Ran until she couldn’t even breathe.
It didn’t matter that it was nearly one in the morning and that she was running blindly, with no thought of coherent direction -let alone coherent thought- through Sunnydale.
The dark shells of suburban houses sat in the cowled silence of night as she tore past them, swinging down streets she barely even recognized in the darkness.
All she could concentrate on was the sharp, gasping in
of her own breath, the pounding of her heart in her chest, and the burning ache of her lungs as she drove herself further and further away from the house she had called home.
And away from the only people she had called family.
If Buffy was around, she would have yelled at Dawn not to go out on her own at night, that it was dangerous. And Dawn probably would have yelled right back, and stormed up to her room.
None of that mattered anymore.
Buffy was dead.
And Dawn was nobody. Because nobody even knew who she was.
Her high-top runners slapped audibly against the pavement as she cut left across the street towards a park, the sound hanging in the empty air. She kept going, the soft grass soon swallowing up any noise from her footsteps.
Her legs were burning.
Her lungs throbbed for air.
It had first started right after the funeral.
They were all still at the cemetery, walking back to the cars. Dawn had been asking Willow about something, when a look of absolute confusion had clouded the redhead’s face.
“I’m sorry,” Willow had asked in all seriousness, “but who are you?”
Then the look had passed, Willow had blinked, and asked what Dawn wanted to know like nothing was the matter.
Like nothing had even happened.
Something stuck heavily in Dawn’s throat at the fleeting memory, but she swallowed hard, pushing herself faster through the gloomy park. Towering trees swayed silently around her, blotting out what little moonlight there was.
Somewhere up ahead she could hear the rushing and gurgling of water.
Within hours, the others had all started to act the same way; throwing her suspicious or confused glances, questioning her identity, and even demanding to know how she had gotten inside her own house.
At first Dawn had thought it was a sick practical joke, or some stupid group plan to keep her distracted from thinking about Buffy’s death, and she had gotten more and more incensed each time someone made a comment. Yelling and swearing at them to knock it off seemed to work for a little while, but soon enough the suspicious looks returned, and eventually Dawn locked herself in her room, too angry to deal.
And too shaken up to admit it, even to herself.
Her next theory, as they broke open the door to her room and forced her downstairs, kicking and screaming, was that they had probably all been cursed with magic.
But as Giles gripped her shoulder all too tightly and the others angrily demanded again and again to know who she was and how she was in photographs all over the house with her own mother and sister, Dawn felt the awful iciness of realization finally begin to envelope her mind.
For a brief moment she had felt the living room slowly begin to tilt and swirl around her, the angry voices and faces melting into a blur of meaningless noise and movement.
Glory was dead.
Buffy was dead.
And the spell that made up her fake, nonexistent, sixteen years of life as Dawn Summers was breaking apart.
Dawn sank to her knees somewhere along the darkened riverbank, gasping and crying for breath and escape from the thought of what had happened next.
She barely felt the seeping wetness of mud and leaves through her jeans as she clutched her head in her hands, the rolling black wave of emotion finally catching up with her.
She couldn’t outrun it anymore.
Clumsily fishing the stolen item from her pocket, Dawn looked dully down at the straight shaving razor clutched loosely in her hand, blinking away the blur of tears. It had been Xander’s.
She wasn’t real.
Fingers trembling, Dawn slowly opened the blade.
This wasn’t real.
Numbly, she lightly traced the razor along the paths of older scars down her forearm until it rested almost across her open wrist…
This wasn’t reality.
…and gently pressed…
Dawn screwed her eyes shut as blood welled up, and all she could feel was that familiar, overwhelming desire to escape
And then the roaring in her ears couldn’t have possibly just been from the river.
Something like fire ripped
through her, from the tips of her toes and up through her spine, to the superficial wound on her wrist to the ends of her fingers and the hairs on her head.
With a strangled gasp of shock, the blade fell from Dawn’s hand as her entire body violently wrenched right up into the air, as if seized and held by some giant invisible hand, dangling her a foot above ground. In the span of an agonizing second, Dawn felt like her hammering heart was about to escape right out of her throat, along with the full contents of her stomach-
And a moment later she felt absolutely indescribable as a million sights, smells and sounds flew across her suddenly overwhelmed senses.
A million worlds opened themselves up to her.
And then everything went white.
This story is a response to littleoldme’s. never existed challenge
It is also inspired by Sage Francis’ awesome song runaways Disclaimer:
Joss whedon and co. own Dawn/the Key, George Lucas owns starwars. I own student debt and a dusty keyboard.