Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Character/Pairing: Dawn, Clem
Challenge/Prompt: nekid_spike Mini Nekid Guest: Clem
Word Count: 2,195
Date Written: 5 October 2018
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Whedon, not the author, and are used without permission.
Sometimes she hated being a teenager. She hated living in SunnyHell, California, and having to contend with people her own age who thought they were so cool but were, in truth, complete idiots. She hated not being able to tell the world about her sister and how cool she was, but she never really hated her sister or their mother.
She knew their mother was always doing everything she could for them. The woman had made countless sacrifices over the years, and although most of them had been for Buffy, and Dawn only had the memories and they had her in their memories because of the Priests who had put her into this “vessel”, she still made sacrifices every day for her. Their bond was incredibly close, and it hadn’t lessened any despite the fact that she now knew that she was not really her daughter. She was not even really human; yet, she definitely felt like a human.
Especially when her whole class teased and ridiculed her. Dawn blew out an angry, frustrated breath. Not for the first time, she wished she was even a tenth as cool as her sister. Buffy said she’d had trouble with guys and peer pressure too -- she claimed to still have issues with people her own age --, but from everything Dawn could see, her sister’s life was amazingly cool. Her friends were certainly cool, Willow with her magics and Xander with his adorable cuteness. Spike and Giles were both way cooler than just about anyone in her age group or Buffy’s.
She remembered Giles, Xander, and Spike all confessing to her that they had never been considered cool when they’d been her age. She knew people still made fun of Willow on occasion, but she also knew that a lot of the teasing where her Wiccan friend was concerned was out of jealousy. They were jealous of Willow’s freedom and belief in herself. They were jealous of her intelligence and of the fact that she didn’t feel the need to bow down to peer pressure any longer to keep herself in the box of what others thought to be acceptable. Dawn sighed again; she fervently wished she was as cool as Buffy, Willow, or any one of their friends.
But she was just Dawn, the kid sister to the Slayer, the girl with only one parent, the teenager who’d never been kissed and who spent way more time hanging out in cemeteries than even her sister felt the need to these days. Of course she spent time hanging out around gravestones so that she could be with somebody who was far cooler than anybody in her class or the whole of Sunnydale High would ever be, but she couldn’t exactly explain that to them any more than she could tell them that Vampires were real or that they all owed their lives to her sister.
She was better than them, Dawn reflected, but she couldn’t tell them that. She had to keep that truth to herself along with all the other things that she knew to be real but couldn’t tell any humans about. She fought to protect them too. She had been helping to save the world since she’d been twelve years old, but that was yet another thing she couldn’t tell them. If they had any idea of who she really was, they’d know how cool she was and how wrong they were in their judgements.
But then again, she thought, rolling her brown eyes at her own self, if they knew who she was, what</> she was, they’d realize she wasn’t even supposed to be human. She was just a key to another dimension. She wasn’t even meant to be alive, let alone a living, breathing, feeling person. It wasn’t fair! She thought, tears clouding her eyes. A part of her wanted to just surrender and let herself cry, but the other part kept moving swiftly through the graveyard.
She wasn’t going home this afternoon, at least not yet. She wasn’t ready to face her supposed mother’s endless barrage of caring questions about how her day had been and rather she’d made any new friends. She certainly wasn’t ready to look at Buffy, see how cool her sister was, and be reminded again of how much she didn’t measure up. She needed to be around somebody else, somebody who could understand her and not just feel sorry for her but truly sympathize with her. Spike always understood. It was amazing how close she’d gotten to somebody who was undead, but then she herself wasn’t even supposed to be alive.
“Honey, I’m home!” she called as she entered his crypt, careful not to let in the sunlight as she moved through the door and shut it securely behind her.
“He’s out,” a dismal voice called from the shadows.
“Oh, hey, Clem. Is he out saving the world again with my sister?”
Clem’s big, wrinkly ears wiggled. “You know it. He’s actually missing the Passions marathon, but I’m recording it for him. Wanna watch?” he asked, lifting a big bowl. “I’ve got popcorn.”
“Sure,” she said, sighing again as she dropped her bookbag.
“What’s wrong, little sis?” he asked.
She looked at him, noting again how, in some ways, he looked like a puppy. He certainly had the best puppy dog eyes of anyone she’d ever known. But he was still a Demon. “You wouldn’t understand,” she found herself saying before she could stop.
“What wouldn’t I understand?” he asked.
Once more her big eyes were drawn to his large, wrinkle-covered ears as they wiggled. “Will you stop that?”
“Stop what?” He looked innocent.
“The ear thing.”
“Oh.” He reached up and self-consciously touched one of his ears. “Sorry. I do that when I’m nervous.”
“What are you nervous about?” Just then realizing that she didn’t know the exact nature of Spike and Buffy’s mission, Dawn questioned, “Is it about them saving the world?”
“Oh, no,” Clem replied. “I’m used to that. And it’s not that much of a real threat, not against them. They’ll win that fact. No question about it.”
“Then what -- ?” Dawn asked, frowning.
“I . . . “ Clem dropped his hand away from his ear. “It’s nothing,” he said quickly.
“No. That’s not nothing. That’s something. What’s up?” Dawn threw herself down on the end of the couch and looked up at him in concern. Despite being a Demon, Clem was as sweet as any puppy she’d ever known and sweeter than some of the dogs she’d encountered in the past. He was certainly no Rottweiler, just an overgrown, wiggling pup with ears, and paws, that were too big for him.
He sighed and lowered his head where she couldn’t see his eyes as they filled again with unshed tears. “I ran into some ugly Demons today.”
“Ugly Demons?” she asked, breaking into a grin. “Aren’t they all ugly?” He cast a glance at her. “Sorry.”
“They were ugly, because . . . well, because of the way they acted. They were mean to me,” he explained. “Normally Spike would have been with me, and they wouldn’t have dared to -- to tease me -- “
She looked up at him in surprise.
“But, of course, it was daylight, so he was asleep, and your sister needed this artifact and, well . . . “
“You got the artifact but not without being hurt,” she observed quietly.
“Oh, yeah, I got the artifact all right. All I had to do was mention Spike’s name. This was after I retrieved it. They didn’t like that I’d helped the Slayer,” Clem explained. “They don’t like Spike and me ‘playing heroes’,” he said, curving his long fingers swiftly through the air in invisible quotes. “But they would never dare to take him on. So they sent me back with a message instead.”
Dawn was silent as she looked up at him. Now she could see the welts forming on his face and the bruises on his arms. She noticed a new bandage on his leg. She made a face and finally commented, “Ouch.”
“Yeah.” He nodded his head, his ears bobbing. “Ouch. But you know what really hurt?”
“What?” she asked softly, reaching out a hand and laying it on his.
Clem looked up at her in surprise; this time, she saw his tears in the glowing reflection of the television he’d paused when she’d first come into the crypt. “Their words,” he said. “They told me how I’m nothing but a big lump of fat and I could never save the world. I ride on Spike’s coat tails, and I’m worthless without him.” His bottom lip trembled.
She acted without even thinking. She jumped to her feet, went to him, wrapped her arms around him, and hugged him tight. There were tears in her eyes too as she confessed, “I know exactly what you mean.”
“You do?” he asked in surprise.
She nodded, forcing down a lump in her throat. “They say I ride Buffy’s coat tails, and I guess I do but not in any way they’d ever know.”
“Who are they?”
“The stupid kids at school.”
He nodded in understanding. “Your peers.”
“Yeah. And I guess those other Demons are yours.”
“No! No, it doesn’t!” He pulled back and put his beefy hands down on her slender shoulders, guiding her to look up at him and meet his intense, teary gaze. “People suck sometimes. So do Demons. But life does not suck. We’re lucky, you and I. They’re right.” He shook his head. “We could never save the world by ourselves, but we’re not by ourselves. Those Demons -- They pal around together, but if one of them ever gets into any real trouble, the others aren’t going to be there for him. But we . . . You and me, Dawnie, we always have somebody who’s going to be there for us.”
“Several somebodies actually,” she whispered, catching on to what he was saying.
He bobbed his head in agreement, his ears wiggling again. “Yeah. Several somebodies. Spike bandaged me when I got home. He was going to go ‘beat those wankers into a bloody pulp’, but Buffy showed up before he could leave.” Clem smiled despite the tears still hovering in his eyes. “She wanted to beat them too. She surprised me.”
“My sister’s like that,” Dawn said, grinning. “She doesn’t care what you are -- older or younger, Demon, Vamp, or human or some kind of transdimensional key. What you are isn’t what matters. It’s what you do that matters. You were helping save the world. Of course she had your back.”
“But do you know how rare that is?” he asked, his ears still wiggling. A tear fell down his cheek. “I’ve never had friends before,” he confessed.
“But you do now,” she said quietly, reaching up and wiping away his tear. “We both do now, and I’m like you. I never had friends before either. Heck, I wasn’t even alive before. And I guess . . . if people have to make fun of me in this life . . . I guess it’s worth it to be alive and to be here and to have such friends.”
“Friends unlike anything they’ll ever have.”
Dawn nodded. “That’s true. Friends who are more like a family -- “
“But a closer and truer family no one’s ever had. Heck, most families beat each other up.”
“Oh, yeah. You should see some of the things I’ve seen in the backyards here.” He shook his head suddenly. “Actually, I wouldn’t want you to.”
“That bad, huh?”
“Yeah. You know why Xander never stays home, right?”
Dawn was silent for a long moment. Finally she nodded. “Yeah,” she agreed, wiping her own tears away, “we are pretty lucky.”
“Amazingly lucky,” Clem said and reached out and hugged her.
She lingered in his embrace, hugging him back as she did so. “They’ll never know just how good we have it.”
“No,” he said, “they won’t, but they suspect and they can’t stand it. They make fun of us, because they’re jealous of us.”
She considered that. She’d seen people tease Willow and Buffy too because of how jealous they were. “That’s kinda . . . That’s kinda nice to know.”
“Yeah, but what’s really nice is having such wonderful friends.”
“You’re right,” she said and hugged him again. “You’re totally right.” She smiled finally and truthfully. “We are pretty amazingly lucky, and I’d never give up any of what we have to be ‘in’.” This time, she made the air quotes.
He grinned. “Yeah,” he agreed. “Me too.”
She flopped down on the couch beside him and didn’t hesitate to put her hand into the bowl of popcorn right beside his. “So where are we?” she asked.
“Being lucky,” he answered, grinning, and then went on to tell her about the television program. They watched for hours as their friends saved the world, and when Dawn finally did go home, she was able to answer her mother’s questions with smiles. Maybe she didn’t have any real friends at school, but she had friends. She had the most amazing friends, and she was blessed to have every single one of them, no matter what they looked like.