Memories

Author: Ares

Ensemble fic.

Rating: PG

Summary. What if Dawn had jumped off the tower instead of Buffy?

**

On a tower in Sunnydale -

Buffy turns back to Dawn as Dawn continues staring at the portal.
Dawn: (tearful) I'm sorry.
Buffy: It doesn't matter.

Dawn tries to run past Buffy but Buffy grabs her.

Buffy: What are you doing?
Dawn: I have to jump. The energy.
Buffy: It'll kill you.
Dawn: (softly) I know. (Buffy staring at her) Buffy, I know about the ritual. I have to stop it.
Buffy: No.

The tower shakes underneath them, making them both stumble.

Dawn: I have to. Look at what's happening.

More lightning crackles, even larger than before. Buffy looks up. A huge dragon flies out of the portal and buzzes the tower, flying away as they watch.

Dawn: Buffy, you have to let me go. Blood starts it, and until the blood stops flowing, it'll never stop.

Buffy stares at Dawn in anguish.

Dawn: (tearfully) You know you have to let me. It has to have the blood.

Excerpt from The Gift, Buffy Season 5.

+++

Buffy couldn’t let Dawn sacrifice herself. It was the Slayer’s job to do the sacrificing, not her sister’s. Dawn was just a little girl, and little girls weren’t supposed to die if they weren’t a slayer. It wasn’t fair! But then, Buffy knew that life wasn’t about being fair. Dawn deserved to live a full life. Buffy wanted Dawn to discover life and love and happiness. Something niggled at the back of her brain. Something Spike had said. What was it?

Before she knew what was happening, Dawn had rushed her, and, spinning Buffy around, ran to the end of the scaffolding. The Slayer lurched over the side of the walk but managed to grab hold, preventing her fall. Her sister had no such intention. Buffy watched horrified as Dawn dived off the end of the walkway. Buffy screamed…

Angel jolted awake, a scream on his lips, the nightmare still vivid and pounding in his head.

Angel had his things packed, ready to go, when Cordelia arrived at the Hyperion. His bag was the first thing she noticed. It sat on the counter, declaring his intentions.

“We just got back,” she said, resting her hand on his bag. “Where are you going?”

“Buffy needs me.”

Cordelia’s lips pinched into a thin line.

“Buffy.” She crossed her arms. “Did she call? What’s wrong?”

Angel started to pace. “No…I had…I just…I had a dream.”

“You had a dream. About Buffy. I’m the one who’s supposed to have the visions, buddy,” she said as she stalked into the office area. “Those, I might add, prevented me from being ravished by the Groosulag. The visions, I mean. I could have stayed in Pylea as their Princess.” She sighed. “The Groosulag had everything a princess could want…” Cordelia got a dreamy look in her eyes.

Angel continued pacing. He was waiting for the sun to go down, and it appeared to be taunting him with every agonizing moment it stayed in the sky. It seemed to him that eternity was shorter than the sun’s slow descent.

The door opened and Wesley walked down the steps and into the lobby.

“Good evening,” he greeted them both. Angel saw the Englishman’s eyes narrow when Wesley caught sight of his bag.

“Going somewhere, Angel?”

“Sunnydale.”

Wesley glanced over to Cordelia. She caught his look, and said, “He had a dream about Buffy.”

“A dream? Not an ordinary dream, then. A premonition perhaps?” he asked, raising his brows at Angel.

Angel ignored him. The sun had finally set. He didn’t have to look out of the window to check. He had felt the fiery orb’s surrender to the night.

“I have to go now. Call me if you need me.” He was at the counter before his friends could blink.

“Angel!” Wesley had his boss face on. “Explain yourself. What has happened?”

Bag in hand, Angel headed for the doors. “It’s Dawn.”

“Dawn?” Cordelia and Wesley chorused behind him.

“Is she alright?” Cordelia asked before Angel disappeared out in to the night.

Angel’s voice floated back at them before the door snicked closed behind him. “Look after Fred.”

Wesley joined Cordelia in the office. “Do you think we should call someone in Sunnydale?”

Cordelia’s eyebrows rose in disbelief. “What, and announce that tall, dark, and not welcome is heading their way? No thank you.”

“Still…it is Dawn.”

“Wesley. Leave it alone. Angel will ring us when he knows what’s up. I mean, there could be nothing wrong with Dawn, and we don’t want to put the wind up the slayer. Hey! He could be delusional.” She stabbed her finger towards Wesley’s chest. “Aren’t you the boss? You could have made him stay. Buffy and Angel…not a good thing.”

+++

On arriving in Sunnydale, Angel could see the tower from his dream peering over rooftops like the skeleton of a long-dead dinosaur. Using it as a reference, he made his way to its base and discovered broken brick and mortar and pieces of the tower lying about. His keen sense of smell uncovered the story. It was Buffy’s blood he could smell, and Dawn’s. Theirs was so similar: Summers’ blood. Angel bent at the knees and put his hand out. Angel’s uncanny senses informed him a death had occurred. A young man had died where Angel crouched. Death left a mark, a remnant of decay. Angel wondered if he exuded a similar stink. He was dead, after all, and one could suppose, he was also a remnant. Shaking off his morbid thoughts, he moved on, examining the area beneath the tower. Except for the blood of the Summers women, the whiff of death where the young man had died, and the stench of demon decay, he could find no trace of Dawn’s demise. What had happened to her? He had seen her fly off the tower in his dream. If she hadn’t fallen, where had she gone? Had she been transformed back into her natural state? Climbing to the top of the tower, with pieces of it falling away and the metal groaning, Angel stood upon the scaffold he had seen in his dream. Blood spattered its surface. Blood that Angel was oh so familiar with. His dream was a true one. A portent? No, he knew it was not. His dream had been a vision similar to one or two of Cordelia’s. It had shown him what had transpired, not, what was going to be. Puzzled, he clambered down and returned to his car.

+++

Angel knocked on the door before he had time to reconsider. Buffy wasn’t alone. He could hear voices and, when he had peered in the window, he had seen that all of Buffy’s friends were gathered inside. The door opened, and Buffy was there, her beautiful face looking up at him. She stood there, disbelief in her eyes. Angel thought she looked tired and worn and a little shell-shocked.

“Angel?”

“Buffy. I…came as soon as I could.” He wanted to hold her, to put his arms around her, but knew with her friends there he shouldn’t. Instead, he fidgeted.

She smiled. Her face regained some of her youthful energy. “Come in. The gang’s all here.”

“Buffy…” Angel wanted to talk to her alone. He didn’t want her to put on a brave face for him. He wished…and before he could think another thought she had his arm and was pulling him inside.

“Look everyone,” she called as she dragged him into the living room. “It’s Angel.”

Xander Harris was there sitting next to a fair-haired girl. He, too, looked weary. The woman had her head on Xander’s shoulder but she sat up when she saw who he was. The boy looked up at Angel. “You missed all the fun, big fella. But better late than never.”

Angel didn’t rise to Harris’ jibe. It was true. He was late, and Dawn was dead because of it. Angel took in the slumped form of Buffy’s Watcher. Rupert Giles was looking rather worse for wear. The watcher’s eyes slid away from him, furtively, Angel thought. Giles had the look of a man whose soul was heavy with guilt. Angel recognized the look, and even though he couldn’t see it in his own eyes, he had seen it staring back at him in one form or another over the decades. The Englishman’s nod was his acknowledgement.

“Hey, Angel.” Willow Rosenberg was squashed in between Xander and a young woman. The girl’s arm was wrapped in a plaster cast. The woman was asleep, leaning against Willow’s side. The redhead had an arm about the girl’s shoulder, and Willow’s eyes were glowing. She was exhausted but happy, and Angel knew she was in love.

“Hey, Willow,” he greeted her with a small smile. “Who’s your friend?”

Willow turned her head to look at the sleeping girl.

“This is Tara.”

“I’m Anya.”

Angel glanced back at Xander’s girlfriend. She was staring intently at him. Xander patted her arm absently.

“We’ve met before,” Angel said to her.

The grip on his arm and Buffy’s quiet, “Angel” as she pulled him towards the dining room was a reprieve.

“Why are you here? If there is another apocalypse, then, we’re all out…”

“Buffy…”

“Angel, you’re scaring me.” Releasing his arm, she grabbed his hand. Angel’s fingers reflexively closed around hers, and he forced the words out.

“I came…I…I came because of Dawn.”

“Dawn?” Buffy forehead crinkled as she glanced over to the window. “Dawn’s a few hours away…but you know that, right?”

He was confused. “Buffy…”

A look of concern crossed her face. “Are you hurt? You don’t look well. Did you get hit on the head?” She reached a hand up to check his head.

Angel pulled away, regretting it the moment he saw the hurt in her eyes.

“Buffy...”

“Angel! Stop saying my name like that. What’s wrong?”

Running a hand through his hair, Angel took a breath and said in a rush, “I wanted to be here for you. I…when your mother…now your sister…I had to come.”

Angel thought Buffy was going to cry. He hadn’t intended to make her cry. He put out a hand…

“Huh?” Buffy’s eyebrows climbed into her hairline, and her eyes, which had begun to narrow in confusion, opened wide. “My sister? Now I know you’ve had a knock on the head.”

From the sitting room Angel heard, “It must be the L.A. air. No, wait. Dead Boy doesn’t breathe.”

Angel had started to think Buffy was in denial about Dawn but now with Harris’ comment he wasn’t too sure.

“Xander!” Buffy warned, before pulling Angel down and making him sit at the table. She leaned over and stared into his eyes. “I’m tired, we’ve fought the big bad and won, and now all I want to do is sit and relax, which is what my friends are doing. You’re not helping. You had better start at the beginning.”

Angel stared at his one-time love and only saw confusion. The grief he thought he had seen earlier had been exhaustion.

Licking his lips, he began. “You have a sister. Dawn is her name. Don’t you remember?”

Buffy backed away from him. “A sister. Dawn. Since when?”

“Since…” Angel realised he had to go back to the beginning. To when Dawn had appeared in the Summers’ lives. Buffy had explained it all to him at her mother’s graveside, how Dawn hadn’t always been there in human form, how she was originally energy, and how the monks had made her flesh. He had been astonished. His memories of Dawn had seemed so real, and still were.

“Oh yeah! Invite the insane vampire in. Let’s have a party.”

“Xander!” This time it was the voice of Rupert Giles. The man had roused himself. “Buffy. Bring Angel in here. I’m afraid my aged legs aren’t up to levering my ancient body out of this chair, and my rather infirm hearing isn’t up to Mr. Harris’.”

Obeying his command, Buffy, preceding Angel, and despite her exhaustion, managed to quip, “You’re not ancient. Just old.”

“I feel a hundred.” Giles tilted his head to peer up at the vampire. Angel saw the interest in his eyes. Giles had buried whatever had been bothering him for the moment. “Now…what about this mysterious sister?”

“None of you remember her?”

Everyone but Tara, who was asleep, shook their heads. All eyes were on Angel. He was uncomfortable with their stares, and he remembered the last time he had stood before Buffy’s friends. It was the day they had fought the Mayor. They had had a meeting in the library. A strategy meeting…although, there was that one time he had sneaked around at Thanksgiving…

“Dawn?” Buffy prompted, jarring him from his woolgathering.

Deciding on a different tack, Angel asked, “What happened at the tower?”

“Angel!”

Buffy’s patience was wearing thin.

“Bear with me, Buffy. Please.”

Buffy scrubbed at her eyes, and found a place to sit. It was on the arm of Giles’ chair.

“You know about Glory?”

At Angel’s nod, Buffy continued, “I don’t think you knew she was a God from a Hell dimension. The Council,” her head jerked in her watcher’s direction, “in their wisdom, informed us of the fact a bit late in the day.”

“They interrogated us, and they don’t like demons!” Anya said with an angry snort.

“An.” Xander put a hand on her arm. “We’ve put in more time, fought more battles than those watchers ever did.” Angel could see that Harris took pride in that, and he was right to do so. Buffy’s friends had most likely kept her alive over the years.

“How do you fight a God?” Angel wanted to know, getting back to the subject.

Buffy shook her head. “By keeping one step ahead. It wasn’t easy. She didn’t appear as if she could be killed, and believe me, I tried.”

Giles’ gaze dropped to the floor. Angel could have sworn the watcher was squirming.

Buffy hadn’t noticed. “Glory wanted to open a portal between her dimension and ours, and when that happened, Hell would come to Earth.”

Giles lifted his head, and Angel could see a quiet resolve building in the man’s eyes. He wondered at it. “Glory needed a Key, only we didn’t know where we could find it. Nor did Glory. The Key opened the lock to the gateway between Glory’s dimension and here. Somehow, the Key was Buffy’s blood. Glory tried to bleed Buffy dry, thus opening the portal.”

Angel nodded. “She didn’t succeed.”

“She did, in part…”

Buffy stepped in. “Glory died…I mean, Ben died. Ben was a human male who carried Glory inside of him. They had a Jekyll and Hyde thing going. I beat up Glory pretty bad…”

“I hit her with a demolition ball,” Xander piped up with a huge grin.

“And when she reverted to her human form, she died, and the portal closed,” Buffy finished.

Angel studied Giles. The man had definitely squirmed.

“Did you see a girl on the scaffold with you, Buffy?” Angel asked Buffy.

She frowned, and she didn’t sound too sure when she replied. “No…I don’t think so. Why?”

Angel hesitated. Now he didn’t know if he should insist there had been a sister, a girl that everyone had loved. He didn’t know if he should inflict heartache and grief on them all, especially Buffy. She had already lost her mother, and now…may be it was for the best she didn’t remember.

“Angel! What’s going on?”

“Do you really want to know?” he asked, looking into her worried eyes.

“The truth sets you free,” Xander said quietly from behind her.

Willow rolled her eyes at Harris. “Enough of the X Files quotes, Xander.”

“That’s The Truth is Out There, Will,” he replied smugly.

“Whatever, Xander,” Willow huffed at him. She looked up at the vampire. “But he is right. Truth does set us free. We need to know.”

“Need to, or want to?”

Buffy stood, and took his hands in hers. “Wouldn’t you rather the truth, Angel?”

He nodded, squeezed her hands, and took the plunge.

“You’re right, Giles, blood was the Key. It was Summers’ blood. The monks transformed the Key into the form of a human girl. They made Buffy a sister. Dawn was her name.”

Mouths opened and as one, everyone said, “Huh?”

Xander was the first to recover. “Again I say, let’s invite the insane vampire in.”

Buffy shook her head. “I don’t have a sister. You know that, right? I mean, if what you say was true we would have known from the start that this girl, Dawn, was an imposter. You can’t just make up a sister and expect everyone to accept her.”

“Yeah, Dead Boy. We would have noticed something like Buffy having a sister all of a sudden.”

“They used majicks. The spell made us believe she had been here all along. No one questioned who she was.”

Anya nodded. “That would have taken powerful majicks but it can be done. Some of the wishes I granted as a Vengeance demon altered reality.”

Everyone turned to stare at Xander’s girlfriend.

“How do you know all this, Angel?” Willow asked, after a long moment.

“Buffy told me. She was the one who figured it out.”

“I did? When?”

Angel knew that his next words would hurt. “Uh…you told me about it after your mother’s funeral.”

Tears welled up in the Slayer’s eyes. “Mom…Mom knew Dawn?”

Angel nodded, unable to speak.

“She…” Buffy’s voice trembled. “She thought Dawn was her daughter?”

He managed to whisper, “Yes.”

Tears escaped hazel eyes. “She loved her?”

His reply was as soft as a sigh, and yet still heard in the quiet of the room. “Yes.”

Buffy’s chin wobbled. “We loved her?” she whispered.

Angel’s fingers tightened around hers. “We did.”

Staring at him through her tear-filled eyes, Buffy asked, “And you remember loving her.”

“Yes.”

Buffy closed her eyes, tears running down her cheeks. A handkerchief appeared at her side courtesy of Giles. From the corner of his eye, Angel could see the stricken faces of Buffy’s close friends.

Giles cleared his throat. Angel took the offered cloth and settled it into Buffy’s hand. Opening her eyes, she gave him a watery smile and dabbed at her cheeks.

“How do you remember and we don’t?” Giles asked.

“We were in another dimension when…”

Willow said, “We?”

“Wesley and Cordelia…”

“Do they remember her, too?” Buffy asked.

Angel nodded.

“And?” Xander had leant forward. “What happened?”

“To Cordelia?”

“No, dumbass! Dawn!” Xander growled.

Angel resisted the urge to growl back.

“In my dream, Dawn’s blood was flowing. She had been cut…”

“But I was bleeding,” Buffy insisted.

“Yes you were. Cuts from the battle, Buffy. I think Glory was bleeding Dawn dry.”

In a quiet voice, Willow asked, “So where is she? What happened to her?”

“In my dream, Dawn jumped off the scaffold and into the portal. She must have changed back into what she originally was. The Key.”

“That would have worked in Glory’s favour, surely?”

Angel glanced at Rupert Giles. “Not if Dawn closed the gateway. Keys lock as well as unlock.”

“How old was Dawn?”

Angel looked back, meeting Buffy’s liquid hazel-eyed gaze.

“Fourteen.”

“And she jumped?”

“To save you and the world, Buffy. Dawn loved you very much.”

“I wish I could remember.”

“I wish you could too.”

“If I had my powers I could make that happen,” Anya said proudly.

“Would you?” Xander asked, staring at his girlfriend intently.

Willow unwound her arm from around Tara’s shoulders and gently readjusted her girlfriend’s position. Her arm had started to go numb. “I thought Vengeance demons only granted wishes that did harm?”

“Be careful what you wish for,” Buffy murmured, trying to imagine what it would be like to have a sister.

Xander scratched his head. “Let me get this straight. Dawn died to close the portal, which broke the spell, and none of us remember she was ever here. Why?”

“I don’t know, Xander.”

“Perhaps that is the result of the spell. We will never know,” Giles said. “I’ve learnt that life is like that. Full of mysteries we cannot fathom.”

“What was she like, Angel? Can you tell us about her?” Buffy managed a small smile, and her eyes held a measure of longing.

“I can draw a likeness of her if you’d like?”

Giles got to his feet, and indicated to Angel that he sit in his place. “Certainly. I’ll put the kettle on and fetch some paper.”

Well into the night, a vampire sat drawing, a circle of friends and family about him listening to tales of courage, mischief, humour, and love that described the brief life of a very special girl.

The End.

Author’s notes.

Story idea came about from a conversation about Dawn being the Key, and if Dawn had died instead of Buffy, would Dawn’s existence be wiped from everyone’s memory. Thanks for the idea, Michele.


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