I. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Faith/Dawn, Faith/Buffy (unrequited)
Dawn tried so hard to be as good as a Slayer.
She would never be as strong they were, so she made sure she stayed smarter. She researched in a dozen languages, and she memorized demons by the score. She named them on command, a power of its own but not nearly enough; she wrote lists of weaknesses and tastes and potential hideouts, gave them all they needed to know to win.
When she found those papers crumpled up and tossed away for stakes and axes and real, true power, she smoothed them flat, returned them to her files, and went on with her studies.
“You ever gonna take a break, kid?”
“I’m not a kid.” A chunk of hair fell into her face; Dawn tucked it behind her ear, but it slipped forward again, and she huffed, the air stirring it.
“Okay then. You ever gonna take a break, girl?” Faith hopped up on the table and sat cross-logged in the center of it. The tip of her boot barely touched the edge of Dawn’s book, but she snatched it away and glared up at her.
“I’m a woman,” Dawn said and slammed the book shut. “And I’ll take a break when I’m done.”
“That’s not really a break, is it?” Faith kicked her boot up on her thigh and picked at the edge of the sole. It was worn. Dawn hated it. She could just go buy new boots, why wait until they fell apart? “If you wait until you’re done, that’s the end of your work.”
“There isn’t an end.” She rolled her eyes. “I’ll take a break when I’m done with this book. Why are you here anyway? Shouldn’t you be out with the Slayers?”
“I have ice cream.”
Even Slayers could be tempted, Dawn thought, and smiled, just a little. It wouldn’t do to make Faith think she liked her or anything. But ice cream, ice cream she loved.
Dawn didn’t notice when Faith started swinging by regularly. Sometimes she had ice cream. Sometimes she had beer. Dawn preferred the former, but she tried each drink, and let Faith know how much she hated it. Eventually she brought hard cider instead.
She never said very much, she just stretched out on the table or the couch or the ground and finished her treat and listened. She could listen better than anyone else. Willow was almost as good, but she was always trying so hard to understand, and be helpful, and fix things, when all Dawn wanted was someone to hear what she was saying.
And god, she couldn’t talk to Buffy. She was her sister and way too busy.
Faith got it. Her eyes would droop half closed and her whole body would relax but Dawn knew she was always ready to fight and heard every single word. At first, she just talked about whatever she was researching, the demon of the week or advanced mathematics or the music of the stars.
Then it kept happening and she found herself saying all sorts of things, silly things and big things and finally secrets not meant to be spoken.
Faith took them all in stride, she sat and she listened and she kept coming back.
God, she was so sick of Buffy’s shit. Just because she was Slayer number one and had all these women looking up to her and wanting to be like her – none of it meant she had to be such a bitch.
“I don’t know what’s worse,” Faith said, and sat down next to her. The night was dark, the sky cloudy, and everyone was either inside where it was safe or out patrolling. Dawn pressed a finger to her mouth and gnawed on her knuckle. She had chewed it bloody already, and it really hurt, but she didn’t stop.
Faith didn’t say anything else, and finally Dawn canted her head toward her. “What’s worse?” she asked, and her voice was hoarse. Her anger settled in her throat, clawed until it ached, all the things she didn’t say, all the mean thoughts she swallowed.
“When Buffy lashes out,” Faith pressed her shoulder against Dawn’s, “or when she acts like you don’t exist.”
Dawn scraped her knuckle back and forth against her teeth. It really, really sucked, being Buffy’s little sister. She thought it probably also really, really sucked to be Slayer number two.
She scooted a little closer and wiggled around until she could put her head on Faith’s shoulder. Her body was warm, and they sat there a long time, until the clouds burst and the rain fell and still Faith stayed right beside her.
Dawn was tired of waiting.
She was tired of waiting for Buffy to recognize what an asset she was to organization, and that she was an adult capable of making her own decisions. She was tired of waiting to feel real inside her own skin, when she wasn’t real, not her flesh and not her bones.
She wasn’t going to wait for Faith to make the first move any more.
“D. Shouldn’t you be in the library?” Faith squinted in the sunlight and moved out of the way so Dawn could go inside. It was late morning, but that was pretty early for the Slayers who patrolled full time. “Everything ok?”
She was wearing gray gym shorts and a faded t-shirt. Her hair was a mess, tangled and frizzy. Her feet were bare, and her toes curled against the tile. She still looked tough, competent, strong – she was Faith, after all.
She looked absolutely beautiful.
Dawn nodded. She had a speech prepared. She had written three drafts and practiced it in front of the mirror. In the second it took to shut the door, she forgot every single word. Faith watched her, quiet and steady.
That was how she liked Faith best. Dawn leaned forward and kissed her. That was quiet and steady too, the way their lips pressed together, the way Faith put her hands on Dawn’s hips and then slid one of them to the small of her back, pulling their bodies closer together. She slipped it under Dawn’s shirt, and her fingers were rough and warm.
Faith let her lead, let her deepen the kiss and guide them to the couch and tumble them down, their legs entwined, their kiss all lips and teeth and tongues.
Later, Faith had her favorite ice cream in the freezer, just waiting for her. They curled together on the couch, and Dawn thought of all the things she could say, all the words which fluttered to her lips.
Her mouth was warm from the kisses, and Faith listened still.