Buffy stormed into the room with a purpose. The hard demeanor that had grown around her in the past weeks was perfectly in place. Her eyes were stony as she walked straight to the weapons chest to pull out a few crossbows. She tossed them at several of the girls. "Vampire attack at the school," she said curtly. "Somebody get Spike."
Spike was already at the doorway. Buffy tossed him a stake. Spike caught it but sent her a glare. "Careful, cutie. You could poke somebody's life out with this."
Buffy gave him a look that clearly read she wasn't in the mood for jokes. She grabbed a handful of stakes. "Willow! Quit boinking your girlfriend and get in here."
A split second later Willow and Kennedy were in the room, cheeks red. Kennedy caught the tossed stake. "What's going on?"
"Vampire attack," one of the potential slayers said, rolling her eyes.
Buffy looked ready to snap at the girl. Then she opened the door. "Out everyone," she ordered, waving her hand to indicate where they needed to go.
The door shut behind the crowd of girls, and with it came silence. Dawn sat on the couch, hands between her thighs, staring at the floor. "Guess I'm on my own for dinner," she said to herself, trying to make herself feel less lonely. "Again," she added bluntly.
Dawn stood up slowly and turned off the TV. When Buffy left suddenly before, she'd always tossed a, "Be good, Dawn," or "I'll be back soon, Dawnie," or "Will you order a pizza for when we get back?" Now Buffy was so focused on her Slayerness that she didn't even have time to talk to her sister anymore. At least, that was how Dawn perceived it.
Dawn trudged slowly into the kitchen. "Fruity Pebbles or Cocoa Puffs?" she asked herself, knowing that her cooking skills were very, very limited. The few times she'd tried to cook had been disgusting concoctions.
"There are also Frosted Wheaties if you're interested."
Dawn jumped with a squeal. "Andrew! What are you doing? You shouldn't sneak up on people like that," she admonished, holding a hand to her heart.
Andrew shrugged. He was sitting down at the breakfast bar. He had turned on the seat to face her. "Actually, when you think about it, you're really the one who snuck up on me. See, I was already in the room and--"
"Whatever," Dawn interrupted.
Andrew mumbled something and turned back around.
Dawn caught the look in his eyes, and she felt bad for snapping at him. She recognized a loneliness in him that she felt herself. She felt guilt build up, and she couldn't stop herself from saying, "Andrew . . . I'm sorry."
Andrew turned around, surprised. "You are?" he asked suspiciously. "For what?"
Dawn shrugged as she went to sit next to him. "The way I look at it, we're a lot alike. We both are ignored like specks of dirt on the ground."
"That is true," Andrew admitted. "Sometimes I dream that I'm invisible and part of the wallpaper and you all are looking for me but you forgot me for so long that I was gone forever." Andrew looked solemnly at Dawn. "It's kinda scary."
Dawn laughed. She patted Andrew's shoulder. "You're so adorable." Like a puppy dog, she thought to herself. She was sure it would tear his male pride to shreds if she said it aloud though. She stood up quickly to survey the cereal options available. Then she had a sudden idea she spun around again. "Hey, Andrew?"
"What?" Andrew was looking nervously at her.
"How do you feel about going out to eat with me?" Dawn asked. "I think we deserve it. I'll even steal some of Buff's money so that we don't have to dip in our own funds. Or lack thereof."
Andrew's ears perked up. "What about the whole my being your hostage thing?"
"If you suddenly turn macho evil on me, I think I can handle it," Dawn assured him.
"I don't know. I can be pretty evil when I'm . . . evil."
"Do you want to go or not?"
Andrew nodded quickly as he stood up. "Can we go somewhere without pizza? I only eat pizza and cereal here."
"If Buffy has enough cash lying around, we can eat at a five star restaurant for all I care." Dawn stopped short. "Wait, I do care. Let's just take Giles' credit card."
"Won't he be angry?" Andrew looked reluctant.
Dawn shook her head. "Nope. I'm the cute spunky little sister. They don't get mad at me." Dawn thought hard. "At least . . . Not when they remember that I'm still alive."
"That sounds so nice," Andrew said wistfully. "I'm just the annoying one who everyone likes to pick on."
Dawn bit her lip. She admitted that she had been prone to picking on Andrew as well. It just was something that they all had become accustomed to doing. It hadn't struck her before that they might actually be hurting his feelings. She wasn't quite sure how to word this all to him without either sounding girlie or making him think she was interested him. "Wanna go see a movie too?" she ended up asking.
A look of longing overcame Andrew. "I haven't seen a movie in over a year. Is Harrison Ford still fighting storm troopers?"
Dawn looked skeptically at him. Maybe she shouldn't have invited him to a movie.
"It was a joke," Andrew said glumly.
"Oh, right. I knew that." Dawn attempted to laugh. It seemed to perk Andrew up a little bit. "But, Andrew? Just to let you know, there's no way in the hell mouth that I'm going to see an action movie and or science fiction."
Andrew tried to hide his disappointment. He didn't do a very good job of it.
"It's just not my thing, all right?" Dawn asked as they started up the stairs to go to Buff's room. "And I promise not to drag you to a chick flick either. We can go for a happy medium: a witty comedy that's been done several times over. How does that sound."
Andrew shrugged. "All right, I guess. What if the First comes after us?"
"Us? Please!" Dawn snorted. "I mean, no offense, but . . . Are we really important in all of this?"
"I like to think I'm important." Andrew stood up straighter.
"Yes, I suppose you do. Being the one who opened up that portal thingy and everything."
"I'm just teasing you, Andrew." Dawn found a twenty on her sister's dresser. "Aha! We are going out for a cheap dinner and a cheap movie. Sound like fun?"
"I think we might need more than $20. Unless we want to order from McDonald's dollar menu."
"They don't even have a good one," Dawn agreed with disgust.
"What about Giles' credit card?"
"Oh, right. I forgot. Come on." Dawn led him back down the stairs. She dug through the coats on the coat rack until she came across Giles'. She dug through the pockets, but came out empty handed. "Guess he was smart enough to hide it this time."
"You've done this before?"
"Hey, it's better than when I was stealing stuff from every store in town."
"You did that?"
The awe in Andrew's voice made Dawn feel pretty good. She smiled easily and tossed her hair as carelessly as possible. "Yup. And, hey! Not a total loss. Willow's got a ten in her jacket pocket. What are they thinking, keeping money in jackets? Hello, it's California!"
* * * * *
An hour and a half later, Andrew and Dawn were walking out of the only theater in Sunnydale. Dawn was giggling as they stepped out of the theater. "Okay, corny, but funny."
Andrew was trying not to smile.
Dawn laughed. "Don't say it!"
"I'm just trying to say it's not as good as Star Wars."
"Nothing compares to Star Wars in your eyes."
"Why not? They're only the best movies ever!"
"You know, I've never even seen them," Dawn admitted.
Andrew's jaw dropped. "You're kidding."
"Nope." Dawn shook her head and laughed at the expression on his face. "We'll stop by the video store on the way home, how's that? You can introduce me to the storm troopers and whatnot."
"Sounds like a deal. After that movie I just had to watch. They just don't make them like they used to."
"You're not that much older than I am, Andrew, you're not allowed to use phrases like that yet."
"I have an old soul."
Dawn laughed again. "So, where to? For dinner, I mean. We have about ten bucks if we want to rent some videos. How many Star Wars movies are there? Two?"
"Three!" Andrew practically screeched. He calmed down. "Technically five, but the original three are the ones worth watching."
"Okay. So . . . McDonald's dollar menu?"
"That's a joke, right."
"Yeah. But I don't think we're in for Red Lobster or anything. Unless we just want to order mozzarella sticks."
"Tempting, but let's eat someplace else."
"Let's go to that diner over there. Buffy and I used to go here . . . You know, before she got all Commando-ey and forgot I existed."
"Sounds good. Do they have French fries?"
"Of course. Really good Frisco burgers too. Yum." Dawn took Andrew's hand and dragged him across the street. When they were safely on the other side, she noticed that Andrew wasn't too eager to let go of her hand. She looked down at her smaller hand in his and shrugged. She felt a blush creep over her cheeks. When her hand began to tingle, she yanked it out of his. She rubbed it and looked at him apologetically. "Hand cramp. All that homework, you know."
"Yeah." Andrew didn't look like he believed her.
Dawn opened the door to the diner and went to sit in one of the cushiony booths. The place was greasy and smelled like hamburgers, but it had an amiable air about it.
A waitress appeared a second after they'd sat down and took their drink orders. She looked at the two in a way that made Dawn start to feel uncomfortable. Dawn looked sharply at Andrew, but he didn't seem to have noticed. He was busy looking at the menu.
"Get the Frisco burger," Dawn advised. "It's like heaven doing a little tango on your tongue."
Andrew blushed, and Dawn suddenly felt uncomfortable talking about tongues with him. She kicked herself mentally. This was completely stupid!
"Frisco burger it is, then," Andrew said softly. He set his menu down pointedly. A second later, the waitress showed up to drop off their drinks and take their orders.
The waitress stopped this time. "Hey, don't I know you?" she asked Dawn.
Dawn scrutinized her. "Yeah, I think so. Sunnydale High?"
"Where else." The girl rolled her eyes. "Aren't you that counselor's little sister or something?"
Dawn looked down at the table. "Yeah," she muttered, "just Buffy's little sister."
"Cool," the waitress said before stalking off to get their food orders in.
Andrew watched Dawn's ducked head. "I just want you to know that I don't think of you as Buffy's little sister."
Dawn looked up at him slowly. "What do you think of me as?" she whispered, her eyes glassy as if she might cry.
"Just . . . Dawn," Andrew said for lack of better word to describe her.
Dawn's face lit up in a shy smile. "That's all I've ever wanted to be thought of as. Not Buffy's little sister, not Dawnie, not the key, not anything. Just Dawn."
It was Andrew's turn to get uncomfortable. The way she was looking at him made him uneasy. He started playing with the salt and pepper shakers. "You know, when I was in the Troika, I was always known as Warren's sidekick. Nobody knew who I was. They knew who Jonathon was, but not me."
"You wanted to be known for being evil?" Dawn asked doubtfully.
Andrew shrugged, focusing hard at the table. "Maybe not . . . Evil. But I wanted to be noticed. My mom hated me when I was little."
"I'm sure that's not true," Dawn said quickly.
"Really?" Andrew shot back. "How do you know? You don't even know me."
Dawn kept quiet, surprised at his outburst.
Andrew sighed. "Sorry. I just . . . I don't know." He looked up at her lamely.
Dawn gave him a half smile. She reached for his hand and squeezed it hard. "It's okay, Andrew. My family's pretty screwed up. I'm not even really human, when you think about it."
"You look human. You feel human." Andrew blushed again.
"Thanks," Dawn said softly. She was just starting to notice that Andrew's thumb was skimming over her wrist when the waitress appeared again.
"Here's your food." The waitress plopped the two plates down as Dawn and Andrew quickly broke contact. The waitress looked between them quickly. "I'm sorry. Did I just ruin a moment here or something? I'll leave, okay?" She scurried off without another word.
Dawn felt her cheeks redden again. She didn't think she'd blushed so much in years. It was really stupid to do this, especially with Andrew.
Andrew picked up his burger and took a small bite of it. His eyes lit up suddenly. Dawn giggled. "Good, isn't it?"
Andrew nodded fiercely and took another, bigger, bite. He chewed it quickly. "Thanks, Dawn. For . . . Everything. This is nice."
"Yup," Dawn agreed. She picked up her own burger. "Nice."
"No, I mean it," Andrew continued, unaware of how uncomfortable he was making her. "You're really nice. Everyone else is either mean to me or ignores me. I'm kind of glad that we get to be outcasts together. It's fun."
Dawn took a bite of her burger. She silently agreed with Andrew. This was more fun than she'd expected. She'd just wanted another to hang out with, anyone to talk to. Instead she'd found a friend in Andrew. They were more alike than she'd ever thought.
They finished eating dinner an hour later. Most of the time they spent chatting about various things. Dawn told him about her demonic algebra teacher. She told him about the time the year before when everyone had started singing and how a demon had wanted to make her his bride. Andrew told her about the time Spike was going to break some figurine of some kind. He told her about Warren and his unnatural lust for women. Then Andrew quickly added that it wasn't that he didn't lust for girls, just that he wasn't as horny as Warren. They both looked away with blushed for several minutes after that.
When they paid the bill and stepped outside, Dawn shivered slightly.
Andrew took off his jacket quickly and helped Dawn into it. "I guess this is why people in California buy jackets," he reminded her.
Dawn laughed. She took his hand in hers again as they went to the video store. This time it seemed very easy and casual. She didn't feel at all weird about it. In fact . . . It sort of felt nice.
They rented the original three Star Wars movies. Dawn was surprised to see Harrison Ford was in them. Andrew looked at her like she'd grown a third head. She laughed at him. When she read the backs of the movie, she actually admitted to herself that they sounded pretty good. She was surprised she hadn't had any desire to see them before.
Andrew and Dawn finally got home nearly three and a half hours after they'd left. They both automatically slowed down at the door. Dawn felt like she had to say something to make him understand how much hanging out had meant to her. "Tonight was fun," she chirped.
Andrew nodded, avoiding her eyes. "It was almost as fun as the time Jonathon and I waited in line for hours to get tickets to see Star Wars Episode One."
Dawn wanted to be insulted, but she knew this was a compliment coming from Andrew. She shrugged. "Thanks," she said blandly.
Andrew smiled at her, like her acceptance of what he'd said had made his day. "Usually people just tell me to shut up when I talk about Star Wars," he mumbled. He scuffed his foot on the ground.
"Well, hey, I have an open mind," Dawn replied quickly. "Hey, Andrew?"
"Do you want to, like, I don't know . . . Kiss me?" Dawn suggested, saying the words before she could stop herself. She squinted her eyes up and winced. Since when did she sound so desperate? And why was she asking Andrew of all people to kiss her? It just seemed . . . Right. Of that, she was sure.
Andrew was gaping at her. "You really want me to? I thought we were just hanging out. You know, friends. Partners in invisibility and all."
Dawn reached for the knob. "If you don't want to, that's fine," she said quickly.
Andrew did the first romantic thing in his life. He caught her hand with his and used it to pull her closer. Then he closed his mouth over hers and kissed her very awkwardly. He was too afraid he'd mess up to concentrate on doing it right.
Dawn felt a smile grow inside of her. The awkwardness of the kiss seemed so . . . Andrew. She put her hand around the back of his neck and pushed herself closer to him. It felt right to do so, and she felt Andrew grip her waist nervously. She had a feeling that this was the first time Andrew had ever done something like this.
They were interrupted when the front door opened suddenly. "Just where have you been?" A voice demanded.
Andrew and Dawn broke apart quickly. Andrew stared at his feet. Dawn looked eye to eye with her sister, trying hard not to blush. She shrugged carelessly. "Out."
"Out!" Buffy screeched. "Out?! Evil is planning on taking over the world and you went out?"
Anya appeared behind Buffy to survey the scene. "And with Andrew? Eew. Don't you have class, Dawn?"
Dawn felt loyal to Andrew. "Yes," she snapped at Anya. "You went out with Xander!"
"Don't bring that into this," Anya mumbled, walking away.
Buffy grabbed Dawn's arm with one hand and pulled her into the house. "Go up to your room. I'm going to yell at you for being careless later." Buffy turned to Andrew. "And you! You'd better believe you're never going to hear the end of this. Just who do you think you are, kissing my little sister like that . . .?"
On the bright side, Dawn thought to herself as she climbed the stairs slowly, maybe she and Andrew weren't so invisible as they'd thought.