patriciatepes: (jokerwrite)

Author Name: Patriciatepes (Patricia de Lioncourt )

Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Batman: the Animated Series

Rating: PG-13

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)

Chapter Links: Prev | Next

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 [livejournal.com profile] 20thcenturyvole. I started this story long, long ago, and decided to finish it for the [livejournal.com profile] wipbigbang.  I do author's notes every chapter on fanfiction (dot) net, but I'll only copy the relevant ones here.

Chapter 8- See Who I Am

It seemed to Dawn that to have such a lavishly furnished apartment, she spent so little time in it. In fact, most of her time was spent at Arkham, and even when she did have an off night, she was often up in Dick's apartment, working on her Judo. It was like the sole purpose to her apartment was only so she could have a place to sleep… but she had not done much of that recently either. Not since the Joker's little comment.

It unnerved her, to be honest. She had spent the rest of that night, after Joker's too-keen observation, with her arms about herself, like she was constantly cold, and her eyes darting from cell to cell, like she expected all of the inmates to suddenly start pointing and screaming at her. The other orderlies had been concerned for her, asking if any of the inmates had harmed her. She assured them that this had not been the case, that she was just feeling a little under the weather. Alisha had even sent her home an hour earlier, saying that she just could not bear to see the girl looking so "uncomfortable" anymore.

The little revelation was affecting her more than she would have liked. There was not a moment that passed when the Joker's voice, saying those simple little words, did not echo through her head.

"You glow. A faint green color, at that."

She had just assumed, after the lack of encounters with crazy people after Glory, that, when the Hell God had died, that her "keyness" had died off with her, leaving only Dawn Summers—the vessel, as Willow had described her physical form once—behind. And, the night after talking with the Joker, Dawn had been ready to cling to this thought. That was until curiosity got the better of her. She had had to make rounds that night to several different inmates—some more infamous than others—like she did most of her work nights for dinner, and she had decided to take advantage of it. Her first stop had been Poison Ivy—the only vegetarian diet in the asylum.

She had followed protocol concerning serving them, but when the guard had began to move on, she had leaned into the glass.

"Miss Ivy?" she had whispered.

The plant woman's vibrant red hair bounced as she smirked up at her from her seat on the bed, her greenish skin an almost sickly color underneath the florescent lights. But even with the poor lighting, Dawn could not deny the beauty that she was renowned for.

"What do you see when you look at me?"

She had only been halfway through her question before Ivy's eyes had widened. She slid, like a cat slinking off a chair, off of her bed, pressing a hand flat against the asylum glass.

"What are you?" she whispered, almost reverently.

Dawn blinked. That question had simply made her sick. Pursing her lips, she repeated her question, more firmly.

"What do you see when you look at me?"

"Green," Ivy whispered. "Power… pure power. Are you connected to the plants as well? Are you one of my kind?"

Dawn had only sighed, pushing her tray cart—and herself—away. She continued her experiment with every other inmate she fed. And every one… every single one… could see her. See the Key in her. The rest of her night had gone pretty much like the one with before had, save for being sent home an hour early—she had refused it.

She had to shake this. And she had to find out what it all meant. Both were easier said than done. Her mission here was to save her sister, like Buffy had done so often for her. But she could not focus. Not after this.

"What are you?"

Good question. Two days later, her only off night that week, she was back in Dick's apartment, getting better and better at her Judo—but still not good enough to pin her trainer. She dodged a high kick, striking out with a low one to sweep him off his feet. He jumped it, back-flipping—actually back-flipping—to regain his advantage. She blinked, caught off guard by the obviously advanced move. How long would it take her to get that agile?

She had still not shook herself from the small surprise when he came at her again, easily pinning her. Shirtless—as he usually preferred to practice—and leaning down over her, his long ponytail tickling her left ear lightly, Dawn found herself fighting hard against a deep blush. He narrowed his eyes at her, confusion all over the young man's face.

"What's up, Dawn?" he said, letting her out of his pin to sit back, cross-legged, on the mat.

Dawn propped herself up on her elbows. "What do you mean?"

He shrugged. "I don't know. You just seem… out of it. Did something happen?"

She pulled herself up to sit cross-legged as well. With a heavy sigh, she rubbed her shoulder, eyes adverted. Dick was so easy to talk to, and she had no idea why this was. But no matter how easy, she could not very well tell him exactly what was wrong.

Oh, an inmate—the Joker, as a matter of fact—mentioned that I "glow" the other day. You see, I used to be the human form for a mystical, inter-dimensional Key. Or, at least I thought "used to" was the case. Nope, turns out that it didn't go away after my sister—a vampire slayer—killed the Hell God that wanted to use me to get home.

Yeah… that didn't sound crazy in the least. Dawn sighed, shaking her head.

"Something was said at work the other night," she began, trying to keep it as vague as possible. "Nothing really bad… just confusing. It's kind of kept me off guard since then."

Dick's eyes narrowed. "What was said?"

Dawn blinked, eyes wide. Then, looking away once more, she muttered, "I'd rather not say."

Dick held up a dismissive hand. "I understand. So… why is it bothering you?"

She did not answer immediately. After all, without the specifics, it was pretty damn hard to describe how she felt. Dick seemed to understand, putting no rush on her to explain. And it was a long moment before she felt confident that she could.

"This thing that was said… was a big part of my life a long time ago. And back then, when I was first learning of it, it was kind of a bad surprise. It really messed me up. And—"

She froze, trying to consider her next statement. After all, she was not sure how much she wanted him to know of her just yet… well, what she wanted him to know that was true.

"And?" Dick asked.

She blushed, the gentleness in his question making the small truth that she was considering withholding slip right out.

"The night I found out about this… thing, I slit my wrists," she said, looking away.

Her whole face was burning, embarrassed. She could not look at him as she continued.

"I'm not proud of it. It was a bad call, without a doubt. I ended up in the hospital that night, and then wearing bandages on my wrists for a little while until the cuts healed. My mother died not too long after that, and it bothers me—" She paused here, her throat tight as she fought tears. "It bothers me that that was one of the last memories that she might have had of me before she died."

Her face was still determinately turned away from Dick. What must he think of her? What must he think of a person that would do that to themselves? But she felt his hand reach out, coming to rest on hers. She gasped, a single tear rolling free, as she looked at him.

There was no judgment in his eyes. Only worry and concern for her. She smiled, sighing.

"I'm sure your mother thought nothing bad of it, Dawn. But, this thing that was said… do you still feel this way about it?" he asked softly.

She shook her head. "No. No. I've come to terms with it. And, like I said, I thought it was out of my life. But, evidently, it's not. I just worry that… that it means that something bad could happen. Um, that last part is sort of difficult to explain, but this thing could honestly mean the coming of very bad stuff. And I don't know what to do, if that becomes the case."

Dick leaned back, seemingly lost in thought. He crossed his arms over his still-bare chest and sighed. Finally, he only shrugged.

"You know what? Sometimes, Dawn, we can only burn the bridges as we come to them. There's no point in worrying over a future that no one can possibly predict. I know that none of that is much comfort, but it's true."

Dawn mulled his words over, her eyes cast downward. Finally, she grinned, standing.

"You're right. It's just… when bad stuff happens to me, to my family, it tends to be major-league bad. Gets a person worrying, you know? But you're right. You are. But…"

Dick stood, eyes narrowed. "But what?"

She shrugged. "I just wish I knew what it meant, this thing coming back to bite me in the ass."

He laughed, and she joined in. Taking the smallest of steps forth, he sighed, resting a soft, tentative hand on her shoulder. Her eyes widened, just for a moment, before she looked up at him.

"In all seriousness, Dawn," he said, quietly, "if you ever need anything—and I mean anything—come to me. I'd hate to see anything happen—"

He stopped, glancing away. Dawn blinked. A moment passed. Then another. Finally, his gaze came back to her, their eyes meeting. The awkwardness that had built in those few moments melted away, and both began to lean toward one another. Dawn was slowly getting to her tiptoes, their lips growing ever nearer…

And, only inches away, Dick paused, his eyes going to the door of his loft just as a soft cough broke the moment.

"Barbara," he said as Dawn whirled, sure that she had successfully "hair smacked" him.

A young woman, roughly the same age as Dick, stood in the doorway. Her bright red hair was loose, hanging just past her bare shoulders, and the black dress she wore was short and unornamented. Her lips were painted a dark red, almost black, and they parted in an unreadable grin.

"I hope I'm not interrupting," she said.

Dawn blinked, feeling her face flush. Dick sighed, stepping out from behind her.

"What's up?" he asked.

Barbara—as Dick had addressed her—cocked her head to the right, her eyes still glued to Dawn.

"Not going to introduce her? How rude," she said, stepping forward and sticking out a pale hand. "Barbara Gordon. Pleased to meet you."

Dawn shook her hand, trying desperately not to look like she had gotten her hand caught in the cookie jar before dinner time.

"Dawn. Dawn Winters. And, I'm so sorry, but I have to run. Gotta get some sleep. Work tomorrow, and all that," she said, breaking the greeting and backing toward the apartment door, grabbing her shoes as she went. "Bye."

"Bye," she heard Dick say, his voice more of a question than a statement as she bolted from the loft.

Back in her own apartment on the floor below, she threw herself onto her bed and grabbed a pillow. Shoving it to her face, she screamed. When she could no longer breathe, she tossed it behind her head, and rolled to her side, staring out the window at the night sky.

A girlfriend. Dick had a girlfriend. And the two of them had almost… How stupid could she be? And why the hell did all her boyfriend choices have to be bad? Seriously? Even Buffy, when she dated the wrong type of guy—i.e. vampire—they were still available and not wanting to kill her.

Well, not while they were dating, at least.

Dick was probably being raked over the coals, she thought, scooting up to rest her head on her pillows. It served him right.

Without even bothering to change into her pajamas, she pulled herself under the blankets. Sometimes it was better just to sleep the rest of a day away.

#

She just could not handle it anymore. The confusion, the worrying, the wondering, none of it. So, as soon as Dawn had caught up on all her duties that following night at Arkham, she made a beeline for the inmate's cell who had started all of her troubles—and was continuing to be a source of them. The Joker.

It was late, so most were asleep behind their walls of glass, but Dawn was pleased to see that Joker lay awake, stretched out on his cot, reading. Out of sheer morbid curiosity, she leaned down, trying to catch the title of the book. But he spotted her too quickly, shutting it with a snap and sliding it out of sight. His smile growing even wider, he leapt to his feet, running the few steps it took to get to the glass.

"Goody, goody! A visitor! You'd be surprised how few of those I get," he said, a laugh following this statement.

Dawn crossed her arms, glancing both ways before replying, "I somehow doubt that."

The hall around her was empty, and the surrounding cells were filled with nothing but snoring inmates. Joker's permanent smile was sly now as he mimicked her earlier glance before leaning so close that his breath fogged the glass.

"Ooh, a clandestine meeting in the dead of night… you better be careful, kiddo. Harley's the jealous type," he whispered, his voice taking on that deeper, silkier tone again.

Dawn shuddered, and his grin widened once more. Her face stony, she locked eyes with the madman.

"I wanna know," she said.

His brow arched. "Want to know what? The secret to my good looks, to my witty personality? I'm afraid I can't reveal those little tidbits to you, unless…"

His eyes drifted to the cell's door. Dawn rolled her eyes, taking a single step forward.

"I know how you got your 'good looks,' and as for your personality, I'd be willing to guess that you've been that sadistic your entire life," Dawn hissed.

Joker laughed. "Oooh, down, kitty."

"What I want to know," she said, ignoring him, "is what exactly it is you see when you look at me."

He pressed a gloved hand to the glass, the look in his eye hungry.

"You know," he whispered, intrigued.

"Tell me."

"I've already told you, Dawn."

It bothered her, him using her name, and she shuddered again.

"I need details. Is it bright? What does the glow look like? Is it coming from my skin?"

Joker leaned back, crossing his arms as he huffed out a tiny laugh.

"I'll make you a deal. I'll tell you what I see when I look at you… and you'll tell me what it means. Got it?"

"Deal. You first," she said.

He leaned forward again, his eyes almost twinkling, but dark.

"It's bright and shiny, like a new penny, but green, like Pam's precious plants. And it's not coming from your skin… it's more like, around you."

"Around me? Like an aura?"

Joker snapped his fingers, nodding. "Yeah. Just like that."

"That's it? That's all you see?"

"Right on the money. Now… you tell me why I see it, toots."

Dawn swallowed hard, drinking in the information. She looked away from the clown, her eyes unfocused. Joker growled, slamming the side of his fist into the glass.

"Answer me! What are you?"

She really wished people would stop asking her that. Turning her attention back to him, she shrugged.

"You're seeing things. I've got work to do."

"No! We had a deal! Come back here! Come back here, or I'll wring your little neck!" he screamed as she strode off up the hall.

And it was a testament to how often screaming occurred in the asylum that none of the surrounding inmates even fidgeted in their sleep as he raged on.


End Notes: So close, huh, for Dawn and Dick? How did everyone enjoy that? I know it was kind of short, but I know that some of the upcoming chapters will get back to the length of some of the earlier ones. Please review!

Fun Fact: Last chapter's title was inspired by 3 Doors Down's song, "Let Me Go."

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