Don't Press Send by Lilachigh
The girl pushed her chair back from her computer desk and smiled at the screen. She reached out and sat, for a moment, with a finger poised over the send button. This was the moment she loved the best, the second when her brilliant thoughts, clever comments and witty remarks were sent hurling into electronic space.
The story she'd reviewed had been so stupid – a two-page diatribe about a girl loosing her sister – all whiny and poor-little-me-I'm-all-alone-in the- world. So the writer had lost someone close to her – well, that was very sad, sure, but no reason to post a feeble story full of boring half sentences trying to describe how wonderful said dead person was.
She pushed the button and felt a surge of power and justification. Other people could write nice, kind, helpful reviews if they wanted to, but she enjoyed taking these writers down a peg or two, making them see how futile their scribblings were.
She got up and went to the window, staring out at the street below. A group of girls she knew from high school were walking along the sidewalk, giggling, arm in arm. For a long second she wondered if they would turn in to her driveway, knock at the door, ask her to join them. But of course they didn't.
Well, who cared about them, anyway! Who needed friends? They'd be astonished to learn that she had far more power over people than they did. She was clever with words – okay, she couldn't actually write stories herself – she pushed away the memory of the time she'd tried, the nights spent slaving over plot and character for it all to sound so wrong, so bad, so stiff and appalling that she'd deleted it from the screen and never tried again.
But you didn't need to be able to write to review other people's work. That was fun, fulfilling, because she was cleverer than they were.
A few hundred miles away, Willow and Tara stared each other, frowning. Dawn was refusing to come out of her room, refusing to speak to them . "At least she isn't crying," Willow said.
"I rather wish she would," Tara replied softly. "Dawnie in a temper, shouting and crying, that's normal since Buffy died. This silence is weird. Why won't she talk to us?"
Willow shrugged. "I've sent Xander to get Spike. If anyone can get through to her, he will."
Seconds later the vampire appeared in a whirl of black leather. Willow winced as the door crashed backwards, the handle making a great dent in the wall. "Where is she? Is she OK? Xander said something was wrong?"
Willow backed away a pace or two. His blue eyes that had been dull and empty of late were blazing fire and she could see the strain on his pale face. Had he slept at all since Buffy died? She doubted it.
"She's locked herself in her room and won't tell us what's wrong," Tara said quietly.
"She isn't crying," Willow added, again hopefully, and winced at a full on vampire glare.
He spun on his heel and vanished out into the dusk. Willow glanced at Tara, puzzled, then nodded as she realised there was one sure way of getting into Dawn's room and Spike would take it.
He swung himself up the trellis and into her room. He'd expected to find her lying on the bed, her face buried in her pillow. But she was sitting, staring at the little laptop Giles had sent her so she could e-mail him in England whenever she wanted.
She didn't look up when Spike thudded to the floor behind her. Her voice was flat and empty of emotion. "Did you know that what I felt when Buffy died was 'trite and boring'?"
Spike sat down on the edge of her bed and stared at the back of her head, where the long dark hair hung to below her shoulders. All he had left of the woman he loved. Nothing like her, of course, to look at. But blood didn't go by looks. Her blood was Buffy's blood. Blood never lied.
"Oh, just a girl. On this site." She waved wearily at the screen.
Dawn laughed and the sound sent shudders down his spine. "No, I don't think you could call her that. Don't worry, Spike. It's no biggie. Let's forget it."
"No, we don't do that, you and me, Bit. We don't forget anything or anyone! Tell me or else I sit here all night and follow you to school tomorrow and sit there embarrassing you in front of your whole soddin' class!"
Dawn's lips twitched at the thought. "Don't swear! And anyway, you can't, stupid. It'll be daylight."
"Wanna bet?" Spike scowled.
Dawn sighed, knowing she'd never win when he was in this mood, and picked up a photo of her and her sister. "I wrote a silly story – about a girl who lost her sister – and I posted it on this site. And some people left reviews and said it was nice and some said it was too sad, but this girl said it was rubbish. Trite and boring, to quote her."
Spike felt himself flare into game face and struggled to control himself. He knew Dawnie hated to see him like that. "And you believe her rather than the other reviewers?"
"She reviews a lot of stories on different sites. She's obviously clever. I was just stupid, thinking I could write down what loosing Buffy meant to me, what she was like as a sister. I won't do it again. I won't write anything, ever again!"
She stood up, turned off the computer and smiled at him. For an instant Buffy was standing in front of him, being cold and brave when her mother died, turning off her feelings because she was the Slayer and had a job to do.
And from a deeper memory bank, came a picture of torn pieces of paper fluttering down to earth in a dirty London street; pieces of paper containing a silly poem to a girl called Cecily,
And the broken pieces of his heart snapped again.
Two evenings later the girl was sitting in front of a computer in her school library, finishing another review. She hadn't been able to wait until she got home because her head was full of opinions. This review was even more acerbic. She was quite surprised herself at how easily the sarcastic words had appeared on the screen.
The cold breeze from an open window didn't alarm her. But just as she was about to press the Send button, a thin pale hand flashed across her shoulder and grasped her wrist. "Don't do that!" a voice whispered in her ear. "Don't press send.'
And she turned, trembling in horror, to face a nightmare come to call.