Dawn is kissing Xander Harris. Again.
Hands in his hair, sitting on his lap, light kisses trailing across his jawline, ear, and once more back to his mouth.
Behind her, the Starship Enterprise is still stuck in a time flux, which is getting very disconcerting for the crew. She'll turn it off in a minute – but at least Xander has finally realised there's a hot girl making out with him and has stopped protesting that she's missing the best scenes.
She brings one hand down slowly, lightly resting her thumb across his lips for a moment – and when she looks at him, he's looking back.
There's a brief second just them sitting, looking… and then they're kissing again, Xander's hands on her waist, their noses bumping awkwardly and making her giggle, and the crew of the Enterprise are crying out in dismay as their ship collapses around them yet again.
There was one moment, a few months ago.
They'd gone out to dinner, and Xander had told them all about Africa, and the Slayers there, and the food, and the wildlife, and the cities, and the desert, and a really funny story involving a monkey, three kids, and his cell phone. Then Buffy had started telling him about Europe, and Italian vampires, and the new Slay Squads, and a whole bunch of stuff he'd probably heard already in email form…
And then, right in the middle, Dawn told a joke.
Some kind of jokey comment about what Buffy was saying – strange, because she doesn't even remember what she said, now, but it must have been funny, because he laughed. Laughed and looked at her, and for the next few minutes the two of them kept interspersing more silly comments at each other, and finally Buffy stopped mid-narrative because they weren't listening to her. And for a few minutes, the night wasn't about Buffy and Xander, catching up, but all about Xander and Dawn. Just them.
It's a moment she's been trying to get back to for a while, now.
There's a lot to be said for taking the time to get the underwear right.
The generally accepted protocol for these occasions is lacy – and usually black. The guy sees you wearing your expensive french lace panties, realises that you really are grown up and in charge of your sexuality, and thinks "Man, she's sexy. And totally hot for me." And then lots of sex is had.
Dawn's done that before. But this is kinda different.
She's about to kiss him again – passionately, and with just enough held back to keep the slight sense of mystery – but then he finds that spot on her neck, and for a moment she can only sit there gasping, she can't think.
Xander looks much too smug (and a bit superior) when he pulls away. And she wants to get things back on track – passionate, sense of mystery, et cetera – but she can't think, dammit.
The problem with underwear is, lace would feel too much like she had something to prove. Like she was putting on sexy clothing as evidence, arguing that she was old enough, that she wasn't a stupid kid with a crush anymore. She'd feel like she was playing dress-up, and like if the underwear came off (which… hopefully would happen at some point…) then she'd still be a kid underneath.
Plus, lacy underwear was Anya's thing.
Instead, she's deliberately picked out cotton underwear – funky purple cotton underwear, sure, but definitely cotton, not lace. It sends a very clear message of "Yep, I'm an adult, I'm totally used to having sex, and find it fun and exciting. No big deal."
…or at least, that's the plan.
Xander is playing with a strand of hair that's slipped out of her bun. "I like it up. It's different."
She touches it self-consciously. "Really? You don't think it's too… slutty secretary?"
"What? No! No, it's nice. Nice and different."
Which is good, because different was kinda the point. "Thanks."
He glances over at the tv. "You know, that episode was actually sort of pivotal to the series. We're going to have to watch it again."
She just raises an eyebrow.
Xander apparently decides to go for the safe option – the one where he gets to keep all his limbs. "But… later? Later," he amends. "What we're doing now definitely takes precedence."
Dawn smiles shyly, one hand trailing soft lines around his cheek. "It's very precedenty."
And then? He grins – and says the stupidest, worst, most limb-endangering thing he could have said:
"You sound exactly like Buffy."
Back when she didn't exist yet, she used to play dress-up. Not proof-of-adulthood-through-french-panties dress-up; the feeling-pretty-by-wearing-the-tutu-and-the-cloak-and-all-mom's-jewellery-at-once variety.
Once, she broke into Buffy's makeup supply, and used up massive amounts of eyeshadow, blush, glitter stick… everything, colour all over her face, because she was Lady Trixia of the Elven Court, and being multi-coloured was essential.
And somehow, in standard eleven-year-old fashion, she was absolutely certain of two things: a) Buffy was going to kill her for taking everything, and b) Buffy was going to think she looked awesome and play fairies with her.
In the end, though, she was wrong. Buffy didn't play with her. Buffy was too busy kicking Dawn out of her bedroom so she could go back to talking boringly with her boring friends from school. And she hadn't even yelled – it was really dumb, because Dawn was actually upset that Buffy wasn't annoyed with her. No-one had yelled at her – because not one of them had noticed how much of Buffy's stupid makeup she was wearing! And she'd stolen it! She'd stolen all of it!
That night Dawn stuffed Mr Gordo into the bottom drawer of her desk. And didn't get him out again for three whole days.
What are you supposed to say when the guy you're making out with absentmindedly reminds you that he'd rather be making out with your big sister?
She could hit him.
She could make some kind of joke, to show him it didn't bother her.
She could cry. Pathetically.
She could yell at him. Or get cold and hostile until he notices he said the wrong thing. Or point out that Buffy's not that far away, why doesn't he just go find her and make out with her instead? After all, she's fun, and has superpowers, and is apparently way more interesting to think about even when Dawn's right here straddling him, for god's sake.
But then, she knew this going in. She's already made this decision – put too much effort in – and she's going to take the chance even if this is all she gets.
So Dawn does the only thing she can do. She kisses him again, passionately, and tries to remember why she likes him so much.
It mostly started the night that Xander – and several Slayers – came round for dinner at Summers HQ.
That was when Xander first noticed her sexy blue top (the fourth time Dawn had worn it since he got to Rome). And the first time she caught him looking at her butt.
But the important bit was in the kitchen, at the start of the night.
Xander was leaning back against the counter and saying "Pasta? Really? Do we have to have pasta?"
"It's Italy. It's what everyone eats."
"Yeah, I know. I've been here three weeks. That's twenty-one dinners. And at least eighteen of those dinners have been pasta."
"Well, sorry to disappoint you, but this will be number nineteen. There's nothing else we can cook fast enough."
"Sure there is. All we need is some random items of food, some imagination, and ten minutes. Trust me – there are some things in this world that I'm very talented at."
And without missing a beat, she was putting down the pasta packets and saying nonchalantly, "True, but it might be kinda uncomfortable doing that in the kitchen." Then, with a pause and an expression of innocent puzzlement: "Oh wait, you mean cooking?"
And he blushed. Xander took one look at her, turned bright red, and started stammering incoherently.
Of course, a moment later Buffy walked into the kitchen and everything went back to normal.
But from then on, she knew it was possible.
They end up on her bed, still fully clothed, but about to be less so.
He actually hesitates in the doorway – and Dawn's torn between wanting to snap at him "It's just sex! God!", and knowing that it'll never be just sex, not just, not with Xander. If he walks away now… But he doesn't, and soon they're lying on top of her bedspread, and her shirt is feeling increasingly unnecessary.
He apparently thinks so too – his hand slides from her waist up along her bare skin, his other hand deftly undoing buttons.
Then he starts kissing slowly across her chest, her stomach… which is bad, actually, because significant bits of her brain are suddenly shrieking about Xander, that Xander is kissing her, Xander's hands are running over her back, Xander's mouth is, Xander is, Xander… she's going to look all swoony and ridiculous, and be completely incapable of thinking – and they haven't even done anything yet! She needs to get her brain in gear.
It's just sex. Sex with her favourite person in the world, true, but that's no reason to make him think she's a crushy schoolgirl. Correction: it is a very good reason not to make him think she's a crushy schoolgirl. Somehow.
Dawn draws him back up towards her, smiles, and says, "That felt really nice."
Her hands are playing in his hair. "Yeah," she says, and pushes him onto his back, straddling him.
Or actually, maybe it really started back when Xander, after carefully discussing it with all the important people in his life, decided to go to Africa – and Dawn found out about the whole thing via a group email, after he'd actually bought the tickets.
It hurt. Not a new hurt – she'd long ago grown up and realised that, no matter how much they loved her, no-one would ever see her as their number one most important person (except Buffy, and even there she came a very close second to saving the universe).
And that was exactly as it should be, and perfectly okay. She didn't mind, really – after all, it'd be really selfish to demand that everyone only focus on her, all the time. She was used to it, okay with it, totally able to be mature about it and be happy about who she was.
After all, she was the Chief Slayer's sister, and a Scoobie, and did important, life-altering stuff all the time, and wasn't that enough? Did she really need every person she knew to consult her about every single thing they did, as if their lives were being arranged just for her benefit?
People had the right to make their own choices, and decide things without consulting her. If Xander wanted to go and fight evil in Africa somewhere, then good for him!
But it still hurt. Way more than it should.
It takes maybe two minutes to get Xander's shirt off and get Xander extremely distracted by what her tongue is doing to his nipples. By then, she's gotten back enough common sense to be able to think through what's happening, rather than just collapsing in a mushy pile of I'm-in-bed-half-naked-with-Xander! giddiness.
So she kisses him, slowly, savouring the moment. And says, "I like you… being here."
And he tucks a strand of hair behind her ear, and says, "I like it too," smiling at her.
Which – wow – shouldn't make her melt, but wow…
She smiles back at him. Xander Harris – her Xander, right here with her. Both of them together. It's kind of unbelievable.
And she's never going to get a better moment than this, so she leans in and kisses him softly, hands reaching behind her and unclasping her purple, adult-who's-used-to-sex bra, which gets dropped beside the bed – leaving her to be just her, breasts lightly brushing against his chest, just her, just Dawn. No more disguises.
Dawn pulls back slowly, smiling happily and looking deeply into— and he isn't looking back at her!
He's got a distracted expression on his face, absentmindedly thinking of something else, when his girlfriend has just removed her bra – hello, breasts, right here – what else does it take?
Unbelievable is definitely the right word for it.
And, you know, she can deal with being his second choice – or even third – she can handle the issues that come with being so into someone who's not as into her, but forgetting she's there when they're in the middle of sex should not be part of the deal. She hits him in the forehead, and scowls.
"Hey! I'm still actually here."
He blinks – and refocuses.
"Doofus," she says.
"Did you just call me a doofus?" he asks, looking puzzled. "Are you even allowed to do that?"
Nuh-uh. Not okay to be flippant and cute when she's annoyed with him. "Yes," she answers, "Because you are one."
And then he starts babbling. About differences and nakedness – and yes, naked, she knows, she's right here, being naked, and yet somehow he's more interested in theoretical nakedness than actually doing anything to the half-naked woman lying on top of him.
"You're babbling," she observes, and adds, in a cutting way, "Anya mentioned this part. She said you had issues with the preliminaries."
Xander freezes up, and looks at her. "Dawnie," he begins – and stops, looking confused.
Two weeks ago, they were making out on the couch – her hands underneath his shirt; his on her butt – and Buffy walked in on them.
Dawn didn't even mind Buffy coming in unannounced after promising to get home super-late and give the two of them their space – not really. What she did mind was that Xander's whole body stiffened up the moment she walked in, and suddenly the girl french kissing him wasn't nearly so important as the girl he was best friends with.
Of course, he still made an effort – still stayed there with Dawn, after Buffy left them alone again. But it wasn't the same. He was way more uncomfortable, and she could feel it.
That night, she ended up punching her pillow violently several times and swearing loudly… and then firmly deciding that it was okay. It really was.
She looks at him pointedly. And he's still looking confused.
Crap. He clearly doesn't know what to say, and she just went all sarcastic at him, and why on earth is that okay? It's not like he was being rude intentionally. She was, though. Crap.
She really should focus on his feelings, too, instead of just fixating on what she wants.
Dawn tentatively, apologetically, slides her hand into his – gently tracing her thumb along the edge of his palm.
"You know," she says softly, "we don't actually have to do anything… I mean, if you don't want to."
She can feel Xander un-tensing. His whole face relaxes. Apparently, not having to sleep with her is a really good thing… she knew it. He's changed his mind.
Which is okay, really – after all, she knew it probably wouldn't last. But…
She bites her lip, pushing back her disappointment, and moves her hand to his chest, drawing nonsense shapes across his skin.
Xander's chest… Xander's skin… the last time she'll ever be allowed to do any of this…
Spontaneously, Dawn leans forward and kisses him – his eye flies open, breath hitches – and she thinks "Screw it" and kisses him again, deeply.
And he kisses her back.
So that's when she completely loses her mind, completely forgets that he's going to break up with her, completely disregards her carefully thought out ideas… and instead shoves her hand inside his pants, stroking along the length of his dick.
Xander gasps – and without warning her hand is covered in jizz, and he's lying there frozen, looking horrified and blushing profusely.
...she did that? That fast? Wow. Wow.
Xander puts a hand over his face. "Could we maybe not?" he asks, in a slightly muffled voice. "I mean, I'm all for humiliation in bed, but this is way beyond where I normally go."
He… really is clueless. Totally.
Dawn smiles shyly and moves back to tracing meaningless shapes across his chest. "I liked it," she says – and Xander moves his hand and looks at her sceptically. "I mean, not all the time," she amends, "but once in a while, it's nice."
"My complete and utter mortification?"
"No," she says, firmly. "I like that– I like that you want me."
He blinks – the frown lingering on his face for a moment, until he realises she's serious.
"Very much really."
And for a moment, Xander's looking at her, and she's looking at him.
Then Dawn leans in – and starts kissing him again.