One day, two days, three days, four days, five days, six days, one week.
After all that happened. After they’d buried Buffy with the good old ‘She saved the world - a lot’ on the grave there had been all sorts of plans to make, how to deal with vampires, how to deal with the more mundane things. What would happen to Dawn? She didn’t want to be there, no, especially not after Willow had remembered about the Buffybot and brought it out. It’s face… Her face… It was all too painful. To think that they’d be expecting her to just carry on, pretend like Buffy was still alive just because vampires couldn’t know.
That day had been the first day she went back to the tower.
It was day, no one blamed her for not wanting to be there, everyone else would’ve certainly been away if they could, would’ve avoided the look on the robot’s face as it tried to be Buffy. It couldn’t be Buffy, it’d never be Buffy. She looked up at the tower, the memories stinging in the back of her mind. Buffy had been there and she had jumped, she had jumped to save Dawn, to save Dawn from having to do it.
Dawn didn’t have the courage to stop herself when her feet led her up the tower, up and up, right until the top. It was shaky, it had been built by Glory’s mindless crazy minion people, of course it wasn’t supposed to hold on long but it was holding. It swayed slightly as she went up, almost gracefully, in a careful dance with the wind over who should stand in that place and, soon enough she was on top of it. On the top where even more wind tried that twisted dance, tried to win against the faulty construction.
At that platform she walked, slowly, ever so slowly, to the edge of it. All the memories, her sister going through it, not letting her jump. She could hear it all, she could hear it every night as she went to sleep, she had memorized the sound of every step, the squeaking of every hinge, every single word that had been said ‘Live. For me’.
She stopped right at the edge, looking down, maybe if she jumped, maybe she could see Buffy again. Maybe if she jumped she could exchange her life for hers. Buffy was the slayer, she was the one who was needed, maybe… She took a step ahead, her foot dangling above the abyss. Suddenly the words in her head became louder, harder to ignore ‘You have to be strong. Dawn, the hardest thing in this world… Is to live in it. Be brave. Live. For me.’. She took her foot back taking several steps back, away from the edge. What was she doing? Buffy had asked her to live, for her… She didn’t know when had the tears started, maybe it had been when she’d started going up but now they were impossible to ignore. They kept flowing down her face, clouding her eyes, she let herself fall down on the platform, sitting down and holding her knees as she kept on sobbing, she didn’t try to stop, she knew she couldn’t stop even if she did try. It was easier to just cry, to just let it out, to convince herself that the only time she’d see her sister’s face again was with that robot wearing it. That obviously didn’t bring any comfort.
When she had no more tears to cry, when she felt numb with the grief she finally got up to go back home. No one did a lot of questioning, they wanted to be understanding so, as long as she was home by sunset to avoid the vampires, they would let her find her own ways of coping. Especially since Buffy was going to be alive for the rest of the world. That was the plan they went on following, what they went on having to live with when facing the rest of the world.
One month, and then two.
It had been exactly two months since all that had happened, since she’d last been there. She’d been gathering the courage, she hadn’t forgotten, she could never forget that first moment she had returned to the tower after it all, just like she couldn’t forget what it meant. But now… There was a strange calmness to it, life went on, she was living.
She went up, staying away from the edge this time, she hadn’t been sure of what had taken her here, the last place where she saw her sister alive. But as soon as she took the last step up everything was clear, clearer. Dawn sat there and took out a journal from her backpack. That was better than burdening everyone with herself, they had enough to worry about.
“Hey…” the pen scratched the surface of the paper, slowly, giving her time to think carefully about every word “I’m living… Just like you said, being brave and living! Trying to at least, it’s so much easier to say the words than do it.” pause “Dad’s… I don’t know where dad is, not that that’s new.” another pause, why was this so painful? “Willow and Tara moved to the house. It’s… Different. Better than going with him I guess, not that I’m sure I could get to even talk to him if I wanted him.” one more pause, finding the right words “You’re still alive to the world, you know? And not in the ‘always in my heart’ way. Willow fixed that bot, that thing…” she didn’t like this, she hated the mere idea of it, that a thing like that could walk around wearing her sister’s face “They say that all those demons and vampires need to still fear the slayer or the Hellmouth would turn into their own private playground. And without you here I couldn’t stay here. I don’t want to leave. I don’t want to leave the place where I last saw you, where I last saw mom. No, I have to stay here!” She brought herself to stop, change the subject “Spike’s been hanging out, helping even… We’ve all been hurting but he… It’s different to him, he tries much harder to pretend like he’s not hurting. We’re sort of the same about that, we’re both trying, trying hard to live. For you.”
She let the pen hang above the page for a moment. Her eyes closed and she could immediately see her sister’s face. Buffy, not Buffybot, Buffy. The real Buffy. Her real sister. She felt her eyes start to tear up, the salty water slowly making its way down her cheeks. It was hard, so hard. Living, keeping on living, holding on.
But she brought the pen back to the paper, she had to finish the entry “We’ll be okay… Eventually.” No, she scratched the word, that wasn’t what she meant “Promise.” yes, that was better.
Three months, four painful months.
Dawn went back there several times after that, always surprised that it was still up, not sure if wanted it to fall once and for all or for it to always stand tall as a memoir to her sister.
Sometimes she went there to write, sometimes just to stare and some others, just some of them, she would just pass by and almost see Buffy. Buffy dying. Buffy telling her to live. Buffy being saved. Oh, so many times that she saw that last one. So many variations of her sister being saved.
But, in the end.