So presumably at some point in the intervening year, she discovered the truth. When? Well, one logical moment would be when Willow and Tara moved into her house, after Buffy's death. I started imagining how the conversation might have gone, and then all sorts of other things kept popping into my mind, like the age-old question of whether W&T were paying rent for living in the Summers' house, and why they didn't send Dawn to her father...
And so I wrote this fic to answer those questions. It's a missing scene from a day or two after 'The Gift'. Enjoy!
Characters: Dawn, Willow/Tara, Xander/Anya, Giles
They couldn't leave a fifteen year old alone in an empty house. Everyone had agreed that: but the question of what to do about Dawn hadn't been so simple to answer. Anya had suggested that Giles should adopt her, but that drew such a loud storm of protest from all concerned (not least Giles himself) that it was quickly dropped.
Giles then asked why they didn't send Dawn to her father. Willow pointed out that her father hadn't bothered to show for the funeral of his ex-wife, hadn't bothered to contact either of his daughters, and had basically proven he didn't want to be any part of their lives. Xander added that technically, Dawn had never met her father; did he even know about her existence? Dawn had scowled ferociously at him for that, so he shrugged, smiled placatingly and added, "Sorry! Just saying." And besides, Willow added, if Mr Summers showed up they'd have to explain to him where his other daughter was, and that would be... bad.
Willow had suggested smuggling her into the dorm room she shared with Tara, like an oversized and human version of Miss Kitty, and letting her live there in secret. Her protestations that she could use magic to make sure nobody else suspected anything hadn't been very convincing, and Tara looked upset, so that idea was abandoned too.
Xander had, very tentatively and with lots of disclaimers, suggested getting Social Services involved. Everyone shifted uncomfortably, but Dawn herself put the damper on that one by - well, by bursting into angry, lonely tears and sobbing that they'd take her away, she'd never see her friends again, she'd already lost her mother and her sister and now she'd lose all of them as well and why did they hate her so much and...
Tara had enfolded her in a comforting hug and then, to everybody else's slight guiltiness that they'd not thought to do it themselves, came up with the radical idea of asking Dawn herself what she wanted to do.
Through her sniffles, it turned out that Dawn wanted to stay in her own home, clinging to its familiarity. Couldn't one of the others move in with her to keep her company?
Tara had said, "Yes of course, sweetie, I'm sure we could do that, for a while at least." And then she'd caught Willow's eyes over Dawn's shoulder, and raised an eyebrow. Willow was rather taken aback, but then nodded vigorously.
"Absolutely. We can be your house-sitters, Dawnie. It'll be like an extended slumber-party."
Tara added in a more serious voice, "W-we can give up the dorm room in Stevenson to save money, l-live here next term. After that, we'll have a better idea what to do in the long run."
Everyone stirred in relief. You could see it in their eyes: Tara and Willow have taken over this problem, so it's not our responsibility any more. Phew. But Giles did add in a dry tone,
"I assume the money you'd pay to the university in rent, you could pay to Dawn instead, to help with her mortgage?"
Willow and Tara looked at each other, then Willow spoke. "Err, absolutely! Yes, of course. We'll be your lodgers, Dawnie, and you'll be our landlady."
"What about Buffy's bank account? And the money from her mother's life insurance?" Everyone turned to look at Anya with varying levels of shock. "I'm just saying. The money's there, and there are bills to pay."
Giles started polishing his glasses, looking uncomfortable. "The money, I suppose, technically belongs to Dawn now. But with her sister's, um, passing away not being officially notified to the authorities, it might be difficult gaining access to it."
"Ooh, I can do that! It'll be fun! We can-"
"Sweetie, I really don't think you should use magic to rob banks--"
"Who said I'd use magic? This would be a hacking job. Old-school Willow action. And anyway, it's not robbing them if it's Dawn's money, is it?"
Giles's cloth rubbed against his lenses even harder. "I'm not sure this is something any of the rest of us should be listening to. Just please be careful. You can't look after Dawn if you're locked away in prison."
"Pffft. I won't get caught. And even if I am, I know this spell to--"
"Look, they won't even know I was there. And then we'll-- uh, Dawnie will have access to Buffy's accounts."
Dawn looked rebellious, and also on the verge of another outburst of sobs. "It's Buffy's money. And Mom's. We shouldn't be taking it..."
"We're not taking it. We're just going to use it to pay for the house until, well, until we can come up with, uh, until we can sort something out." If Willow's expression looked a little shifty at that last comment, nobody else noticed. Well, Tara gave a slight frown and looked at her girlfriend speculatively for a moment. but then Xander added his voice to the discussion and the moment passed.
"It's for the best, Dawnster. Your sister nor your mother would have wanted you homeless, and the mortgage does need to be paid."
"Is there enough money there to pay off the house completely? That would be best, from a financial point of view. You could even gain equity in the property, leverage it for more investment opportunities. I can help!"
"An, this is just to help Dawn through a difficult period. Let's leave the financial planning seminar for another time."
"It's never too early to think about the future. Now that you and I are..."
"Right then, I think we've settled everything, so I've got places to be. Will, I assume you and Tara will want some help shifting your stuff from your dorm room to here?"
"Please." Willow gave him a winning smile, then turned to Dawn. "Which bedroom should we use?"
Dawn sniffled again, then tried to look brave. "W-well, I guess B-buffy's room is, uh, free now, so... and Mom's room too, that's bigger. I guess one of you could take..."
Wilow and Tara looked at each other, then came to a mutual unspoken decision.
"W-we'll sleep in your Mom's room..." "Right, it's bigger..." "And so there'll be m-more room for us..." "And sleeping in Buffy's room would be..." "Kind of creepy..." "...kind of weird."
Dawn looked between the two of them, puzzled. "Guys, there are two bedrooms. You don't both have to share..."
Willow and Tara both turned bright red. Xander gave a stifled snort of laughter. Giles tried to rub a hole in the lens of his glasses.
And Anya added in a perfectly matter of fact tone, "Dawn, they want to share a bedroom so they can have sex with each other."
...and when she realised that the appalled focus of the entire room had shifted to her, she added defensively, "Well, it's true. And I know Dawn's too young to have sex, but she's old enough that she needs to know it exists. I've been reading books about bringing up children, so I know that."
For some reason her last comment made Xander even more uncomfortable than the discussion of Tara and Willow's love life. He hastily stood up and put on his coat, gesturing urgently for Anya to follow him.
"Come on, An. I've got that... thing, and I'm sure these three ladies have things to talk about." Judging by Dawn's frozen, open-mouthed expression, that was probably true. "Let's leave them to it."
"An excellent idea. I, um, need to go through the Magic Box's accounts. Let's meet again, um, tomorrow, same time."
"Yeah, great idea, bye guys."
And the room hastily vacated, leaving only Willow, Dawn, Tara and an embarrassed silence.
"Uh, sorry, Dawnie. I thought you knew?"
"Does it bother you, sweetie? W-we can c-come up with some other..."
"No, it's fine. I'm fine." Dawn's voice was very small, but determined. "I'm just. Surprised. That's all, nothing else, I'm not bothered, I mean there's nothing wrong... I just. Thought you were. Friends?"
"We are friends..."."Really good friends..." "We love each other..." "We're in love."
Dawn smiled, hesitantly at first then with more enthusiasm. "That's... kinda sweet. Romantic. Ohmygod, it's like something out of a book. One of those books they want to ban from schools in case they corrupt us."
Willow and Tara exchanged a wry look.
"W-we're not here to corrupt anyone, sweetheart. We've just two women w-who love each other."
"Absolutely." Willow put her arm around Tara's shoulders. Dawn followed the movement with her eyes.
"And you, uh. What Anya said. You, um, the two of you..."
Willow's face turned almost as red as her hair, but she nodded firmly. "Yes, we do."
"B-but if it would bother you, w-we won't as long as we're staying here--"
"What? No!!!" Willow's tone and expression were panic-stricken, and Dawn couldn't help bursting into a fit of giggles.
"No, don't. It's fine. I mean, you -- you can do what you want. I guess."
Willow still looked most unhappy. "Tara, don't you like sleeping with me?"
"Of course I do. I just think Dawn is the important one right now, w-we need to look after her."
"You guys don't need to turn celibate just for my sake." She grinned proudly. "'Celibate' - I used the right word, didn't I?"
"Yes, honey, you did. A-and its true, I really don't want to turn celibate--"
"Oh, thank G-d." Willow snuggled closer to her, and laid her head on Tara's shoulder. Her lover giggled, in a distinctly low-pitched and sultry manner, and nuzzled her own cheek against Willow's hair. Dawn looked alarmed.
"Uh, guys, when I said I didn't mind you, uh, doing it, I didn't mean right here in the living room!"
The heated look the two women shared did nothing to calm Dawn's feelings. They did, however, separate just a tiny little amount.
"You're sure you're okay with this, Dawnie? I don't just mean the, um... I mean everything."
She nodded, bravely. Buffy was gone, but her life had to continue... and another thought suddenly hit her.
"Did she know? Did ...did Buffy know about you two?"
"Of course she did. She--" Willow hastily changed her tack as Tara threw her a warning glance. "She thought we should wait to tell you until you were old enough to understand."
Dawn pulled a face. "I'm fifteen, not five. For all she knew I might be gay myself!"
"But you're--" "Actually, she's g-got a good point there." "Well, Buffy did freak out totally when she found out, maybe she thought Dawn would too." Willow smiled at Dawn, "You've actually taken the news much more calmly than she did."
Dawn smiled, though sadness still lay behind her eyes. Tara, however, had another concern.
"Y-you said you might be gay yourself? I mean, it's okay if you're not. And it's okay if you are. If you want to talk...?"
Dawn shook her head violently. "No! I like boys! That was just a - an example!" Her alarmed look shifted its tone, and she added uncomfortably, "Um, n-no offence. Is that a problem? If I'm not, you know..."
"No!" "Absolutely not." "Sweetie, most people aren't gay. It's really not a problem if you aren't either."
"Um, okay. I don't want to say the wrong thing, there's a lot I don't understand."
"Not a problem at all. Like I said, we're h-happy to talk to you about it. About anything."
Willow nodded her head enthusiastically in support. "Absolutely. Anything you want to know, just ask and you'll be answered."
"Well, okay." There was one thing nagging at Dawn's mind, and normally she wouldn't have dreamed of asking, but since they were being so encouraging... "Um, I did wonder... you're both women so you don't have..." She turned red, stammered.
"H-how exactly d-do you even have sex together at all?"
Willow and Tara froze. They looked at each other, eyes wide. Willow said, "Oh boy." Tara stood up, and smiled too-brightly. "W-well, W-willow did say she'd be happy to answer any question at all, so w-while she does that I'll go and make tea!"
And she scampered hastily out of the room. And if she had a wicked grin on her face as she heard Willow starting her stammered explanation behind her, nobody else saw it.