Title: Climb or Fall
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel: the Series
Relationships: Dawn & Willow, Dawn/Fred
Summary: Finally I'm not the first. I've never been. You've been a fierce thinker who scares people to death.
Notes: An AU set long after the events of Angel 4.09.
The sun never came back. It had to be there, somehow, because they didn't freeze, and they didn't starve. But when they stared into the sky, all they saw was night, and the remnant sun's lavender rim, taunting them like a veil.
After a few months, Dawn learned to see in the dark, the way the Buffy and Faith could. It was all intuition and gradients of shadow, whispers of sound and flashes of terrifying blackness. It was action before reaction, and if Dawn wasn't Slayer-quick, she was close.
After a few years, she started to see colors in the dark, an inverted thermal map of whites and blues and greens. Willow saw her stagger during patrol, catching her arm. "Dawnie?" she whispered. Her voice was always harsh, nowadays, from long nights of chanting spells that banked moonlight like flash-bangs, condensed wads of reflected sunshine. They burnt like hell, but it took Willow two nights and a day to make even a weak one.
"I'm fine." Dawn shook her head, keeping her voice to an equal whisper. The vampire nests were under control, Buffy said, but the community's rate of attrition worried them all. She'd seen more than a few familiar faces wither to dust. She ducked her head, looking sideways at a slithering sound. "We have to get out of here. Now."
Willow stared, her confusion rising like a halo of warmth around her cheeks. "How do you--"
"Now," Dawn emphasized, and she tugged Willow, brittle-light, until they both were running.
It took Dawn two weeks to make her way to Los Angeles. Well, the first four days she spent evading Buffy, who was predictably pissed at Dawn's disappearance. Finally, she called Willow from a pay phone in Torrance. (Cell phones hadn't worked for a couple of years, since the Reapers had sacrificed a dragon on the central grid.) "They're still looking for the Beast," Dawn said, her fingers clutched around the grimy mouthpiece. "Something's happening to me. I can help them."
"It's too dangerous," Willow argued. "You could die out there."
"I could die over there, too," Dawn replied. "And Buffy can't leave the Hellmouth for so long."
There was silence, and in the distance, Dawn heard screaming.
"Help her remember, Willow," Dawn pleaded. "I'll be okay."
"Be careful," Willow finally said. "Don't die."
"I'm hard to kill," Dawn responded, and Willow laughed, unhappily.
The Hyperion looked hollow from the street, and Dawn spent an hour curled inside her stolen car, staring at the windows and willing everything to be all right again. It was darker in Los Angeles, and Dawn felt it. She blinked twice, sighing as her vision shifted to colors again. She was alone. It was safe to get out, or as safe as it ever could be.
She didn't want to open the door, but she finally did. Nothing happened; nobody attacked her. She walked across the street, ashes and shredded rubber and broken glass grating against her boots. She pushed the front door open, and it sagged on its hinges.
The lobby looked like it had been set afire a few times, and flooded a few more. It smelled of kerosene. "Hello?" Dawn called out, and she saw a flash of rose, of orange and purple and fear.
"This isn't the way," a woman said, and she was wreathed in white cotton and bands of bullets. She leveled a crossbow at Dawn. "Who are you supposed to be?"
Dawn raised her hands, as if anything could prove her harmless. "I'm not a vampire," she said.
"Are you a demon?" the woman asked.
"I'm Dawn," she replied. The woman lowered her bow, and Dawn could see her face, as clear as day. "I'm Buffy's sister. I think I can help you."
"You're pretty," the woman observed, as if it was relevant. "I'm Fred."
"Willow's mentioned you." Dawn stepped closer, and realized the tense cast of Fred's face wasn't fear, but a scar slashing through the contours of her face. You're pretty. "Do you know who I am?"
"I know what you can do," Fred replied, "but I'm not desperate enough to end the world." She smiled, and it looked painful. "Yet."
Ice flashed through Dawn's lungs for a second. "I didn't know that was an option."
"We've discussed them all," Fred answered. Her gaze swept over Dawn, thoroughly, and Dawn repaid the favor. Fred tipped her crossbow up, rested it against her shoulder, and the weight of the room lifted. "I can see why they're so protective. Are you hungry?"
"Starving," Dawn said.
"Upstairs," Fred directed, striding towards the staircase. But she looked back, over her shoulder, and the look she cast at Dawn had nothing to do with food.
Dawn shivered, but it had nothing to do with cold.
Dawn lay awake on her pallet, listening to Los Angeles shudder with fear. It sounded like the buildings were groaning, and she wondered how she'd survived so long. She pressed her eyes shut, because sometimes that would reset her vision, allow her to see things like a human might.
When she lifted her hands from her eyes, Fred was leaning against the doorway.
Dawn sat up. Under Fred's gaze, she felt her awareness stretch like a cat, her tank top taut against her skin, the blanket's weave coarse on her bare legs. Her skin flushed with warmth, and Fred swayed forward, looking oddly naked without her weapons. She kneeled on the mattress, her legs bracketing Dawn's hips.
"You can say no," she murmured, her fingers tracing the length of Dawn's collarbone.
"Yes," Dawn said. She gulped, feeling more human, too human again. "I mean, I'm saying yes." She tilted her head up, and Fred lowered hers, and her mouth was like a brand against Dawn's lips, against her skin, down her throat, and Dawn squirmed until she could lie flat, tugged at the hem of her tank top while Fred writhed down.
And Fred yanked Dawn's panties off her hips, shoved them just far enough down her thighs to lay her bare. Fred breathed against her, and Dawn moaned. Fred's tongue was a slow stroke of heat before it dipped inside her, and Dawn arched, whimpers spilling from her lips.
Dawn clutched the sheets in her fists, and Fred shouldered one of her thighs, and Dawn came until she felt she'd break.
Morning didn't arrive, because it never did anymore. Dawn woke in a tangle of limbs, and she froze for a brief moment, until she remembered the hours previous, and the weeks previous, and the night lit up in a wash of greens and a caress of blues.
"I think I can find the Beast," Dawn whispered, and Fred tensed, her fingers digging into Dawn's hips before she rolled further off Dawn, onto her side.
"How?" She stared at Dawn, her curiosity pinking the air. "Are you sure?"
"I'll have to try," Dawn said. "Now?" She wriggled, her thigh trapped between Fred's knees.
Fred trapped a sound in her mouth, a muffled groan. She rolled, straddling Dawn's leg, twisting her hips just so, and when Dawn gasped, she smiled that tight, difficult smile.
"Maybe later," Dawn said, answering herself. She ran her hands over the bumps of Fred's spine. "Now--"
"Now," Fred echoed, and Dawn pulled her down into a kiss.
A/N: Title and summary adapted from Wrapping Paper by Lesle Lewis. Link courtesy of breathe_poetry.