Word Count 1,480 words
Character: Dawn, Buffy, Giles, Xander, Willow, and surprise guests
A/N: Post-Chosen: A seriously ill Dawn faces an odd choice, when mysterious strangers appear with dire warnings about her condition. Written for still_grrr prompt #67
Dawn was pondering wills, and who to leave her diaries to, when she felt a chill that made her shake violently. At first she thought it was the illness, and for awhile she settled back into her pillow.
It was one of those mysterious illnesses, as if a cold wasn’t bad enough. Cheryl, the slayer nurse, had passed Dawn on to a doctor who still made house calls and didn’t ask too many questions. That woman – it only made sense that Giles had found a female doctor for his gaggle of slayers – had ordered more tests than everything House ran in a whole season.
Fever, headache, dizziness, lethargy … she’d been so healthy as a kid, and now she was a research project.
“Bleh.” She reached for her water bottle, which had been filled by one of her visitors. Clem had brought soup for a late supper; then came Buffy, Xander, Buffy again, Giles, Willow, and Buffy once or twice more, at intervals of about an hour. A girl couldn’t get a decent night’s sleep.
God, she hated being taken care of. She brooded on that for a moment, while some odd feeling tickled the back of her brain – the feeling that something was very wrong.
After all these years of being attacked by various creatures of the night she’d gotten thoroughly sick of being watched after by others. Okay, so she was really sick – it’s not like she didn’t have a good excuse for staying in bed. But ever since they got to Chicago she’d been trying to overcome her reputation for getting into trouble, and needing help yet again sure wasn’t improving things.
Then she froze, feeling it – a wave of dizzying energy.
It was as if something, some force of incredible power, had passed by and enveloped her in its energy. She jumped out of bed despite her muscle aches, stumbled against the wall of her little bedroom, but managed to stay on her feet.
“What –?” Something was here, something of incredible power in the building. Something magical.
That could be bad. Magical hell had broken loose before in the Council headquarters, and she had the memory of bad hospital food to prove it.
Dawn swayed in place, waiting for a moment of dizziness to pass, and looked blearily at her alarm clock. Almost ten a.m. – she should be at her Advanced Latin class right now.
Pushing herself away from the wall, Dawn stepped into her slippers, then headed toward the door. If something was going on, she’d darn well be there to help. She shoved the door open, braced herself for a moment, then started off down the hallway. The force pulsated through the building as if alive, and she allowed it to pull her toward the conference room across from the gym.
Two slayers stood there, both armed, watching her approach with incredulous expressions. “Um, you’re not supposed to be up,” Suzy told her.
“I’m up.” Mouth set firmly to keep her teeth from chattering, Dawn started to move past them, but Vi blocked her way.
“Dawn, they’re having kind of an important – thing – in there.”
“I know, I felt it too.”
Dawn looked at the other two girls, and realized neither had a clue about the immense power that had entered their lives. Was this just her? Was this a Key thing? “Oh, I’ve gotta get in there.”
“But –“ Vi’s gaze swept over her.
Looking down, Dawn saw a sweat-dampened cotton nightshirt -- red with a teddy bear on the front -- bare legs that could use some Nair, and fuzzy slippers with still more bears covering her toes. For the first time, she realized the bears appeared to be looking up her skirt.
“Maybe you should change first?” Suzy suggested.
“They can take me as I am,” Dawn declared with a raspy voice. “Besides, it fits – I’m in a bear of a mood.” She shoved past them.
Inside, Buffy had been pacing right by the door, and almost collided with her sister. They supported each other for a second, while Xander, Willow, and Giles leaped from their seats at the conference table.
But it was the two strangers who immediately grabbed Dawn’s attention.
It would be hard for them not to, considering how the male swept toward her despite Buffy’s threatening growl. She pushed Dawn behind her, almost making her sister keel over, but the man wasn’t deterred.
“There you are – fantastic! The object of all this fuss.” He spoke with a distinct British accent.
“You’re scaring her,” warned a blonde woman of about Dawn’s age, who sat at the table with her legs crossed, looking relaxed and a little bemused.
“No he’s not,” Dawn protested. “I’m just sick.”
“Yes, so you are,” the man said, “and so here we are – do you trust me?”
Xander made a scoffing noise.
Dawn stared at the man, who was grinning like a maniac. Who was the source of the power she’d detected. She could see it rolling off him now, in waves. “Yes.”
“Yes?” Willow exchanged a startled look with Xander. Giles just stood there, a dangerous expression on his face.
“Yes. Sure. He could have destroyed us by now.” Dawn turned to address the man. “What do you want?”
“You.” He waved his hand to encompass her outfit. “And you fit right in, too!”
“You really do,” the blonde agreed with a nod. “You should see his old wardrobe.”
Giles cleared his throat. “Perhaps it would help if you could be a bit more specific.”
“What?” The man whirled around, his leather coat billowing behind him. “Isn’t it obvious? This girl’s a mystical key, a portal into another universe. These things shouldn’t exist, yet there she is.”
Dawn looked to the girl, who gave her an encouraging wink.
“Yes, but what’s wrong with her?” Buffy brushed a hand against Dawn’s cheek. “Why is she sick?”
“Well, she’s surrounded by mystical people -- that’s something her creators didn’t consider. I’ll bet she’s been hit by actual bolts of pure energy, hasn’t she?”
“Um, twice,” Xander admitted.
“Three times.” Willow glanced at Xander. “Remember, when Buffybot got resurrected?”
“Oh, the robot, fantastic!” The man turned his attention on Willow. “Can I see it?”
“No!” Hands on hips, Buffy glared at him. “Whenever I’m in Chicago, it’s on assignment. Can you help my sister, or not?”
“Oh, of course.” Turning, he held his hand out toward Dawn. “I can take you to a place where the energies can be drained off harmlessly – in fact, they could even help power my ship. I usually use a supernova for that …”
“Your ship?” Dawn stared at him, watching in wonder as he seemed to glow. She realized she could see it from the girl too, although on a much smaller scale. “And I’d be normal after that?”
“Oh, no ... you’ll be well, and seem normal, as you always have – but you’ll continue to be special inside.”
“What if I don’t go?”
He sobered instantly. “Well … eventually your illness would become … a problem.”
“What kind of problem?” she pressed.
He took a breath. “A fatal problem. Not for you – you’d simply become a ball of energy again, existing in that space between universes. But that conversion would release a lot of energy.”
He didn’t have to say more. Fatal energy, bomb type energy. Maybe she shouldn’t trust this guy; maybe she should have the same suspicious expression that everyone else wore. But he had an aura of good that even Willow didn’t seem to recognize. “I guess there’s not much of a choice then, is there? You just have to promise that if you can’t fix me you’ll take me to a place where no one will be hurt.”
That shocked everyone into silence. The man, his face grave, simply nodded.
Buffy turned to Giles, her expression murderous. “You said disaster always surrounds this guy.”
“Well, yes.” After a moment, Giles shrugged. “But disaster always surrounds you, too, Buffy. It’s rather the cost of being a hero, wouldn’t you say?”
After a long moment Buffy said only, “If you’re going with him, I’m going too.”
The man held out his hands in invitation.
More silence. Dawn looked around at the expectant faces, and suddenly realized they were waiting on her to make a decision. It was up to her, then? To stay here, and maybe survive by some magical miracle pulled out of Willow’s hat? Or to go with some stranger who seemed drawn to danger, to some place where she might simply fade into the nothingness she’d been drawn from?
“Somebody get me some clothes,” Dawn said, and then she pointed at the man. “And tell me who my new friend is.”
The blonde grinned. “Oh, he’s just called The Doctor.”
“The Doctor,” Dawn repeated. Well, that made sense, in this case. “Doctor Who?”