Disco Inferno
by Amy

Dawn gets home late.

This is intentional.

She gets home late because she knows that Willow will be doing something, and Xander will be doing something, and Anya won't care, and of course Buffy and her merry gang of men will be out fighting evil for the greater good of, like, humanity, and then the only person left at home will be Andrew and no matter what she's wearing, he won't care, or if he does, at least he won't rat her out to Buffy.

Dawn knows why he won't rat her out to Buffy: he has a crush on her. Dawn thinks this is sketchy, because really, he's only a year younger than Buffy, which makes him like twenty years old, and Dawn's only sixteen (a mature sixteen, but sixteen nonetheless), and technically, as Xander likes to remind her, she's only two and a half, which makes Andrew's sick, twisted, wrong crush on her even sicker and more twisted and more wrong.

But his crush on her means a lot of things. The most important one, right now, is that he won't tell Buffy what she's wearing when she comes home an hour after curfew, or even that she got home after curfew, and he'll probably spend most of the night contemplating jacking off while thinking about her and then end up sleeping remembering Jonathan or Warren. Dawn doesn't have the heart to remind him once again that he's gay, because every time he tries to convince himself he's straight, she gets what she considers an extension on curfew and on household rules.

Dawn twirls in front of Andrew and waits for him to tell her that she looks amazing, which she does, and says things to give him false hope about some type of future they might have together, omitting all sorts of details, like the way that Dawn already has a crush on someone, and for once it's not completely unrequited, and yeah, he's even older than Andrew is, but unlike Andrew, he's hot, and he looks really good in leather.

Plus? British accent. Major plus.

These are the details that Andrew doesn't need to know as he stutters that Buffy'll be home in a little while so she should probably go to bed, especially if she doesn't want one of the other girls to steal her bed, which they've done before when she skipped curfew, and then he turns away and she can never tell if he's trying to think sexual things about her or not think sexual things about her, but in either case, he's not paying attention while she flounces up the stairs.

Dawn brushes her hair so that the next morning, Buffy will barely be able to see the glitter she put in it, and she uses the expensive soapy gook that Buffy likes to remove the makeup she was wearing, and then carefully pours some water into the container to make it look like none is missing. Not that it matters, because Dawn can always blame it on one of the Slayers in Training, and Buffy probably still won't believe her, but she won't have proof that Dawn's wrong, so Dawn won't be in trouble, and really, that's what's important.

Dawn's learned that having the billions of mini-Buffys in the house, as sucky as it is, has its good points. For one thing, Willow is never bossy anymore, because she's always clinging to Kennedy and making disgusting shmoopy-faces that made Dawn really, really jealous. This was when Dawn was seriously evaluating herself, and couldn't understand why no one seemed to have a crush on her, when all of those girls were in such close capacity. But it seems that, with the exception of Kennedy, none of the slayers are anything but super-straight, probably so they can carry on their precious Slayer Genes if they can live that long, and anyway, it's not like Dawn would want to date them; Amanda's the only one who's even near her age, and she's in the band. Dawn has higher standards than that.

For another thing, it's meant that all the chores that she used to have to do have been eliminated. None of the proto-Slayers have to go to school or anything, and to Dawn's surprise, Buffy actually agreed that this means they should do household chores- including making Dawn's bed, which is by far their best contribution to the Chateau de Slayers, as Willow calls it now, or the Home for Wayward Slayers, which is Xander's term, or Our House, which is Dawn's preferred explanation, although no one else seems to get that she does not include anyone besides herself, Buffy, and Willow in this.

Plus, Dawn's finally getting to be adult, in her own way. Sure, Buffy's still treating her like she's about five years old, but Willow and Xander and Giles seem to get that Dawn's grown-up enough to help them wrangling the stake-toting maniacs currently inhabiting her living room.

And, of course, the aforementioned ability to take things and blame others. That's probably her favorite part.

Dawn took ballet when she was little. She doubts that the monks' spell was comprehensive enough for anyone else who was in the class to remember this, but she does. Ballet was her thing. Buffy had the strength, the speed, and the stamina, but Dawn had grace. She doesn't dance en pointe anymore; she just dances at the Bronze and adjusts her cleavage every so often, just the way Faith had suggested, and the guys flock to her and the girls flock to her and sometimes it seems like the monks made a mistake, like Dawn is more Faith's sister than Buffy's. It would make more sense that way; Faith slaying had a grace her sister lacked, like Faith was doing her own ballet of dance, and Buffy was just trying to master the steps in this really methodical way.

Mechanical, yeah, that was it; Buffy is mechanical in everything she does. Like slaying- like kissing- like living -- is this stupid sacred duty that she'll perform because she has to, not because she wants to. And that was the problem with Buffy in her, five-year-old ballet class, and why Buffy switched to baby karate, and then baby cheerleading, and then real dance drill and cheerleading once she was old enough.

No one cares if you're graceful if you look good in a short skirt.

Sometimes, when Dawn lies awake in bed, she remembers ballet lessons. Ballet was so much fun for her because you learned everything specifically, in steps, but from there on out you were on your own. They could tell you that now was the time for a tour jete and that you should be jubilant, but you were the one who had to do that, who had to take it out of words and into context and just dance the way that you feel.

That's why the Bronze is so completely pointless. She can dance sex without showing an inch of skin, and all the kids know it, even the ones that hate her in school, and they flock around her like she's a postmodern Cordelia, even though they'll ignore her the next day in school, because unlike the rest of the sluts on the dance floor, she'll let them look but they can't touch unless they're very good and really, how often is a high school boy very good?

This is why, as much as Dawn knows she could stay out later and Andrew would cover for her, she's back by eleven at latest. "My sister," she explains with a grin, and all the kids know Buffy and nod and say things like they wouldn't want to piss her sister off or that if she's late, remember that it's not their fault, because everyone at Sunnydale High knows of Buffy, if not personally then by reputation, and they want to stay on her good side, especially after some of those rumors about when she was a student in Sunnydale and she burned down the school and that's why they have the brand-new building.

Buffy would probably love to know about this. But Dawn isn't allowed to go to the Bronze on school nights, so Buffy thinks that the kids think she's just the nice, somewhat kooky teacher with the weird earrings. Dawn told her the weird earrings thing once and Buffy freaked out about it, and it's kind of funny that every morning Buffy will have everyone answer her queries of "no, really, are they weird? Do they look bad? If you saw me in the hall, would you make fun of me for it?"

Once Andrew pointed out that she's hot, and no one makes fun of the hot girls, especially when they're showing as much cleavage as Buffy was, and Buffy had told him that he was no longer allowed to answer the question because he wasn't taking it seriously, but Dawn thought that Andrew's answer was a lot closer to the truth than anyone else's were.

Dawn forces herself to fall asleep before midnight, because if she waits any longer Buffy and the gang will be home, and she won't be able to sleep, and very possibly might stake one of the girls if they don't SHUT UP at THREE AM ON A SCHOOL NIGHT, because just because YOU don't have class doesn't mean that I don't and-

That's normally when Buffy reminds her that they have sacred birthrights and they're just blowing off steam and Dawn gets grumpy and slams her door and insists that it's her room, not the Slayers', hers, and it takes a while- up to an hour, sometimes- for Willow and Xander to convince her to let someone stay on her floor, and by then it's after four AM, and hey, at eight thirty AM, some of us have to attend class, even if our sisters who work there can just ditch whenever without worrying about child protective services or whatever.

No, Dawn's not bitter.

Not at all.

Dawn goes to bed early so that she can wake up early, because tomorrow is a Wednesday and Wednesdays are when Buffy calls L.A. or L.A. calls Buffy, and tomorrow will be a them-calling-us day, and Dawn's pretty sure that she knows who's going to be doing the calling, so she has big plans to be the one to answer the phone. Honestly, she's planned her entire Wednesday around the phone call, because when you go to Sunnydale High and you're not stupid enough to die but you don't have actual superpowers, there isn't much else to do. The biggest event in Dawn's history, 1987 to present (or 2000 to present, if you want to be all obnoxious like Buffy sometimes is when they're fighting over who gets the shower first, which Dawn always loses because she wants to blow-dry her hair but Buffy has to get the blood out of her hair, which pretty much always trumps vanity), is her sister dying on her behalf, and that doesn't even really count, because Buffy's alive again, isn't she?

Dawn could write a book about how much her life sucks, but like no one would believe it, and those who would wouldn't care.

Maybe that's why she thinks Wesley is so cool. He tells her that last time he underestimated a teenager was when he was Buffy's watcher for, like, eight minutes, and that he's not going to make the same mistake again. So he treats Dawn like an adult. He tells her that she's smart and a quick learner, and he actually pays attention to her, which she loves. He's been teaching her magic, because he thinks that someone besides Willow should know how to cast spells "just in case" (he never tells her what just in case is, but she knows anyway), and she can float a pencil now, and also he told her how to meditate, which she does sometimes, but it's hard when you're one of like eight zillion people in the house and they're all practicing fighting and, like, hi, that was an heirloom before you shoved your stupid slayer skilled karate chops through it.

Wesley makes her feel like she can actually do stuff with the group. Like superpowers aren't the be-all and end-all of, like, existence. And Willow says that he stopped shaivng and now he's all scruffy, which will even make him cute, which is a weird concept but one Dawn's willing to embrace.

Tomorrow morning Dawn will be the first one up and she'll climb over someone- Rona, probably; Rona's been staying in her room the past few nights- and then go downstairs and make herself cereal (Dawn has given up on anything requiring cooking, because she always seems to screw it up and then she just seems pathetic and if she keeps doing stuff like that Buffy's never going to let her do anything) and then wait by the phone for Wes to call.

And he'll say hi, and she'll say hi, and he'll probably ask her how she's doing and how school is and whether she's killed any of the Slayers in Training, and then he'll ask to talk to Buffy or Willow and she'll run to get one of them, probably tripping over Andrew on the way, who'll wake up and stare at her in her nightgown as she runs past him to get to her sister so Wes won't be kept waiting. And she'll have done something good, waking up her lazy sister who can't even get up on time once a week for the important stuff.

Everyone will appreciate Dawn.

It's the way things should be.

Someday, everyone else will figure that out.


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