Title: there’s a wolf in her heart
Disclaimer: BtVS and all related characters are copyright of Joss Whedon and ME. The Walking Dead and all related characters are copyright of Robert Kirkman, Image Comics and AMC. No infringement intended.
Summary: Deanna Monroe reminded Dawn of her third grade teacher. This wasn’t necessarily a good thing.
It was no secret that Dawn Summers liked to read. It was why there were three novels buried in the sack weighing down her shoulder. She would’ve liked more, but the bag was heavy enough. It also played into her hovering near the bookshelves rather than taking a seat as requested. Her fingers itched with the urge to tug a few of the titles free, but she didn’t dare. Dawn was grimy and those books looked pristine. Her books were dog-eared and filthy, but loved—kind of like her and Buffy.
That thought made her smile as she imagined her older sister with the ears of a Doberman and herself in something floppier (and cuter). She was also studiously ignoring the woman, Deanna Monroe, who was watching her intently from her place on the sofa. Dawn wasn’t sure what to make of her. She reminded Dawn of her third grade teacher Mrs. Hutchinson. She’d been all smiles and kind words too, but she hadn’t been afraid of timeouts or the giving of them.
There was camera set up beside Deanna and Dawn had been warned that she’d be filmed. Its presence made her itchy for an entirely different reason and she wished her hairbrush hadn’t been left behind in their last camp. They’d been fighting to get out alive and Dawn had been more concerned with grabbing the necessities so the niceties got left behind. And yes, her oh so few books were necessities.
“Please take a seat, Dawn.”
Deanna used her name again and it made Dawn look from her to the chair in front of the camera. It was as clean as the books and Dawn shook her head. “I’ll get it dirty,” she looked around the room with its white walls and accumulation of knickknacks, “I might get everything dirty.”
“It’ll wash,” Deanna assured her and motioned to the chair again, “Do you like books?”
Memories of Mrs. Hutchinson suppressed the usual eye roll and the urge to question first clues. Instead Dawn shrugged and sank into the offered chair. It was stiff and uncomfortable and very much like the conversation she found herself in the middle of so Dawn tried to make the most of it.
“I do,” was offered with a brisk nod as she tugged the sack into her lap.
The nylon strap of what had once been a mailman’s bag scratched at her neck and she pushed it down onto her shoulder. That odd smile reappeared on Deanna’s face and she leaned forward to ask, “Do you have a favorite?”
A breath escaped her, exhaled noisily from her mouth, as she considered the question before shaking her head, “I don’t have a favorite-favorite, but I liked The Hobbit,” Dawn fiddled with the zipper of her bag as she explained, “I think I mostly liked it because Dad would read it to me.”
“Where is your father?”
Dawn heard the question often enough that it wasn’t a shock to the senses like it used to be, but she had to blink a few times to keep the tears at bay. The wound wasn’t so raw that she couldn’t answer, but Dawn didn’t like to cry in front of people. Buffy was the crier—or she used to be.
“He got bit,” not the most detailed explanation, but Deanna nodded and suddenly Dawn felt bad for selling her sister short in both the telling of the tale and her own thoughts. It forced her to add, “Buffy made sure he didn’t come back.”
Dawn didn’t add that their mom hadn’t been strong enough to do it. She didn’t like to talk about her. Not now. Not ever.
The way she said it and the home she lived in made Dawn sincerely doubt that, but she didn’t say that out loud either and that would show Buffy. She did too know when to keep her trap shut. Dawn decided to return to the safer of their two topics and confided, “I’m reading To Kill a Mocking Bird right now.”
She tugged at the zipper of her sack and caught the rising of Deanna’s brows. The older woman’s smile soften and Dawn thought it a vast improvement as it made her eyes look less squinty. Deanna studied her a moment before asking, “Aren’t you a little young for that?”
“I read at an eighth grade level,” Dawn declared—perhaps a little smug with pride—before clarifying, “Or I did. I was going into sixth grade…” she trailed off and shrugged. Deanna frowned and Dawn ignored her to focus on the zipper since concern with her education didn’t seem all that important when the dead walked the Earth. She grinned when she finally succeeded in outmaneuvering the stupid bits of metal.
Dawn dug to the bottom before being able to present Deanna with her most prized possessions. The older woman accepted them, not even flinching at how dirty they were, and that eased something in Dawn’s chest before she told, “I’ve got Tiger Eyes and Call of the Wild. See?” Dawn motioned to the least dirty of the three, “I haven’t started the Judy Blume one yet, but Buffy said anything by her is good.” Dawn huffed, “And it’d better be because I gave up Black Beauty for it.”
Deanna raised a brow and Dawn explained, “I’m only allowed three books. Otherwise I’d take an entire library with me given half the chance.”
“Quoting your sister,” Deanna assumed and Dawn grinned in response. Her gaze returned to the books and she was looking over Call of the Wild and Dawn figured it was because she noticed how worn it was compared to the other two. “Partial to this one?”
“Yeah,” Dawn hesitated before asking, “Have you read it?”
“A long time ago,” Deanna confessed before looking up to meet her gaze, “Why do you like it?”
“Well,” Dawn rolled her lips inward and bit down, “Do you know what it’s about?” Deanna shook her head and offered an apologetic shrug so Dawn explained, “There’s this dog, Buck, who gets taken from his home and sold. It’s sorta sad. Lots of hard lessons, but in the end the dog learns how to be a wolf.”
Blue eyes narrowed in a considering way before Deanna questioned, “Do you identify with that? Becoming a wolf?”
Dawn shook her head. “I’m not the wolf,” another shrug lifted her too thin shoulders, “Buffy became one because our parents couldn’t and so I wouldn’t.”
There was a long pause and Dawn thought Buffy would’ve called the silence heavy before Deanna offered, “Your sister is protective of you.”
Deanna’s statement of the obvious did roll Dawn’s eyes that time before she retorted, mindless of the fact that she was imitating her sister, “She’s obnoxious about it.”
That same half smile made a reappearance and Dawn decided she liked that one better than her big smile. The big one made her look like she had too many teeth and reminded Dawn of Buffy’s cheerleading smile. The one she’d spent hours perfecting in the mirror of their shared bathroom back in Los Angeles.
Dawn couldn’t remember the last time she seen Buffy smile. And she meant really smile. Not that sad little smile that had been appeasing their parents since the arson incident. She burned down one little building and suddenly she was a delinquent. Dawn frowned since that was likely the one of the definitions of delinquent.
“I think you’re more like your sister than you realize,” Deanna stated, drawing Dawn from her internal musings to look up at her startled, “You survived out there just like she did, didn’t you?”
“I did,” Dawn agreed before her own smile spread and she added, “I’m Buck.”
“I think we all are, dear.” Deanna’s quiet admission made Dawn frowned since she didn’t think Deanna was anything like her sister, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Deanna inclined her head and offered, “Would you like to join Alexandria?”
Dawn did, but it was really Buffy’s decision and she told Deanna as much. “Buffy’s call,” she told her with a shrug and then added hopefully, “But if we did stay could I borrow some of your books?”
“I’d like that.” Deanna smiled.
She rose deciding the conversation was at an end and returned to the shelves to search out more titles. If Deanna turned her back she’d pilfer a few—Buffy’s orders be damned. Dawn liked to read and the world ending hadn’t changed that.