I don't own anything. Buffy is not owned by me. It is owned by rich, talented people. I'm a nobody. Please don't sue me.
"Look, Dawnie," Buffy said with a tired sigh. She had been up since far too early in the morning for her sister to be this difficult. If she wasn't a centaur, Buffy would think she was as stubborn as a mule. "What do you want out of me? I'm trying, okay. It's apparently not good enough, but it's all I got."
Dawn sighed, looking away. The two of them had been fighting constantly since she had become General Buffy full time, mostly, in Dawn's opinion, because Buffy barely even looked at her anymore. "Did Xander send you out here again?"
"No!" Buffy snapped, finally running out of her already short supply of patience. "I've got Xander and Wills and my people researching my Slayer dream. So since I was free, I decided to come see my sister, who for reasons I'm having trouble remembering I love to death, but if all you want to do is fight, I can get that, well, everywhere. Like from the dragon coming to eat Sweden."
Buffy stood up, her back stiff with anger. "Wait," Dawn said quietly, looking at the ground. "I don't want to fight."
Buffy sighed, sitting back down and putting her head in her hands. "Dawn, what am I doing wrong? I know I'm busy, like, always. I know I should pay more attention to you, but you don't make it easy, with the smart mouth and the passive agression. Can we just... I love you. I..."
"Um, Buffy," Dawn interrupted.
"Wait. Let me say this first. I know I haven't been here for you as much as I should have. But that doesn't mean I don't care!"
"Buffy," Dawn tried again.
"'Cause I do. Lots. Lots and lots. I just don't always do a good job with the showing. But the caring is there!"
"Buffy!" Dawn shouted.
"Okay. I suck. I get it. So I'm just going to say this. I love you, Dawnie. And I want to do better. And... and I'm sorry." Buffy sighed in relief. She had never liked apologizing, but it felt good to get that off of her chest.
"Thanks," Dawn said wryly. "And I'd love to finish this moment, 'cause really, totally a moment there. But I'm having a different kind of moment over here."
Buffy finally looked up, and gaped in shock. Instead of the centaur Dawn had been transformed into, she was now facing a tiny doll in the form of her sister. "Dawnie!?"
"Yeah, hey sis!" Dawn said, waving a tiny doll arm. "I seem to have come down with a case of dolliness."
Buffy gently picked her sister up, staring at her with so much fear and concern that Dawn shifted guiltily. "Are you okay? Does it hurt? I'm going to get Willow. And then I'm going to find that Kenny, and I'm gonna rip his tentacles off and stuff them in places that, um, I guess he has?"
"Wait," Dawn said. "Don't hurt him. It's my fault."
"He cursed you! I let it sit 'cause you wanted me too, and you could take care of yourself. Now I'm gonna..."
"No. It is my fault. He only cursed me 'cause I slept with his roommate!"
Buffy paused, her jaw hanging open in shock. "What?"
Dawn looked down miserably. "I knew he as a thricewise, but I still dated him. And I pissed him off. I knew it was dumb... but I did it anyway."
"Why?" Buffy asked, shocked.
"Look around!" Dawn shouted, suddenly angry. "You were my only sister a few years ago. Now there are all these Slayers, and they're like, all sorta-little-sisters to you. And they've all got powers, and they fight for your army, and... and how do I compete with that?"
"Oh, Dawnie," Buffy said, with a quiet intensity as she looked down at her sister. "Why would you do that to yourself? Becoming a giant, a horsey, a doll? That is so beyond normal passive-aggressive."
"You never even talked to me!" Dawn shouted, before looking down and speaking with a choked voice. "I thought after Sunnydale we'd spend time together. But you always had to go get Slayers, or go fight demons, or train your troops, or a hundred other things. I was at college for a month, and you didn't even call once! Not once!"
"Dawn," Buffy choked, tears in her eyes.
"No! It's my time to say something. I know what you're doing is important. I get it. It's your life's work, and it's saving so many people. You're literally saving the world. But you forgot about me. You always forget about me."
"I'm sorry," Buffy said. "I am. So, so, sorry. It's no excuse. But Dawnie, if you ever believe anything I ever say, believe this. I got a thousand soldiers. Only one sister. I love you more than anything. Anything. It's no excuse, but if I had any idea you felt so ignored, I would have done something. I just thought you'd want some space, what with the college and all. Why didn't you tell me?"
Dawn swallowed, before looking away. "I wanted you to care enough to call."
"I do. I love you Dawn."
Dawn looked up. "I know. I just... I felt abandoned."
"Not anymore!" Buffy said firmly. "I'll let Xander get the dragon slaying plan together. We'll get Wills and figure out how to break this curse. Then I'll make sure Kenny knows not to mess with the my little sister."
"No," Dawn said, shaking her head. "I need to talk to him first. I screwed up, not him. I need to apologize."
Buffy smiled at her. "Okay. Apologies first, then we fix it. Maybe with slaying."
Buffy carried her sister to the phone, before dialing and leaving it next to her so that she could talk. Buffy walked out into the hallway, leaning against the wall, lost in thought. She felt like a complete heel. Wiping her eyes, she knew that her mom would be disappointed in her for forgetting her sister, no matter how important her stuff was. There was no excuse.
Sighing, Buffy knew that being sorry wouldn't do anyone any good. If she wanted to make things right, she would have to make an effort to be there for her sister. Not just a few greeting card words and empty promises. She knew exactly how much her father's lack of presence had hurt her. Like father like daughter, she guessed.
"Buffy!" Dawn suddenly shouted.
She ran back into the room, only to pause in shock at the sight of her naked sister, who had returned to human form. "Dawn?!"
Dawn beamed at her for a second, before saying goodbye and hanging up. "So, apparently, the curse only lasted until I apologized."
"Huh," Buffy said as she grabbed a blanket to cover her sister. "Good thing it wasn't on me then, huh? 'Cause I do that about once a year, at best.."
Dawn giggled, and Buffy smiled as a knot untied itself in her chest. She had her sister back, and this time she wouldn't let her go so easily. Nothing was more important than family, and she wouldn't forget it.
Buffy strolled confidently into the antique sitting room that they had made over for briefings. She had spent several hours reconnecting with Dawn, and she was glad that she had had the opportunity. Somewhere along the way her little sister had become not so little, and she found herself wondering what the woman she was becoming would be like someday. Buffy even believed that she would get a chance to see it, which was a revelation that had surprised her. She had grown so used to having an expiration date, that she didn't usually think about the future.
Willow and Xander had both beaten her there, and the two of them were squabbling good naturedly when she entered. Xander grinned at her. "Hey! If it isn't the Buffster. Fashionably late as always."
"Always fashionable," Buffy agreed perkily as she flounced into her seat. "So, whats the sitch?"
"Well," Willow said. "I figured out what the dragon is. Um, do you want the bad news, or the really bad news? 'Cause I've got plenty of both."
"See, this is why you're leader Buff," Xander said. "Me, I'd be stuck on that decision 'til the cows came home. Then, they'd eat us, 'cause, you know, they'd be demon cows."
"I hate those," Buffy said, wrinkling her nose.
"Demon cows?" Willow asked. "When were there demon cows? How did I miss that?"
Xander pointed at Willow sternly. "See! This is what happens when you go off South America way and not see your best buds for months and months and months. Did I mention there were months, and many of them? All without my Will fix."
"Yup, Willow didn't have a cow," Buffy said, nodding.
"But I wanted a cow!" Willow objected. "We just got jaguars! With the were-ing! Were jaguars: not so cute as you might think." She took a deep breath. "Anyway. Dragon. Big bad."
"Thought as much, what with the Slayer dream and all," Buffy said nonchalantly as she poured herself a cup of coffee, before adding a sinful amount of cream and sugar.
"Yeah, but this is mythically bad," Willow said. "His name's Fafnir. He's the grandson of another dragon named Fafnir, who was killed by this old Norse guy named Sigurd. This Fafnir's been around and eating Sweden for a thousand years now."
"Wait," Xander said, frowning. "How come I haven't heard of this? 'Cause vamps? I get it with the hiding, what with the human looking, and the pretending to be normal. But a big honkin' dragon eating Sweden? How did we not know about this?"
"He hibernates," Willow explained. "He just gets up once every two hundred years and is a little hungry. So he, you know, eats his way across Sweden."
"So, what's the worse news?" Buffy asked.
"How do you know that wasn't the worse?" Xander asked.
"'Cause this is our life," Buffy answered blandly. "No way was that the worse news."
"Right," Willow said nodding. "Worse news: Fafnir ate all three Slayers that went after it. And their Watchers. And, um, two covens. And six different armies."
"So, modern weapons?" Xander suggested. "I always wanted to slay a dragon with a bazooka."
"Ooh," Buffy said. "Maybe somethin' extra 'splody."
"The 'splodiest," Xander agreed with a solemn nod.
"Whoa there!" Willow interjected. "It won't work."
"Why not?" Xander asked disappointedly.
"Napoleon tried it last time Fafnir woke up," Willow answered. "He sent in a battalion of artillery. They got smushed. Then, you know, eaten."
"So how do I get my slay on?" Buffy asked.
Willow shrugged sheepishly. "I dunno. It ate several covens, so magic doesn't seem like a good idea, and cannons didn't work, so modern guns? Not so good sounding an option. And armies attacked it, and three different Slayers, so old school fighting sounds like a bad plan..."
"Well, what about before?" Buffy asked. At their blank looks she elaborated. "With Far-near senior? How'd Ziggy get him?"
Willow flipped through a book for a moment before answering. "Ooh! Good idea. He had a magic sword!"
"So, magic weapons then?" Xander asked. "Too bad you couldn't keep the Sword of Light. Think the Scythe would work?"
Willow frowned thoughtfully. "Maybe. But it probably isn't a good idea."
"Why?" Buffy asked.
"'Cause if it doesn't, you and all of Sweden get eaten," Willow explained.
"That is a problem," Xander agreed.
"We have to do something, though," Buffy said. "Was there anything special about the sword he used?"
"Well, it was a pretty special sword," Willow said thoughtfully as she examined another book. "It was made by Wayland the Smith for Odin, who gave it to Sigurd's father. Odin then broke it, and Fafnir's brother Regin reforged it. So, it was owned by a god, and two really great smiths worked on it."
"Wait, a dragon worked on it?" Xander asked. "Bet that would save on running a forge, what with the fire breath and all."
"No, no," Willow said. "Regin was a dwarf."
"He was really short?" Buffy asked, confused.
"No," Willow said, shaking her head. "Like from Tolkien, but way creepier. They're from a dimension called Svartálfaheim. They made a bunch of stuff for the Norse gods, including some really powerful stuff. So a dwarf reforging it? It probably had awesome magic."
"Well," Buffy said. "Where is this sword? 'Cause if it's the only thing we know will kill a Far-near dragon? I kinda want it."
The three of them cracked the books for a while, until eventually Willow got their attention. "Um, well, I found some stuff. It was called Gram, and it was definitely a cool sword. But... I can't find anything on what happened to it. It just, um, disappeared from history."
"Hey!" Xander said, his eyes lighting up. "Idea. Lotta Norse peoples liked to make burial mounds, with all kinds of cool stuff buried with them. What if it disappeared 'cause it was in his tomb?"
"Ooh!" Willow said, nearly bouncing in her seat from her excitement. "Good thought! If it was buried with him, then no one would see it again. It would just be sitting there, collecting dust, except not really since it would be covered in dirt, but still. Not being used."
"Cool," Buffy said, smirking. "So where did Ziggy die?"
"I dunno," Xander said, shrugging. "I couldn't find anything about that. Still, it can't be that hard to find, right?"
"Also, um... I had another thought," Willow interjected. "Remember how you were talking about Twilight, and how he is, well, causing havoc on an apocalyptic scale?"
"Uh huh," Xander agreed. "Shouldn't be too much trouble for a bit still. Too early for full apocalypse season."
"Still, don't wanna get caught by surprise," Buffy said. "We've got so many resources now. Seems a shame not to get the jump on the baddies for a change."
"Exactly!" Willow said excitedly. "So, I was reading about Fafnir, and apparently his heart would be a great ingredient for a ritual to learn all kinds of stuff. When we kill him, you should bring it back, and we could learn about Twilight, you know, before he tries to kill us."
"Ritual?" Buffy asked skeptically. "I'm not gonna have to eat the heart, am I? 'Cause that was no fun at all last time I did that. Stupid no mouth demons..."
"See, it's a really cool spell that all this Norse reading made me think of," Willow continued, ignoring Buffy. "I'll summon Huginn and Muninn, Odin's birds, and they'll find out stuff for us. Since we have to kill Fafnir anyway, I think we should do it."
"Odin's birds?" Xander asked, concerned. "Won't he be upset, you know, about his pets going missing?"
"It'll be fine," Willow said dismissively. "We won't need them long, and I'll send them back when we learn about Twilight. Still, I think it's worth doing."
Buffy hesitated. "How 'bout we wait and see after we deal with the dragon. Color me crazy, but that sounds like a big enough project to worry 'bout just now."
"Alright, but still: two birds, one stone," Willow said, before her eyes suddenly widened as she began to speak quickly. "Which, actually, you probably shouldn't say. 'Cause they are real, actual two birds, and we want them to help, so bringing up stoning them, probably not of the good."
"Anyway, back on topic," Buffy said, smiling at her friend's trademark babble. "How do we find this guy's grave?"
"I can find it in a jif," Willow said, shrugging. "Just a quick little spell, and..."
"Are you sure you need to?" Buffy interjected suddenly. "I mean, its probably in some musty ol' book, right? Why don't we just look it up?"
Buffy had been thinking quite a bit about what had happened during her trip to the future. She had encountered an evil, black haired Willow, and had been forced to kill her. Ever since then she had watched her friend immediately jump to magical solutions to every problem, and it reminded her chillingly of the year before she had tried to destroy the world. Buffy really didn't want to have to kill someone she loved, again.
"It'll only take a sec, Buffy," Willow said, her forehead creased with confusion.
"It won't take long to find something in the books," Buffy countered, grabbing one and flipping through it, frowning when she realized that it was in Norse.
Willow rolled her eyes and grabbed the book from her. "It's just a little spell."
"Uh, Wills," Xander said, looking between the two women worriedly. "I might be going way out on a limb here, but... that sounds familiar. In a bad way."
"Please," Willow scoffed. "I'm way different than I was. I've got everything under control now."
"We just worry," Buffy said, smiling placatingly. "Magic is... dangerous. Even when you're doing good stuff... there's always consequences."
"What is this?" Willow demanded. "An intervention?"
"No!" Xander objected. "No way! I didn't even know the Buffster was worried about it. We didn't plan, or colude, or-"
"Colude?" Willow asked, bemused.
"Hey!" Xander objected. "I know fancy words and stuff. Got a high school diploma and everything."
"Yup, we picked 'em out of the rubble, remember?" Buffy said smiling, before becoming serious again. "We just worry, Willow. We don't want to lose you again."
"Hey," Willow said, shaking her head. "Totally under control. Really."
Buffy and Xander exchanged a look, before Buffy sighed. "Alright, Wills. If you're sure. Just... be careful."
"Hey, it's me," Willow said, smiling. "I'm always careful. Completely. I mean, who else looks both ways twice before crossing the street? Or, you know, a hallway." She left for a minute before returning with a map and setting it on the table. She chanted quietly, and then a glow appeared on the map. "There! In Sweden."
"Well, that's convenient," Buffy said, looking at it closely.
"Gullringen," Xander read. "That sounds familiar."
"It does?" Buffy asked, looking at him askance.
"Yeah, let me think," Xander said, frowning thoughtfully. "Come on brain! You can do it. Oh! Remembering... right. Gullringen. I was thinking about sending a team to check it out."
"Why?" Buffy asked. "Is somethin' happening there?"
"Mental patients," Xander said. "People go crazy there, way more than they should."
"Glory?" Buffy asked sharply.
"No," Xander denied, shaking his head. "Not remotely Glory-like. Completely without any Gloriousness"
"Oh," Willow said, relieved. "That's good. "Cause more Glory? That would be bad. Really bad."
"Well," Buffy said. "If it isn't a hell god, what is it?"
"Research said it might be a draugr," Xander answered.
"Is that supposed to mean anything to me?" Buffy asked.
Xander rolled his eyes. "Really nasty undead guy. Lot of powers, plus can't be hurt with weapons."
"How do I get my slay on, then?" Buffy asked.
"You can't kill the creature when its up," Xander answered. "You have to dig its body up, chop off the head, burn the two parts, then toss the ashes in the sea."
"Thorough," Willow commented.
"Yeah, you have to really not want it around," Xander said nodding. "I mean, if it was me, I'd get the message once you chopped my head off, but apparently draugr are a bit more stubborn."
"So what do we do if its up already?" Buffy asked.
"You have to wrestle it back to its grave," Xander said. "Of course, that's not too easy, since it can change size, and is all super strong."
"Plus, crazy making," Buffy pointed out.
"Yup," Xander said nodding. "Some have other powers, too. So, you gotta be ready for anything."
"I should probably come with," Willow said. "I can help you find the tomb faster, and if he's immune to weapons, having some spell power around? Sounds like it would be of the good."
"Who else are you taking?" Xander asked Buffy.
She thought about it for a long moment, before sighing. "Actually, I think it'll have to be just Wills and me. There's this Judas Cradle vamp who's 'sposed to be leading an army against us, and I don't want to split our forces. Wills and I will do the tomb raiding, you take care of the vampire army."
"Tomb raiding?" Xander asked with a hopeful grin. "Are there costumes?"
Buffy rolled her eyes. "Just shovels. Anyway, you're in charge. I think Rowena should be in charge of the girls – she's ready for more responsibility."
"Yeah," Xander said, nodding. "She's comin' along fine. So, you gonna jet?"
"You need long Willow?" Buffy asked as they stood.
"No, I've got a go bag ready," Willow said, shaking her head. "Just need to pick it up."
"Okay," Buffy said, nodding. "How 'bout we head out after dinner? Wanna order chinese?"
"BUFFY!" Dawn's voice echoed through the entire castle. "Why does a giant salmon think it has your permission to date me?!"
"Second thought," Buffy said. "Let's eat in the air. Ready to go?"
"Buffy!" Dawn shouted as Buffy climbed out a window. She really hoped that Dawn wouldn't hold a grudge about the whole Bradan the were-salmon thing. Especially since she had just made up with her.
Still, it was funny, just as she'd hoped.
I borrowed some wording, as well as the concept for the details of Dawn's curse from Season 8 Issue #25. I changed some things around, and made it a bit simpler, but I didn't want to spend a lot of space dealing with the curse. What was really important about that was Buffy and Dawn becoming closer again.
The Judas Cradle thing was also from issue #25. He was a wannabe big bad, which was taken care of with virtually no work on Buffy's part. I would like to reiterate, that while I may use aspects of the later parts of season 8, anything after the beginning of Issue #20 is not officially a part of this story.
Gullringen is a real town in Sweden. Neither I, nor anyone I know, has ever been to Sweden. I selected the town by googling and looking at Wikipedia entries. I am going to be making up everything about Sweden using shoddy research, so don't expect any accuracy. The mental patient thing has no basis in reality; that is a common danger for having a draugr in the neighborhood, so I had that happening in the town.
Bradan the shape changing salmon is from the previous story in this series. Buffy told him he could date Dawn because she thought it would be funny, and to get some revenge on her because of how much they've been fighting lately.