Darling Buds of May

Dawn lays in her bed until she hears Grandma Summer's mantel clock chime one.  Then she gets up and slips out her window, putting one sneakered foot and then the other carefully, quietly, in just the right spots.  Not thinking too hard about what she's doing, because thinking always screws her up, one way or another.  This, she's doing on instinct alone.  She drops the last few feet to the back yard silently and tugs the letterman jacket a little closer around her - shoves her hands in the pockets and gets going. 

It's a fifteen minute walk to the cemetery - fifteen minutes that she uses not thinking very, very hard, just trying to be eyes and ears and nose - trying to notice everything and catalogue it, separate the dangerous from the...oh!   Right, the dangerous from the blowing grocery bag.  Dawn swallows and takes a deep breath - continues her walk.  The cemetery gates are just ahead, and she feels a little sick.  If Buffy finds out, she'll be grounded for life.  She doesn’t even want to think about what Spike would do.  But they just don't... 

*Don't get it.  Don't get ME.  And man, can I be more of a walking cliché?*  Dawn smiles to herself a little and huddles further into the coat.  It's chilly, end of February, and there's a mist in the hollows where old graves have sunk - where the ground dips; dozens of subsidences from the tunnels and caves that apparently honeycomb Sunnydale Below.  So Spike says.  Dawn doesn't want to think about tunnels and things creeping through the dark under her, and she sighs in shaky relief as the crypt comes into view.  It's an older one, set back in some trees near the wall.  Easy to overlook, with the yew that half-covers its door and the rank tangle of blackberry canes creeping around the back and side.  A soft glow comes from behind the grimy windows, and Dawn smiles.  He's there.

*Of course he's there, you nit.  Said he would be...*  Dawn doesn't look at that too hard - doesn't want to wonder why she's so relieved she hasn't been stood up.  It's not like she - they - haven't been meeting for months.  And he's always there, just like he says.  Waiting for her.  Smiling.  Always has some little story to tell, something funny or clever to make the first minutes less awkward.  Then he always has a kiss for her - a soft touch of his hand to her hair and then it's not awkward anymore except for that 'I'm not sure if I wanna go all the way just yet' awkwardness that Janice assures her is perfectly normal.

 Janice, of course, has gone all the way - with that guy in their biology class - and she carefully hides her smug superiority when she and Dawn talk, now.  Sitting by the fountain at school, having lunch and pushing her hair back out of her face, Janice looks different, somehow, and Dawn wants that difference too - wants that little crinkle of secret smile when adults tell you you're too young.  When older sisters tell you you'll never understand and won't talk about sleeping with the one thing that they're really not supposed to.  The one person.  

Dawn can understand that, really.  She had a crush on Spike for a while - and who wouldn't?  Bad-boy personified, leather and cigarettes and whiskey and he can tell a scary story better than anyone she's ever met.  Even scarier 'cause he did those things, and you can see the glint of it in his eyes when he talks about it.  He may heel to the Initiative leash and he may court Buffy with his James Dean smile and Victorian manners, but Dawn knows.  She knows, and if the chip ever comes out she gives them all about twenty-four hours to either dust him or find a vampire-proof place to hide for the rest of their lives, because Spike isn't tamed one bit.

Dawn shivers, standing there - realizes she's been staring at the crypt for a few minutes.  Not going in like she planned - not even going on, just standing there in the cemetery zoning out. 

*Stupid.  Let's go!*    But she still just stands there, like her feet are rooted to the ground.  Her hands are clenched tight in her pockets and the foil edge from the condom is prickling her palm.  She's not really sure about that, but she's a 21st century girl, after all, and she can't separate what she's gonna do - what she's pretty sure she's gonna do - from latex and solemn discussions about STD's and teen pregnancy.  She tried to ask Spike about that -'cause Buffy sure never buys condoms - but the look he'd given her had been so utterly horrified that she'd had to make some lame excuse and run upstairs - bury her head in her pillow and laugh until she cried.  Imagine - she, not-yet-legal Dawn Summers had shocked a hundred-forty-plus demon! 

It was good for a laugh, two visits ago, but now she's not sure it was such a good idea.  Buffy had given her some strange looks, and stuttered around for about five minutes before Dawn had caught on.  Then she'd hauled out all the stuff from Health class and displayed if for Buffy and told her it was ok, she knew all about 'that stuff', she had just been....curious.  Blamed it on biology class and teen hormones and eventually Buffy had gone away.

But now Dawn wonders, 'cause she's had time to think.  Why she wants to do this, she's not sure.  Just to prove she's as hip as Janice?  As casual?  Not really.  To prove she's a grown-up?  Again, not really, 'cause standing in a cemetery past midnight all alone just proves how un grown-up she is. 

No, she wants to do it because...she wants to understand.  Buffy is thinner and more tired-looking every week - every day.   She hides what she does and where she goes at night, but Dawn has seen them - seen them by the tree in the front yard, seen them right before or after patrol, and Buffy can't hide that.  How she fits, with Spike.  How they move together, each so aware of the other, so in tune that when they fight - like at Halloween - it's like watching a dance.  It looks so easy and so...comfortable.  And Spike is always just there, watching and waiting to step up.  Whatever Buffy needs, he's got, and Dawn want's to understand that, and she wants to understand why Buffy hides it.  Anya wouldn't care.  Neither would Tara.  Dawn doesn't care, because Buffy needs somebody and why shouldn't it be someone who knows her secrets, knows every last thing, good or bad?  Easier then trying to break in some new guy from work or something. 

And, really, Dawn just wants to know.   Wants to know what it's like to give yourself up to that - to trust someone else so completely and deeply that you turn your head, arch your throat - give up, and lie down and let them soothe you into mindless little gasps.  That's what it's been, so far - hands and mouths and jean-clad hips on jean-clad hips.  And Dawn has felt that ache - that tremble - down deep in her belly and between her legs and she wants to know about that.  Want's to know if the pushing and the twisting and the rubbing are as good naked as they are clothed.  If the ache can get sweeter, and the tremble can become shivers.  She knows what it's like, alone in bed or in the bath, eyes closed and back arched and her hand moving just so.  Now she wants to know what it's like to share that.  Then maybe she and Buffy can have some common ground, some kind of connection that will make all the tension between them - all the lies and past mistakes and shouting - something they can forget about. 

Dawn squares her shoulders and finishes the walk to the crypt.  She pushes the door open slowly and feels a smile coming on - big, goofy smile, but she can't help it.  There are candles everywhere - candles and incense and flowers.  Graveside wreathes pulled apart and scattered, but it's the thought that counts, right? And they don't look like sacrifices to the dead, like this.  They look decadent and thoughtful, and a little bit like love, and Dawn lets that thought lie undisturbed.  Something to think about later

There's a nest of blankets - rough Army ones padding the floor and softer, fleecy ones on top.  Spread out and rumpled, just a little.  Inviting, like an unmade bed on a rainy day.   Dawn steps inside and pushes the heavy door shut and he is there.  Thick brown hair that never needs cutting and that shy smile that makes her heart give a little extra thump.  He's holding a rose in his hand - looking at her like he did that night.  When he told her she was special - different.  When he told her he liked her, liked her a lot. 

Buffy thinks Dawn dusted him - thinks the Slayer's little sister lived up to her name.  But she hadn't - she couldn't - and she's so glad now.  Justin helps her off with his letterman jacket - brushes her hair back and touches her cheek, so soft.

"You sure, Dawn?" he asks, and Dawn smiles up at him.  She's finally gonna do it - finally gonna know just what it's like to be Buffy - what it's like to touch the darkness and walk away unscathed.  What it's like to be that strong and that needy, all at the same time.  She's got her own demon - her own little secret, and she's gonna know, and she's pretty sure it'll make things...better.  Pretty sure it'll ease the ache that settled in when mom died and has never left since.  Hopes it will, because oh god - something has to.

Dawn wants the love that Spike is willing to give - fierce, greedy, unbreakable - and she's pretty sure it's right here.

"I'm sure, Justin."  Justin smiles, and pulls her close for a kiss - first slow kiss of the night, and Dawn feels that tremble and that ache and smiles into his cool, soft mouth.  Virgins don't know what she's gonna know tomorrow, and she knows it's going to be wonderful - just wonderful.