Title: I ha a Girl (the Scientific Method Remix)
Pairing: Various tentative
Word Count: 2,458
Warnings: only what the title tells you
Original Story: “Practice Makes Perfect” by nothorse
I Kissed a Girl
(the Scientific Method Remix)
When Dawn was ten, her mom took her to see “Harriet the Spy”, and Dawn had decided she was going to be a spy. It hadn’t lasted long; she’d used maybe five pages of her notebook when she decided she wanted to be a scientist instead, and the Spy Notebook became her Scientist Notebook.
That hadn’t lasted long, either, but the main thing she’d learned was how to deal with a problem. Step One: Ask a question. Step Two: Form a Hypothesis. Step Three: Experiment. Step Four: Evaluate. It was a lot easier to handle things when you broke them down into those steps. So, while her desire to be a spy was short-lived, and her decision to be a scientist survived only barely longer than that, she was glad for both of them.
* * *
When you’re sixteen years old, everything seems like The Biggest Thing EVER. And it’s not. The thing about being sixteen, though, is you can realize in the moment that it’s not really that huge a deal — and it still won’t stop it from being The Biggest Thing of the moment. But you’ll blow it out of proportion anyway, and deal with the huge mess that follows, because there is always a huge mess that follows because you went crazynuts insane, and then you’ll move on to the next Biggest Thing EVER, because that’s that you do when you’re sixteen.
It was the towards the end of Dawn’s junior year at Sunnydale High. She’d managed to survive most of her first year of school actually over the Hellmouth, instead of just in the same town as the Hellmouth, and she’d done pretty well, if you asked her. She wasn’t the most popular girl in school, but she wasn’t bottom of the barrel, either. She had friends she ate lunch with, and she had a best friend she spent most weekends with, and sure, a few oogy boogy things had come up at school that she and Kit and Carlos had dealt with but nothing that tanked her reputation or labeled her the weird girl. And no, she hadn’t told Buffy about those situations because they weren’t big huge deals and the three of them had been able to handle them without too much issue. All in all, it had been a pretty good school year.
But she hadn’t had a boyfriend. Other than Danny-the-Vamp, she hadn’t really been kissed. And that didn’t sit well with Dawn.
Step One: Ask a Question
She was having one of the weekly sleepovers with Janice, and she found herself blurting out a question she hadn’t meant to ask. “Have you ever kissed a boy? I mean, for real. With tongue and everything?”
Janice pressed a star nail decal onto Dawn’s toenail. “No. Have you?”
Dawn wriggled her other toes in Janice’s lap. “No.” She shrugged, before continuing, “I mean, there’s Danny, but he doesn’t count. Because …” Well, she couldn’t say vampires, since Janice — even though she’d been there on the Halloween-vampire-date-nightmare — seemed to be going with the whole Sunnydale ‘I must have imagined it’ syndrome. “… reasons. What if I do it wrong?”
Step Three: Experiment (Yeah, she skipped the hypothesis part sometimes.)
The girls fell silent as they focused on each other’s toenails, Dawn painting careful stripes on Janice’s and acting like she was completely absorbed in the process, before Dawn blurted out the other question she hadn’t meant to ask. “Do you wanna practice? So we know how it works?”
Janice’s head popped up and she stared at Dawn while Dawn could feel her face growing hot. “Yeah, sure. I don’t want my first real kiss to suck because I didn’t know what to do.”
“Now?” Dawn squeaked. (If she ever decided to tell this story to anyone else ever, she was leaving out the squeakiness and the embarrassing parts. Which, okay, would be the whole story, and that was why she was never telling anyone ever. Seriously. Never ever.)
“Yeah, now. Unless you have a better time you want to?” Janice grinned at Dawn, and Dawn found herself grinning back.
“Okay. On three?” After counting, both girls closed their eyes and leaned forward —
— and promptly smashed their noses together.
Dawn rebounded, her eyes filling with automatic tears. “Ow!” She rubbed her nose for a moment. “Well, that sucked. Try again, eyes open this time?”
This time, they leaned in with their eyes open, which was a little weird and disconcerting (take that, vocab test!), but at least they didn’t mush their noses together again. If non-smashing noses is the best thing you can say about a kiss, it might not be a very good one, but this was just practice, anyway. It didn’t have to be goo–
Oh. Janice was doing something and Dawn was mimicking and oh, wow, okay, this was what people were talking about and —
Dawn pulled away, cheeks flushed and eyes bright. “Okay! I think we’ve practiced!”
Janice shrugged and picked the bottle of nail polish back up. “Cool. Wanna watch a movie?”
Step Four: Evaluate
… I think I might be gay … “Okay. I’ll pop the popcorn, you put in ‘Get Over It’?”
* * *
Step Two: Form a Hypothesis (And this time, she skipped Step One; it really isn’t a rule to do all four steps in order. Or if it was, it wasn’t one she followed.)
“I think I’m gay.” Dawn blurted the words out.
Willow dropped her glass to the unforgiving floor and turned to look at her. “Why do you think that, Dawnie?” She grabbed the broom and dustpan and started sweeping up the shards of glass off the hardwood.
Dawn stirred her cereal, not looking at Willow. “I kissed Janice. For practice. And I liked it. I think I’m gay.”
“Oh, honey, no. I mean, you might be. I’m not gonna stifle your personal choice of how to express your sexuality, but I think you just liked kissing.” Willow was obviously trying to not sound amused and not succeeding.
Dawn rolled her eyes. “Forget it.” She grabbed her backpack and slung it over her shoulder before heading out the door. “I’m going to Kit’s after school.” In hindsight, going to Willow first had been a bad idea. Willow tried to act like she was all peace, love and granola bars and accepting of all things, but Dawn had learned the hard way that Willow had a tendency to make up her mind on something and refuse to change it. Dawn was pretty sure it tied into Willow’s intelligence and Willow’s own belief about that intelligence, but she wasn’t sure exactly how.
That had been a sucky way to be handled, though, and Dawn decided right then that if she ever had kids, she wasn’t going to write their opinions off. She’d listen to them, and she might try to guide them, but she wouldn’t discount the opinions entirely.
* * *
Step Two: Form a Hypothesis
“I think I’m gay.” Really, she should think of a better way to bring it up than that.
For her part, Tara didn’t really react, other than raising her eyes to meet Dawn’s. “Why?” Dawn had noticed ages ago that Tara didn’t stutter around Dawn as much as she did around other people. Dawn liked to think it was because she was special, but she was pretty sure that it really had more to do with Dawn looking to Tara for advice. Tara filled a different role for Dawn than she did for other people. Before things had gone kablooey with Tara and Willow, Buffy had been like the traditional father role in the house, going out and doing the Slaying and the working. Willow, in a lot of ways, had been like the aunt, someone that was around to help out, but not really someone you trusted to get the right type of items on the shopping list, either. Tara had been the mother, the nurturer, the one who made sure the house ran smoothly and that Dawn had new clothes when she sprouted up another three inches basically overnight and helped Dawn with homework. Maybe it was unfair to Tara to put so much weight on those shoulders, but it had had an effect on their relationship, and one of the noticeable results was that Tara could address subjects with more self-assurance with Dawn than with the others.
Dawn shrugged, a hard jerk of her shoulder. “I kissed Janice and I liked it. And I’ve had a crush on you for a while, and I think I’m in love with you.”
Tara brushed some hair out of Dawn’s face. “Both of those are hard to tell someone else. I’m glad you trust me enough.” She picked up the hair brush and Dawn turned around and sat on the bed in front of Tara, allowing her to brush through the long brown hair. Tara was silent for a long moment, but not an awkward silent, more a ‘letting the moment be what it is’ kind of silent. “It’s not girls for me,” she said finally. “It’s not even really people. It’s Willow. Willow’s the only person I’ve loved like that. I think it might be the same way for you, Dawnie.”
EXPERIMENT ABORTED. DISCUSSION INSTEAD.
Dawn thought for a long moment, tense muscles slowly relaxing. She’d heard what Tara wasn’t saying, too. The message that Tara loved Willow and only Willow, meaning not Dawn, was received, and while it sucked, Dawn couldn’t say she was even really surprised. “So not gay?”
Tara laughed softly. “You might be. I don’t think so.” She started braiding Dawn’s hair. No one could do a French braid like Tara. Tara did it the same way that her mom used to do it for Buffy and Dawn, making each piece even and scooping it back exactly right.
“Willow misses you.” Okay, seriously, she needed to stop blurting stuff out.
Tara’s hands stilled. “I miss her, too.” She resumed braiding. “But I can’t trust her right now.”
And that said it all, didn’t it?
* * *
Steps Two and Three: Form a Hypothesis and Experiment (Because she was getting tired of no experiment happening.)
“I think I might be gay. Willow thinks I just like kissing. Tara thinks I just like people. Can I kiss you to find out?” Okay, delivery still really needs work …
Xander’s eyes bugged out as the juice squirted out the straw he’d punctured the juice box with. “Say what now?”
Dawn shrugged, trying to appear aloof and confident. “I want to kiss you to see if I’m gay or if I like kissing or if I like people.”
“Dawnie, I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Xander was pulling back, trying to get some distance between them.
Dawn started ticking arguments off on her fingers. “I don’t still have that mongoid crush on you.” Which was true. But Tara wasn’t the only person Dawn was pretty sure she loved. “You’re not dating anyone. I’m over the age of consent. You’re only six years older than me, which, yeah, sounds like a lot, but I’m older than Buffy was when she slept with Angel, and you’re, like, eleven times younger than he was, so, really, the age isn’t that big of a deal, and it’s not like I’m trying to date you. I just want a kiss.”
Xander shook his head frantically. “Nuh-uh. Not happening. No way. No. Your sister would kill me if she found out.”
EXPERIMENT ABORTED. (Damn it!)
“Why does everything have to come back to Buffy?” Dawn grumbled, tearing apart a blade of grass between her fingers.
Xander responded cheerfully, obviously happy to be on safe ground again. “Because Buffy’s the one that can pull me apart like a Twizzler. Ask again when you’re eighteen. See what happens then.”
Step Four: Evaluate
Dawn shrugged. “Janice is probably better.”
Xander narrowed his eyes at her, but didn’t say anything, instead tossing a juicebox at her.
* * *
Step Three: Experiment
Dawn was in the process of trying to braid her hair the way her mom and Tara used to do it, but it’s a lot harder to do it to yourself. Your arms get tired. But she wanted to look nice for her eighteenth birthday party, which was why she was putting the effort in instead of just scraping it back in a ponytail or leaving it down. So she was equal parts irritated with the interruption and relieved at the break, opening the door quickly. “Oh, hey, Xander, what’s u–… mffffffffffff?” Her question was muffled by his mouth on hers, and she was pretty sure she’d just drawn blood having her lip mashed against her teeth.
Still, though, this was Xander, so Dawn sucked it up and started kissing him back. Younger Dawn that had thought about kissing Xander didn’t have anything on the reality.
When he pulled away breathlessly, she looked at him (almost eye-level with him now) with a wordless question written across her face. “Still think you might be gay?”
Dawn looked at him in confusion for a long moment, before memory hit. “Oh, my God, you remember that?”
Xander shrugged sheepishly. “I told you to ask again in two years. I decided to not wait for you to ask.”
Step Four: Evaluate
Dawn tangled her hand in his tie. “Not gay.” She yanked him unceremoniously in for another kiss.
Dawn was landing on Tara’s side of the argument: it hadn’t been about boys or girls for her. It was more about boys, but even that only went so far. The only people she’d had more than a basic attraction for had been Tara and Xander (and Spike, but that had mostly been about “oh my gosh he’s so gorgeous!”), and she could look back on Tara and realize that it really had just been a crush, compounded by the fact that she’d honestly loved the witch. Not the right kind of love, but still. Xander was different. Xander was … Xander. Xander was intuitive, always knew exactly the right thing to say to make someone feel better about themselves, was loyal beyond the telling of it. Xander was also jealous, frequently petty, could hold a grudge like no one’s business, and knew exactly the right thing to make someone feel worse about themselves and the exact moment to unleash it on them for maximum damage.
No, Dawn didn’t still have that huge crush on him. But yes, Dawn was still in love with him.
But she’d probably wait a little while to tell him that.