dirty.

            "Willow, how come you work here?" Dawn asked.

            "It's the only place that would hire me," Willow said. "After what I did."

            "What did you do?"

            "I was bad. I'm in time-out."

            "What did you do?" Dawn repeated.

            "Stop, in the name of love," Willow sang, "before you stake my heart!" She looked up at Dawn and ordered, "Get off, ride's over."

            "But I can't get off," Dawn explained. "Mom won't be able to find me."

            Willow looked at her coldly. "No one wants to find you," she snapped. "You only matter to HER."

            "Who?"

            "HER," Willow repeated, making the same vague gesture Joyce had before. "You matter to her. She wants you. We just want you to go away. Let things be the way they're supposed to."

            "I like being here," Dawn said tearily. "I like my life."

            "She hates your life," Willow said solemnly. "She loves your death. But death is Buffy's gift. There's nothing extraordinary about you, except to her."

            "Who is she?" Dawn asked.

            "Think it oh-oh-ver," Willow sang, not paying any attention. "Think it oh-oh-ver."

            "Stop singing that stupid song!" Dawn cried.

            "Why not?" Willow asked. "What else can I do for fun, after what I did?"

            Dawn was running, running, running. She wasn't quite sure what she was running from, but the voices told her to run.

            "Run," Buffy said.

            "Run," said her mother.

            "Run," said Willow, and Giles, and Xander.

            "Do whatever you want, I don't really care," said Cordelia.

            "Run to me," said a female voice, cold and hard and dangerous. "Run straight to me, little girl."

            Dawn stopped. "Who are you?" she yelled. It was dark, black all around her, not even a pinprick of light. She didn't know where she was going, just that she was told to run. But if this—this voice was telling her what to do, she wouldn't do it. The voice obviously didn't want anything good to happen to her.

            "Keep running," said the scary voice. "It's what you're good at."

            Dawn spun around, breathing heavily, and ran.

            "Locks, locks, locks, and not a key to be found," the voice said in a sing-song. "Dawnie, can you help me find my key?"

            Dawn ran faster, breathing harder, and then she was falling, falling, falling, with no light and no bottom in the endless pit.

            "Almost there," said the voice. "Getting warmer, warmer, warmer, hot! Hot!"

            The light came out of nowhere, blinding Dawn and scorching her skin. It shone all the way through to her brain, and she forgot everything. Her name, her family, her friends, her entire life…everything but the pain.

            And then the emptiness.

            "You are mine," the voice said. Dawn threw up.

            "We are gonna have fun, fun, fun!" The words were laced with cruelty, and Dawn felt dread clench her heart like a fist, then make its way slowly through her, squeezing her stomach, encircling her lungs, grabbing her throat. She couldn't breathe—

            Dawn woke up, screaming and crying and breathing heavily. She felt like she hadn't taken a breath in years, and the air felt so refreshing, like a jump into a swimming pool on a hot day. But Dawn wasn't cooling off. She was soaked in sweat, her bedsheets sticking to her arms and legs. Her nightgown was plastered to her back, and her legs were tangled in the sheets. Her mouth was dry and her skin was hot. "Mommy!" she yelled.

            Someone came running, but it wasn't Mom. "Dawnie!" Buffy exclaimed, flying into the room. "What happened? What's wrong?"

            "She's coming! She's coming to get me and no one will stop her because no one cares!"

            "Shh, shh, Dawnie, calm down. Did you have a bad dream?"

            "It wasn't a dream! It was real! I felt it! She wants to kill me, Buffy! And she'll hurt you! She'll hurt everybody!"

            "Dawn, it was just a dream. I know it's scary—"

            "It was real," Dawn whimpered, hiding her face in Buffy's shoulder. "It was. I could feel it."

            Buffy pulled her little sister into a hug and stroked her stringy, sweaty hair. "It's okay, sweetie, you're safe. Nothing will ever hurt you."

            "But you can't stop it! You can't!"

            "Shh, listen, Dawnie. I know we fight, but you know I'd give up my life to protect you, right?"

            Dawn looked at her sister, amazed that someone would make such a sacrifice for her.

            "And Willow and Xander and Giles and Mom and even Cordelia," Buffy continued. "We love you, Dawnie. And your dream was just that. A dream. It's not real. Dreams aren't real."

            "It was so real," Dawn cried, hugging her pillow tightly.

            "Can you tell me about it?" Buffy asked. "What happened?"

            "I—I don't—I can't remember," Dawn said. Strangely enough, her entire memory of the dream was gone, except for the small insignificant details. "Except Cordelia was putting on nail polish and Willow ran a merry-go-round and Dad talked about spiders."

            Buffy laughed a little. "Well, that's a dream for ya."

            Dawn was still upset. "It was so scary."

            "I know," Buffy said. "Here, I'll sit with you until you go back to sleep. Lie down."

            She smoothed Dawn's blankets and promised to help her change the sheets in the morning, told her a little story about a lost dog who finally found his family, sang her "All the Pretty Little Ponies" as well as she could, and then just sat with her until Dawn finally nodded off.  "I love you, Dawnie," Buffy whispered, kissing hersleeping sister on the forehead. "I'll always love you, no matter what. Sleep tight."

Well, that certainly took a turn for  the darker.

Oh, well. I like it.

mistymidnight