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All the Spaces in Between

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Night Owls

“Dawnie, bedtime means it’s time for bed,” Willow insisted, staring Dawn down while Oz leaned on the wall behind her. “Not that it’s time to get out of bed and talk to us!”

Babysitting was supposed to be easy, Willow had been pretty sure, at least when the individual being babysat (which was a weird term, Willow supposed, seeing as Dawn was 10 years old and only very rarely infantile) liked you. But maybe that was the problem, that Dawn liked her and Oz, because instead of whining and being stubborn like she was with some babysitters, (and very rude on top of that, if Cordelia’s account of her one night with Dawn was to be believed) Dawn had spent the entire night wedging herself between Willow and Oz and blinking up at the both of them as if they held the keys to universe. It had been sweet at first, but it was beginning to become a problem.

“But I’m not tired!” Dawn exclaimed, nodding earnestly at them both. “Can’t you just tell me more about your band instead, Oz?”

“Sorry, kiddo,” Oz shrugged, looking mildly apologetic and not at all like the stern enforcer that Willow needed him to be impersonating right now. They were trying to put Dawn to bed, and she was never going to stay in bed if Oz looked like he didn’t care if she stayed up all night.

“But you guys are so cool! I was learning all sorts of things! And, besides, learning’s important, right?”

“Of course learning’s important, but so is sleeping, Dawnie,” Willow reasoned tiredly, promising herself that she would be conveniently unavailable the next time Buffy asked her to babysit when she went patrolling. “And learning’s good for daytime, but it’s bedtime and that really, really means you need to go to bed! And you need to stay in bed, okay?”

“But!”

“Good night, Dawn,” Oz cut in, taking Willow’s hand and pulling her towards the doorway. “You need to sleep, not argue. We’ll be downstairs.” And just like that, without waiting to hear any further protests, Oz tugged Willow into the hallway and they crept down the stairs together.

 

Willow liked Dawn. She thought that Dawn was sweet and adorable and funny, in that innocent 10 year old sort of way, and Dawn loved the both of them (because Willow talked to her about cool things like NASA and American Indian Reservations and Sir Francis Drake, and because Oz treated her like he treated Buffy and Xander, like she was his friend, not his friend’s kid sister), so the whole babysitting arrangement generally worked out pretty well for all three of them. Unfortunately, bedtime usually turned out to be much less successful.

“Do you think she’ll come back down again?” Willow whispered as they settled together on the Summers’ couch, leaning against each other with Willow’s legs thrown across Oz’s lap.

“Hard to say,” Oz commented, toying with loose strands of Willow’s hair. “She’s persistent, but I think we’re intimidating enough to scare her away.”

“Yeah,” she scoffed, “because our fantastic intimidation techniques worked so well the last two times she decided to come down here to talk to us instead of going to bed.”

Oz just shrugged again, seemingly very involved in playing with her hair.

“Though,” Willow added consideringly, “I guess our previous strategies of just asking nicely and of finding her at least 30 teddy bears don’t really count as fantastic intimidation techniques. I doubt I’d be intimidated by anybody doing either of those things.”

“A fair point,” Oz acknowledged. “What are you proposing we do?”

“I don’t know! We could, umm…”

“If only we’d thought to bring the tranq rifle,” Oz sighed in faked regret, chuckling when Willow indignantly smacked his arm.

“Oz, that’s awful! We can’t tranquilize Dawn! You ought to feel incredibly ashamed of yourself!” she chided, trying to swallow her giggles the way she would swallow back water, and only half succeeding.

“I can’t. I’m absolutely without shame,” Oz smirked, loving the way her face lit up when she laughed.

“Uh huh,” Willow giggled, bumping her shoulder affectionately against his. “Any other great ideas, then?”

“Well, we missed the window on drugging her food,” Oz offered seriously, “but I bet we still have time to barricade her inside her room.”

Willow opened her mouth to respond, but froze in place when she heard hesitant footsteps on the staircase. “Quick, you have to be bad cop this time!” Willow hissed under her breath, tugging on Oz’s sleeve. “I’m no good at bad cop! I fold under that sort of pressure!”

“Better idea,” Oz smirked mysteriously, and grabbed her face with both hands and kissed her hard. Willow froze in surprise, absolutely stymied by Oz’s supposedly better idea, before she remembered Dawn’s five minute diatribe on the last time Xander and Cordelia babysat her together and how gross they were and why dating was stupid and nasty. Willow smiled into the kiss and slipped one arm around Oz’s neck, trailing her other hand along the hem of his t-shirt. There was almost nothing legal she and Oz could do that would drive Dawn off to bed any faster than this.

“Willow? Oz?” the youngest Summers girl’s voice echoed down the stairway as she climbed down, hoping to stay up a little later with her babysitters. “Oh, ewww!” Dawn exclaimed as the caught sight of them. “Willow! Oz!”

The two teenagers continued on as if they hadn’t heard her, pretending that she was still in bed. Sure enough, “That’s so gross!” the ten year old cried in indignation, before turning to stomp back to her bedroom to escape the sight of kissing as quickly as she could, almost as if she’d stumbled upon Willow and Oz dismembering cats, instead.

“Uggh!” Dawn’s irritation carried down through the staircase to her two babysitters, who pulled away from each other with matching smirks.

“I don’t think she’ll be getting out of bed again, tonight,” Oz smiled, squeezing his girlfriend’s hand.

“But, you never know,” Willow nodded earnestly, trying her best not to blush. “So, just in case, maybe we should keep going, because Dawn might try to come back downstairs again.”

“Right,” Oz agreed. “We should. In the interest of responsible babysitting, of course.”

“Oh, of course!” Willow grinned, “We’ve got to do it for the kids, you know?” Any response Oz might have made was lost when Willow slipped a hand around his neck to pull him into a kiss.

They didn’t see Dawn again, for the rest of the night.

 

fin.