❯ Fratello – Chapter 1
Author: Greydon Creed
Summary: YAHF. To cheer up a depressed Dawn, Xander asks her to be his partner when they dress up for Halloween. The results exceed everyone’s expectations, including the Monks of Dagon and Ethan Rayne.
Rating: PG-13, for violence and flirting.
Disclaimer: The BtVS characters belong to Joss Whedon and associated companies. The Gunslinger Girls characters belong to Yu Aida, Media Works and ADL Manga. No copyright infringement or financial profit intended. The story itself is for entertainment purposes only and belongs to me.
Note: For the purposes of this story, I raised Dawn’s age to 14, and made her a freshman at the same high school as Buffy, who is a junior at this time. While Dawn is the Key, and was placed with the Summers to protect her from the Knights and Glory, the monks changed the timeline to where a second daughter was born. So Dawn Marie Summers is a real person. And while this is a Dawn/Xander `ship fic and there is only two years of age difference between the two, they are not going to be involved in a physical relationship unless/until they are both of legal age. There may be some unrequited attractions going on, but that will be the extent of it.
He could hear someone crying.
Alexander `Xander’ Harris stopped where he was at the corner and looked around carefully. He could see no one close by on the sidewalk; the only other people near him were some adults fifty feet ahead of him. That meant that the sounds of crying were coming from the alley just ahead.
Contrary to what some people thought (a certain high school principal came to mind), Xander was not dumb. You could not live on the Mouth of Hell, the location of a mystical convergence of Dark Energy, fighting demons and vampires by being dumb. The closest person fitting that description would be Cordelia Chase, and even then she was trying to be in denial, not letting the strange goings-on affect her busy social life.
Xander KNEW that going into a dark alley just because you heard what sounded like a girl crying was high on the List of Really Dumb Things To Do In Sunnydale. But he could not just walk away from it either. He would not be the guy he was if he did.
So making sure that he stayed in the sunlight and somewhat distant from the building’s corner, Xander slowly edged around and looked into the alleyway. A few feet from the street, crouched down on the ground in a strip of sunshine, he could see a young girl with her head buried in her hands, crying softly, her school knapsack on the ground beside her.
Looking at her for a moment, Xander moved toward her, his hand dropping into his jacket pocket and grasping the wounded cross therein. Because while Xander was about to have a (potentially) Dumb Moment, he was not stupid.
“Miss. . . Miss, are you OK?” Xander stopped a couple of steps away from the girl.
The girl looked up at the sound of his voice, and Xander quickly realized that A) there were tears streaming down her face, B) it was Dawn Summers, and C) her long brown hair was. . .
“Xander!!!” The girl sprung up and into his arms, nearly knocking him over. Xander almost panicked, thinking she was attacking him, before he noticed that she had pushed them into bright sunlight and was therefore not a vamp looking for some fast food.
“Oh Dawny. . .” Xander held the sobbing teen against his shoulder, his hand coming up to stroke his hair. Her wildly discolored, two toned hair. “What happened to you, Dawnie? What happened to your hair?”
It took a few more moments of sobbing before Dawn was able to tell the story, but it was one to make Xander’s blood boil. Apparently, Dawn had been involved in a feud with Serenity Kendall, Harmony’s younger sister and Dawn’s classmate. The blonde had been jealous of the younger Summers’ looks, made even worse by the fact that Dawn was not trying to upstage the other high school freshman.
Serenity had always been making snarky and catty comments to Dawn, especially around her budding group of would-be Cordettes. In a combination of both trying to maintain the moral high ground and an unwillingness to make the same cutting and derogatory remarks the other girl excelled in, Dawn would ignore her. This came to a head at lunch that day when Dawn was sitting by herself in the quad brushing her long brown hair.
Angered by the fact that Dawn looked at and then away from her while still brushing her hair, Serenity had been advancing toward the younger Summers girl when a teacher had walked up to Dawn to asker her a question about an assignment she had turned in. In passing, Mrs. Jennison complemented Dawn on her beautiful waist length hair before turning to Serenity and asked her if she had wanted to ask her something. Red-faced, the would-be popularity queen turned and stormed off.
Later that day, Dawn learned that Serenity had one thing in common and one thing that set her apart with her older sister – a vicious streak and a willingness to actually get physical about it.
While Dawn was walking out of the PE locker room by herself after some trouble getting her apparently jammed locker open, she found herself being pelted by water balloons. One burst on her front left shoulder while another hit her in the middle of her shoulders. Dawn had thought it was just some kids screwing around when she noticed that the red sweater she was wearing was starting to rapidly discolor. Running to a mirror, Dawn saw in horror that the hair that had been splashed by the balloon that had hit her in the back was starting to turn bleached blonde yellow. The water balloons had been filled with hydrogen peroxide.
After trying to report the incident to Principal Snyder, and being summarily dismissed as the sister of Buffy Summers and therefore a possible troublemaker and liar, Dawn had fled the school in tears, stopping to cry in the alley Xander had found her in.
After hearing all this, Xander was barely able to keep his voice steady when he asked, « Have you told anyone else about this, Dawnie? »
The teen shook her head, wiping at her face. Being held by her secret crush while she was crying her eyes out felt good, but she had to try and not look like a immature little girl.
« Well, let’s go see your Mom and tell her what happened. » Mrs. Summer’s art gallery was a block from where they stood.
« But what is she going to do about it now? Principal Snyder doesn’t believe me. »
« Trust me, after your Mom hears about this, Snyder’s not going to know what hit him. » Xander had visions of Mrs. Summers bashing Spike with a fire ax at the high school Parent Appreciation Night running through his mind. As he put his arm around the teen and started to guide her toward the gallery, Xander idly wondered if he should pre-position another ax near Snyder’s office.
-The Next Day-
Wandering around the isles in the new costume shop, Xander only paid half a mind to what Willow and Buffy were saying. Given what he knew about them, Xander was sure that Willow was going to wear her standard ‘don’t look at me’ ghost costume, while Buffy would wear something appropriately slutty and hot on the one night a year where such apparel was not only accepted, but encouraged. Looking over at where Buffy was fluttering over an eighteenth-century gown while talking about Angel, Xander was forced to revise that thought slightly – the dress would have been slutty two hundred years ago due to it’s low neckline, while it was certainly hot in that the ‘lady’ in question had to wear several layers of petticoats under the thing and a tall wig to achieve the desired look. About the only thing it had going for it was that a whalebone corset was not involved.
Looking over at Dawn, who was looking sadly in the mirror, Xander sighed to himself. Seeing Mrs. Summers earlier that day in full dudgeon against the Troll of Sunnydale High had been a thing of beauty. The opening barrage of the angry mother upon entering the administrative offices had caused some of the hardened school clerks to instinctively duck and cover under their desks.
Snyder had tried to bluster his way through the situation, stating that there was no proof that anything had happened other than the word of one student who had a sister who was a known troublemaker. This resulted in a new salvo from Joyce Summers about how people should be judged by their own merits, and not by unproven allegations against relatives.
It had looked like Mrs. Summers and Herr Snyder had worked themselves into a deadlock where Joyce was demanding that Serenity Kendall and her friends be at least questioned to see if they were involved in the incident and the Troll refusing unless there was evidence which would link the girls to the incident. That is where the long shot odds finally kicked in.
Mr. Johnson, the Chem teacher, had come into the office to ask the principal’s secretary about repairs that had been scheduled for this morning but had not been completed. Upon hearing that the supply closet had been broken into after lunch the previous day, Xander, who was keeping a depressed Dawn company on a bench outside Snyder’s office, had an epiphany.
Running to the quad and the payphone located there, Xander quickly called Mrs. Summers on her cell phone and relayed the info he knew about, which included the fact that Serenity and her friends had that class after lunch and the contents of the closet.
When Mrs. Summers clicked her cell phone shut and began to calmly ask Snyder about the supply closet break-in, the principal began to sweat. Once Joyce began to list the various materials in the closet, which included acids, solvents, flammable liquids, as well the aforementioned hydrogen peroxide, the sewer rat that walked like a man knew he had a problem. The proof he had been demanding was beginning to present itself, but he knew that he could not afford to accuse the children of some of the richest families in Sunnydale of this.
Thinking quickly, a nervous Snyder asked for a few hours to look into the incident again. Joyce curtly gave him until the end of the school day, mentioning in passing that her business with her lawyer would be done by then. Snyder quickly agreed, promising to call her with the results. The Summers matriarch then sailed from the admin offices, a slightly smiling Dawn trailing behind her.
Later that day, five minutes before the deadline, Snyder called Mrs. Summers and gave her the news. There had not been enough evidence to prove that the group of girls had been behind the incident, but the parents had been so upset they were willing to offer compensation for the damage sustained by Dawn. In reality, it was a payoff for the Summers family to drop the issue. However, Snyder realized that Mrs. Summers would probably refuse and get the lawyers moving if it was presented to her that way, so Snyder rephrased the offer. Mrs. Summers, no fool, saw right through the offer, but she also realized that she had only a slim chance of winning if she tried to take legal action. So a grim Joyce Summers picked up a check from a nervous principal in the amount of one thousand dollars, made out by the Kendall family.
Dawn was not happy on how the incident had been dealt with, but after her mother gently explained that this was as good a deal as they were going to get, the teen was resigned to it. Not even the offer of a styling session at Sunnydale’s most expensive hair salon cheered her up very much. Her mood was not helped by the resulting hair cut she had received. The damage from the hydrogen peroxide had been so extensive that dyeing the hair back to it’s previous color was not possible. Since Dawn refused out of hand to bleach the rest of her hair to match what had been done, as a result Dawn’s waist length chestnut hair, which she had been her pride and joy, was cut to collar length.
Watching the sad eyed girl looking in the mirror, Xander could not help but be reminded of someone. He had brought her along with him to the new costume shop in a attempt to cheer her up, but it was obviously failing. After a heartfelt hug to her little sister, Buffy now had other things on her mind. Willow gave the younger Summers a sympathetic look every once in a while, but she was busy trying to keep up with her best friend.
Xander was looking at Dawn out of the corner of his eye when the memory finally clicked. Realizing who Dawn reminded him of now, Xander decided to do something with it, since it would both cheer up Dawn and help him with his costume.
Stepping up behind Dawn, Xander put his hand on her shoulder, watching her hazel eyes snap up and meet his dark brown ones in the mirror.
« I know you don’t believe this Dawnie, but you really do look good. And your hair will grow back. »
« I know Xander. It’s just that I’ve always had long hair. » Dawn ran her hand along the back of her head, not used to feeling cool air on her neck. « One of the earliest things I remember is Dad helping me brush it when I was little. »
Ah, that was the problem. One of the few links to her absent father was now laying in a hair salon trash basket, save for an undamaged lock that she had woven into a bracelet she was now wearing,
« I wanted to ask you to help me with something, » Dawn slowly turned and looked up at Xander. « I have an idea for a costume, but I need a cute girl to help me with it. »
« What about Willow and Buffy? Can’t they help? » Inside Dawn was jumping up and down in glee at being called ‘cute’ by Xander, but her mind was comparing herself to the two older girls and found herself wanting.
« They have other plans, but they didn’t come to mind when I thought of this. You did. »
By this point Dawn was doing cartwheels and back flips in her head. She managed to keep her voice steady though. « What do you need for me to do? »
« Well, the costume I came up with is based on a Japanese manga I read. I would wear a suit and you would wear a outfit I saw them selling here. With some other items we can buy here, we’ll be all set. »
« Where would you get the suit? And which outfit? » Dawn looked at the costume rack they were standing next to.
« My cousin Rigby owes me a favor, so I can get the suit from him. This is the outfit I was thinking of. » Xander pulled a blouse and skirt set on a hanger and handed it over to Dawn.
Checking the size of the outfit, Dawn saw that it would fit her, and looked up at Xander again. « What’s the character you had in mind? »
Once Xander began to explain the manga story and the characters involved, Dawn began to smile and nod.
Unseen by the two teens, the owner of the shop, one Ethan Rayne, was standing off to one side listening to their conversation. Once he understood what the teens were talking about, and knowing that the girl was the younger sister of the Slayer, the smile on the chaos mage’s face was decidedly sinister before he changed it to a more pleasant look as he walked over to assist the two teens.
« Buona Notte, Signora Summers. I am here to escort your lovely daughter tonight. »
Joyce Summers double-blinked at the boy. . . no, man who was standing before her door.
The man was wearing a beautifully tailored Italian suit, made of dark brown wool, a slightly lighter brown tie against the crisp white shirt. A quick glance downward noted the glossy black shoes that looked expensive but were really highly polished boots.
Looking back at the man’s face, Joyce was about to ask who he was when she paused. The smile beneath the warm brown eyes and the carefully styled hair was changing, from a polite smile to a familiar lopsided grin. « Xander?!?! »
« Hi, Mrs. Summers. Guess the suit really does make the man, huh? »
« You have no idea. I totally didn’t recognize you. » Joyce said. ‘And if you were ten years older or I was ten years younger, I would be all over you, young man. Maybe the hair dye really is getting to Buffy if she is passing you up.’ Joyce thought to herself. Collecting herself, she called up the stairs, « Buffy! Your escort is here! »
« Um, Mrs. Summers, I’m here for. . . » Xander’s voice trailed off as Buffy came down the stairs dressed in her frilly dark red monstrosity, a tall black wig perched on her head. Seeing all this, Xander mentally reconfirmed his preferences of girls in spandex. Seeing that Buffy was awaiting a comment on her appearance, Xander followed Guy Rule #1 of Dealing With Girls – LIE. « Hey there, Buff, looking good. »
« Thank you, kind sir. » Buffy executed a passable curtsy, before focusing on Xander’s suit. « Wow, where’d you get that? Who are you supposed to be? »
Xander tilted his head slightly as he answered. « I borrowed the suit from my cousin. I’m a character from a Japanese comic book. » Xander would have said more, but Buffy looked up the stairs and called out, « Willow, time to go, » before turning back to Xander. « Willow’s costume is so . . . » Buffy’s voice trailed off as a sheet-clad ghost with the word ‘Boo!’ printed on the front came down the stairs.
« Traditional? » Xander offered. He knew that unless someone held a gun to his head, Willow was always going to go with the safe and comfortable. « Hey Wills, mighty scary ‘Boo!’ you got there. »
« Thanks, Xander, » came the muffled voice under the sheet. « Are you guys ready to go? »
« Nope, waiting for the lovely young lady I am escorting tonight. » Xander’s voice shifted from jester to a faint European accent in the span of one sentence.
Before Buffy could ask who that was, the stairs creaked as one last person walked down to join them. Looking up, all four of them froze.
Descending was a young girl dressed in a European style school girl uniform. The long sleeve white blouse was buttoned to the top with a string tie around the neck. The pleated skirt was of a solid dark green with a faint red line of piping near the hem. A matching short coat was folded over one arm as both hands gripped the handle of a violin case with the word ‘Amati’ printed in white along the side in front of her. Knee-high white stockings and Mary Jane shoes completed the outfit. But what had stopped everyone cold was what had been done to the outfit.
Dawn had used her minor talent in sewing to raise the hem of the skirt. What Xander remembered as a knee length skirt was now a hair past mid-thigh. The blouse had been carefully tucked into the waistband to make it look tighter than it was, emphasizing her slender waist.
Given that Dawn was already half a head taller than her older sister, with this outfit and legs that looked like they went on for days, Dawn looked like a cleaned up version of a Japanese hentai anime schoolgirl fantasy.
In the silence, Dawn’s voice was able to carry as she softly said, « Buona Notte, Giuseppe, » looking up and through her bangs, her eyes looking bigger with subtle make-up.
Xander blinked, then blinked again. After one more blink, Xander was able to find his voice and answer. « Buona Notte, Henrietta. »
The silence in the entryway was suddenly broken by the babble of the three other women all talking at once.
“Dawn Marie Summers! What are you wearing?!?!” came from a shocked Joyce.
“Dawn! Where did you get that outfit!?!?” Buffy sounded upset that her sister was wearing a hotter costume than she was.
“Oh My!” Was all that came from Willow, who even as she was shrouded in her sheet, you could feel envy pouring off at how good the younger girl looked.
“Dawn, what are you supposed to be? I thought you were going to wear a school girl outfit, not. . .” Joyce waved her hand at Dawn, “. . .that.”
“I am a school girl. When I got home I noticed that the hem on the skirt was not even, and I thought that instead of returning the whole costume I could straighten it out myself.” Dawn had the most innocent puppy-dog eyes look on her face as she said this. “I had to shorten the skirt a little. What, didn’t I do a good job?” Dawn spun around slowly, the violin case in one hand and the coat in the other, the skirt flaring slightly before dropping back into place.
“I think you did too good a job on it, Dawn. What if your skirt flips up on you?” asked Buffy curiously.
“Meh.” Dawn shrugged dismissively. “I’m wearing spandex bike shorts under this, so it’s OK.” A sudden cough suddenly attracted everyone’s attention from the school girl.
Xander had stood stock still while the womenfolk were talking. Inside his head however, he was busily alternating between mentally doing Sam Kinison howls at how hot Dawn looked in that getup and mentally slamming his head against a wall for being a hentai perv. `This was the Slayer’s younger sister, for crying out loud! If he even looked at her wrong, Buffy would tear him to pieces, and Joyce would incinerate what was left!’ But when Dawnie casually mentioned she was wearing spandex under that almost illegally short skirt, his mouth and throat had dried out so fast he had to cough to be able to breathe.
Seeing that all three females were looking at him, Xander quickly came up with the best non-fake-looking smile he could. “You look nice in that, Dawnie. You’re ready to go, right?” Xander prayed to whatever deities existed that none of the females figured out what he was thinking, as his body would never be found afterwards.
“Where are you going again?” Joyce normally trusted Xander around her daughters, but with Dawn in that outfit, she was a little concerned. Although more about what her younger daughter might do around her older crush than the other way around.
“We’re going to be escorting elementary school kids as they trick-or-treat around the neighborhood. After that, we were going to hang out at the Espresso Pump before we come back here. All four of us are going to be together there and when we come back.” Xander was starting to be a little worried. It sounded like Mrs. Summers might not allow Dawn to hang with them after all, and that would send her spiraling back into depression.
“Well. . . okay. Just get back here by 9:00 PM.” Joyce looked from Xander to Dawn, seeing the relief appear on the girl’s face, while some tension eased from Xander’s eyes.
“Thanks Mom!” chirped Dawn as she sprang forward and gave her mom a kiss on the cheek. Putting the violin case on the floor, Dawn quickly pulled on the coat she was carrying, neatly concealing the small of the back holster and sheath that had been unseen until now.
“Uh, Dawn. What kind of school girl wears a gun under her coat?” Buffy asked uncertainly.
Joyce and Buffy watched as Dawn produced an orange-tipped pistol from under her jacket and tapped it, the sound of plastic apparent. “A Japanese comic book school girl, of course.” Dawn stowed the pistol and picked up her violin case. That shopkeeper had really come through. He didn’t even blink when Xander has asked for two small handguns, two knives, and a SMG. Once Xander had explained why they needed the toy weapons, the Englishman had even thrown in a ratty old violin case for free.
Turning to Xander, Dawn’s demeanor changed from cheerful California girl to demure European school girl in a heartbeat. “I am ready to go now, Giuseppe.”
Xander extended his left arm toward Dawn, who linked it with his own in a familiar but not intimate way. Looking like an older brother escorting his younger sister, the two turned in perfect sync and walked out the door, the noblewoman and ghost soon following.