Secret Slasha – The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project
Secret Slasha – The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project

Queering The Key
By glossolalia
For Marissa

Dawn's got more homework than she ever thought possible.

Four chapters of Aramaic, an essay on Edo material culture, three controlled rites, and two response papers on post-structuralist belief systems: When Giles said he was going to reform the Council, Dawn never imagined it would involve quite so much homework. Her hand aches and her eyes are nearly crossing. Grinding her teeth, she levitates her stub of a pencil, glares at it and lets all her frustration zero in on it, then snaps it.

The two jagged pieces rolling off the desk are satisfying, if only briefly.

"That gonna be on your exam?" Faith stands in the doorway to the hall, jeans and a rumpled black thermal shirt, her hair standing out like a rat's nest. "Impressive, but what's it good for?"

"Too much fucking work," Dawn mutters, digging in the bottom of her bag for a new pencil, coming up with fistfuls of pens and tossing them back. "Fucking pens, fucking work --"

"Don't fucking swear, sweetheart," Faith says and grins. "Bad habit to pick up."

"Yeah, well, I could use a few more of those."

"Get up."

Dawn's half out of her chair before she realizes what she's doing. She stays in mid-air and asks, "Why?"

"Taking you out, little girl." Faith turns down the hall. It's like she knows Dawn's going to follow; she doesn't even need to check over her shoulder.

"Don't have time," Dawn says. She has to at least make some kind of argument. Even if she's smiling now, anticipating a night out on one of Faith's fabulous, pointless errands, she has to pretend to be good. "I've got so much --"

Faith waves her hand behind her back. "Shitload of work, yeah, I heard." Nudging open the door to their room with her hip, she lets Dawn in first. The bed is messed up from Faith's nap, and the doors to the closet are wide open. "Get changed and we'll have some fun."

"Faith, I --" Faith fixes her with that look, dark eyes and set mouth, and Dawn stops talking. When Faith pulls her shirt off over her head, Dawn mirrors it, and then they're both bare-chested, turning toward the closet, and it's agreed.

It hasn't always been this easy, and Dawn's not sure how it got this easy. How it takes just a look between them, a palm on waist or kiss on the forehead, to remind her how in synch they are.


Tara and Willow were in synch. Magic, and love, and they even dressed alike. Dawn used to think they were the perfect couple. Everything was so balanced between them, equal. Pretty and serene.

Except it wasn't, not at all, not even at the end. Especially not at the end.

Dawn would hear them arguing and want to throw up; when Tara moved out and Willow slowly went nuts, Dawn did throw up, several times a week, and the only thing that quelled the sick roll of her stomach was the focus it took to pocket lipsticks and cheap jewelry.


Faith holds Dawn from behind, sharp chin digging into Dawn's shoulder, as Dawn flicks rapidly through the hangers. Eighteen months out of Sunnydale and their wardrobe's bigger than it ever was when life was normal. Maybe there's a calculus of loss and change, some inverse equation between disruption and fashion.

"Nothing," Dawn says and shivers as Faith's mouth closes around the junction of neck and shoulder, blunt gentle teeth shaking like a puppy, as her hands rise and fall over Dawn's chest, breast to crotch, too fast and too light to be anything but frustrating and infuriating. And right. "All this crap, and nothing to wear."

"Fine by me," Faith says, palm cupping the underside of Dawn's right breast, thumb rasping over her nipple, sending bright ripples out over her tensing skin.

Shaking, Dawn grabs the closet door for balance and tries to school her voice. "Thought you wanted to go out."

"Go out, go down," Faith says. "Either way, I'm happy."

Dawn wriggles backward, closing her eyes against the weight of responsibility falling heavy and slow through her mind. So much work, she can't really afford to goof off, she shouldn't. She can't.

"Oh, no, you don't," Faith says, tightening her arms around Dawn's waist. "No guilt. Put something on. Anything, I don't care. Long as it's a skirt and I can --"

Grinning, Dawn glances over her shoulder. "Cop a feel?"

Faith frowns, her brows lowering dangerously. "See your legs, I was going to say."


Willow and Tara both always wore skirts. Maybe it was the equality thing, the whole women-as-sisters, or maybe it's just what they liked to wear.

Dawn herself goes back and forth, and it's hard to imagine Faith in anything but pants.

Because she's both a geek and a dork, Dawn's researched all of this. Well before she ever met Faith that final spring in Sunnydale, back when she stopped cuddling Tara during movie nights because Tara's chest felt full and warm against Dawn's back and she smelled like patchouli and cornmeal. It made Dawn feel too good. Guilty-good.

So she researched. She read a lot online, first Willow's bookmarks, then from her own searches, but mostly she got porn. Which was interesting, but not particularly helpful, especially when it was porn made, she was pretty sure, for someone like Xander. Some guy who wanted to watch, rather than some girl, like her, who wanted to learn.

After Buffy went to LA and Faith moved in with Dawn in London, Dawn started researching again more intensely. The Council library had some pretty thick and scary texts -- Inversion and Sorcery, Cultures of the Third Sexed, Tribadic Tribes and Succubi - books that made Giles wince and curse under his breath when he caught her reading them.

"Bloody rubbish," he muttered, clearing them off the table with his arm. "Revolting, bigoted rubbish."

He sent her to Waterstones with his Visa card instead, kissing the top of her head and squeezing her elbow.

But the newer books were even more confusing. They were all academic, but nothing like Dawn had ever seen. Genderbending, queering the performance of sexuality, reviving and reinterpreting the butch/femme dynamic. Especially that last part.

Dawn knows it isn't anything like one of them's the woman and the other's a man, but then she'll think about Faith in tight, ancient jeans and an old shirt stolen from Andrew's laundry, and her breath will catch painfully. Her chest starts to hurt, just thinking about it -- how Faith looks so tough on the outside, so boyish, the clothes mostly hiding her curves but at the same time emphasizing them. Like alchemy, Dawn thinks, or hermetic magic that draws on recombinations of the elements, or gestalt theory. Something about contrast that makes Faith more than the sum of masculine and feminine, boy and girl. All woman, and then some.


"Skirt," Faith repeats from the center of the bed. She's already pulled on her tuxedo trousers and a clingy white top, and she's leaning over Dawn's silver snuffbox and rolling a joint. "Any skirt, Dawnie."

She dresses in the closet; it's a habit she developed the year of Potentials and she can't seem to shake it. Kilt, a black and gold tartan that Giles' friend David told her the name of once, and a yellow t-shirt with green pine trees on it that Willow said she could have.

Over by the window now, smoking into the damp London night, Faith whistles long and low when Dawn emerges.

"Yeah," she says, dropping the joint in the ashtray and standing up. "Oh, yeah. Like that."

"Jailbait," Dawn says, dancing out of Faith's reach.

"I'll say." Faith grabs her wrist and pulls her in.

Dawn kisses her, opening her mouth, wrestling her back onto the bed.

Synched-up, she thinks again, falling with Faith onto the bed and straddling her hips.

Somehow, they fit. Around Faith, Dawn feels like herself, like the geeky weirdo she is, but it's okay. Between them, whatever they are, it's okay. Dawn's not a whining brat, and Faith doesn't just need to meet the right man, the one who'll take her in hand and snap on a pretty collar. Make her behave. She's perfect like this, Dawn thinks, busy and angry and beautiful.


Faith found some of the books she'd bought on Giles' card and laughed her head off as she flipped through them. Dawn tried to grab them back but Faith's always going to be stronger. She dropped into the corner of the couch and started skimming the pages; she's smarter, Dawn knows, than she likes to let on.

"Damn, this guy was fucked," Faith said, showing her a picture of Arthur Munby. "What turned him on more, d'you think? The whole crazy topping trip or lording it over the blue-collar girl?"

"Both?" Dawn suggested and Faith grunted. "It's kind of the same thing, isn't it?"

Faith tossed the book across the room and rolled her shoulders. Dawn wanted to flinch -- just on principle, you don't do that to books -- but held her eyes on Faith and smiled very slowly.

"Stop smirking. And stop looking at me like that," Faith said sulkily, crossing her arms over her chest. "What? You're probably thinking up some more fancy words, aren't you?"

"I like reading," Dawn said, sitting on the arm of the couch and stroking the back of Faith's hair. "It just -- I don't know. Helps me make sense of stuff."

Shrugging, Faith kept her face turned away, but Dawn could feel her posture relaxing. Like springtime, warmth and liquid pushing painfully through the freeze. It takes a while, but it's worth it.

"Just don't know why --" Faith started to say. Then she looked up at Dawn, and her eyes were very wide, and Dawn remembered all over again how much older she was than Faith.

It's a kind of slippery knowledge. Most of the time, she's under the spell, she's normal, and, more than that, she's determined to make everyone believe she's normal. But times like that, there on the couch, looking at Faith, how her face twisted up with things she wouldn't let herself say, older memories come back. Nothing in words, just knowledge. Observation.

"Why what?" Dawn asked.

"Why you have to look it up in books," Faith said. Quickly, like she just needed to get it out. "Not like it's a demon or a prophecy. Next thing I know, you'll be asking Giles for advice or something."

Dawn wanted to laugh. Maybe hug Faith, maybe slap her; definitely not tell her she'd already sort-of talked to Giles. "Just want to figure things out. Not like the monks knew anything about, about -- whatever. Emotions. Sexuality."

Snorting, Faith shook her head. "Bet they knew a lot about the big sex. All locked up with each other without furnaces? Probably invented some moves I haven't seen."

"Okay," Dawn said. "But -- I don't know. I get confused sometimes."

"I confuse you, Summers?"

"Yeah," Dawn said. Faith's cheeks flushed again and Dawn slapped her lightly on the back of the head. "In a good way."

"Good," Faith said softly, her lips curving. "'cause you confuse the holy fuck out of me."


Faith's got one hand up Dawn's kilt, fingers curled in the elastic of her underwear, the other braced on Dawn's shoulder and she's breathing hard. Almost as hard as Dawn is.

"Were we going out?" Dawn asks, lowering her face, sucking on the knob of Faith's collarbone.

"Christ," Faith says. Grunts. Her hips lift and buck against Dawn's and Dawn grinds down as she pushes her hand up Faith's shirt. Whenever she touches Faith's breasts, it's like the first time. That first night, she lay on her side, holding her breath for hours, just touching. And Faith let her.

The fact that they were both stoned out of their minds probably helped, but that lifted. What didn't was this fascination, this need to curve her palm just right and learn the silky firm skin and every texture and shade of Faith's eggplant-dark nipples.

Of course, then Faith said something about going to bed and Dawn got confused, slid off the bed, and went to get her pajamas. She only stopped when she heard Faith chuckling and cursing behind her.

"To bed, Dawnie," she said and shook her head. "Not sleeping for a good long while."

She dropped her pajamas and a flush prickled out over her face. Down her neck and through her chest, and Dawn felt herself totter.

She's tottering now, knees digging into the bed on either side of Faith's hips, kissing Faith with everything she's got, sucking on the tip of her tongue and lifting her hips only to push forward until Faith grunts out a single short moan.

Dawn smiles and rolls over, pulling Faith with her, until they're face to face.

"Stay in?" she asks.

Faith grins as Dawn brushes a lock of hair out of her eyes. "I could do that."