Chapter Two: Mess and Movies
The ‘mess hall’ was an eye opening experience for Draco. He saw his friends all right. In fact, Pansy seemed to have been assigned kitchen duties, as she was standing in the serving line, scooping some sort of thick stew onto the dinner trays. The ‘hall’ itself was actually more like a huge tent with screen walls to let in the desert breeze while keeping the insects outside. Their eyes met, and they nodded politely to one another, but neither attempted to speak.
Seating consisted of twenty-four picnic tables, set up in three long rows, perpendicular to the serving line. The three of them sat at the far end of the middle row of tables, where Buffy and Harry could watch the entire room as the three of them ate their meal. Draco was directed into a seat beside Buffy, and a few minutes after they settled on the benches the girl who had originally met the five Wizarding teens joined them, planting a quick kiss on Harry’s lips.
“Dawn.” The warning in Buffy’s tone was unmistakable. The unrepentant grin she got back spoke volumes, and the Slayer rolled her eyes. “You’re supposed to be setting a good example here. Remember?”
“Pshh! There’s nothing bad about greeting someone you care about with a polite peck. It’s not like I Frenched him in front of everyone. Besides, everybody in this room knows that the Rabbit is mine. It’s not like they’re going to get all shocked and flustered if I decide that I want to be ‘respectfully affectionate’.” The playful mockery in her voice made it obvious that her choice of words was a direct quote of something someone else had said to her. Pointedly ignoring her sister’s dark scowl, the Dawn looked at Draco. “Hi. You must be Draco Malfoy. I’m Dawn.”
Draco smiled slightly. His silver eyes were laughing at her irreverent attitude, and the laughter deepened his voice slightly as he replied. “Hello, Dawn. I’ve heard a bit about you, although Potter never mentioned that you’re so lovely, or so charming.”
Dawn flushed with pleasure at the compliment. “You’re so sweet.”
Harry glared, and growled slightly under his breath.
Dawn raised an eyebrow, shooting her boyfriend a look. Instantly irritated, she snapped, “If he wants to be nice and flatter me, don’t you think I should be the one to decide if that’s allowed or not?” She cuffed Harry lightly when he snorted. “Apologize!”
Harry gave Dawn a startled glance. “Why?”
Her blue eyes narrowed. “Because you’re acting like a jealous idiot and there’s no call for it.”
“But I didn’t say anything!”
“So. You were thinking it, and it was all over your face. Now apologize.”
Draco was fighting laughter as he watched the byplay, and he bit his lip hard when she obviously kicked the other man under the table. He coughed when Harry sighed and frowned at Dawn.
“I’m sorry for getting upset when Malfoy hit on you, Dawn.”
No sooner were the words out of his mouth, than he realized that he’d just made her really angry. Dawn stood up and stalked away from the table, leaving her tray and storming out of the ‘hall’. A resigned expression settled on his face as he stood. “Buffy…”
“Go on, kid. I’ll show Mr. Suave here to the cabin when we finish eating. You’ve got some fences to mend.”
Harry smiled sheepishly. “Thanks.” Seconds later he was out the door after his temperamental girlfriend.
Draco turned to the blonde at his side. “She’s… unique.”
Buffy smirked. “You have no idea. He’s pretty good for her, though, so I don’t really stress about it. They do this a lot. Not the jealousy bit, just the minor bickering over stupid stuff. I think it’s better than letting things fester and getting into screaming matches, so I don’t get involved. You should probably be a little less flirty with her, though. We don’t need him in a snit for the next month, now do we?”
Draco adopted an innocently wounded air. “I was only being truthful. After all, it’s the polite thing to do to compliment someone when you first meet them.”
“Um-hmm. And you weren’t possibly trying to make up for snapping at her when you first arrived?”
He shrugged one shoulder. “Perhaps. Contrary to what anyone may have said about me, I can admit when I’m wrong, I just prefer not to do so if I can smooth over a problem without it. Your sister seemed to understand that.”
Buffy’s smirk grew into a grin. “You’ve got a really smooth tongue, Draco Malfoy. I can see how you managed to keep yourself out of trouble for so long.” She patted his shoulder. “Don’t worry about Harry. Dawn knows how to handle him, and it was HIS idea to bring you here.” She gestured at his tray with her fork. “Now, eat your chili and cornbread so we can get back to the cabin. There’s a movie on tonight that I want to catch.”
Draco turned his attention to his meal. He took a bite of his ‘chili’, tasting the food experimentally. He chewed for a few seconds, then his eyes flew open wide and he swallowed reflexively before taking a sharp breath and grabbing his glass of water. Beside him, Buffy was snickering as she ate. When he had doused the fire in his mouth, he gasped, “Bloody hell! What is this stuff?”
“It’s Dan’s famous five alarm chili. Stuff’s spicy as all hell, but it’s good for you. Best way to eat it is fast, and save the cornbread to clean the spices out of your mouth when you’re finished. Otherwise you’ll be drinking gallons of water, and not have room to eat much.”
“Do they serve this every day?”
“Nope, just on Fridays. You’ll get used to it, though. Dawn LOVES this stuff. Then again, she’s got a cast iron stomach, so…” Buffy shrugged philosophically.
“Right. Would there be a problem if I only ate the cornbread?”
“Yes, there would. We don’t waste food here. You eat what you’re served, or you don’t eat. Just do what everyone else does and shovel it in and swallow. It won’t hurt you, you know. In fact, capsaicin, the oil in the peppers that makes it so hot, is a blood purifier. Takes the toxins out of your system.”
Draco eyed her sceptically, then glanced around. He felt the mildest sense of revulsion as he watched the other people in the room wolfing their food down as if they hadn’t eaten in days, and shook his head. Bracing himself, he took another small polite bite and chewed it as quickly as he could.
Buffy finished her meal and sat back to watch her charge eat, worrying her upper lip with her teeth to keep from grinning when he gave up on his façade of gentility in favour of clearing the food from his tray as fast as he was able. When he pushed the empty dish away and downed the rest of his glass of water, she nodded. “Told you. How’s your stomach?” He grunted and she laughed. “Come on, then. Let’s get back to the cabin. I need a shower, and so do you. You reek of stale horse sweat.”
She chuckled when he glared at her and rose gracefully, collecting Harry and Dawn’s dinner trays and heading for the trashcans to empty the half-eaten food from both trays and placing all three on the stack of dirty dishes. Draco followed her with his own tray and all four water glasses. As soon as they had finished disposing of the mess from their meal, Buffy led him out of the tent and headed for the cabin. Once there, she pointed him toward the bathroom. “You take the first shower, I’m going to make a quick phone call, and get set up out here to watch my movie. You have fifteen minutes to get cleaned up. Shampoo and whatnot are in the shower caddy, and there’s a fresh toothbrush on the sink for you to use. Towels are in the cupboard under the sink.”
Draco nodded once and hurried into the room she had indicated. He stripped off his sweaty attire and stepped into the tub, standing under the shower. When it didn’t come on automatically, he frowned. Remembering that this was a Muggle facility, her cautiously twisted the taps near his knees. Water flowed from the single spigot and he adjusted the temperature to his satisfaction, and then attempted to puzzle out how to make it come out of the shower head. Eventually, he gave up and yelled for Buffy. She appeared in the doorway and raised an inquiring eyebrow.
“Er, would you mind showing me how to make the shower work? I seem to be having a bit of trouble with it.” Draco blushed slightly as he held the curtain in front of his body, preserving his modesty. She smirked and crossed the room, reaching into the bath to pull a small knob on top of the faucet up sharply, rerouting the water into the shower. Draco yelped when he was hit by a sudden blast of cold water, then grinned ruefully when it warmed almost immediately. “Thanks. This Muggle stuff will take some getting used to.”
Buffy smiled understandingly. “No problem. Just be quick. You have ten minutes left of shower time if you don’t want me chasing you out in a towel.”
Draco blinked at her, then vanished behind the curtain to follow her instructions. He washed his hair and body in record time, and got out of the shower with two minutes to spare, drying himself as fast as he could and wrapping the emerald robe hanging on the back of the door firmly around himself just as a knock came on the door. “Coming!” he called.
Buffy pushed the door open and peeked around it. “I certainly hope not,” she teased, and he gave her an owlish blink, unsure of her meaning. When she raised one eyebrow at him and gave him a very obvious once over, his mind made the connection and twin spots of pink appeared in his cheeks.
“You have a dirty mind.”
“Glad you noticed. Don’t take it personally, though. I joke with most everyone, and I do so love to embarrass people. As a rule, I found out a long time ago that you get the most honest reactions out of people when they’re flustered. Now shoo. I need to get washed up and my film is starting in about twenty minutes. And I expect you to bring my robe back as soon as you’re in your jammies.”
Draco snorted. “Jammies?”
“Yeah, jammies. You know, nightclothes? Pyjamas?”
“Ah. Right. I expect I’ll find sleepwear in that trunk at the foot of my bed?”
“You got it. Now get out of here, so I can get clean, before I get cranky.”
“Well, I certainly don’t want you to get cranky.” Draco ducked out of the bathroom, tossing her a cheeky smirk as he did so, and caught her return smile as she closed the door behind him. He hurried up to the loft to change and was pleasantly surprised to find his own black silk pyjamas stowed inside his trunk. Sliding into the sensuous clothing, he slipped on the matching dressing jacket and headed back to the bathroom to return the green robe to it’s owner. On the way to the bathroom, he held the soft fabric to his nose and inhaled the fragrance on it. Vanilla, mixed with a spicy scent and a hint of musk. It fit the woman to whom it belonged. When he knocked softly on the door, he heard her call out, “Just leave it on the back of the door!” over the sound of the shower, and opened the door just enough to reach around and hang the bathrobe back on it’s hook. In the mirror, he caught a reflection of the bath, shower curtain pulled, and a compact but curvy silhouette outlined through the cream-coloured plastic.
“Perving on my sister your first day here, Malfoy? Don‘t let her catch you doing that.”
The amused voice behind him made Draco jump, and he whirled to find Dawn and Harry standing a few feet away, wearing matching smirks. “What-? I wasn’t… I was just… Oh, bloody hell! I was returning her bathrobe. I borrowed it to go to the bedroom after MY shower. I wasn’t ‘perving’ as you put it.”
“Sure. That’s what they all say.”
“What all who say?”
Dawn snickered. “It’s a figure of speech, Blondie. You don’t get out much, do you?”
Draco rolled his eyes and looked at Harry. “Is she always this…”
“Smart mouthed? Every single day. You’ll get used to it. So long as you-”
“Don’t worry, I don’t intend to flirt with your girlfriend in front of you anymore, Potter. I’ve been warned that it might put you in, to use Buffy’s words, ‘a snit’ for the rest of the month. And we wouldn’t want that, now would we?”
“Malfoy, are you familiar with the term ‘skating on thin ice’?”
“IS there any other way to skate?”
Dawn grinned, “Now who’s being the smartass?”
“Well, when in Rome, and all that nonsense. Or I should say, when in Texas, perhaps?”
“Something like that. Anyway, we should get away from the bathroom door before Buffy finishes her shower. Come on. Let’s go make some popcorn and sundaes. It’s movie night in THIS cabin.”
Dawn headed for the small kitchenette in the corner of the main room and Draco caught Harry’s sleeve to hold the dark haired wizard back for a moment. As they followed Dawn, Draco asked, “What’s so special about this ‘movie’? What’s a movie?”
Harry snorted. “You’ve never seen a movie? Well, then this should be interesting for you. You’ve seen the moving pictures in our world, right?” Draco nodded. “Movies are something like that, but with sound and they tell stories. And they’ve been going on about this one for days. In fact, ever since they saw the commercial advertising that it would be airing tonight, they’ve been telling me and anyone who cares that they would be watching it and better not be disturbed from eight pm on tonight unless it’s an ‘emergency of the Apocalypse variety or worse‘.” Harry shrugged. “So I have a choice. I can watch it with them, or I can find a way to entertain myself on a Friday night without my girl. Of course, if I DON’T watch it, I have to deal with HER being irritable for days about it.”
“So not much of a choice then.”
“So what’s this movie about?”
“I’m not sure. I’ve never seen it, but I’d guess it’s some kind of love story. Women seem to like those.”
“Oh, perfect. I’m going to have to sit through hours of mind-numbing sap, then?”
“Probably. I’m going to have to sit through it, too.”
Just then, they reached the kitchenette. Unfortunately for Harry, Dawn overheard his last comment and rounded on him. “Harry Potter! I didn’t twist your arm about tonight! If you don’t want to watch the movie with me, you can go find something else to do.”
Harry frowned. “I didn’t say I didn’t want to watch the movie with you, Dawn. I just-”
“Don’t. If you don’t want to watch it, you don’t have to. Just go… do something.”
“Harry, if you want to make me really mad at you, you’ll keep arguing. If not, just go away for a little while. Take a shower or something.”
Just then, Buffy came strolling into the room, wrapped in her green robe and rubbing her hair with a towel. Harry took advantage of the Slayer’s appearance to vanish up the stairs. The Slayer’s hazel eyes followed her sister’s boyfriend’s retreating back for a few seconds, then she looked at Dawn for an explanation. The taller Summers sister shrugged, earning an eyebrow raised in amused disbelief.
Dawn and Buffy locked eyes for a long moment before Draco huffed, startling them both. “You know, if you want to be alone, I can take a walk. Then you won’t have to resort to female telepathy.”
Dawn snickered. “Don’t worry, that won’t be necessary. I just like making Harry nervous. Keeps him attentive.”
Draco smirked at her. “You sound like you would have been at home in Slytherin, Muggle origins notwithstanding.”
“Eh. If you say so. Anywho, we have movies to watch. Have a seat over there. It’ll be starting in a few minutes.”
“Am I allowed to ask what it is we’re going to be watching?”
Buffy smiled. “Sure. They’re showing all three of the Matrix movies on Showtime tonight. They’re science fiction action adventure flicks, and we’ve never watched them all together, and there isn’t a video rental place within an hours drive of here, so we’re taking our chance to be couch potatoes, since we haven’t had a real night off all at once in a few weeks.”
“Are they romance stories?”
Dawn laughed. “There’s a love story wound into the plot, but not really. It’s a high speed story about this guy with a great destiny, to save the world. I thought Harry might get a laugh out of it, but I knew if I told him even that much, he might not watch them with us.”
Draco nodded. With nothing better to do for the night, he grabbed a bowl of popcorn and made himself comfortable in an overstuffed recliner and settled in to watch his first movie ever.