Decisions, Revisions, Reversals
by Amy

Do I dare
Disturb the Universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
--The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Someday, looking back, Dawn will not remember what she was doing when the doorbell rang. She will make it up, will tell people that she was reading Shakespeare or solving world hunger when she heard the doorbell downstairs and walked slowly and calmly to the door to see if one of her friends came by. She will assume, of course, that she was dancing to Backstreet Boys music in her room until she heard the doorbell and bolted to see if someone she had a crush on decided to stop and say hi. She will never say this out loud to anyone.

In truth, she was doing neither. She was sitting in the living room, alternating between working on her English homework and eating chocolate ice cream out of the tub, because this is what she does whenever Buffy isn't home and Dawson's Creek isn't airing and she's too lazy to go upstairs.

She will not remember this, because the events that followed are be too remarkable for her to remember the mundane.

But no matter what Dawn will tell people, the truth is that the doorbell rings and she gets to it almost immediately, as she was sitting right by it. She opens the door a crack and takes a moment to stare in shock at the figure who stands opposite her.

"Hello," Dawn says shakily, her eyes wandering from the girl's tight leather pants to her skimpy tank top to her eyes. She will never forget these eyes, because she can remember seeing them filled with hate and ready to kill her sister. Even though Dawn is the younger sister, even though she's the weaker one by far, she's always been protective of Buffy.

"Hey." The girl smiles shakily at her. "Can I come in?"

"I'm not supposed to let strangers into the house," Dawn says.

"Come on, Dawnie, I'm not a stranger. You know me."

"I'm not supposed to let psychotics into the house either."

The girl doesn't say anything. She just looks down at the floor. She looks almost repentant.

But Dawn knows better than to trust someone just because they look apologetic. She frowns. "Are you here to kill me? Because Buffy-"

"Dawnie, I'm not here to kill anyone. I'm- I'm better."

"And I'm supposed to believe that?"

When Dawn looks back on this moment, she will never describe how she felt. She will say she felt hatred and worry, and that she didn't know what to do and that she wondered if she should call 9-1-1 or the Watcher's Council or Giles or Willow or one of those places you go to to get your dog put down. She will not say that she was fascinated by her, that seeing Faith again after three years was like seeing her through new glasses, that being old enough to finally see the magnetism Faith possessed was enough to make her finally understand a lot of Buffy's actions that year.

She will say Faith made her sick.

She will blatantly lie.

"I'm not going to kill you. I'm not going to kill anyone."

"Why not?"

Faith looks surprised. "Why would I?"

"I don't know. You were pretty knife-happy before."

"I'm not. I promise." She pauses. "Can I come in?"

"No." Dawn is surprised by how strong her own voice sounds. "I don't trust you."

Faith sags into herself, defeated. "I deserve that, I guess."

"If you try to hurt me, I'll call Spike and he'll tear you apart like a chew toy." She forces herself to straighten her back and stand a little bit taller.

"Spike?" Faith repeats.

"You don't know Spike. You went crazy and homicidal before he started helping Buffy."

"William the Bloody, Spike?"

So she knows who he is. "He's better now."

"He's a vampire."

"I know. But he got better."

When Dawn is older, she will understand why Faith feels betrayed by this. She will understand that Faith was disappointed that she- not Buffy for once, but Dawnie- could believe that Spike is redeemed but Faith isn't.

Right now Dawn just thinks that Faith is confused.

"I have homework to do," Dawn says. She turns on her heel and begins to walk away without closing the door.

"Does that mean I can come in?" Faith asks, her hand against the front door. Her arm goes just past the doorframe. This would be so much easier if Faith were a vampire.

"No. It doesn't," Dawn says from her position on the couch, where she is currently pulling her legs up to tuck under herself as she pulls out her vocabulary worksheets again.


"If you really are better, like you said, you won't come in even though the door is open. And if you're just trying to trick me, you could break the door down quicker than I could run anyway, so why make things more painful for both of us?"

Faith seems to accept this. She removes her hand and steps backwards, watching Dawn through the window from the front porch. She just stands there, like a statue. She doesn't even ask for a book to read, or a jacket to keep out the cold. She looks frozen. Dawn feels guilty for a moment.

Then Dawn remembers that Faith tried to kill Buffy.

Dawn doesn't feel guilty anymore.

Later, Dawn will wonder why she just left her outside. After an hour, two hours, three hours, she knew that Faith wasn't a threat. But something kept her from inviting Faith in.

Now Dawn will simply rationalize it. She will know with certainty that Buffy would not want Faith in the house, and that's all that matters.

Still, that does not explain- then or now- why Dawn takes her English book over to the door and pulls it open, but rather than asking Faith to come in, sits down opposite her.

"Did you ever study T. S. Eliot?"

"I think I dropped out before we covered that," Faith says, hiding a slight smile. It shines through in her eyes, though.

Dawn doesn't feel condescended to, though. She feels like they're sharing a moment that Faith didn't even share with Buffy too much.

She doesn't think Faith smiles a lot.

Dawn sits cross-legged, studying the other girl as she speaks. "We're reading The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. I don't really know what to say about it. Do you know about it?"

"I've never read it, no."

"If I read it out loud, will you tell me what it means?"

"I can try. I was never very good at English."

"You just need to try." Dawn sits feels her muscles extending, stretching, as she gets herself into the position to read the poem. "This is from the middle, okay?"

"Sure." Faith smiles again, and Dawn feels special.

"For I have known them all already, known them all:-- Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons, I have measured out my life with coffee spoons; I know the voices dying with a dying fall Beneath the music from a farther room. So how should I presume?" Dawn looks up nervously from her textbook. She sticks a scrap of paper from the floor (Kit's phone number, she sees but does not notice) in the book and slams it closed abruptly. "I think I know what it means, sort of. But I don't understand it completely."

Faith looks like she knows what to say and doesn't know anything, all at the same time. "Did you ask Willow?"

"Willow's out studying. As far as I know, that's not a euphemism for finding a new girlfriend. But either way, I don't want to bug her." Dawn bites her lip. "Please? This is due tomorrow and I really want to do well."

"It's about- it's about wasting time. It's about trying so hard to do things but being scared to try."

"Carpe diem," Dawn says softly.


"Seize the day. Just, like, in Latin. That you have to- you have to do what you have to do, and there's no time like the present."

"But that's not realy what it's saying, is it? It's asking whether or not it's worth it at all. That it's sometimes better to be safe- to not presume that the day's worth seizing."

"Isn't that-" Dawn searches for the right word. "Isn't that irony or whatever?"

"I don't know. Like I said- I'm bad at this English stuff. It just seems to me that maybe they shouldn't pressure this girl to do more than she's ready to do- that sometimes the day should be savored, rather than seized. Because too much seizing can, like, kill you."

"But seizing can be savoring. Can't it? I mean- like, seizing the day is just to get the most out of it. You don't have to tear it to shreds like a rabid dog just to seize it. Do you?"

"I don't know." Faith traces an invisible pattern on the porch steps.

"Besides, it's a guy."


"The narrator. The one doing the seizing- or the savoring, or whatever. It's a guy."

"How do you know? It happens to girls too. I mean, like, needing to seize the day, suck the marrow from life..."

Dawn forgets the topic for a moment. "You saw Dead Poets Society too? Oh my god, wasn't Robert Sean Leonard so cute?"

"He was gay." At Dawn's look, she clarifies: "Not like that. He was gay. Like, literally. He shot himself because the marrow of life was the only thing he was allowed to suck."

"Oh." Dawn frowns. "But, yeah. I'm pretty sure it's a guy. He says, um..." She reaches back for her book and flips open to the poem again. "And indeed there will be time, To wonder 'Do I dare?' and 'Do I dare?' Time to turn back and descend the stair, With a bald spot in the middle of my hair-- [They will say: 'How his hair is growing thin!']"

"Oh. You didn't read me that part before."

"Sorry." Dawn pauses. "So, where'd you see Dead Poets Society?"


"Do they, like, show films in prison or something?"

"Sometimes. Yeah."

"If I were Giles, I'd be making a comment about this being where our tax dollars are going. But I don't pay taxes, so I don't really care. Did they show good movies?"

"Nothing too violent or sexual. They think we'll get ideas. It's like they forget that we had the ideas anyway, and that's why we're there."

"But you're not. Anymore, I mean."

"Violent and sexual?"


"I guess not." Faith smiles, and Dawn can't tell if it's because she's happy or sad.

"Do you watch Dawson's Creek there?"


"In prison. Can you watch Dawson's Creek?"

"You planning a bank robbery we should know about, Dawnie?"

Dawn crosses her arms defensively. "I just want to know!"

"Hey, no one's accusing anything."

"Buffy said that if I kept stealing things, I'm going to go to prison."

"Have you kept stealing things?"


"That's good, because we don't get to watch Dawson's Creek in prison. Scantily-clad girls make the inmates restless."

"I thought you went to a women's prison."

"I did."


"Yeah, porn videos don't lie about everything." Faith pauses. "But then, you haven't really done the porn circuit, right?"

"Buffy won't even let me see R rated movies."

"Is that so?"

Dawn smiles. "I do anyway. At Kit's house. She's my friend."

"That's cool."

"So you're, like, a lesbian now? Or whatever?"

Faith laughs. "It's not a now thing. It's a me-thing. I thought you knew already."

"Buffy doesn't tell me anything. I didn't even know she was sleeping with Spike until a lot later."

"Oh. Buffy's with Spike."

"Yeah. Well, no. I mean, kind of. I don't know. Like I said, no one tells me anything."

Someday Dawn will look back on this and realize that this part of the conversation is the turning point, that this is what will change everything. Someday, however, is not even in the general vicinity of today, and right now she just thinks that Faith is everything she wishes she could be: she seems so smart and funny and confident about, like, everything.

Like, right now, what Faith is saying: "That's why you have to be good at listening. If they won't tell you stuff, you have to know how to hear it yourself."

Buffy would never say that to Dawnie. Buffy would tell her that when she's older, she'll know stuff, but for now she needs to remember her age, blah blah blah. Faith understands, somehow. Faith gets that you have to eavesdrop sometimes in order to get the whole story.

Dawn likes that.

"So you got out on good behavior?" Dawn asks.

"Bad." Faith laughs at Dawn's confused look, which makes Dawn smile as Faith continues. "Not mine. Big bads. It's amazing how much of an effect Giles has on the prison system."

Dawn thinks about this for a second. "Cool," she says at last.

"Not so much, if you think about it." But Faith doesn't elaborate.

"Buffy should be home soon. She's just, like, out patrolling or whatever." Something passes over Faith's face- just a moment, a second, but Dawn is looking and she sees it and things make sense. She gets it. She smiles. "I'm sure she'll let you in then, okay?"


Dawn opens the textbook one more time and reads the last lines to herself.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

She sees Faith reading along, upside-down, and pushes the book around towards her. "Here. You might like it."

"Thanks." And as Dawn pulls out a ballpoint pen and starts to work on her essay, Faith begins to read.

Within an hour Dawn will fall asleep on her book and Faith will guard her militantly, keeping creatures of the night at bay with a steely glare. She will learn that Buffy came home and there was eye contact and suspicion and then there was talking and forgiveness. She will eventually get used to living with another person in the house, even if that other person wouldn't loan her a leather jacket until she was "at least eighteen. I don't want the boys and the girls causing an international lust-charged incident, okay?"

But today she works on a paper. She entitles it "Carpe Diem".

She will get an A.


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