Title: All The Colors Of The Dawn
Author: Helga Von Nutwimple
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Property of Whedon, Mutant Enemy, etc.
Feedback: Crave it like Clem craves kittens.
Setting: A month after 'Angel' episode 5x22.
Summary: A new Slayer recruit has a story to share.

-

The door closes with a soft click, and Buffy hears Dawn's keys collide with the others in the basket. She reaches for the remote, clicks mute with a little sigh of relief; "Friends" is still pretty funny in Italian, but listening to anyone's voice but Matthew Perry's coming out of Chandler's mouth still gives her the wiggins.

"Huh," Dawn sniffs, crossing into the kitchen. "The place doesn't reek of cologne - I guess Al-berrrr-to buggered off?"

Dawn always says the Immortal's name like that, with about seven extra syllables and the 'R' rolled ridiculously. It is so totally immature. And "buggered off"? Please. Who does she think she's trying to...

Don't answer that.

"The Immortal had some business," Buffy replies primly. "Did you get the new Slayer installed?"

"Yeah, Sarah," Dawn says around a mouthful of popcorn, plopping heavily onto the couch. "She's gonna be rooming with that Nancy chick, I think. Better her than me. Nancy's got major hygeine issues."

"You know, that popcorn's been sitting out for hours."

"Mmm, chewy," Dawn replies, just to be disgusting, then trumps it by sticking out her tongue to display the mashed-up popcorn wad.

"Ugh!" Buffy shoves her away, grimacing. "Did the monks not program you to ever progress past the age of fourteen?"

"More mature than you," Dawn huffs, snatching up the magazine Buffy was totally not done reading yet. "Anyway, bonus - we talked in the taxi, and she's a hometown girl."

"Sunnydale? You're kidding."

"Nah, but close. L.A. She actually used to live pretty close to that hotel that Angel ran, the hyperdrive or whatever."

"Hyperion," Buffy corrects. "And hello, hyperdrive? I've so gotta get you away from Andrew before you go ubernerd on me."

"Hey, some of Andrew's stuff is cool. He showed me homestarrunner last week. I totally get more of his jokes now... and I'm so gonna steal that StrongBad t-shirt."

"Andrew doesn't tell jokes. Andrew's a parrot. And I forbid you to dress in his clothing. The gods of fashion would so smite you."

Dawn rolls her eyes. "Whatever. Anyway, I'm gonna have lunch with her tomorrow. Catch up on what's going on back in the homeland."

"Y'know, Dawn... if you're homesick, you could always go see Dad..."

"Please. After last time? Nuh-uh. Dad's blondes-du-jour are already your age, I'm gonna scream when I meet one that's mine. You know the last one told me I could call her mom? Mom! Like she was old enough to drink or like she'd be dating Dad longer than a month. It is so megagross." Dawn raises the magazine to her face, sniffing at a perfume sample. "I'll get my California vicariously, thanks."

"So, what's the new Slayer like?"

"Pretty cool. Gothy-punk, more on the punk. Chain wallet, hair in those little doodads all over her head, big stompy boots. She used to be a bartender."

"Bartender? How old is she?"

"My age," Dawn grins. "But with a much better fake ID."

"Fake... you don't have a fake I.D.!"

Dawn flutters her eyelashes. "You are absolutely right. Anyway, you wanna come with? Make sure Rodeo Drive hasn't imploded without us?"

Buffy picks at the knee of her pyjamas. "I'll think about it."

-

"Your sister not coming?" Sarah asks with a quirk of her pierced eyebrow. She's got one Doc Marten lounging on the vacant seat, striped tights making a dizzying path up to the Cyndi Lauper poof of her skirt. Here in the sedate little pizzaria, she looks like she came from another dimension.

"Nah, she bailed. I think she's got California denial." Dawn sips her water. "She'd rather be with Al-berrrr-to anyway." Dawn makes a sound that is the perfect vocal synthesis of an ooh-la-la and a retch.

"Huh. You sound fond."

"He's an idiot."

"Don't hold back," Sarah snorts. "Tell me what you really think."

"Don't open the rant box. It is so full."

"So sum up. Why do you hate the guy so much? One sentence."

"Because..." Dawn bites her lip, thinks. "Because her last boyfriend was my best friend in the whole world, and this guy isn't fit to clean his boots with his tongue."

"That works. What, they break up?"

Dawn's eyes darken. "He died."

"That sucks."

"Yeah. And Buffy is being a complete twit about it. Like, won't even let me talk about him. I dunno if it's because she's sad or because she's embarrassed."

"Embarrassed?"

"Oh, y'know. Her Slayer, him vampire. Not really an approved Slayer activity, especially now that she's all trainy and role-model."

"Huh. No one told me that. Might have to back out of this Chosen gig. I knew this vamp back in L.A., and just damn. Muy pretty."

"Well, usually they're of the bad. All fangy and drainy with the death."

"He wasn't." Sarah grins. "He was pretty awesome. Used to come in this bar where I worked. Funny guy. I mean, he looked so tough, y'know? And about a month ago, he walks in. Starts gettin' hammered like he's got a deadline, talks about shakin' the place up. I figure great, bar brawl, just what I fuckin' need... but then..."

"Yeah?" Dawn asks, leaning forward slightly.

"He gets onstage... and starts readin' his poetry. Not that the poetry itself was all that great, but man... the way he read it. Had a voice like whiskey, y'know? All rough, made you warm when it slid down. Coulda spent days listenin' to that boy read, know what I mean?"

Dawn smiles wistfully. "I know exactly what you mean."

"Thing is... he never came in again. I thought maybe he lost his nerve, but this guy... not really the nerve-losin' type, y'know? Started askin' around for him, turns out he got dusted. Went down fightin', though - think he woulda liked that. Great big demon fight. Took out him and a bunch of his friends."

"I'm sorry," Dawn said.

"Yeah, me too. Not that I think I ever had a chance with him or anything, it's just... he was cool. Sorry he's not in the world anymore, y'know?"

Sarah's nostalgia suddenly bursts into movement, her hand flying forward to slap the table. She doesn't strike Dawn as someone who lets herself be sad for long; maybe it's a Slayer thing.

"Wish you coulda been there, though, to hear him read. Think he even had a poem called 'Dawn'. You woulda liked it."

"Didn't think vampires wrote poetry about daylight," Dawn giggles. "Isn't that kinda like me writing an ode to chicken pox?"

"Nah, it was a girl-Dawn, not the dawn-dawn. Say this, though - hot guy, great ass, amazing voice... worst rhymer in the whole damn world."

"No one knows my pain/I stare out at the rain?" Dawn laughs.

"Worse. He rhymed 'effulgent' with 'bulge in it'."

Dawn snorts, her hand flying to cover her face.

"Oh! No!" Sarah remembers, her face splitting in a grin. "I remember a worse one. From the Dawn poem. Get this, okay? He rhymed 'riblet' with 'Nibblet'."

The color drains from Dawn's face, her hand tightening around her glass.

"I don't even know why he wanted to talk about riblets," Sarah continues. "Totally didn't fit the poem. And then to make up a nonsense word for it to rhyme with...? Cute, but on crack."

Dawn's voice is quiet, careful. "You said this was... a month ago?"

"Give or take, yeah." Sarah notices Dawn's face, and bites her lip. "You okay?"

"What... what did he look like?"

"Uh, not that tall. Bleached hair, I mean white. Pretty much always wore the same clothes, this black leather duster thing..."

Dawn's chair shoves back suddenly, her breath coming in small gasps.

"Oh holy crap..." Sarah says, her eyes widening. "You're the Dawn?"

"And he's dead," Dawn says, hysteria winding through her voice. "He's dead, you're sure of it, he's dead."

"I didn't see it happen, no, but it was all over the place..."

Dawn's eyes close, exquisite pain wrinkling her features.

"Dawn, man, I'm sorry, I had no idea you knew him, fuck, I feel so stupid..."

"Sarah, I... I need to go, I'm sorry, I..." Dawn rises, pulling a handful of multicolored money from her wallet and setting it on her plate. "I... I'm kind of freaked and I need to be alone..."

Dawn is two steps away from the table when Sarah's voice stops her.

"Hey, Dawn?"

Dawn's fingernails have broken the skin of her palms. "Yeah?"

"The poem was shit, but the feeling... the feeling in it. He really, really loved you."

Dawn smiles grimly, her eyes looking blankly across the restaurant. "I know."

And she walks out into the dark night of Rome.