A Key. Six months. Six months ago the monks had made her into a fourteen year old girl with the memories to prove it. Just to make sure that the Slayer would protect her. Her mother. No, she wasn’t her mother. Not really. Still she comes through the door asking about school. She doesn’t want to go. Blob of energy. What’s the use of school anyway? But it’s better than having to deal with her ‘mother’ all day. No, chicken soup won’t make it okay. At least at school she can get away. Not have people reminding her that she’s a Key. That she’s not human. That they knew and didn’t tell her.
The teacher asks her something. She didn’t listen. She’s not paying attention. She’s just here because she’d rather be here than at home. It doesn’t mean she cares about any of it. Why should she? She’s not real. Why should she need an education? The teacher insists on the question. It’s that one that’s only annoyed her since the start of the year. She wishes she could say something to him. Suddenly she realizes. She can. Not real. She can say whatever she wants. It doesn’t matter what happens. She’s not real. “Go fuck yourself.” The gasps through the room are audible. She’ll probably get suspended for it. It doesn’t matter.
The books of memories are spread out in her bed in front of her. Proof of a life that’s not real. The physical proof that her memories are real. But they’re not. All of this is also from the monks. It’s all just a very well organized lie so that the world doesn’t end. Going back to Buffy. Buffy’s not just the annoying older perfect Slayer sister. She’s also the very reason why Dawn’s here. Why she’s here, staring at a lie. Words coming from downstairs half reach her. She knows that her ‘mother’ and ‘sister’ are having a serious talk about her. A talk without her. Because it doesn’t make a difference. She’s not real. It makes absolutely no difference. She sneaks out. She just needs to listen. But "We’re not her family. We don’t even know what she is.” is not what she wanted to hear. She should take offense but… It’s the truth.
Her room is the same. The same empty fake life that was made for her by some monks. It’s enough. She can’t take it any longer. Her arms grab all the photos, all the posters, all the diaries. All the things that have been there for more than six months. All the things that mean this life is not real. She tosses it all into the trash can. It’s trash. All of it. But it’s not enough. She needs to clear it all. Erase everything. It’s meaningless, why would she want it? There’s matches on the desk and her hand reaches for it. An empty look at the one she lights and tosses into the trash can as the flames begin claiming all the paper. Still not enough. All around are more proofs of the lie. Including her fake family. She leaves through the window. The sounds of the fire alarm far away the moment her feet hit the ground.
She’s wandering through the streets. It’s already night time but she didn’t notice the sun dropping. Her feet take her all around town. All the little places that she has memories of. She should have memories of. They take her all the way to a park. It’s the same park that she and Buffy used to go to when they had first got to Sunnydale. The memory was supposed to be happy. There was nothing wrong with it. Just two sisters having fun on the swings. Except that never happened. It wasn’t real. She can hear the laughter of the two girls that she and Buffy were, lingering in the air. Torturing her with the fact that it’s all a lie. She needs to get away. Again, she needs to get away.
An ambulance passes by the alley she’s now in. The sounds calling her attention. She’s not sure if this is a good idea but it’s an idea. It’s better than nothing. People outside reality. Crazy people. They can see what she really is, right? They can see the Key.
She regrets it the moment she steps in. But she needs to know. “What am I?” A voice answers “The Key!”. He was searching for her. She needs to know more. What is the Key? Where did she come from? Who made her? What… What is she? The answer is not what she wanted to hear. Destroyer. Cracked earth and bones. The sun bleeding into the sky. She’s evil. That’s what he’s saying. Buffy was right. She’s evil. She’s evil and needs to stay away from everyone. The shock of the revelation makes her run. Get away. She’s heard enough. It’s enough.
Ben comes back with two cups of hot chocolate. No marshmallows. Good. She had never been over how Buffy had told her they were monkey brains when she was five. Since then she’d never been able to get over the squishiness of them. Only no. That had never happened. It was another of those fake memories that the monks got her. I don’t have a sister. None of this is real. They just made me so Glory couldn’t find me. Key. The word comes from his lips and not hers. He knows. Something’s not okay. Ben’s acting weird and he’s not supposed to know… How does he? He’s talking about Glory and the Key and telling her to get away. But the words don’t quite fit the way they should. He shouldn’t. He’s no longer Ben. He’s Glory.
But Glory doesn’t know that Dawn’s the Key. Slayer’s little sis. That what she says. Dawn was never happier to be called that. It was a lie. It was what she had hated being called all her life. And it was okay because Key was worse. Because Key meant destruction. For her. For the world. Nothing good came from the Key. An idea starts forming in her head. Glory knows about the Key. Dawn doesn’t. This could be her only chance at finding out what she is. If she just… “What’s it look like?” A bright green swirly shimmer. Ok. Tell me more. Glory doesn’t seem to mind. She thinks Dawn might recognize the Key from the description Glory gives her. Old. Just close to forever. Not really evil. Depends on what you think. “So, what does it open?” The ultimate question she needs to have answered. Glory stops. Says how Dawn has no idea about her Key and threatening her to send a message to the Slayer. If she only knew. It’s better than thinking Dawn’s the Key. But it doesn’t answer the question. It’s not enough. She needs more on what she is. But for now this is a start.
Buffy comes in. Saving the day. Saving the Key from Glory’s clutches. Just like a good Slayer is supposed to act. Willow manages to send Glory away and her ‘sister’ comes to her. Buffy wants to make sure Dawn is okay. But why does she care? It’s not real. Dawn’s not her little sister. She’s a green swirly ball of energy that’s been around since almost forever, that could be evil, that opens a lock and that someone called ‘destroyer’. There’s nothing about a Slayer sister in that list. Buffy grabs her hand. She keeps telling her about how it all doesn’t matter. But what gets through is just “There’s no way you could annoy me as much if you weren’t.” In the midst of it all. That’s what comes through to Dawn. What reaches to all her fears and somehow quiets them. She’s still the same. She’s still the annoying little sister. There’s a strange relief in that. Saying it’s all still the same is one thing. Acting like it… “Think mom would raise my allowance?”
She’s in her bed. Her mind keeps going through the whole day. Right until the point when she and Buffy arrived and her mother kept going on about how happy she was that Dawn was okay, that she had been worried sick. So maybe everything that had happened for fourteen years was a lie. So maybe she was evil. Everything that happened today is real. There’s nothing but her memories and a wound her hand to prove it but it’s all real. Maybe she can live with it. Was it really so different? In the end, memories determine what you have experienced. What you have experienced determines who are. She has memories. There’s something there. She is something. Maybe good. Maybe evil. But she is something. That’s a start.