Notes: For the Danaficathon for aaronlisa: request was angsty darkfic with Giles and Buffy. The quotes, and the last line, are from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There.
It takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.
Dana's early tenure in Hampshire, Giles had to admit, wasn't as successful as they might have hoped. She broke Robin's arm and then stood over him screaming that he was a liar, he wasn't her son, her son was just a little boy; not long after that, she somehow stole a knife from the kitchens and finger-painted monsters on the training room's walls with her own blood. She forgot how to speak English for hours and days at a time, and the jumble of languages she spat was preferable to the times when she couldn't speak at all, when she prowled the rooms in a crouching, spider-like motion and growled softly at anyone who dared approach her.
"Bones," she would say quietly, when he asked in her lucid moments what she dreamed about. "Bones and blood. Heart and head. Chained me down and changed me." And he was never sure if she meant the men who had made the first Slayer, or the animal who abducted her, or himself.
"That's the effect of living backwards," the Queen said kindly: "it always makes one a little giddy at first..."
He waited out her lapse into what he thought might be Sumerian, and when she was quiet, only fidgeting a little in her chair, he began again. "Can you tell me your name?"
He let out a small sigh. "Could you tell me what year it is, Louise?"
She blinked curiously at him, and then her head started to bob to an inaudible beat. "You think you lost your love," she sang, "but I saw her yesterday'"
"Louise," he prompted gently.
"No!" she screeched, folding herself into the chair with her knees drawn to her chest. "Get away from me!"
It took almost an hour of coaxing before she was settled again, staring at him with the same blank gaze that didn't tell him if she was Louise, or Dana, or someone else entirely.
"I think that's enough for today," he said.
"Thank you, Mr. Giles." Her hands were folded neatly in her lap; her voice was controlled.
She'd never called him by the correct name before. He was delighted with her progress, until he cross-referenced the name Louise and the date in the salvaged Watcher Diaries and realized she'd mistaken him for his father.
"One can't help growing older."
"One can't, perhaps, but two can. With proper assistance, you might have left off at seven."
There were days when she was different. She was Dana, then, but Dana as the very young girl she must have once been, and on those days she could be allowed out into the grounds, or into the younger children's playroom. Wherever she went, she had to be heavily supervised, and any of the Watchers who complained about the extra responsibility received one of Giles's acid reminders of their job title.
He knew that there were members of the new Council who had much preferred Quentin Travers' way of things. There had been insane Slayers before - Faith had been far less of a potential danger than Dana, and Giles had no illusions about what would have happened to her had she been the only Slayer.
At her low table in the playroom, Dana was methodically dismembering one of the dolls, snapping off the hands, then the arms. She smiled as she played, her face bright with innocence.
You won't make yourself a bit realler by crying.
Buffy rested her fingers on the glass, as if she could reach through the false mirror to the girl on the other side. Dana was hunched in the middle of the floor, hair fallen across her face in a curtain that swayed as she rocked.
She was quiet, now - she'd been talking to herself for an hour, muttering about shoes and ships and sealing-wax and cabbages and kings, and Giles wondered if it was Dana herself who knew Alice Through the Looking Glass, or one of the other girls crowding for space in her head.
"She doesn't know we're real," Buffy said. "It doesn't matter how long she spends here or how much you try to help her - the way she sees it, maybe she's still in the hospital. God, maybe she thinks she's still in that basement."
Her voice ached with empathy, and he remembered with a sharp, cold sting that as a teenager she had spent weeks in an institution. She was probably projecting, then, or whatever the therapy-loving American nation called it. He stopped short of laying a hand on her shoulder, the words "she's not you, Buffy" stuck in his throat, because there had been too many times when Dana had dropped into an all too familiar voice. Buffy's memories twisted out of context and sequence through Dana gave him an odd, new perspective on his Slayer; the very young, carefree girl he'd first met sounded older and wearier with each terrible blow, from losing Angel to losing heaven. Standing next to her now, he felt like an unwilling voyeur.
"A couple of years ago," she said, "this gargle-something demon poisoned me. I thought' I had these hallucinations where I wasn't the Slayer, and I'd spent seven years in a mental institution. And my mom was still alive, and Dawn wasn't there, and it was so real, Giles. It was so real I almost killed Dawn and Will and Xander to stay there." She shook her head. Her hair was a shade lighter than it had been; bronzed from the Italian sun, she looked out of place in England's tepid spring, just another tourist. "And even after I snapped out of it, for weeks I kept thinking - what if this life was the dream? Where did that leave me?"
Giles struggled for words. But behind the mirror Dana's head lifted, and her voice filtered clearly over the speakers:
"You'd be nowhere. Why, you're only a sort of thing in his dream. And if the King were to wake, you'd go out -" she cupped her hands around empty air and puffed a breath over them, "- bang! Just like a candle!"