All Fall Down
Dawn knew where Buffy, the younger one, was leading them. While she hadn't been allowed to attend, that hadn't stopped her from following Buffy a few times, and she fondly remembered those few Scooby meetings that she'd witnessed taking place in Giles living room.
Dawn smiled. It was nice to be back, Xander was right this had been a much better time for everyone. Well, except for Buffy, she knew the others didn't see it, or maybe they just didn't remember, but Dawn did.
Buffy had spent that whole summer depressed and upset, after a couple weeks she'd started trying to hide how bad she really felt, but Dawn knew. Everyone else then, and apparently now, bought into Buffy's shinny happy people act, but Dawn had never really been fooled.
Of course, the depressed Buffy post-graduation day had nothing on the currently depressed and almost totally unresponsive Buffy today. Still Dawn knew the summer after graduation had not been a good or easy one for her sister.
This was, for Dawn, and she knew several of the others, like a happy walk down memory lane. Despite the pain Buffy felt over Angel's leaving, Dawn knew that things in 1999 had overall been much better than they'd been at any point since then. It had gotten even better when Buffy had finally moved on from Angel and that jerk Parker, though Dawn knew that it was Riley coming into her sisters life that had made both of the others little more than a distant memory.
So, while the younger Buffy looked a bit tired and drawn, she looked downright radiant next to the older Buffy. This Buffy was her real sister, and one Dawn wanted back terribly.
As a new thought entered her head, Dawn couldn't stop grinning. She knew this Buffy didn't really believe they were who they said they were. But really if they had been monsters bent on killing the Slayer, it would have been easy, she was simply walking toward Giles' leaving the four of them to walk behind her.
Dawn couldn't help but wonder if her sister had been even more depressed than even she'd noticed.
Her next thought completely removed any trace of happiness, because none of this explained why her sister didn't seem to know her. While the younger Buffy hadn't gone so far as to ask for an introduction, every time the younger Buffy looked at her, Dawn got the distinct impression that the younger Buffy literally had no idea who she was.
Dawn sighed. There had been many times, of course, where Buffy had ignored her and tried to pretend she didn't exist, but even then Dawn could never remember Buffy looking at her the way the younger Buffy kept doing.
As the younger Buffy opened the door and led them all inside, Dawn couldn't quite focus because something about the thought she'd just had kept trying to make itself known to her.
When Dawn finally pushed the thoughts away, she saw that Willow, the older one, looking back and forth between the younger Buffy and Dawn herself with concern plastered across her face.
Giles began to clean his glasses, while the younger Xander and Willow could only gap.
"Well," the other Buffy said. "What do you think?"
Dawn realized that she'd completely missed the part where the younger Buffy had explained things to the others.
That was when Dawn realized that all the younger characters, including Giles, were looking at her exactly the same way Buffy's younger self did.
Dawn wondered how much she'd missed, because suddenly the older Xander started babbling on about the wish he'd made.
Suddenly all the younger ones were glaring at him, even himself, which almost caused Dawn to laugh.
"And look at that," the younger Xander said dryly. "Seems I never will learn one of life's oh-so-important lessons."
Dawn missed that Xander, she realized with a jolt. The Xander beside her had turned way to serious over the years, strange how she hadn't truly realized that until she'd come face to face with the Xander of the past.
Then Giles asked a question that froze the blood in her veins.
"Well, you haven't said, so I must ask. Who is this young lady? Surely she's a little young to be included in this sort of thing."
Her sister blinked, then a moment later understanding washed over her face.
"This is Dawn," Buffy replied. "My sister, only not yet. I'd forgotten."
"Sister," the other Buffy said. "I don't have a sister."
"Not yet," the older Xander said. "But in just over a year you will, and you'll wonder how you survived without her."
Dawn would never be able to express how grateful she was to Xander in that moment. Nor would she ever be able to express how disappointed she was as she watched her sister stand there as though she had no idea how to explain things to their younger selves. If it hadn't been for Xander, Dawn might have ran out the door and never looked back.
"Dear Lord," Giles said, and removed the glasses that he'd only just cleaned at slid back onto his face moments ago. "How?"
Buffy, her sister, sighed. "You see, there's this hellgod, Glory. She's trapped in this dimension, or she will be."
"It's not important," Willow said. "What is important is that just about a year from now she'll find the monks who currently have her key."
Giles quickly replaced his glasses, and headed for the counter. While Dawn couldn't remember seeing him do it before, she suspected he was making himself a drink.
"So," Xander said, as Giles took his first drink. "Those wacky monks decide to give Buffy a sister with a sticky key center to hide her from the hellgod."
"Dear Lord," Giles said, and Dawn almost laughed despite the lack of any thing laughable when he headed over to his book-shelf.
"Um, Giles," Willow said, almost hesitantly. "She pre-dates the written word."
Dawn wasn't sure she'd ever seen Giles look so pale.
"Glory, not Dawn," Willow added.
"And you," he paused. "We
will face down a hellgod, and apparently win?"
"Pretty much," Xander said, though Dawn didn't miss the dark tone of his voice, she noticed that both the younger Xander and Willow were looking at the older Xander with concern. It seemed they'd caught his dark tone, as well.
She couldn't fault him. They had won, but at great cost. At that thought, Dawn opened her mouth to beg the younger Buffy that when the time came to let her jump instead.
She knew what things had been like with Buffy gone, and Dawn realized that she'd rather be dead than continue the existence she currently led. Things had been bad enough when Buffy was dead, but even after Buffy had returned they still hadn't gotten any better. Dawn couldn't, no she wouldn't go through all that again.
However, she closed her mouth without speaking. While there was much she wanted to say, she realized that it might not be a good idea to tell their younger selves everything. They were obviously back to try and make the future better, but what would the price for their changes be?
Dawn didn't have as much experience as the others with such things, but even she knew there was always a price, and more often than not it wasn't one you'd be willing to pay.
She turned back, and realized that Buffy, Xander, and Willow had their heads together. Dawn knew they were discussing exactly what she'd just been thinking.
Dawn turned forward again and saw that the younger group plus Giles also had their heads together.
She almost smiled. She could hear Giles advising caution, and Xander arguing that if they knew what their other selves knew it would make saving the world easier.
The younger Willow looked like she was torn between Giles and Xander, it was clear the younger Willow was thinking along the same lines she herself was. But it was the younger Buffy that caught her attention, while she was sitting beside the others, she was holding herself apart from them, and wasn't actually listening to what any of them were saying.Typical,
Dawn thought. She had almost forgotten how arrogant Buffy could be. No matter what, Buffy always believed that she knew best.
She turned back to the older group, and sadness filled her entire being. Not exactly because they were leaving her out, again, but because the realization had just hit her that no matter what memories she had inside her head, she hadn't actually been born to Hank and Joyce Summers, she hadn't grown up with Buffy. Until just over a year ago she hadn't been a part of their lives at all. She was little more than a figment of their imagination.
Dawn sighed. While it was true that she hadn't always been a part of their lives, she was real now, she had form - she thought, therefore she was. She almost smiled at that thought because it reminded her of Oz.
She looked up and realized that Oz and Anya were missing from the younger group. They both should have been here. Then she shook herself, Xander and Anya weren't together yet, and Oz was probably just off somewhere playing a gig with his band.
Dawn straightened her shoulders. It didn't matter that she hadn't come into being like most humans, she was human now, and that was all that mattered. Though she couldn't deny that being smacked in the face with empirical evidence that she hadn't been a part of their lives for as long as they actually remembered hurt, and it hurt very deeply.
Still it wasn't like she hadn't known that, about a year ago she'd been told the truth. Of course, she couldn't deny that knowing and seeing were two very different things.
"Maybe," her sister said softly, and Dawn pushed her depressing thoughts away to focus on everything else.
Dawn almost grinned, apparently while she'd been lost in thought she had moved closer to the older group, which explained why she could suddenly hear them so plainly.
Willow frowned. "So, we'll just talk to our selves, our younger selves. We'll explain everything, and..."
"Yeah," Buffy said. "Who knows if they'll believe us, but we have to try."
Xander nodded, but he looked even more grim than Buffy and Willow.
"And Buffy," Willow said. "I'll make sure she
doesn't bring you back."
Buffy smiled, and Dawn realized that it was a real smile, one that she hadn't seen in a long time.
"Thank you," Buffy whispered.
But Dawn realized that Willow was lying, she wasn't sure how she knew, but she could plainly see that Willow was lying through her teeth.Why can't Buffy see it?
Dawn opened her mouth to do the right thing and tell Buffy, but she couldn't get the words out. While she didn't like what coming back had done to Buffy, Dawn just couldn't imagine a life without her sister.
"And maybe if we make things right," Willow said. "We can go home. Xander wished for us to come back and make changes, right? So once we do that we should be able to go home."
"And," Xander said, and for the first time he sounded brighter. "When we get back things will be better. You'll see."
Dawn smiled, even though she still had many fears and doubts, she would keep them to herself and hope for the best. Her fake smile was mirrored by both Buffy and Willow.
"I guess I'll talk to Giles and myself," Buffy said. "To try and explain things, but first I want, no I need to see my mother."
For a moment, joy filled Dawn's heart. She couldn't believe she was being granted the chance to see her mother again. A moment later the joy crumbled to dust. Her own mother wouldn't know her not in this time in this place. Sure, she could still see her mother again, but the woman she knew as her mother wouldn't know her.
Even if Buffy decided not to tell her mother the truth, she'd still be able to trade places with her other self and have a few more stolen moments with their mother, but there was no one here that Dawn could trade places with and get her own moment. Sure, she could still see her mother again, but it wouldn't be the same.
Joyce would know Buffy, she wouldn't know Dawn.
Dawn watched Buffy announce that she was going to see their mother, the younger Buffy looked as though she couldn't believe that was what the older Buffy wanted, but she didn't object.
A second later, Buffy walked out the door. Dawn started forward, then stopped.
She wanted to see her mother again, more than anything, but what she really wanted was for her mother to know her. To wrap Dawn in her arms one last time, and that couldn't happen.
Dawn looked back at the others. Xander and Willow had pulled their younger selves aside, Giles and Buffy had their heads together.
Dawn knew she should talk to Giles and Buffy, but that could wait. Despite everything she was going to see her mother again. She might not be able to interact with her, but she was going to follow Buffy and at least see her mother one last time. ~ * ~ * ~
As they returned to Giles', Dawn knew that seeing her mother had been a mistake. It was terrible seeing the woman she loved so dearly and once again being smacked with knowledge that she neither needed or wanted.
Her own mother hadn't known her, and when Buffy had tried to explain, her mother had turned and accused Dawn of bewitching her beloved Buffy.
Dawn had fled the house in tears, and that was bad enough, but everything was worse when Dawn turned and realized that Buffy hadn't followed. Instead Buffy had spent several more hours with their mother, while Dawn waited hidden outside.
Her own mother. That was much worse than coming across a Buffy and Scoobs who didn't know her, and only hours before had she thought there couldn't be anything worse than that.
Of course, that might be because since Buffy had returned from the grave she hadn't really been much of sister. While Dawn was trying to work through that, she couldn't help but be bitter in the knowledge that Buffy truly wanted nothing more than to be dead and gone again.
That hurt, and none of her past hurts were as painful being chased out of her own house by her own mother.
"I'm sorry, Dawnie," Buffy said just before they entered Giles house.
Dawn really wanted to be angry at Buffy, at her mother, at the world, but the anger simply wouldn't come.
"I couldn't just leave," Buffy whispered. "I'm so sorry."
Dawn swiped at her tears with the back of her hand. She couldn't accept Buffy's apology, not right now, but she did understand, and knew that if she'd been in Buffy's place she wouldn't have left either.
Of course, Dawn's almost willingness to forgive might be because of the fact that since Buffy had come out of the house, she was looking happier than she'd looked since jumping from the tower in her place over a year ago. Which gave Dawn the very real hope that once they returned to their own time that they might actually be able to be real sisters again.
Once inside, Dawn couldn't help but be disappointed when Buffy walked over and started speaking with Giles and her other self without another word to her.
So, once again Dawn was left to fend for herself. For a moment, she considered leaving, just walking out into the night never to return. She suspected it would be less painful than any thing else she might do.
Finally, Giles walked over, and Dawn was so pathetically grateful that she jumped at the chance to speak with someone from her past even if it was Giles the somewhat stuffier version.
She smiled when Giles let it slip that Buffy sent him over. Her sister did care, and that made everything better. Not perfect, but better.
Dawn thought for a moment, and decided that she would do her best to convince Giles what horrible things would happen if he stuck to his decision to leave Sunnydale. Maybe if she could stop Giles from leaving Buffy would be happier in the end. While she couldn't know for sure, she suspected that if Giles hadn't left then things wouldn't have gotten as bad as they had for Buffy, for Willow, for any of them.~ * ~ * ~