Banner by the marvelous Twinkles, who is also my lovely beta!
Several weeks later
The day started off well. Dawn awoke, showered, dressed, fed Liam and got him ready for kindergarten. She kissed Connor goodbye and headed for Buffy’s room. They were going shopping today – for whatever they wanted, thanks to Angel and his magical, never-empty wallet, especially where Buffy and Will were concerned.
“Hey, sleepy-head,” she called through the closed door. “Are you ready to go yet?” Lots of stores with lots of merch just waiting for us.”
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” Buffy’s reply rang out. “Gotta give a girl a moment to gather herself, you know.” She opened the door, wearing yet another outfit that Nina had loaned her. Nice and simple – a button-down blouse with lace around the collar and placket, and a knee-length skirt. Both were a little large on her – what with Nina being taller and bustier – but still better than trying to fit into one of Dawn’s outfits; Buffy had called her a giraffe the last time she offered her clothing.
Dawn was looking forward to some sisterly bonding time. After she and Buffy had covered the broad strokes of what went on in the past twenty-five years, their conversations tended to be a little bit awkward. As much as they’d joked about the age reversal thing, it really did make relating in the now quite difficult.
Buffy no longer had a younger sister to worry about and take care of. Now, there was a fourteen year gap – Dawn could practically be Buffy’s mother. Not that she’d want to take on that role, but… she was the one more familiar with the present.
She was hopeful doing the familiar – shopping – would sort of even the playing field between them.
“Are there still malls?” Buffy asked as they drove on the congested streets of Los Angeles.
Dawn had to laugh. “Are you kidding me? People in LA are still ridiculously materialistic. If it can be made, there are people who want to buy it. You probably won’t recognize any of the store names, but stuff is stuff, right?”
“I suppose so. It’ll be good to have my own, never-been-worn-before clothes.” Buffy sighed. “Not that Nina hasn’t been super-generous, but honestly… I want my own underwear. Pretty underwear,” she insisted, turning a slight shade of pink.
“Oh! Victoria might have bowed out of the undie business,” Dawn exclaimed, “but they were re-branded as ‘Undercovers.’ I’m sure they’ll have plenty of sets in Will’s favorite colors.”
Buffy’s blush deepened, the tips of her ears looked hot enough to set fire to her hair. “Knock it off, Dawn. It’s not… it’s just… AARRGHH!”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I was just teasing you, sweetie. I know you and Will are…”
“How the hell do you know what Will and I are?” Buffy fumed. “I’ve only been back two weeks, and while the fantasy was ‘see him and boink him’, the reality is we need to get used to each other back in the real world. I won’t make a mistake with Will. I hurt Spike so badly, and Will is just as tender-hearted. We’re gonna do things right this time, or we won’t do anything at all.”
Pulling in to a spot in the mall shopping structure, Dawn turned to confront her very upset sister. “Chill, Buffy. It was just talk. You know I love you and Will, both. I trust you to guard your heart and his with equal fervor. Your sex life is nobody’s business but your own.”
Buffy took a deep breath, visably calming. “I-I’m sorry, too, Dawnie. I’m just a bit on edge here. This is the first time I’ve gone out in public where I’ll actually be seen in twenty years. I’m nervous, is all.”
“Truce, Sis,” Dawn offered. “Let’s just hit the stores, make time for some fried, carbohydrate-filled yumminess, and shop some more.”
Buffy’s small half-smile signified her agreement.
Undercovers proved to be a fabulous place to start their spree. Buffy combed through rack after rack of satin and lace, tossing a handful of beautiful matched bra and panty sets into her basket. She also made sure to hit several displays of more utilitarian garments. Plain cotton with a bit of stretch/support. The ability to change her underwear every day without having to ask for a spare pair made her giddy.
After she and Dawn – who had picked up some things of her own – checked out, Buffy asked, “Where to next, oh fearless leader?”
Dawn led them on a merry chase through stores featuring the best and brightest of the latest fashions. Buffy ran her hands over the garments, reading the care tags, noting the many new combinations of materials and shaking her head at what was on offer.
“Too shiny,” Dawn heard her say. “Too itchy, too smooth, too short, too long, too too!” Nothing seemed to please her. Separates, dresses, slacks – in all colors of the rainbow through to somber earth tones – nothing was good enough.
“Nothing looks right on me,” she complained. “The fit is all wrong. It pulls in the wrong places, and bags in others. What the hell happened to clothes while I was gone?”
To make matters worse, the stores were jam-packed with customers. The sisters were elbowed and shoved aside, all in the name of getting to an item first.
What Dawn didn’t realize was that with each store they’d browsed through, Buffy grew progressively quieter. When they finally sat down at a table in the food court, Dawn noticed the fine sheen of sweat on Buffy’s forehead.
“Are you okay?” she asked her sister, looking directly at her, and demanding an answer. “Buffy… you don’t look good. What’s wrong?”
“I want to go home,” she whispered, so softly that Dawn wasn’t sure she heard her correctly. “I don’t want to be here,” she said, grabbing hold of Dawn’s hands. “Now, Dawn. Please?”
Dawn felt like dirt. She was so sure Buffy would love shopping like she used to – she’d been an Olympic Gold Medal winner when it came to looking at clothes and shoes, and anything else that struck her fancy – that she hadn’t been paying attention to how she was doing.
“We’ll go right now, Buffy,” she conceded. “We can make something for lunch at home. I’ll introduce you to the joys of home shopping by computer. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it in the first place.”
Buffy simply nodded, and followed Dawn swiftly out of the mall and into her car.
Thanks to a discreet phone call, Will was waiting for them when they came in the door. Buffy dropped her packages and grabbed onto him like a lifeline. “Oh, Will,” she sobbed, all control fled once in his arms.
It was eight p.m., and Dawn and Connor had just settled young Liam into bed. Dawn’s stomach was still in knots from watching the sniveling mess her sister had become. In her head, she knew there had to be repercussions from her twenty year imprisonment, but her heart had hoped she’d be fine.
Buffy had lots of people around who loved her. She woke every day and dressed, joined the family for breakfast and seemed so happy in general that today came as more of a surprise than it probably should have been. Dawn had a feeling it was far more than re-adjustment that was bothering her.
She’d talk to Will, and maybe Nina, too, about having Buffy see Lorne in a professional capacity. He’d been such a help when Will needed someone to talk to, according to everyone. She would suggest it to Buffy, herself, but wanted a few other opinions before she proposed –
Proposed! The word stuck her right between the eyes. Now that Buffy was back, her very last objection to Connor’s constant proposals was gone. And since it had been months since his last attempt, Dawn had an idea. Running a comb through her hair, she sought out her beloved.
“Connor, do you love me?” she began, sitting on the bed by his side.
“Do I what?”
“I said, ‘Do you love me?’” she repeated, wondering how much more of Fiddler on the Roof they were going to cover.
“Do I love you?” It seemed at least one more line’s worth from the musical, at least. “What’s this all about, Dawn?
“I’ve been thinking about how happy we are together – you, me and Liam – and now we have Buffy back, our family’s complete. I think it’s time.”
Connor didn’t say anything, just looked at his… woman with obvious love in his eyes.
“Connor Reilly Dowell, will you marry me?”
“No.” No pause, no time to think… simply no.
“What?” Dawn was stumped. She’d been so sure!
“Oh god, sweetheart, I’m so sorry,” Connor crooned, stroking her hair and hugging her tightly. “Of course I’ll marry you. Any time, any place.”
“You’re not joking, are you?” Just the teensiest bit of fear shown in her eyes.
“Dawn, it’s all I’ve ever wanted.”
Please read and hopefully enjoy. Would love to hear some feedback from you all. Much love from me and my revived muse.