Spring Cleaning
by Amy

They will never be exactly sure why Buffy decided that spring cleaning would be a good idea. They think it has something to do with the sheer volume of hands on deck, but because she's Buffy no one ever stopped to ask. All that they'll know is that Buffy played favorites, and neither of them has ever been that.

Most of the girls are given jobs on their own, and even Andrew has his own domain- the kitchen, where he's busily sorting through copper pots and pans and trying to organize the soaps and detergents- but they're put together. Not only together, but together in the attic. To toss whatever they can, and figure out if there's anything they can sell. Grueling, disgusting labor in the dustiest part of the house.

"This," Dawn declares, "is the worst job ever."

Faith coughs from the dust that has just blown up from the shelf she's wiping down. Dawn takes this as agreement.

"Why do we get stuck with attic duty?" she continues. They've been upstairs for an hour now, wiping and spraying and sponging and aside from one water fight that ended abruptly when Faith's overzealously thrown sponge smashed through an already-broken china plate, it looks like the room is no neater than they started.

Faith looks up from the bureau she's been working on. "Because Buffy doesn't trust you, and she doesn't trust me, but we cancel each other out, and if we don't, it's all attic crap anyway."

"It's not crap. It's everything from when we used to live with Dad." Dawn sighs. "Besides, Buffy trusts me."

"Come on, Dawnie. You're the klepto and I'm the killer."

"You're not a killer."

"That's not what your sister thinks."

Dawn grabs a filthy dishrag to clean the thick layer of dust off another box. "I bet we haven't moved half of this since we moved here." 'Cookbooks', in large clean print. Her mom's. She begins wedging the box out from its place in the corner.

"Come on," Faith says. "It's not worth dwelling."

Dawn turns to watch over her shoulder for a second before turning back and picking up the box. "I just hate that Buffy trusts, like, Kennedy more than she trusts me. I'm trustworthy. Just because I'm not sleeping with Willow-"

Faith grins, finally. "Hey, not everyone can eat fish from the same sushi platter." Dawn's nose crinkles, and Faith laughs. "What's wrong, Dawnie?"

"You wouldn't understand. You've never been single in your life."

"Except for your sister, I've never even had a good friend."

Looking back, Dawn will wonder why she didn't say something like 'That's not true, you have me.' She'll write it off as thinking that they weren't that close, but really, she'll know that she was just scared that Faith might laugh.

Instead, Dawn goes back to her point. "But people see you, and they're like 'whoa'. Everyone wants you. And Buffy, and Willow- everybody. And I..."

"...Feel left out, because everyone has someone but you?"

"Got it in one." Dawn moves the box from one hip to the other. "I'm going to take these downstairs. I'm pretty sure Andrew's still on kitchen duty, and he's a lot less scary than Kennedy will be."

"Have fun with that," Faith grunts as she strains to pick up a stone garden gnome. Dawn's still pretty sure the gnome had, at some point, been possessed. She'd been so scared of it that they'd moved it from the front lawn to the attic. Mom and Buffy had had to work together to lift it. It was that heavy.

Also, it was ugly, but that didn't bother Mom. Mom liked it. She thought it had character.

Mom was really weird sometimes.

Later, Dawn will realize that she shouldn't have been so preoccupied when she was moving heavy things, and Faith will realize she should have kept her eye on the kid instead of the stone monstrosity, but hindsight is 20/20 and-

"Dawnie, watch out-" but it's too late because Dawn's foot catches on the corner of a canvas (canvas?) and she crashes to the ground, the box's contents spilling onto the floor.

"Dawnie, are you okay?" Faith asks immediately, offering a hand to help her up.

Dawn uses the leverage to be pulled to her feet and pats gently at the knees of her old jeans. One is frayed now, a big hole from the fall, but nothing is bloody or even badly scraped. Yes, she's okay. "I'm fi-"

Her eyes fall on it at the same time as Faith's do. The box was labeled "cookbooks," and most of the contents seem to be kitchen related, but now that it's out Dawn can remember packing that box and Mom tossing in a few extra things because they fit.

Things like old yearbooks.

"Mom's," Dawn says softly. She walks silently to sit on the floor where the piles have fallen, before finding a college yearbook and flipping through it. She holds up the open book for Faith to see. "This is Mom when she was Buffy's age," she says. "College senior. She was an art history major. Her thesis was on renaissance art." Dawn shuts the book abruptly and bites her lip, willing herself not to cry. "This- this is Mom when she was my age." Dawn has heard the stories more times than she can count. Buffy thought the stories were stupid, but... well, that was Buffy. "She was on yearbook. Like me." Don't. Cry.

"Do you miss her, Dawnie?" Faith asks hesitantly.

That's all it takes. Dawn falls into Faith's lap, sobbing, forgetting everything, just letting herself cry on a pile of Home and Gardens that Mom saved for the recipes. Her chest feels heavy and constricted. She wants her mommy, her daddy, her sister-

But Buffy's never really there anymore. And Faith's a good second choice.

Faith pets Dawn's back awkwardly, unfamiliar with the touch. Her hand finds its way to hair and strokes it gently, easing her out of her pain.

"Thank you," Dawn sniffles finally. "Do- do you have a tissue box?"

"Just paper towels," Faith says, pointing to the roll which is already starting to collect the dust they've driven from its natural habitat.

"I think I'll just use my sleeve."

"Good plan." Faith grins. "Hey, Dawnie, what is that?"

Dawn looks and, forgetting her red eyes and damp shirt, laughs. "That's my Barbie penthouse with real working elevator. Want to see?"

"Sure." Faith is just glad that Dawn is this easily distracted. Comfort isn't really her thing. Plus, the dollhouse looks kind of cool.

"I need dolls first." Dawn frowns, then locates the big cardboard box. She opens it and suddenly Barbies overflow into the attic. It makes things messier, but that's not really bad.

Especially since Faith's kind of interested.

She gives in to curiosity fairly quickly. "Can I see?"

Dawn drags the box into more direct sunlight and pulls it open. She finds an ancient Skipper in a tight pink workout suit and puts her on the elevator. Then she pulls the attached string, and the elevator slowly begins to rise. "This used to be my favorite toy in the world. See? ...Faith?"

Faith turns guiltily.

"What are you doing?" Dawn's eyes creep down from Faith's eyes to her hands, which hold a newly naked dark-haired doll, as well as the pink skirt and white shirt that had only seconds before been on her. "Faith?"

"She didn't like the outfit." And then, with a slightly sheepish grin, "I only ripped it a little."

Dawn grins. "I have a bunch of clothes for the Barbies. I know I'm supposed to be cleaning, but..."

"It's important to be thorough and go through every box, you know." Faith uses a sharp nail to slit the tape keeping the box shut. Dawn grins even wider as she examines the Barbie outfits, and she grabs a denim skirt and pink tank top from the box. She quickly begins stripping the Skipper doll and redressing her. Every time she looks up, Faith is weeding through the box, evaluating each outfit critically. Dawn is doing her best not to laugh.

"Barbie has a ton of skirts," Faith comments.

"Yup." Dawn is struggling to pull the pants off Skipper's skinny plastic legs.

"Are all of them pink?"

"Pretty much."

"Should I even ask why?"

"I'm pretty sure it's an eighties thing."

"She even- what the fuck is this?"

"Barbie's fur coat." Dawn grins. "It's for her ski parties with Ken!"

"Why is it pink? No fur is really pink."

Dawn shrugs. "It is in Barbie Land."

"Pink fur, Dawnie. Doesn't this bother you?"

Another shrug. "I'm pretty sure Willow has one just like it."

"I think you've just proved my point." Faith tosses the pink fur coat back into the box. "Doesn't Barbie own any black?"

"Yeah, but it usually has pink in it."

"What the hell does Barbie wear to go dancing?"

"Like, a ballroom dance?"

"Like dancing. The way I dance."

"In Barbie Land, you can get arrested for dancing the way you dance."

"You can in Kentucky, too."

Dawn rolls her eyes. "I have a few Club Barbie outfits in here somewhere."

"Are they pink?"


"My Barbie's not wearing pink, Dawn."

"But Barbie likes pink."

"This Barbie doesn't. She thinks pink makes her calves look fat."

"Barbie wouldn't care. Barbie still thinks fat is a story told to scare small children. She probably talks about carbohydrates and riboflavin at her scary campfire from her camping van. Did you know Barbie has a camping van?"

"Doesn't camping ruin her nails?"

"You'd think." Dawn giggles. "Poor Skipper. She's supposed to be a teenager, but she has like negative cleavage."

"Her abs are great, though." Faith grins. "Did you just call them Skipper and Barbie, or did they change each time?"

"Changed each time. Unless they were triplets. Or clones. There were a lot of times that Barbie was cloned. And I guess now there could be First Evil Barbie." Dawn waved a similar Skipper doll near Faith's dark-haired Barbie. "I am the Firrrrrrrrst. I'm going to killlll you."

"Dawnie, you're not dead."

Dawn shrugs. "I can be the First anyway. Barbie evil is different from real evil."

"Yeah, it's pinker."

"Most Barbie things are." Dawn grins. "Okay, so that's the Faith doll, and this is the me..."

"This can be Buffy," Faith suggests, pulling out a blonde doll wearing a bright gold bikini.

"She looks like Rocky."

"The squirrel?"

"No, from Rocky Horror. That or Princess Leia."

Faith can't help but laugh. "At least it's not pink."

"A definite vote in its favor." Dawn pulls out a red-headed doll. "And this is Midge, but she can be Willow."

"Too hot to be Willow," Faith says, but before Dawn can answer she's back in the box again. "I didn't know they made a gay Barbie."

"They don't."

"Then who's this?"

Dawn giggles. "Oh, that's Ken."

"I thought Ken's supposed to be straight."

"He is. He's Barbie's boyfriend."

"Does Barbie realize she's his beard?"

"If she does, she's not spilling in the gossip rags."

Faith squints at him. "Oh well. He can be Xander."

"He could be Wesley." Dawn dumps another pile of Kens onto the floor. "Or his doppelganger could."

"No, Wes needs to be more attractive. Don't you have any hot guy dolls?"

"Are we talking about the same Wes?"

"And maybe you have a grandfather figure."


"Spike. White hair."


Faith examines the dolls critically. "Willow's outfit doesn't work."

Dawn begins peeling the clothing off immediately. "Why not?" she asks as she works.

"It matches."

"Oh, right." Dawn searches through the clothing box, pulling out every plaid, stripe, or floral pattern she can find. She and Buffy had built up quite a collection. She's quite proud of some of the outfits, like the real rodeo jacket. By the time the Willow doll is dressed in long pants with blue and white stripes and one of Ken's Hawaiian shirts over an orange shirt, Dawn realizes that she's completely lost the Slayer. "Um. Faith?"

Faith turns around guiltily from where the Faith doll has been pummeling the garden gnome. "Yeah?"

"Never mind. Keep it up. And look out for the eyes. That thing's shifty."

Faith nods and returns to her battering. Dawn has pulled most of the dolls out, and is busily designing outfits while muttering to herself. She's just dressed a dark-haired girl in a long black coat Faith already rejected ("this can be Angel," she murmurs as she ties the belt) when she hears Faith curse.

"What's wrong? Did the- oh, no. Not the gnome."

"I'm sorry," Faith apologizes. "I didn't think a doll could-"

"Wait. What happened?"

Faith shows her the gnome, badly beaten, with a pink plastic shoe permanently embedded in its forehead.

Dawn smiles and hands Faith a new toy shoe. "Here. Your doll doesn't need to be cold."

Faith grins. "Thanks." She replaces her Barbie's missing shoe with a new, identical one.

"I always wanted that hideous thing dead," Dawn admits with a grin.

"Hey, I'm the Slayer on call. I do what I can."

"Do you like it?"

"The gnome? I think it looks like ass, but now it's ass with a pink high heel in it."

"I meant being Slayer on Call."

Faith shrugs. "I'm not, really. That's your sister's gig."

"You're both active Slayers."

"Buffy's the real Slayer. I'm the mistake. Remember that part?" Faith's Barbie kicks the roll of paper towels as quickly as Faith's hand can move its leg.

"You're good at that," Dawn says.

"Yeah, well, jerk enough guys off..."

Dawn blushes. Faith is the only person who talks about sex in front of her. Well, except for Anya of course, but Anya doesn't count. Until Faith came to Sunnydale, Dawn had only known what Mom and Buffy told her: never have sex, ever; never go out after dark, ever; if you see Angel, run. Before Faith came, Dawn thought sex was a spell to take your soul after the sun had set. Now Dawn knows everything her friends talk about and more, and when she doesn't understand, she pretends she does, and then she asks Faith.

"Hurt your virgin mind there, bratlet?" asks Faith, stunning her out of her thoughts.

"I'm not a brat." The answer is automatic. Then a defensive "No."


Dawn nods. "Just a bit."

"The other girls?"

"I miss having my own room."

"So does Buffy." Faith smiles. "You'll deal."

"I know. I don't have to fight evil. So I'll just deal. Not like Kennedy." She pulls a Barbie out of the box and seats it next to Buffy. "Or Molly." Another. "Or Rona."

"You got enough Barbies for all that?" Faith asks gently.

Dawn, looking for a particular Skipper- one with ugly two-tone hair and a teal frock that looks like a maternity dress- doesn't hear her. "Or Amanda. Or-"

"I thought Amanda was your friend."

Dawn shrugs. "She's okay. She goes to SHS, so..."

"Yeah, and Buffy and Cordelia were the bestest friends. What gives?"

"No, I like her. I do. But-"


"I'm not jealous." Dawn grins sheepishly. "Not exactly. I'm really more-"


"Yeah. -No!" Dawn begins placing the representative Barbies in the dollhouse. "I mean, I don't want to be a Slayer. But some attention might be nice."

"Hey, I hear you." Faith places Willow and Kennedy in the elevator and yanks the string until they've reached the level with the rest of the protoslayers. "I'm a Slayer, I'm right on top, and yet Spike and Willow and, fuck, Kennedy- they all get credit before I do."

"What do you expect? Buffy plays favorites. And like you said, we're not it."

Faith grins. "You know what you need, D?"


Faith ignores her comment. "You need some good, old-fashioned stress relief."

Dawn raises an eyebrow and tries to pretend she's not nervous. "Is this a sex thing?"

Faith laughs. "Sorry, Dawnie, but this is a bit more old-fashioned. And it's not carnal. And if your sister found out- well, she'd probably still kill me, but at least I wouldn't die to the words 'You made my sister gay!'."

"Yeah, well, luckily, that's not an issue."

"Never said it was."

Dawn pulls another Ken doll out of the box. "Because I'm straight."

"I know."

"I am." She slowly walks the Ken to her own Skipper.


"I like boys."

"You trying to convince yourself or me, here?"

"Shut up." Dawn tosses the Ken doll to the floor. "What's the stress relief you were talking about? Battleship?"

"Transference." Faith grins. "Who do you want out of the house?"

"Amanda," Dawn says immediately, and her face flushes as she quickly amends that. "Kennedy. Rona. Molly. All of them."

"Pick your victim, Dawnie."

Dawn grins finally. "Andrew. No. Wait." She sobers up. "Amanda. But not like-"

"Hey, you're not really doing anything. You're just letting out a little stress." Faith reaches out for the Dawn doll. "Give me yourself."

Dawn giggles. "How often do you get to say that?"

"Surprisingly often." A sly grin. "Watch me." Faith walks the doll over to the Slayers in Training, as though she's minding her own business. Then the Dawn doll lifts up the stand-in for Amanda and heaves her off the penthouse of Barbie's dream apartment complex. She lands in a pile of pink cloth.

Dawn can't stop herself from grinning as she chooses her next victim. "Hey, Kennedy? Remember that paper you wouldn't help me on because you were busy being supergirl?" She takes herself from Faith and uses her doll to push Kennedy off the top floor.

Faith pulls herself over to Spike. "Hey, you're hot, but guess what? Other people exist in the world. And, hey, check it out. Sunlight!"

"Hey, guess what? I don't care if you don't speak English; I don't have to clean up after you." Another victim joining the pile.

The clothing is soon covered with bodies- friends, siblings, vampires, nearly anyone from Sunnydale who has ever made the mistake of pissing off Dawn or looking at Faith wrong. Everyone but each other.

They smile shyly at each other, lost in the silence and the bright pink violence. It's a bonding moment, the type Dawn wishes she could have had with Buffy in the past four years.

The silence is broken by a cleared throat. They both turn and look at Willow, standing by the door with a slight grin.

Dawn is the first to bounce up. "Willow! Hey!"

"Dinner's ready," Willow says mildly. "Andrew made quesadillas."

"Andrew made dinner again?" Faith asks, her eyebrow raised slightly. Dawn's hand automatically finds its way over to the Andrew doll, who's wearing a frilly lace apron, and giggles. Faith covers her own laugh with "I thought he wasn't allowed near the stove anymore."

"Yeah, Kennedy was hostage-sitting." Willow surveys the scene. "You guys having fun cleaning?"

"Well, you know," Dawn says quickly. "A spoonful of sugar..."

"Helps the Barbies go down?" Willow laughs at their expressions. "I could just tell everyone you guys aren't hungry." She grins wider at their matching grateful smiles. "And, you know, why hold back?" Willow gestures towards the dusty window. "Get some momentum." They both turn to her, surprised, and she giggles again. "Hey, gotta find some way to let off steam. Especially when my girlfriend won't help you write a paper." Willow shrugs. "I'll see you guys later. Want me to close the door behind me?"

"That'd be neat," Dawn says mildly.

They wait until the familiar sound of the door slamming, and they look at each other solemnly. Faith is the first to crack a smile, and once she does, Dawn's gone, giggling more than she can contain. Faith opens the window, and Dawn grabs the first pile of dolls to toss.

When they're done, they clean. Somehow, the stress relief has made it easier, and the attic practically cleans itself. It doesn't take long before the floor is almost spotless, and a huge pile of stuff is in a box marked "Goodwill". The only dolls left in the attic are seated around Barbie's bright pink kitchen table. They're the ones representing Willow, Xander, Buffy, Faith, and Dawn.

Well, there is one more. Dawn hasn't let that one near the crowd of Slayer-y dolls at all. This one's representative too. Mom. Dawn takes that doll gingerly in her hands, and after a bit of debate, places her on the queen-sized bed on the top floor of the dollhouse.

After a moment, she places the yearbooks on top of the roof.

"You okay, Dawnie?" Faith says quietly.

"Mom," she replies simply.

"We've got two boxes left. Want to finish off tonight, or work tomorrow?"

"Let's get it done." Dawn kneels down by the boxes. They're near the stairs. "You know, this stuff is evil."

"Why's that?"

"It's where I fell." She grins.

"What'd you trip over, anyway?"

"That stupid painting." She nudges the back of the canvas with her right toe.

"What's it of?"

"I dunno. It's not like it's famous or anything. Probably something of Mom's from work."

Faith squints at the signature. "No, it's your mom's."

"She owned all this weird art."

"No, I mean, it's hers. She painted it."


"Yup. That's her maiden name, right?"

Dawn examines it carefully. "Yup. Wow."

"There's a lot. And they're good, Dawnie."

"You know about art?"

Faith shrugs. "I know what looks nice. That's nice."

"Maybe- maybe we could sell them, right?"

"Sure. Bring it a bit of money, help feed the Novice Brigade."

Dawn grins, but then her smile falls. "Do you think I can keep one? I mean- Mom made these. I feel-"

"Sure you can. Tell you what. Pick out your favorite. Buffy doesn't even need to know."

Dawn only takes a few moments to select one. It was done while Mom was still in college, but it's one that was meant for her. A sunrise, light erupting from darkness, pinks and oranges and bright, bright white.

It's entitled "Dawn," and she smiles. She places it back with the yearbooks and the dolls.

Dawn will come back for all of it later.

She always has.


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