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[ t h e . s o a p . c o n n e c t i o n ]
by kHo

“There´s just one thing I have to know before I answer, Xand… and please, don´t take this the wrong way,” she asked, and that hesitant smile on her face made it clear to me that I probably would be taking this the wrong way. “Do you really love her… or is it just that she´s there? Is she ‘it´ for you, or is she Replacement Girl slash Comfort Girl?”

I guess I really shouldn´t have been offended. Buffy wouldn´t hurt me intentionally. She´d hurt me on more than one occasion unintentionally, but I know she wouldn´t do it on purpose. The Dawn Thing really hadn´t been planned, or expected. I hadn´t seen it coming, and neither had Buffy. Apparently the only ones who´d seen it coming had been Willow and Andrew. Not that Willow bothered to tell me until it was already there staring me in the face. “Finally,” she´d said with that Willow Knows All smile of hers. “It´s about time you got your eyesight back.”

I don´t think I can really pinpoint an exact time down when I started having feelings beyond Big Brother Protector Guy for Dawnie, but I started realizing it right around the time she thought she might be a potential successor to Buffy´s throne. When I told her she was extraordinary I knew in my heart I meant it in many more ways than I had intended it for. If situations had been different, if The First hadn´t been so close to killing us all at the time, I might have even acted on it. It was too hectic then, though… and Anya was still here.

It was easy to forget that feeling of warmth I had when she was near what with all the being terrified of imminent horror and the death of humanity as a whole. It was also easy to let myself turn back to Anya, who was familiar and safe, and let´s face it… a wildcat in bed. Not that I didn´t love Anya, please don´t think I´m saying I didn´t love Anya. We were just so different, and I still believe my not marrying her was the right thing to do. I do regret the way I did it though. I knew in the end we´d just wind up hurting each other… and then I sped up the process by being a colossally stupid jackass, as I´m inclined to being. But I always loved her.

After we… okay, Buffy and The Slayers (and I suppose I´d be remiss to omit Spike from that shortlist)… had defeated The Ultimate Big Bad I was so overwhelmed with guilt and regret over Anya that it was months before I was able to pick up the pieces of my shattered existence to remember that there had been a moment back there when I´d started to see Dawnie in a different way. Oddly enough, the person most helpful in my getting over and moving past Anya was Andrew, of all people. Actually, it was more of him helping me by me helping him sort of… helping type thing.

He was shattered, destroyed, over the fact that she´d died instead of him. He´d gone into that fight knowing, not just thinking, *knowing*, that he would die. He went in there thinking he´d get his redemption, pay for his past transgressions in blood by fighting the last good fight. Instead he´d cowered in the corner and watched as ‘the most beautiful girl in the world´ had been sluiced through by an Ubervamp. It´s hard enough for me to think of, I can´t imagine having it replaying in my head the way it must have been in his.

Not that I completely shut down, I just buried myself in books. Reading Kerouac, reading Burroughs, reading, reading, reading. And listening to Tom Waits, and Leonard Cohen, and Patsy Cline. All the things of depression were there to be had, my friends, and they were had by me. That´s when she was there, just when I was least likely to notice her. Bringing me drinks out on the porch while I read. Telling me dinner was ready, making me a microwavable meal when I didn´t make it to the table in time. Coming out to turn on the light when it got dark and I hadn´t noticed it yet. Buffy and the Slayers were training in our new Slayer Abode in Cleveland, Ohio, and I was burying my one eyed self in books. I´m embarrassed to look back at that first month and realize there´s really not that much I can remember about it. About the only thing I remember is looking up and always seeing Dawn´s face ready to smile at me and tell me she was always there.

If I can just make a side note real quick, I´d like to point out that a good way to strain your eyesight is to read non-stop while having only one eye… Not a good idea, okay kids?

I´d like to tell you that one day I just snapped out of, out of realization for my love of Dawn. That would be hugely romantic, and a great story to tell, but it wouldn´t be a true one. The thing that happened was that my headaches got to be unbearable and I had to stop reading or face going blind from overusage of my only remaining eye. This was about a month in, and it would be another month before the Scooby gang would be able to raise the money to get their mascot his glass eye. Once again my cycle of ‘slow on the uptake´ took a strong foothold and while I passed my time mostly with Dawn it never struck me that something more than friendship was happening.

If we were awake, we were most likely together. Whether it be researching some minor demon (Giles always took the big ones, cause of my eye, and oh yeah, because of my lack of knowledge) or going grocery shopping for the peanut gallery. She really became quite a woman, and I´m not even sure when that happened. I think it happened when I was out of it, 'cause one minute I was looking over her and the next we´d swapped places. We´d run errands together, we´d watch television together, and we wound up falling asleep together more often than not. Neither of our beds got much use in those days as most of our sleeping time came to be spent huddled together on the couch. My back bitched about it, but I didn´t care 'cause I got much better sleep sleeping on that ratty old couch with Dawnie than I ever did in my bed alone with myself.

The day I remembered where the feelings of warmth came from was the day after I got my glass eye. She was the first person I saw when I walked out of the doctor´s office, and I don´t know if it was my elation at finally not looking like a beast reincarnate or because she was her but I immediately burst into tears and gave her the most smothering hug I could muster the second I saw her. I slept in my bed alone that night, determined to get permanently out of my funk and found that I didn´t get much sleep at all without Dawnie´s soft little snores echoing in my ears. She´d claw my face to pieces if I ever told her she snored, but it´s the most adorable snore I´ve ever heard, so I don´t know what the fuss is about.

Old Glassy gave me a sense of confidence that I´d been without for quite the while, and I no longer felt the need for someone, anyone, to coddle me anymore. I didn´t feel as empty and alone as I had, and I know that´s just vanity talking. I know it´s just an insignificant thing and that it´s all in my head and not in the eye, but… the eye really gave me something back that I´d been lacking. At first I tried to go back to where I was before, but I found myself right back by Dawn´s side. This time though it was out of pleasure and not out of need and I realized it sort of always *had* been out of pleasure and not out of need.

Buffy began to make comments on how many inside jokes Dawn and I had, and I started to notice Willow giving me sly glances while she was cuddled up with Kennedy... whom I still can´t stand. Faith would make remarks about how we´d become Dawnder, which was apparently a play on Dawn and Xander. But, it wasn´t any of the official Scooby´s who finally came right out and said it to me.

“So, like… are you finally dating yet,” Andrew had asked me one day while we were playing chess.


Andrew rolled his eyes, smiling at me. “You and Dawn, ya know… the inseparable duo.”

“Dawn and I are just…”

“Completely in love with each other,” he said impatiently. “Come on Xander, admit it.”

I sat back, looking at him with what I´m sure was a glare 'cause suddenly he looked scared. “Completely in love,” I echoed.

He nodded, swallowing slightly. “Yeah… I mean… it´s sort of, ya know, obvious… If I´m not overstepping my bounds.”

It´s amazing that kid´s ever made it this far being that skittish. I´m honestly surprised he hasn´t been killed yet. I like him though, despite the whole Evil Trio thing wherein he tried to kill Buffy. He was in love with Warren, not that he´s admitted it, and if anyone can sympathize with the stupid things you do for love, it´d be me… Post Valentine´s Day Love Spell anyone?

My comeback was truly inspired. “Huh?” Oh yeah… go Xander, you stud you.

“Hey,” came the jaunty voice of Dawn from behind me and I must have blushed because Andrew suddenly looked very satisfied. She sat down next to me and kissed me on my cheek and suddenly I knew he was right. “What´re the dorks playin´ tonight… backgammon?”

“Dawn… this is chess,” Andrew said with his infinite patience voice. “It´s a game where…”

“I care,” she said, giggling. “Really, I do.”

Andrew rolled his eyes, giving me a look which I still can´t decipher. Must have been along the lines of ‘I told you so,´ or ‘I have to take a dump,´ but he never was good with makin´ with the signals. “I´ll leave you two to… do… uh… whatever,” he said before scampering off. Oh, he´s swooft alright. Almost as swooft as me.

“I knew it was chess ya know,” she said, smiling at me and turning on the bench to face me. “I just like to annoy him with fake stupidity. I´m good at it too.”

I finally managed to shut my mouth and let out a slight laugh. “Well, Dawnie, we all have something we excel at.”

“Xanderrrr,” she whined, swatting me on the arm. “I´m not a kid, damnit… can´t you call me Dawn?!”

I smiled, placing my hand on her back. “But don´t you realize it´s Dawnie with love?”

“Dawnie with love or not… it makes me sound like a little kid.”

“You´re not a kid,” I said quietly, running my hands through her hair. She´s got the most gorgeous hair. Most people think brown hair is boring, but not hers. Hers is kissed by the sun and it glistens…. And wow, where did poet boy come from? Oh right, she brings it out of me. Anyway…

She blushed at that and ducked her head and I knew in an instant that I had to say something. “I guess Dawnie´s okay,” she said softly, biting her lip and looking at me. “Besides, I always hated how people always make the soap connection.”

“The soap connection?”

She nodded, frowning. “Dawn… like the soap… ya know… cuts right through the grease.”

“Yeah, but with Dawnie they could also say it´s like downy, the fabric softener,” I said, smiling as her face suddenly went pale and slack. “Didn´t make that one yet, huh?”

“I´m just screwed any way I go, huh,” she said, frowning and crossing her arms. “Either way, I´m a damned detergent or a static cling getter offer… yay for me.”

“Yeah,” I said, smiling and putting my arm around her. “But you´re my detergent slash static cling getter offer.” I leaned forward and placed a kiss at her hairline, breathing in the scent of Pantene along with some sort of citrusy body spray.

“Well someone´s gotta keep you clean and static free, right,” she said, smirking up at me. “Might as well be me.”

“Wouldn´t have it any other way,” I said, finding it impossible for me to take my eyes off of her. “Dawnie,” I whispered.

“Yeah,” she asked, and I could tell she was confused by my tone… or maybe it was the fact that my eyes had drifted down to her lips.

“Dawnie… I love you,” I said, for all the world sounding surprised, but I don´t think I was. I think what had me so surprised was that it had taken me so long to realize it.

She frowned at me for a moment and picked a piece of lint off my shirt. “Yeah… love you too, Xand…”

“No,” I said, shaking my head. “No, Dawn… I mean, I love you.”

Her eyes got as wide as saucers then and I had to fight an unwinnable battle to not laugh at the thought that her eyes might just pop out of their sockets. It might have been fitting if it were just one though, seeing as how we´d be even. “Xander don´t say that…”

“Why not,” I asked her, running my hand through her hair and down her back again. “It´s the truth.”

“It´s the truth,” she asked, her eyes glistening. That´s a quality she and Buff share, the ability to make their eyes well up with tears while the tears never quite fall until they´re ready for them to. “Xander, don´t say that unless you mean…”

I put my finger on her lips and felt my mouth curve up in a smile. “Dawnie… I mean it, in every way it´s possible to mean it.”

“You mean like a little kid,” she said, almost like she wanted that to be true. “You mean like kid sister Dawnie, like little brat Dawnie… precocious Dawn Summers whom annoys and bothers and…”

“And loves, and protects, and takes care of me. Little Dawnie Summers who hasn´t been little Dawnie in a really long time now, who makes me laugh, and makes me feel like things are finally alright.” I leaned down and looked her straight in the eye and thought my way into her brain, like some kind of telekinesis. “Dawn Summers whom… I… love.”

A tear broke through then and I could see her battling them back with everything in her. Finally she took a deep breath and brought one trembling hand up to her cheek to wipe it away. “Really,” she whispered out, her eyes narrowing.

“Really,” I said, nodding.

She nodded then, and let out a little bit of a laugh. I think it turned into a bit of a sob there at the end, but she held it in like the little trooper she shouldn´t have to be yet and smiled up at me. “Well then, Xander Harris, you better kiss me right now before I hit you.”

I barely had time to get out half a laugh before I was kissing her and her hands were all over my chest, making me feel things I hadn´t felt in months. It was like a gate had been pulled up and months of frustration, months of pent up emotion, months of denied feelings were suddenly let out with a gusto. By the time we´d broken apart the kitchen was filled with people staring at us agape. Don´t ask me where they came from, they just suddenly were there. Buffy, front and center, tried to glare at me only to be completely taken over by a fit of laughter that was contagious and soon the whole house was filled with laughter and joy. Finally I was home.

That was one year ago today, and I´ve just asked Buffy an extremely important question. Looking up at her I see her amused expression and realize I´ve been off in Remembrance Land for a little bit too long and laugh. I took a deep breath and plunged forth. “The thing is Buff… I don´t know. I don´t know if it´s because she was there. I don´t know if it´s because Anya died… I don´t *think* it is, but I don´t know, and I don´t think I ever will,” I said, smiling slightly. “But none of that matters to me. Cause I look at her and all I see is her, Buffy. I don´t see you, I don´t see Willow, I don´t see Cordy or Faith or Anya… I see Dawn. And as corny as it may be, that´s all I need, or want… and she´s all I love.”

“If you make a sunrise joke right now I swear to God I´ll pop you,” Buffy said with a glare, but I could see the tears in her eyes.

I smiled and laughed. “The thought did cross my mind, but I thought nah, I´ll let that pass.”

She leaned over and kissed me on my cheek. “Alright, Mr. Harris… off you go.” She smiled at me, and can I help it if when she smiles at me with those tears in her eyes she still looks absolutely gorgeous? There was a time I would have dropped anything to have that girl when she looked at me like that… but now? Now it just makes me smile back. “You´ve got a little sister of mine to propose to. You don´t need my blessing, but you´ve got it tenfold.”

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