It's a special kind of day when it rains in Sunnydale. Dawn remembers standing on the sidewalk, staring up and grinning at the swirl of clouds. She remembers Buffy, soaked with rain and tears and sweat, grabbing her shoulders and pulling her into a hug, and then inside. She remembers the look in her eyes right then. Empty and renewed at once. She remembers a cupcake, and candles burning away, and tentatively asking for a piece and being handed the whole thing.
She remembers when Buffy stopped really being Buffy, and became kind of broken.
And she remembers when there was no Buffy anymore.
That was a long, sticky-sweet summer, with flowers everywhere and mom at book club and this hole in the house that everyone stepped around. Buffy's friends would swing by every chance they got, just in case. They were nice, and didn't ignore her when she asked about patrols and Mr. Giles' long searches. Dawn had always defaulted to being ignored, so this was a good thing. This was new.
At the same time, though, everyone seemed to be so careful with her, looking like they were afraid of how she felt. Scared that she was scared. That she was gonna go looking for Buffy herself. As if. Her sister had climbed out that window thousands of times, and each time come right back through it, safe into the waiting arms of home. And she'd come back through this time, and she'd hug Dawn tight, and then she'd tell her to get the hell out of her room and sleep in her own bed.
But their concern wasn't so bad. Willow would play chess with her, and Xander would lounge on the couch watching them, all crinkled eyed smiles and nice arms and laughter, and time wouldn't matter, and she'd stare at the sky and see nothing but bright, sunny sun.
Dawn's heard that history repeats itself. It does, only in dark, angry spades.
This summer is the sort of dry that makes your throat feel empty and airless. It's crushing, maddening hot. She lies on the cold stone floor of Spike's crypt, looking at the ceiling, and he asks if she wouldn't be more comfortable on a couch, at home, where nothing might come barreling in. She rolls onto her side and gives him a look, a give up, I like your stupid, dank, depressing home look, and he shrugs, tips back his beer, and tries to act like everything's cool.
Because there's still this hole in the house they can't touch, and Willow's too busy to play chess, and mom's not at book club, but in the ground, nearby, and Buffy's so far away from her and they really belong side-by-side, and because there's this wires and plasticine Buffy skipping around, and the only flowers she's seen lately are the kind you leave dead people.
Her life's so filled with dead people, she might as well be dead, too. She lifts a hand to her chest, somewhere around where's she been told her heart is, and tilts her head back to look at him. He's staring at the wall. "What's it like to have no heartbeat?"
He cocks an eyebrow. "Well, it tends to involve getting yourself killed, so don't you even think about trying it."
"It isn't like anything, Bit."
There's silence between them, familiar silence that she can deal with. His ceiling has cracks in it. Every sky she imagines is cracking open, ever since that day.
It hasn't rained in forever.
When he brings her home, smiles gently and stalks off, she takes a shower. She stands under the water until it's running too cold and looks for cracks in the plaster.
Buffy left her through a crack in the sky. And she'll come right back the same way. That's how it works. That's how–
Dawn closes her eyes. Shuts off the water.
She'll make sure Buffy's window is unlocked tonight.