It's a long way to the bottom of the tower. Spike's bones crunch when he hits the ground, the sound it rings through her head like a concussion. The knife bites into her skin. Blood is warm, the wind is cold, even this close to summer. When Buffy hits the concrete, she doesn't make a sound. Dawn knows because she listens for it expectantly, eyes closed, ears straining, the feel of her sister's kiss still scalding against the skin of her cheek. Eyes open, bare feet move forward, metal grating digging into the tender soles of her feet. The stairs spiral downward in tight little circles. At the bottom, she's dizzy, stomach in turmoil as she stares at the aftermath.
No one looks at her as she takes stock of the rest of her family.
Tara is clinging tight to Willow, stroking her hair as she sobs. Her eyes are bright again, not the dull dead things that have been darting around blankly for the past few days, and at least there is that. Giles is standing close, his hand on Willow's shoulder. He's not moving. Xander has Anya cradled in his arms, her body hanging limply. Dawn panics for a second, but then she sees the slight rise and fall of her chest, the way she leans into Xander and tangles her fingers in his shirt.
It takes her a minute to notice Spike. When she does, she almost calls out to him, but the words get tangled around the lump in her throat because he's moving. He's not a pile of broken bones on the concrete because he's moving. She hasn't killed everyone. He is doing something else though, something that doesn't make sense, shoulders shaking, hands tearing at his hair. Vampires are not supposed to do that. She realizes, that she didn't even know they could. Dawn doesn't pay much attention to the direction her feet have chosen to take her until her fingers fall softly on the back of his jacket. It makes sense, as she looks around at the others holding onto each other. Everyone's hands were full. Only one person needed her.
He tenses under her touch, looking smaller than he usually does, caving in on himself crouched in the rubble. She wants to put her arms around him, to latch onto something and let herself break, but she's afraid of his reaction. If he pushes her away, she's not sure she could stand it. So instead of burying her face in his duster and letting go, she lets herself sink down to sit next to him, close enough that she can feel the cold line of him pressed against her right side. The movement makes the cuts on her torso scream, but it's a muted kind of agony. She can't care about that right now, because Buffy told her to be strong.
Buffy. There's only one person left that she needs to check on.
Dawn looks around, noticing for the first time the half circle they all make. She drags her eyes up to the center, curious. She has never seen Buffy broken before and if she looks, allows her eyes settle on a circle of spreading red or a collection of shattered bones, it would be real. Then maybe she could cry instead of just feeling this terrible tightness in her chest that makes her lungs burn. Master plan aside, she is almost grateful when one cold hand firmly grasps her chin, wrenching her eyes away before her vision can sharpen and zoom in. "
Don't you look at that, Bit." There are still tears on his face, but his voice doesn't waver, not like hers does.
"I-I just want to see her." Apparently, this is not a good enough argument because Spike just gives his head a shake, releases his hold, and stands up. Bones grind together when he moves, but the pain on his face is from nothing physical.
"We'll get those cuts, taken care of, yeah? You think you need a hospital?"
"No. Shallow cuts. T-That's what he said while he…" Dawn breaks off here because breathing isn't going over too well. Spike pulls her up and holds her there when she sways. He makes sure to stand to in front of her, still keeping Buffy from her line of sight. Dawn feels something wet on her face, salty when it slips past her lips. She tries to blink the tears back because Slayers didn't cry and they certainly didn't end up smashed into the sidewalk with their arms and legs askew. When she looks up, Spike is holding his head again.
"S'my fault Bit. If I'd just been a little faster—"
She grabs Spike's hand, hard. "No." Dawn manages to keep her voice steady this time. This is important. "It's not your fault, so don't say that. If it's your fault then that means its mine too, so just don't, Spike. Okay?"
He doesn't say anything, doesn't believe her. She's not so sure he should. They stand there for a long time, his arm brushing her shoulder, their blood making little rivulets on the ground, mixing together. She waits for something to happen, but there is no burst of white light or dragon roars. Dawn Summers is just a girl now. There's nothing extraordinary about her unless you count the fact that she is the last Summers girl, holding hands with William the Bloody while distant sirens make her ears ring. The last Summers girl, and she's not even real.