Secret Slasha — The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project
Secret Slasha — The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project

Jewel Mirror
By overthetiber
For Elizabeth Scripturient

Olivia's first memories of Dawn have almost faded, and the later ones are growing less and less distinct. She writes them down, over and over, in a big leather-bound journal Rupert gave her years ago. She keeps the journal in a flat box under her bed, along with an empty chocolate assortment, a broken umbrella, and one of Dawn's socks. It's long stopped smelling like Dawn, but near the little toe there's a faint brown bloodstain that can't belong to anyone else.

She does not keep these things out of love, but out of necessity.

If she didn't keep them, Dawn might disappear.


Dawn came to stay with Olivia, on Rupert's request, five years ago. She was 19 (she was ancient), but she looked about 16. Olivia was unable to get more than a word out of her for the first month. She withdrew before she arrived, and spent all her time up in the spare room, reading and sulking.

Olivia let Dawn fade, worked and held parties and pursued her hobbies just the same as before she came...until that night. Olivia was sitting on the sofa, sketching a nightingale and regretting an unwise investment, when Dawn came running downstairs to crash into the coffee table. As she picked herself up, she glared at Olivia.

Olivia began to feel that this was a confrontation. She had no idea what it concerned, and was bewildered further when Dawn shoved up both her sleeves to reveal twin scars on her wrists.To Olivia's relief, they were horizontal, not vertical slits, and they had not bled for a long time.

Dawn caught her gaze, and locked it. Her eyes were huge and pale and beautiful, but glassy like dolls' eyes.Their rims had grown pink with tears.

"Dawn," said Olivia, "What happened?"

Dawn shouted, "I'm not real!"



"Don't be daft, of course you're real." Olivia tried to keep her tone level while her heart hammered on the walls of her chest. "Come on, why don't you sit down?"

"You don't even know." Dawn sounded like she was going to cry.The shaky, brittle quality of her voice let Olivia know how little control she had over her feelings. She could burst open at any moment, a wellspring of blood just waiting to bubble up through skin. She appeared to be angry, but what she really wanted was comfort.

"How can I know if you don't tell me?"

Dawn shoved her face away and crossed her skinny arms.

"Come on, honey, sit down and tell me what it is."

Dawn screamed and ran out of the apartment.


A few hours later, Olivia found Dawn lying on the grass in a public park.It was night, about nine o'clock, and getting quite cold.

Olivia threw a blanket at Dawn. "Get in the car," she said.

Dawn didn't respond.

"Come on," said Olivia, "of course you exist."She took hold of Dawn's wrist, lightly at first, then more firmly. She pulled on it, let it drop. "If you didn't exist, why would you be so hard to move? Ugh."

Dawn neither resisted nor complied.

Olivia let go and dropped beside her on the grass, wincing when the dew made contact with her sweatpants. "All right. We don't have all night, so I'm just going to let you stay here for a couple more minutes to collect yourself."

The streetlights made the stars hard to see, but Dawn appeared to see them pretty clearly.Her big doll eyes moved from point to point, fascinated. That was the only voluntary movement she made.

Olivia said, "You know, according to Shakyamuni Buddha, no one really exists anyway."

Dawn glanced at her a little, without turning her head.

"All things are ephemeral and have a provisionary existence," said Olivia, "and, furthermore, all things are part of the great illusion of samsara." She paused, struggling to remember the gist of the teachings she had received at a Japanese convent ten years ago. "And...yes. Essentially, you're as real as me. And we aren't real at all."

Dawn looked at her like she was crazy. It was a very young way to look at someone.

"Do you feel better now? Are you ready to go?"

Dawn closed her eyes and clenched her fists.

"Okay.I'm going to the car before I freeze." Olivia rose gracefully, or tried to; Dawn's hand shot out and gripped her wrist.

Olivia pulled her up as well as she could, and they walked to the car together, saying nothing.


The next morning, Dawn started talking. She talked about the weather, her sister, and her mother, and her friends from home. She talked about fairy tales, about cosmetics, about ancient Sumerian, and even a little about Rupert. There were some things she couldn't talk about, but Olivia usually found ways to fill her silences. And not with more talking--although it was nice to have a Dawn that talked, Olivia still had to work. But, in her free time, Olivia set about teaching Dawn to live.

They cooked together, ate together, and (once, memorably) bathed together.Dawn read Olivia's twelve-foot-deep backlog of books-bought-but-not-read, and told her about them. Olivia took Dawn lingerie shopping, and discovered that she had the worst taste in knickers of any woman she'd ever known.

It was funny, feeling close to someone so young. Sometimes Olivia tired of Dawn's naivete; then, usually, Dawn would bring her interest back by displaying some knowledge either practical or ineffable. For example, one night, when they took an unfamiliar walk back from the chemist's and were stopped by a strange man, Dawn pulled a wooden stake from her pocket and threatened him with it till he whirled away into dust. Well, more like he disappeared, but Olivia didn't like to think about that too much. Any hallucinations she had experienced could be attributed to stress, anyway.

Some nights she could hear Dawn outside her door, just standing. Listening, maybe. Thinking. Dawn was lonely, Olivia imagined. Once or twice she almost got up to let her in. Who knows what would have happened if she had.

And then--one evening, after a day spent shopping, and walking, and arguing about books and politics, and after Dawn had made them hot cocoa and they had settled on Olivia's bed to watch the telly--it happened.

Olivia doesn't recall who started it, but she does recall the exact shade of Dawn's eyes in the dim light; the smudging of Dawn's pink lipstick, which Olivia had taken pains to help her pick out, all down Olivia's cheek; and the frantic, fearful way that Dawn had touched her. Dawn's skin was unblemished, and her body was soft; but she held onto the sheets so hard she left fingerprints, and cried like a wounded bird when she came.

Olivia was not in the habit of taking younger lovers, but Dawn was exceptional in many ways.

They had three months of domesticity and desperation and an attempt at phone sex that nearly failed when Dawn couldn't stop laughing. Then, Olivia woke up to find all Dawn's things gone and Rupert in her kitchen.

"I thought I should be the one to tell you," he said. "Dawn had to leave--"

Ten thousand explanations ran through Olivia's head, and she took a calming breath."Why?"

Rupert looked hassled. Or haggard. He was looking haggard, these days.

"I want you to tell me the truth." She nearly convinced herself of it.

"Um," Rupert said, and explained everything. And Olivia's brain hadn't felt that stretched since the summer she spent at that Japanese convent. She had to ask him to stop a couple of times, particularly in the part where Dawn's arm was sliced open by a hell god. But she listened to the whole thing.

When he had left, and all his anxious glasses-cleaning and his crutch phrases with him, Olivia collapsed onto her bed, buried her face in Dawn's pillow, and cried.


It's been four years since she saw Dawn. But she keeps her in a box under the bed; and she closes her eyes when she thinks of her name; and she leaves her bookmarks in their places, even when she wants to read those books.

Sometimes Olivia imagines Dawn didn't exist, except in her memory and in her box, and that makes her chest ache so hard she has to hold onto the railing when she climbs the stairs to her apartment.

Sometimes Olivia dreams of the knock at the door, the tremble in Dawn's hands as she informs her of some danger. Sometimes dream-Dawn is teary-faced, begging to be recognized.Sometimes, once let in, she grabs Olivia's shoulders and sinks her teeth into her neck.

In the meantime, Olivia knows she's aging. White is seeping upward from the soles of her feet, trickling up her veins to the roots of her hair. She wonders if time touches Dawn the same way, if she'll have changed a bit when she next sees her. If she sees her.

She wonders, a little, how Dawn would fit into the Buddhist worldview.A bodhisattva, maybe? No, not nearly compassionate enough. A demon, a hungry ghost, a goddess whose only suffering is knowing she will have to leave heaven? Whatever Dawn really is, this thing or another, Olivia would prefer to have her here, not strung out halfway across the world. Or another world.

The winters are getting colder, and she is left alone to scramble eggs in her kitchen.