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

By Andrea
For Wendy

Dawn stirred fake sugar into her decaf mocha latte, watching the light brown become even lighter. "Is there some strange property in nutraSweet?" she asked. "Something that makes coffee turn light brown?"

"I think that's the milk, sweetie." Tara sipped her own drink, plain old tea with no fixings, watching Dawn over the rim. "Is it not good?"

"Oh, no! It's fine." Dawn's grin felt too big, too fake as she hurriedly took a sip-and promptly burned her tongue. "Ow. Thtupid coffee."

Tara laughed. She had such a wonderful laugh, Dawn thought happily, proud that it was her that caused Tara's head to tilt back, little crinkles of joy forming around eyes that seemed bigger with every giggling peal. "Do you want me to get you an ice cube?"

Dawn made a face. "No, I'm fine. Ow. You're pretty when you laugh."

Dammit! Why had she said that? Yeah, okay, so that was kind of part of the reason she'd asked Tara to meet her here at the coffee shop and then later maybe go someplace else, maybe if Dawn wasreally good or really persuasive. But she shouldn't have said it now. Because now Tara looked like she didn't know if she wanted to shake that long fading-to-brown colored hair before her eyes and hide in her tea cup, or-

Or laugh at Dawn?

She had to scramble to not drop her cup, the tight feeling in her belly making her squirm a little on her chair. Tara was laughing. Really laughing, not just giggling, with a richness like the wine her Dad used to let her try, dark red and velvety soft. Dawn started to smile back tremulously, uncertain why Tara was laughing.

Tara calmed into the sweet smile that usually prompted more wiggling and leaned across the table to wipe at Dawn's nose. "You had whipped cream there," she commented, holding up her thumb and the smear of frothy white across it. "Cute."

And then she popped her thumb into her mouth, sucking the whipped cream off.

Meep. Talk about mixed signals. This had been going on for weeks now and Dawn still didn't know if this was all wishful thinking on her part or if there really was something. It could just be that Tara was suffering from Divorcee-syndrom, and felt guilty for not spending enough time with Dawn. And then there was that whole outsider thing they had together. Xander was off with Anya all the time, now, talking about the wedding. Willow was making cow-eyes at a girl from her Magic's Anonymous group and slowly starting to actually talk with Tara instead of making them both feel uncomfortable. And Spike. . . well, she didn't see Spike anymore. Whenever she did, he looked sad and tired, trailing after Buffy like a two-legged, bleached cocker spaniel.

It wasn't even worth thinking about Buffy. She was different, and not just that 'I came back from Heaven' difference. It was almost like. . . No. She'd promised herself she wouldn't think about Buffy, because it always made her cry and she was with Tara now. So no crying. Just smiling awkwardly and a little excitedly and sipping their drinks.

"How'd you do on that english test?" Tara asked when their cups were half-way empty. It wasn't unusual for them not to talk a lot. Dawn always felt the need to babble into the silence, certain that it meant Tara didn't want to be-to spend time with her. But Tara's calm, focused presence had convinced that it was okay to look around while she sipped. Or even look at Tara. Just Tara.

"The little nemonic thingie? That worked really well. I got a 98."

"That's great, sweetie!" Tara reached across the table to grab Dawn's hand, squeezing it warmly. "I knew you'd do fine."

It took three tries for Dawn to crack her grin enough to say, "I know." Tara was touching her. And she didn't let go!

"Hey, do you want to get out of here?" Tara rose-still holding Dawn's hand-tilting her head towards the door. "I've got hot chocolate at home. That's kind of Christmas-y, right? And I can't take the Christmas carols anymore."

Almost bouncing with eagerness, Dawn still managed an eyeroll. "I know! I think they start them before Thanksgiving, now. It's driving me crazy."

Bundling into their coats-it was cold this winter-Dawn tried not to hope that Tara would take her hand again. It wasn't that big of a thing, really, and just because she had this stupid crush and was acting like a twelve year with this really cool, really hot, older person-

Three steps out of the coffee shop, and a pink glove wrapped around her own white ones. Dawn tried not to bounce or float her way back to Tara's place. Fortunately, Tara always seemed to know when Dawn was in danger of turning into a helium balloon. She started telling Dawn about her latest english test and the stupidity of her current professor. By the time they reached the tiny apartment Tara lived in by herself-really just a single room-Dawn was making snarky comments about the professor right back.

"Was he really trying to hit on you?" Dawn asked. "I mean, not that you aren't smoking hot or anything, but-he's a professor!"

"He's just a kid, though," Tara explained. The door unlocked and she ushered Dawn inside. "I've been thinking of ways to convince him that it isn't just that I'm his student, but also he's not, um, girly enough for me."

Dawn flushed. She couldn't help it. Her back was turned, fortunately, taking off her coat and studying the little tree with lights and ornaments in the corner. "Hey, I thought pagans didn't do Christmas?"

"Actually, this is a pagan tradition." De-coated, Tara headed for her tiny kitchen. "Christians co-opted it when they were trying to convince pagans to convert."

"Oh." Her hands were still a little cold, but she could feel the cool metal of the star she set swaying. "Do you have any Christmas plans? We don't, this year." She didn't have to mention why there weren't any. Tara knew. Tara always knew.

"Actually, I was going to ask if you wanted to come here. We could stay up late watching It's a Wonderful Life and getting tipsy on fake-eggnog."

Dawn had to firmly remind herself that she had no singing voice. Also, letting Tara see the wide, hopeful smile on her face would probably only lead to a retracted invitation. Certain she could stop herself from glowing, Dawn finally moved to take out two mugs. "That'd be cool. I know Buffy is going to patrol all night."

"Which means Spike will, too," Tara finished with a knowing grin. "Well, maybe they'll have a good Christmas eve together."

Dawn returned the grin. Her sister and Spike were not slick, no matter how much Spike thought he was. But thinking about that meant thinking about bad things Dawn promised herself she wouldn't think of anymore. Not since her cast was off and Buffy had made it clear that she didn't want help. That was okay. Dawn had a plan.

Well, it wasn't so much of a plan as begging, but she and Tara had been spending a lot of time together. So maybe she wouldn't have to beg. Maybe she could just ask?

"Here. So, do you think you'd like to? Come here, I mean, for Christmas."

Dawn nodded. "I'd love to."

Tara smiled back. "Good." She didn't stutter when it was just the two of them, anymore. She wasn't as shy as she had been with Willow, either. It could have been Dawn's influence, but thinking things like that led to other thoughts that Dawn was trying to avoid. Plus, she knew how much Tara disliked 'big heads'.

They settled onto the big bean-bag chair that fit the two of them only if they were right next to each other, body heat chasing away the last of the chill. Candles were lit on the mantle and Dawn stared into the flickering flames. "Tara? I'm your friend, right?"

Tara bumped her shoulder into Dawn's. "Of course you are, sweetie. What's wrong? Is this because of Spike? Sweetie, he's going through a really rough time now, because of Buffy, and he still likes you so much. He always asks about you, whenever I see him. It's just that he's so busy trying to take care of Buffy that he doesn't know how to make the hours stretch." That was the total opposite of what Dawn wanted to wind her way towards-but still nice to hear, nonetheless. Buffy at least tried to still be the big sister, sometimes. Spike was a sore spot she tried not to press to closely.

"I know," she said as breezily as she could. "I just wanted to, you know, make sure this wasn't out of pity or anything. I mean, not that I think it is! I just-I'm saying this all wrong, and now you're gonna hate me and-and-"

Tara's laughter cut her off, the arm snaking around her shoulders totally robbing her of the ability to speak if any words had occurred to her. "It's okay, Dawnie. I like you just for you, I promise. And yes, you're my friend. A very good one."

"More than one?"

It wasn't english. It wasn't slick, or smooth, or suave or any of the things she'd wanted it to be. One of the candles popped, pouring red into the normal golden yellow of the flame. It was the only noise in the room, beside Tara's breathing and the roaring in Dawn's ears, loud enough that she might miss Tara's answer. It would be a jest, of course. Something like Dawn, I can't be more than just one friend to you. I'm only one person! That was something Tara might say, silly and funny without being cutting. Or maybe it would be cutting. Sometimes Tara could be mean, even if it was unexpected meanness. She could call Dawn her little sister and tell her that sisters didn't do that kind of thing. Or she could pretend not to understand at all and Dawn would be crushed but that was actually the best scenario, because then Dawn would be crushed and still have a friend, instead of not having any at all, since Janice didn't talk to her anymore and everybody at school still thought she was the freak who cut herself and it was just awful. And-

"Dawn, breathe!"

She exhaled forcefully, then inhaled while her lungs screamed at her for ruminating while she held her breath. "Sorry," Dawn said, as soon as she had enough air. "I'm sorry, just forget it, it's a stupid question."

She didn't look as Tara shifted, the movements and the changing heat patterns telling Dawn that Tara was now on her side. Her stomach fluttered, a ball of ice forming to twist and snarl her insides as badly as cramps ever did. Worse. This was so much worse. Because now Tara was going to hate her. She'd ruined the last good thing Dawn had in her life.

Tara's fingers twined between her own.

"I've been thinking about it," she said softly. "N-not a lot, really. I couldn't let myself think of it a lot. But I have been, Dawn. I've. . . seen the way you look at me."

Dawn immediately flushed the color of her namesake.

"It's cradle-robbing," Tara continued before Dawn could figure out how to say anything. "You're so young, Dawn. And sometimes I wonder if it's really me you want, or if I'm just someone you trust."

She flinched, because it was something she'd thought of, as well. Swallowing three times, Dawn reminded herself that this was Tara. This was the person she went to with female problems after Mom died, because going to Willow was impossible and going to Buffy was just too complicated. And Tara hadn't made her feel awful about it, either, she'd just smiled and helped so. . . "It could be," she said in a small voice. "I don't think it is, though. I don't want it to be."

"I know. That's what makes me think that, well, it isn't. That you. . ."

Dawn finally looked up, catching sight of the full breasts almost touching her arm and the burning blush, as fiery as Dawn's. Maybe even redder. "Tara. Do you-can I-I-"

Getting cut off in the middle of her sentences was starting to become a habit. This kind of cut off, though, Dawn thought she could really get used to. Tara was kissing her. No tongue, but that was okay-she wasn't sure she liked that, particularly after the oops-he's-a-vampire episode a few months back. Just warm lips, full and soft, pressing against hers.

They blinked at each other for a little, when Tara finally leaned back, neither wanting to be the first to speak.

"I want to take this slowly," Tara said, the firmness in her voice unexpected after the wow of moments before. "Really slow, Dawnie. So we're sure. Because I could get into a lot of trouble for this."

"Me, too!" This wasn't a game of one-upmanship but Dawn still heard herself becoming belligerent. "I mean, if Buffy finds out-"

"She'll be more mad at me for seducing you, then she would be at you, Dawn."

Dawn snorted. "She'd be mad at us equally, maybe. But you she can't ground or force to do the dishes for the next three months."

"That's true. But there are other things she could do. Willow, too, if she found out. Dawn, this could be very bad for both of us."

"But it could be so good, too! I'm not a kid. I'm not like any of the kids in my school and maybe that's because of last summer or maybe it's because of mom-or maybe it's just because I'm me, and not real. But I'm not a kid and I know what I'm getting into and I-I want you, Tara. I want t-to b-b-be with you."

Tara leaned forward again, this time allowing Dawn to turn her face up for the kiss she knew was coming. Their mouths opened, although still no tongue, and wow, that was so much better. Her heart pounded in her chest, sparks racing through her system as something she might, if she was brave enough, call passion built between them.

"I know you do, Dawn. And I, um, want you, too." A dazzling smile broke out. "Like I said, I've been thinking about it."

"So. . . can we try? Please? I'll go slow, really, as slow as we want."

Tara just kissed her a third time, her hand resting on Dawn's belly and slowly moving south. Dawn hissed in surprise, breaking off the kiss to see Tara smiling at her mischievously. "Slow? I'm not so sure we're going to take this slow. Why do you think I wanted you here for Christmas?"

They needed to talk more. A lot more, Dawn knew that and fully intended to do so. She'd seen what happened to Willow and Tara when they didn't talk, and Buffy and Riley, too. So she was going to do lots of talking. But not then, when Tara was doing something interesting to her neck, her hands leaving fire-trails as they roved underneath her shirt, touching her skin.

Dawn already knew that Tara was a good teacher. And she intended to be a very good student. Talking could so wait.