Disclaimer: All those involved with the story that I didn't create myself out of thin air belong to Joss Whedon and anyone associated with him who is lucky enough to be a part of writing, producing, funding, or drawing the characters that he created from that insane mind of his that we all love so much.

Rating: Mostly PG-13 but I'm not opposed to the idea that it'll get closer to R or NC-17 in the near future.

Feedback: Anything you're willing to give me is fine in whatever way you'd like to give it to me. :)

Distribution: Anywhere other than where I put it, lemme know and I'm sure it'll be fine.

Author's Notes: I've been writing this story for a while and it's still not completely finished. There's a larger arc to it but if you wanna just read this one story I'm sure you'll be just fine. :) Thanks for reading and I hope you'll enjoy it.

Just a Girl Chapter 1

Back alleys and Bar Stools

The cool night air hits my skin as I pass through the back door of the club and into the alley. Letting the door slam shut behind me, I lean up against the wall and pull out my lighter along with the pack of smokes I have in my pocket. My fingers pull one of the cigs out of the pack and I shove the pack back into my pocket before flicking the lighter and lighting the smoke. It's only a matter of seconds before the slim 'death stick' is between my lips and I take a long drag, enjoying the feel of the smoke in my lungs before blowing it upward into the night sky.

I'd forgotten what this felt like. I think it's called fun. Yeah, I definitely remember it being called fun back when I used to have it all the time. It's been so long since I had it, I'm surprised I remember how. We spent so long fighting. We fought with the bad guys, with each other. We were fighting in so many ways, I don't think any of us knew which way was up. But that's all over now, and the fun can begin. Plus, I'm on my own tonight, which is another thing I barely remember doing.

The past few nights I've been on my own most of the night and I'm loving every second of it. To be able to just be me, not worrying about anyone else and how they see me. It's something I don't think I've ever done in my life, and I like it. Even though I'm not completely sure who it is that I am when I'm just me being me, I'm having a lot of fun finding out.

I take another drag of my cigarette and blow it into the air.

Whoever I am, I seem to like having a lot of fun. I can't say I hate that about myself. Not that I'm a total amnesiac or something. I know my name and where I live. Where I used to live before it became a smoking hole in the ground. I remember everything there is to remember about my life, even the stuff that's made up and the stuff that felt like hell, I'm just not sure who going through all that stuff has turned me into. My whole life, I've never really known who I am as just me. There's always been someone else for me to latch on to and define myself by them. I haven't really had the time to find out who me is. Now I have the time, and I'd really like to find out.

My face turns upward to the stars and I take a long deep breath of the fresh air, my cigarette between my fingers at my side.

God I love the smell of fresh air. It's so different from the hot and sweaty air in the club. But then, who could blame me for wanting a break from all of that. I've spent the last…

Turning my wrist and bringing my watch up to where I can see it I check the time.

Hour and a half in there dancing up a storm. After a while it just gets a little much and you need a break from it all. So here I am, enjoying the night in the back alley of the club, smoking a cigarette, all by myself.

"Mind if I bum one off ya?"

Okay, so maybe I'm not quite as alone as I thought.

I look over in the direction of the voice, near the front of the alley. A dark shadowy figure is coming towards me and I pull myself off the wall to meet them.

"Sure, I guess..."

As the figure gets closer, I get a bad vibe off him and I'm not quite sure I want to be sharing anything with him. I keep up the pretense though and pull my pack out of my pocket again. The shadowy figure comes close enough for me to see his face in the moonlight and I'm a little disappointed.

He's cute. A couple inches taller than me, brown hair, seems like he's got a nice body. He dresses pretty good too. If it weren't for the fact that I'm getting a weird vibe off him, I'd ask him to go back inside and dance, maybe more. But I'm not stupid enough to ignore what my instincts are telling me. You don't spend as much time as I have around slayers and not learn to trust your instincts.

Holding out the pack to my new 'friend', he takes a smoke out and puts it between his teeth. I put my smokes back where they belong and hold out my lighter. He leans forward and I light his cigarette for him.

Seems like whatever he is, he's not gonna attack yet. I suppose I'll just play along for now then. I've never been able to play with a demon or whatever like this. No one would ever let me. They'd be all about protecting me. But this time there isn't anyone around to protect me, which means I get to do what I want.

"So... what are you doing out here?"

Me?

We look at each other as we lean against the cold brick wall of the club.

"I could ask you the same thing."

He smiles at me and inhales from his cigarette.

"True... I was just on my way to the club."

The guy with the weird vibe points to the club's wall behind us.

"I come here every week, do a little dancing, and have a couple drinks. You know, just have some fun."

Taking a drag of smoke, I smile knowingly.

"Yeah, I know..."

A smile graces his features.

He's got a great smile.

"And I happen to see a beautiful girl hanging out alone in a back alley. Figured I'd see if she was all right, maybe strike up a conversation."

I can't help but blush at hearing him calling me beautiful.

"You sure that's a good idea? How do you know I'm not dangerous?"

His eyes drag themselves over my body lustfully, with a little bit of hunger behind it.

"I like to live on the edge. I'll take my chances."

There's a smirk on my face at his statement. Looking up into the sky, I take a long drag of my smoke.

"It's your funeral."

He chuckles.

"Not an issue."

Well, I guess that tells me what he is. Kinda wish I had met him before he was dead. I'd probably give him my number and ask him on a date or something. Then again, he might get scared off by a girl who's willing to be that forward. Some guys don't like that.

"So, you wanna go back inside and dance? Maybe get a table and talk?"

He's really trying to sell the whole cute guy just out for some fun thing… too bad he's dead. I'll play along a while longer, though I'd rather not go back and dance. I'm sure there's something better we can do.

"Nah, I think I'm done with the club scene for tonight. Think I might go home, get some sleep."

I move away from the wall and face him, standing idly there so I don't give anything away. There's a hint of panic in his eyes as he stands up straight himself.

He must be new at this or something.

"Hey, come on, a young vibrant girl like you quitting so early? It's only like... it's barely past midnight. I'm sure you could indulge me for an hour or so."

I back up slightly towards the end of the alley, trying to make it look like I'm still deciding whether to go or not.

"I didn't get much sleep last night."

My backing up is a little more firm though I'm keeping the same pace. He starts to follow me.

"If you're around tomorrow night, maybe we can hook up and have some fun, but not tonight."

He gets this angry and disappointed look on his face as I take the smoke out of my mouth and keep walking backwards. He throws away his cigarette.

"All right, fine..."

Suddenly, his face changes into it's vampire state and he snarls.

"I'll just eat and run then."

Hmm…

"Well, if you're gonna be rude about it."

I reach into my inside jacket pocket and pull out the stake I keep there. He sees the stake and a confused look comes over his twisted, suddenly ugly face. All I can do is grin at him as I throw away my cigarette.

"Told you I might be dangerous."

Okay so maybe I'm not as dangerous as I like to say I am, but he doesn't need to know that.

Raising my stake to heart stabbing level, I continue to back off slowly. He keeps following me.

"Then why are you backing away like that?"

"I might be dangerous, but I'm not an idiot. Fighting in a dark alley is not the smartest move."

"Well too bad."

He rushes at me and when he gets within arms length, I side step him, pushing the vamp who was hitting on me away. I keep backing up as he braces himself against the alley wall with his hands.

All right, I gotta make sure he's always the attacker. I'm not strong enough to take him on toe to toe and if I try I'll definitely end up dead.

He turns to me and starts approaching again.

"Seems like danger girl is afraid to face me one on one."

He takes a swing at me and I duck it quickly. Staying down, I kick my right leg out at his ankles. My leg hits his left ankle and it makes him stumble a bit as he readjusts his footing. This gives me the opportunity to run, and I do. Unfortunately, I don't get far as I feel a hand grab my hair and pull me backwards. The stake slips out of my hands as I stumble.

Ow! Geez that hurts.

One of his hands wraps itself around my waist and holds me against him. I struggle to get free but he's too strong.

This is so totally bad. There has to be something I can do to get away.

He snarls at me as he pulls my hair harder, forcing me to expose my neck to him.

"Not so tough now, are we girl? Hell I can smell exactly how dangerous you are right now."

I can feel him crane his neck over my shoulder and his breath brushes against my exposed neck.

I gotta get away... now.

Raising my elbow against him, I throw it back as hard as I can. Hitting him in the face and making him lean back from me a bit. Before he can recover, I hit him in the face with my elbow again and he lets go of my hair. Another elbow to the face and his grip on my waist lessens. He pushes me away hard and I stumble a bit but keep my footing. Looking at my surroundings, I notice something.

Damn... he's between me and my only exit. This is really bad.

My eyes drift to the ground as he continues to recover from my elbows.

But my stake is between me and him. If I can get it, there's still a chance I can beat him.

He looks at me and follows my eyes down to the stake between us.

Oh crap, this is not going well.

As if we both had the same thought, we make a dash for the stake. Just as I'm about to reach for the stake, his hand comes down on it and blocks me. My eyes meet his and he has that evil glare that they all get.

Oh... no...

As if he's moving at lightning speed, his hand wraps itself around my neck and he throws me off balance and to the ground. His hands grab my legs and keep me from getting up as he climbs his way up my body menacingly. The sight of his cold yellow eyes glaring at me sends a shiver down my spine and I don't know what to do.

What do I do? How do I get out of this? I don't think I can.

I struggle against him but he's got his full weight on me and he's using his vampire strength.

"It's too bad I have to kill you. You seemed like a nice chick. We could've had a lot of fun together. But now I've worked up an appetite and I need something to eat."

He opens his mouth and slowly leans in. I close my eyes and brace myself for what he's about to do. Seconds later, I hear the sound of exploding dust. I look up as the dust falls over me and my sister is standing over me.

"Hope he likes a dust sandwich."

Thank god... she saved me. I thought I was done for.

She reaches her hand out for me to take.

"Need a hand?"

I take her hand and she pulls me to my feet. As soon as I'm up I start dusting myself off.

"Thanks Buffy..."

She twirls my stake in her hand the way she always does.

"Just doing my job... thanks to my sister..."

I roll my eyes and try as hard as I can to get the dust off my clothes.

Ugh, I hate vampires.

"Glad I could help."

She holds my stake out to me once I'm sure I got most of the dust off me.

"You dropped this."

Glaring at her, I snatch the stake from her.

"Yeah... thanks..."

"You should try and be more careful Dawnie..."

I told her to stop calling me that.

A sigh escapes my lips and I roll my eyes at her.

"Sorry... Dawn."

The stake slides snuggly back in my inside jacket pocket and we start to leave the alley.

"But I'm sticking by my 'be more careful' remark. If I hadn't been there, you could've been killed."

We make it out of the alley and I stop to face her. She does the same.

"You were there though, and I'm still among the living. Which by the way... why were you here?"

She goes silent for a second before responding.

"I was in the neighborhood."

One of my eyebrows rise as I look at her with a questioning look.

"You said you were going to be patrolling the other side of town tonight. Kinda why I picked this spot and didn't tell you about it. How'd you wind up here all of the sudden?"

"Like I said, I was in the neighborhood."

My eyes stay on hers as we fall silent for a minute.

Just staring at her is always the best thing to do when she doesn't want to tell me something. It doesn't always work, but hopefully tonight is one of her off nights.

She sighs and looks up at the sky for a split second.

"All right fine... Candy called me."

Candy? As if I didn't need even more of a reason to hate that girl. She's such a goody two shoes suck up. She totally idolizes Buffy and her whole teacher trip. I still don't know why Buffy set the dojo up. For like a whole year after Sunnydale, she completely stopped patrolling or fighting vampires of any kind. All she wanted to do was have fun and make out with her now ex, The Immortal. Then like 6 months ago she got Giles to buy her some space to build a dojo for slayers and she's been running it ever since. Candy was one of her first students and likes to follow my sister around whenever she can and gush about how great she is. It's annoying as hell.

"She was in there earlier. I'm not sure if she's still there now or not but she called and said you were down here drinking again, so I decided to curb my patrol route in this direction. But while we're on the subject of bending the truth, let's start with the fact that you told me you were going to stay home and study tonight."

Rolling my eyes at her, I decide to start making my way home. Buffy follows me.

"So we're even, let's just drop the subject."

"Sure, we can drop that one. As long as we can pick up on the fact that you were apparently enjoying yourself a beer in the club."

God, she's gonna get on that subject again.

"I was having a drink, people do that in bars sis."

Buffy grabs my arm and stops me, making me face her.

"You're 18 Dawn. That makes you underage to be drinking. If someone caught you, it could get you arrested."

I turn away from her and continue walking.

"I'm not gonna get arrested. The only one in there who could tell on me is the bartender and he didn't seem to mind."

"Did you even tell him you were underage?"

A question like that makes me scoff at her.

"No, I'm not an idiot."

"Well, maybe if he knew he wouldn't be so quick to put that drink in front of you."

That makes me turn around and I see that she's standing a few feet behind me.

"You wouldn't…"

"If it meant you wouldn't be able to get drunk anymore, you know I would."

My eyes narrow as she stands there with her arms crossed.

"I'm NOT drunk. I had a couple drinks and that's it. It's not like I'm an alcoholic or something. Can't you just let me have fun?"

"Fun is one thing, but getting drunk and passing out is not fun."

Passing out?

"Aren't you even listening to me? I'm nowhere near buzzed enough to be passing out. Geez, next you're gonna get on me about my smoking."

A look of shock is instantly on her face. She comes up to me and takes a big whiff of me.

"When the hell did you start smoking? Dawn... this isn't like you. You know smoking and drinking is bad for you. Why would you try something like that?"

"Because I never have before. That's kinda the point. There are a lot of things that I never got to do back in Sunnydale, so now I wanna try it. Come on Buffy, it's not like you didn't have a few wild days not too long ago."

"Yeah, well I grew out of them. Besides, you did your whole teenage rebellion thing already. I don't understand where this is coming from."

"This isn't teenage rebellion, this is me having fun. Why do you have to get in the way of that?"

"Dawn, I'm not trying to get in the way of you having fun. I just wanna make sure you're safe about the kind of fun you have."

"I'm not stupid, I am being safe."

"Not safe enough if that vampire almost killed you."

She's just not gonna leave this alone. There's no sense talking to her when she's like this.

"Look, I'm done talking about this Buffy. Please, just let me live my life and stop interfering."

I turn and walk away, not waiting for her answer.

"Dawnie, wait..."

...
B-r-e-a-k
...

Well, there it is. Home sweet home...

Standing out on the sidewalk, I stare up at the apartment building I live in with my sister.

I really don't want to go in there.

My eyes drift up to the third floor and the window that's ours.

The lights are on. She's home and she's probably waiting up for me. So she can yell at me and complain about all the terrible things I'm doing that I shouldn't be. Why does she have to be like that? Telling me I'm not allowed to live my life the way I want it. After everything we went through when Willow went nuts, she promised me that she'd show me the world instead of protect me from it. And she did... or the demon hunting part of it anyway. She taught me how to fight well enough, and a bunch about how to kill them, but not much else.

She still wouldn't let me out at night to have any fun without an escort. All I ever did that whole summer was learn about demons and go out with her to kill them. Or watch her kill them. At first it was kinda fun, but then the apocalypse started happening and any fun I had kinda got sucked right out of it. But things are different now. We're not in Sunnydale anymore. There's no apocalypse to take care of, no big battles to fight unless we really want to. We don't live on a hellmouth anymore and I'd like to check out that thing called life I've always heard about but never got to have. I don't think that's too much to ask.

I make my way towards the front door.

Buffy doesn't think so though. Or at least it doesn't seem that way. She doesn't want me doing anything remotely fun. She'll probably ground me the second I walk through the door. It looked like she wanted to out in front of the club. I'm not sure what stopped her exactly, but at least she didn't. It would've been totally embarrassing if she tried and a bunch of people had seen it. Course, the second I go up there, no one's going to be there to stop her if she wants to ground me.

I'm 18 years old. I'm too old to be grounded for trying to have a little fun. Buffy seems to like doing that though, grounding me when I don't need to be grounded. I get that she's trying to be responsible and all parent-like, but sometimes she just goes too far with everything.

Opening the front door, I go inside and head straight for the elevator.

Why can't she just let me live my life?

I press the elevator button for up and I'm lucky enough to have it open automatically. Within seconds of it opening, I step inside and press the button for the third floor.

It's not like she doesn't have her own life. Shouldn't she just be happy with her own? She seems pretty happy with it overall. She's got the dojo which is making pretty good money. We have a pretty nice place here. Does she have to be so overbearing about what I do with my life? I'm going to school. I'm learning what I'm supposed to be learning. Why can't I have some time off to just do what I want? She should just stay out of it, but she doesn't.

Buffy doesn't have to worry about all the little slayers anymore. They aren't living with us. Giles is taking care of all of that. He, Willow and Xander are taking care of rebuilding the Council. She's taken more of an outside advisory role to it all. Which was more their decision then hers. But the fact is, she doesn't have a lot of pressure on her anymore. There's no reason for her to be so bitchy towards me. I let it go before because of all the potentials on her case about being in danger. That's not gonna happen this time. She's not going to get away with telling me how to live my life.

The doors of the elevator open on the third floor and I walk onto it, heading towards our place. As I come up on our front door, I reach into my front pocket and pull out my keys. Turning the key in the lock, I open the door. I walk into our apartment and the sound of the TV hits my ears.

I knew she'd be waiting up for me. This really isn't what I want to do.

When the door closes, she looks up from the couch and turns the TV off. She stands up and walks around the couch to meet me as I walk into the living room.

She's probably gonna yell at me.

"Hey Dawn..."

Maybe not right away, but she'll get to it. I'm sure of it.

"Hey..."

"Are you all right?"

I take up a defensive posture.

"I'm just fine... why?"

She gets a hurt look on her face.

"Because I was worried..."

"Well..."

I hold my arms out and do a slow twirl.

"Does it look like I'm hurt?"

"No..."

My twirl comes to a stop and we face each other again.

"But that doesn't stop me from being concerned. Where'd you go?"

And now with the third degree, usually comes right before the yelling.

"None of your business..."

"Come on Dawn, it was just a question. I wanted to know how you are and where you were. Am I not allowed to ask how my sister is?"

I roll my eyes at her in frustration.

"Not when you ask like that you're not."

Turning on my heel, I head towards my room, away from my sister.

"Dawn, hold on a second."

I stop in front of my door but don't turn around.

"I'm sorry about yelling at you earlier. I was just a little freaked out by the fact that my sister was drinking and almost got killed by a vampire."

There's a moment of silence in the room as we stand there.

"I'm sorry okay?"

I take a long deep breath and face her.

"Okay..."

"Let me make it up to you."

She crosses the distance between us and stops a couple feet from me.

"How about tomorrow we go out to a club together and have some fun?"

She wants to go with me? She really doesn't get it.

"Buffy, the whole reason I didn't tell you I was going out tonight was because I wanted to go alone. Have fun on my own. If we went out together, how would I have any fun?"

Buffy looks at me slightly offended.

"I can be fun. I used to have a lot more fun. We can have fun together."

"Oh come on Buffy. You'd be looking over my shoulder with everything I did. There's no way you'd let me do anything."

My sister gets this uncomfortable look on her face.

"Yes, I would."

We look at each other for a moment.

"Yeah right, the second I ordered a drink or lit up a cigarette, you'd be on my case and you know it."

"That's because you're underage Dawn. You can't be mad at me for wanting to make sure you don't get arrested."

"Watch me."

Then I turn around and go into my room, slamming the door behind me. I walk right over to my bed and dump myself on it.

Why can't she just leave well enough alone? It's my life and I'll do what I want with it. I'm 18 and I can make my own decisions. If I wasn't in school, I'd totally get a job and move out. But I know that my mom would've wanted me to finish school and get a decent education. So I guess I'm stuck here until I can do that. And I'm stuck with her looking over my shoulder until I can get out of here. Life just isn't fair.

End of Chapter 1