Author Name: Patriciatepes (Patricia de Lioncourt )
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Batman: the Animated Series
Characters: Dawn Summers, The Joker, Nightwing/Dick Grayson, Batman, Giles, Willow, Xander, Buffy Summers, OCs, several minor scenes with major characters
Pairing: Dawn/Nightwing (Dick Grayson)
Warnings: (for all chapters) Torture, swearing
Summary: When Buffy is poisoned and dying, Dawn is left no choice but to go to Gotham for the cure that she is told is too dangerous to retrieve. Time is on her side... too bad the universe isn't.Disclaimer: I don't own Buffy, Batman, or any related characters. They belong to Whedon, DC Comics, and WB. No money made here.
Author's Notes: Art by the wonderful 20thcenturyvole. I started this story long, long ago, and decided to finish it for the wipbigbang. I do author's notes every chapter on fanfiction (dot) net, but I'll only copy the relevant ones here.
Chapter 3- Almost Paradise
The two days had passed slowly. More so than anything else Dawn had ever remembered in her life. More slowly than waiting for Christmas Day from the perspective of Christmas Eve. More so than a horrible movie that you're being forced to watch for a grade. More slowly than anticipating… well, anything, really. And the two days were not particularly easy to pass, either. Her anger at her sister and the rest of the Scoobies had subsided somewhat—which tends to happen when you make plans to take matters into your own hands. However, to avoid suspicion, she had to keep up the ruse of being pissed at them. So, "civil" took the place of "friendly" whenever she encountered one of the original Scoobies. She felt horrible, especially since she had no idea how long it would take her to get a vial of the Joker's blood, which meant that she had no idea how long she would be gone. But Xander, Willow, and the rest of the surviving Scoobies seemed used to her "righteous" anger, and took it all in stride.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the two days had ended, and Giles came to her. He had shoved a thick, almost over-full yellow business envelope into her hands. Glancing over his shoulder, he had bent his head down to hers and whispered to ensure that no one could hear them… which was silly since they were safely tucked away in Dawn's room.
"It's all there," he had said. "Passport, driver's license, even a social security card. A plane ticket is tucked in there as well. You leave tomorrow evening. My friend also gave me the proper spells to perform that will keep Willow and the Slayer Wiccans off your scent. Not permanently, mind you… but for a good long while."
So, after Giles had performed the "let's hide Dawn" mojo, she had packed her bags with only a few basic essentials and some personal items—to make her new "self" look like she had existed more than just days. Giles had also assured her that she would have everything she would need to actually live in Gotham for as long as she needed. Just after the spells were completed, Giles offered one last bit of information before exiting Dawn's room.
"Currently, the Joker is locked up in Arkham Asylum. You have an interview with a Dr. Joan Leland for an orderly position that takes place exactly four hours after your plane touches down in Gotham."
Dawn had dug out her plane ticket then to look at the estimated arrival times. Her eyebrow arched.
"Isn't this at night?" she asked.
Giles shrugged. "Dr. Leland assured me that she would there. Of course… there might have been some magical persuasion involved."
At this, the former Watcher had winked at her. Dawn laughed and shook her head. With tidings of "good luck," Giles had left the room. And the following night, Dawn had successfully left for Gotham.
She had arrived in the darkened—and frankly, dismal—city precisely four hours earlier. She caught the nearest taxi and made one stop before going to her interview at Arkham—a clothing shop. Giles had also provided her with some starter cash, which Dawn thought might best be put to use ensuring that she looked presentable enough to hire. After buying a pair of gray women's slacks and a sky-blue button up shirt, she used the store's restroom to switch from her rumpled flight clothes and made her way to the asylum.
Once she had arrived, she asked for the taxi to wait for her while she interviewed. The driver had grunted, shrugged, and said, "Your dime."
Dawn had been admitted to see Leland almost immediately. Shaking hands with her, Dawn took a seat in the very comfortable chair across from the woman's desk. Dr. Leland seemed like a pleasant enough psychiatrist, both in personality and in looks. Her ear-length hair was being restrained by a simple hair band, and her dark skin was almost blemish-free. Dawn envied her for a moment.
Leland raised an eyebrow. "You're younger than I expected from your phone call."
Dawn had to stop herself from asking, "What phone call?" Of course, Giles had probably made it seem as if she herself had inquired about the job, instead of some relatively strange man doing it for her. Poor bewitched psychiatrist. Dawn smiled and shrugged.
"Is that a bad thing?" she asked.
"You can't be over eighteen years old," Leland guessed.
Dawn huffed. "Nineteen, actually," she said, trying to keep her voice pleasant.
"And you're… willingly applying to work here?"
Define "willingly," Dawn thought.
"Yes," she answered.
"Excuse my frankness, but… why? I mean, a young woman your age should be working in a fast food place, a restaurant, a café, a clothing store… anywhere but an asylum… especially Arkham."
Giles couldn't have just bewitched Leland a little further into just giving Dawn the job? No, of course not. That would have been too easy. Dawn's smile was becoming a little strained.
"Honestly? I'm new to town. I'm taking a break from college to work up the funds to go back. And the asylum pays more than all those other places you just mentioned. Dr. Leland, I believe I can do this job, and do it well."
Leland eyed her for a moment. Finally, she leaned forward, resting her hands on her desk. "Very well. This job is dangerous and hard. You know that, right?"
"Yes. I have some experience with both, to be honest. I helped a dear friend of mine care for her girlfriend after she had had a… um, mental breakdown," Dawn said.
She hated fudging the truth of Tara's story to meet her needs. But she knew that the deceased witch, wherever she may be, would understand. After all, it was all to save Buffy's life.
Leland seemed to be trying to read Dawn, to see if she had been telling the truth. After a few moments, she nodded, seemingly satisfied.
"Normally, I wouldn't hire one as young as you are or as quickly as I am, but… I'm desperately short on orderlies. Let me get some forms here for you to sign and you can start Monday," she said, pulling some papers out of a right-hand drawer in her desk.
Dawn's face lit up. "Really? Thank you!"
Leland made a noise that was somewhere between a scoff and a laugh as she pushed the papers towards Dawn. "Don't thank me yet. Please sign where the Xs are and fill in your tax information, Miss Winters."
Dawn fought the slight cringe she felt at that name. It wasn't that she was unfamiliar with her new alias, Dawn Winters. Dawn Marie Winters, to be precise. She had read over all her information on the plane over. It was just that, as far as fake last names went, that one was pretty lame, considering her actual last name. Apparently, Giles's brain had simply shut down when it had come to choosing a name for her. However, she forced her smile back into place as she filled out all the appropriate numbers and signed in all the right places. Sliding the finished paperwork back at Leland, both of them stood.
Shaking hands, Leland grinned. "Welcome aboard, Miss Winters. You don't know how badly we need orderlies. Nobody wants this job. I'm sure you can understand…"
Dawn nodded, the sounds of various inmates causing various troubles reaching her ears. Inwardly, she groaned. Arkham Asylum held all of the most dangerous criminals known to Gotham city, and she had just waltzed in and applied to work with a bright and chipper smile in place. But she would save Buffy, no matter what.
"You'll be on the early evening shift. Be here at five p.m. Monday," Leland said, gesturing politely for Dawn to exit.
Dawn thanked the doctor again as she exited the asylum quickly—trying desperately to make it look like she wasn't trying to exit quickly. Her mind was whirling and swirling with worry as she descended the stone steps of the gaunt building and got back into the backseat of her still-waiting cab.
Monday was still days away. Not many… only like, two. But two days was a lot when your sister's impending death and the inevitable up-close-and-personal meeting with the madman that was the only chance to save her life were the only two things on your mind. But she knew she had time. The last time she had spoken to Buffy, hours before her departure, her sister hadn't even been feeling the effects of it yet. And Giles had said that the poison was slow, meant for revenge.
It took the cab driver three tries to get Dawn to focus enough to give him a destination. With a sheepish apology, she opened her mouth to give the address to her new apartment (which had also been included in her packet of information)—one that she had memorized, which made her feel both proud of herself and very 007—when she paused. She did have to live in this city, and she doubted that whoever had set up her apartment—since the information had said that it was set up—had stocked it with food. She withdrew her wallet from her purse and did a quick count—just by eyeing it—of her funds. She still had plenty.
"Um, do you know where there are any good grocery stores? And maybe a department store?" she asked.
She saw her auburn-haired driver raise a bushy brow at her through the rear-view mirror.
"There's a Super Wal-Mart out on the highway. Would that work, Miss?" he asked, as if her question had been the stupidest in the world.
And, when she thought about it, it hadn't exactly been smart. After all, Wal-Mart was everywhere now. Swallowing her pride, and trying to control the warm blush she felt spreading across her cheeks, she nodded.
It was quite a feat to load all her grocery bags, her luggage, and herself into the elevator of her new apartment building, but she managed. Luckily, there was a rather kind elderly couple who lived on the same floor as hers—the floor just below the topmost floor—who held the elevator door open for her as she carried her numerous bags up the hallway to her apartment's door—Apartment 1920.
Her taxi fee had been huge, as she had even had the man wait for as she shopped inside Wal-Mart. He had been more than happy to do so, as it was, after all, her dime. She had bought enough groceries to get through two weeks (which equals a hell of a lot of bags… it had been a very kind elderly couple holding the elevator for her), plus four sets of medical scrubs to work in. Thankfully, she had packed a comfortable pair of walking sneakers in her luggage, so shoes had not been a problem.
Now, she stood outside of Apartment 1920, digging inside her purse for her key while juggling as many bags as she could, the elderly couple long gone. Down the hall, she heard the elevator ding, but didn't bother to look up.
"Where the hell is that thing? You would think we keys would help each other out!" she muttered, resorting to putting the plastic handle of one of her bags into her mouth to give her a little more movement.
A couple more minutes of digging, and Dawn's jaw just couldn't take it anymore. Giving way against her will, the bag dropped from her mouth, threatening to spill its contents all over the hallway. She let out a little squeal of surprise as two arms appeared in her eyesight to scoop up the bag before it crashed to the floor. Following the rather toned arms up to their owner, she blinked. Her Grocery Savior was a rather attractive man—dressed all in black, with his equally raven black hair, which extended halfway down his back, tied into a low ponytail—who now stood, smiling jovially at her.
"You must be new to the city," he said as Dawn blushed.
"That obvious?" she asked, finally finding her key.
She fought against rolling her eyes. Of course she would find it right after disaster. Things were not boding well. However, the guy was still standing there, holding her fruits and veggies, and he was really good looking. Really. Unbelievably.
But, then again, he hadn't introduced himself yet. And he seemed to be laughing at her.
"Yeah, pretty obvious. Nobody does heavy shopping like this without having someone to help them… and well, it looks like you expect your cupboard to be empty. Not to mention the luggage."
Dawn arched a brow. "Very nice work, Mr. Holmes, but now onto this business about the snake…"
She wanted to slap herself. Here was another extremely hot guy, who may or may not be a vampire—as yet to be determined—and she was making a literary reference. An extremely dorky one at that. It really was like a disease. Thankfully, he laughed… and not a pity one.
"The Adventure of the Speckled Band. That one was my favorite Holmes short stories," he said. Then, as if suddenly remembering, he offered his hand. "I'm Dick Grayson. I own the loft apartment on the floor above."
She took his hand and shook it, happy to find it nice and warm. Nope, not a vampire. Unless he had just fed… She really hoped he wasn't of the undead persuasion.
"Cool," she stated, really wishing she had said something else. She felt so childish every time "cool" was her only response to something. So, hurriedly, she added, "Which one?"
"Excuse me?" he asked.
"Um, which loft do you own? Upstairs?"
He stared at her for a minute, as if she had suddenly started speaking a really weird foreign language. Finally, he laughed, shaking his head.
"I'm sorry… I didn't realize. Um, it's the only loft upstairs. It was added only in the last couple of years. Elevator doesn't even go to it… that's why I have to stop here, and take the stairs over there."
He tossed his chin in some general direction behind Dawn, who nodded. Then, looking down, he glanced around at her numerous shopping bags. When he looked back at her, he had a brow arched.
"Do you need a hand getting all this stuff in?"
"Huh?" Dawn asked, before quickly shaking herself. "Uh, yeah. Thanks."
She shoved her little silver key into the door's lock, twisted it once, and let herself inside. And paused.
The apartment was nice. But, to be honest, nice didn't really cover it. It was a fantastic apartment that must be costing Giles or whoever was helping her pay for it a fortune. The door opened up right into the living room, which was carpeted in a pleasant crème-color with an off-white paint on its walls. The couch and chairs that occupied the room looked like white leather and were facing a mid-size flat screen TV. The living room and the kitchen were separated by a breakfast bar that possessed a black, granite counter and was painted—below the counter—the same color as the living room walls. The kitchen was done in black in white, with all its appliances being silver. She could see two doors that opened up into the bathroom and bedroom that stood a few feet off from the kitchen and living room.
"Nice place," Dick said, stepping inside behind Dawn.
Definitely not a vampire. Good news. He leaned around her to stare at the rather surprised look on her face.
"Have you never… been here?" he asked.
Dawn blinked. "No. I haven't. My, um, uncle set me up. Otherwise, I would never be able to afford this. He's helping me out because he understands my… situation."
Great, she thought as the gestured towards the breakfast bar. Now she sounded like she was pregnant. Sighing, she and Dick deposited the bags upon the bar. With two sets of hands, it took a matter of moments to move all of Dawn's things inside. Neither of the two closed the apartment's door, both very aware that they were still strangers to one another. Best not to feel trapped and helpless. Especially in a city with a reputation like Gotham's. Dick moved slowly over to Dawn's groceries as she moved to unzip one of her suitcases—the one with personal effects in it. The apartment was too white. It felt cold and impersonal. She needed to add her own touches to it, and fast.
"I'll help you put up the groceries, if you'd like, Miss… uh, I haven't gotten your name yet," he said.
Dawn blinked. Smiling over at him, a faint blush creeping over her face for the second time that night, she said, "It's Dawn. Dawn Winters. Just call me Dawn… and you don't have to do that. You've been plenty helpful already."
"Ah, don't mention it," he said, already beginning on the frozen foods. "I know how hard it is to get started on your own. Not to mention, your 'situation' sounds pretty serious. Not that I mean to pry."
He said that last sentence quickly, and Dawn smiled down at her open suitcase. Moving around now, depositing picture frames onto shelves and such, she shrugged. She had to give him a story, and one that would be believable. She didn't want anyone to think that she had something to hide.
"I was in college, but I decided to take a break. I mean, I don't want to leave with gigantic student loans or anything, so I thought I'd take some time off to save up. My uncle's rather well off and understood, so he decided to give me a leg up. Which, as it turns out, was a pretty nice leg," she said, pausing to take in her apartment once again.
Dick laughed as he finished putting away the last few grocery items. Dawn was also reaching the end of the personal items she had packed. Finally, reaching in, she withdrew the last item. The thick, yellow belt she had earned just months ago.
"You do martial arts?" Dick asked, coming to stand in front of the breakfast bar.
Dawn smiled proudly. "Yeah. I haven't been to a class in a few weeks, seeing as the place I was learning at was a couple of blocks away from my college… in California."
"Ah, California girl. That explains the weird accent," he smiled.
Dawn bit her lip, trying her best not to let her "wide, goofy" grin loose. "I don't have a 'weird' accent."
Dick shrugged. "Well, sounds weird to me. What did you practice, in your dojo?"
"Judo… my sister wanted me to learn self-defense if I was going to live so far away from her. And I really wanted to learn, to be honest."
…Which was completely true. Buffy had all but forced her into that dojo when she had dropped her little sister off in San Francisco. And Dawn had not needed much forcing.
"Well, that's a nice coincidence, I run a dojo upstairs… that's why I need the large loft. Judo's one of the things I teach," Dick said.
"Really? I'd love to start practicing again," Dawn said.
And she would. Maybe she could "Judo chop" the Joker into submission if she got good enough, fast enough. She had to fight giggling at that thought. After all, she didn't want to scare the new, cute, upstairs neighbor-guy.
"I could teach you. Free of charge," he offered.
Dawn's eyes widened. "I-I couldn't ask you to do that!"
Dick scoffed. "Don't worry about it. Think of it as a 'welcome to Gotham' gift. After all, everyone needs to know how to protect themselves in Gotham. What do you say?"
"… Sure! Thanks."
"Not a problem," Dick said, right as his cell phone started to ring. Reaching into his pocket, he withdrew a slim, black phone, hit a button, and pressed it to his ear. After several "yeahs" and "uh-huhs," he flipped it closed again.
"I'm sorry, Dawn, but I've got to go. How about you call me to let me know when you're free to train?" he said, quickly scrawling his number on the back of Dawn's grocery receipt—which she assumed he had found within one of the bags.
"Sure," she said, accepting it as he disappeared out the door, closing it behind him.
Furrowing her brow, Dawn turned to the rest of her luggage to begin putting away her clothes. He had left in an awful hurry. She found herself hoping that it wasn't anything too important. Staring at the number as she piled clothes over her arm, she grinned.
"If my luck holds, maybe Joker will just give me his blood," she laughed, disappearing into her room.
Moments later, Dawn felt like the world's biggest tourist as she gawked through her living room window at the bright Bat Signal, shining across the Gotham skyline.
End Notes: A little bit of filler, as well as some character positioning. However, I hope that chapter was entertaining.
Fun Fact: Last chapter's title was inspired by "Renegade" by Styx… as some have already guessed ;)
Fun Fact 2: The Adventure of the Speckled Band happens to be my favorite Sherlock Holmes short story, so I'm glad I got to reference it.