Title: Stand In The Rain
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: I own nothing. I make zero profit from this. Just expressing nerd solidarity.
Reviews/Feedback: Would love to hear your comments. Seriously, send em my way. Please? And thank you!
Authors Note: The title has been taken from the song, Stand In The Rain by Superchic(k)

Set after 'Same Time, Same Place'

Seeing her is like walking into that bedroom all over again.

Dawn can't help but notice the shade of her hair and how it's almost a reflection of the tint that Tara's blood held. It's longer now as well. Just another similarity she didn't expect to notice.

The moonlight spills across Willow's face as she sleeps. Her chest moves softly, rising and falling in a familiar fashion that Dawn recognizes. There's a pain in the teens chest as she looks at the redhead.

Willow lies flat against the mattress, facing the ceiling. She looks rigid and even in sleep, her expression is slightly pained. Dawn wonders if it's because of her stomach wound, or whether the redhead would have looked lost regardless.

She feels her muscles cramp slightly under the last amounts of paralytic leaving her system. Dawn almost wishes she were still a statue. Maybe then she wouldn't have scampered away when Buffy and Xander had brought Willow into the house.

The teenager had thought she was ready to see Willow again. She had convinced herself it was okay. The past was the past and she had spent a significant amount of time during the summer focusing on the future. Tara's death had almost destroyed her. Tara's absence had slowly chipped away at whatever was left of Dawn's heart and Dawn, herself, was powerless against it. So instead, she built a wall. She took her memories and constructed a wall around her heart. No one was allowed in.

Dawn hid herself on the other side of her wall. Everything else turned into shadows. She had gone through her summer researching and learning everything she could. She devoured every book she could get her hands on. She became 'watcher junior' and everyone left her alone to do it. Highschool had started, Buffy had started training her and her days fell into a routine. The mundane activities keeping her busy enough to grow numb to the pain that had taken up residence inside her heart. But then, Giles had called, and a hammer began to knock against her resolve.

When Dawn looks at Willow again she startles in surprise at the pair of green eyes staring back at her. Willow was awake. Silence descends over the room and Dawn grips the doorframe tightly. Neither girl turns away. She looks at Willow. Really looks at her. Her eyes are dull and worn. There's a panicked look deep inside the green irises, but it's overshadowed by the feeling of emptiness that Dawn gets when she notices that the green orbs no longer hold the brightness they used to. As she watches the redhead swallow, Dawn knows that it's not just jetlag.

"Hey.." she manages to whisper.

Willows eyes dart around the room cautiously as she sits up slightly. Dawn hears her grunt quietly at the effort.

"Don't," she says softly, willing her legs to move further into the room. Thankfully, they comply and she finds herself sitting on the small bed. The redhead props herself up with a pillow. Dawn notices how frightened Willow looks and she quirks a smile at the irony of the situation.

"H-Hey," Willow lets out after a few moments.

Dawn inhales sharply at her stutter. A force inside of her strikes hard against her walls.

There is so much familiarity. Too much. And it's all within her grasp, burning white hot against her skin, temping her to reach out and touch it.

"I'm sorry.."

Willow's voice reverberates throughout her entire body. The last time she'd heard that voice is was thick with anger and hate. Now it's filled with hesitation and a hint of what Dawn decides is shame.

Though she wants to, she cannot find her voice. Instead, she lowers her gaze and seeks out Willow's hand. Her fingers move slowly towards the redheads and when they are within reach, Dawn feels her eyes begin to mist. The burn inside her chest flares up and a lump forms inside her throat. She closes her eyes and reaches out. The second she feels Willow's fingers against her own, the wall she's so carefully constructed around her heart goes up in flames.

Dawn can feel her world turn upside down as their fingers intertwine. Her eyes open and connect fiercely with green ones. Her gaze doesn't falter as Willow stares back at her intensely. There is something passing between them. Something more than knowing and seeing and feeling combined. Dawn can feel a lightning storm inside her chest.

She grips Willow's hand tightly as she watches the tears start to fall from the scared green eyes.

Everything inside of Dawn tears open again. Tara's laugh echoes inside of her head. Tara's smile flashes behind her eyes. The comfort of Tara's embrace flutters across her skin as goosebumps flare up on her arms. Her heart breaks all over again. The sight of Tara under the moonlight, pale and lifeless-

"Stop," Willow rasps out.

"Please, God. Stop."

Willow's chest is heaving as she sucks in air. Her eyes are brimmed with tears and her hands are shaking in Dawn's grasp. She can feel the room go cold and hears the wind pick up outside. The brunette squeezes Willow's hand tighter. It's quiet as the two sit, looking at one another. Tears spill freely from both their eyes.

A tree branch connects roughly with the window and both red and brown hair whips violently to the side as both girls turn their heads at the noise. Light bounces in from outside, a security light in a neighbours back yard.

"That's new.." Willow comments quietly.

"Yeah, after.." Dawn trails off, moving her eyes to the doorway. She takes a deep breath, "After what happened some people got them installed.."


Willows eyes crinkle and she pulls back from Dawn's hand, bringing her fingers together and wringing them nervously.

"I know what you must think of me right now, Dawn.. I. I can't apologize enough."

The redhead looks down as she speaks, her voice breaking slightly as the words come from her mouth. Dawn watches and listens as the girl she's come to see as a sister cower under her gaze. "I.. I don't expect you to forgive me. Or want to be around me. Or feel safe with me here, either. And if you want me to leave-"

"Stop," Dawn interrupts abruptly, "Just. Stop it."

Willow closes her mouth and looks up through the curtain of hair in her face mumbling, "Sorry" softly.

"Willow," the teen commands sternly, "look at me."

The lock eyes again and Dawn swallows hard before continuing.

" don't talk about leaving. I.."

Dawn feels her heart quiver and her throat constrict painfully. She pushes the heartache down and clenches her jaw "I need you here. You are all I have left of her. Please don't take that away from me. "

The words burn as they come out. The wall she spent all summer constructing crashes to destruction.

Willow stares at her, eyes full of tears, and nods.

"I understand what happened," Dawn whispers staring intensely at the redhead.

"I hold nothing against you."

Shock passes through Willow's features as she listens "Dawn. I-"

"Absolutely nothing" Dawn finishes strongly.

The teen stands, having made her point, "It's okay. You should get back to sleep. I'll see you in the morning."

Willow watches her back as she goes, uncertainty written across her face.

Dawn pauses at the door and turns her head to glance at the redhead a final time.

Her voice becomes strong, confident as she speaks, "I forgive you, Willow."

The redhead smiles at her before the words echo past her lips, "And I'm glad you killed him." She clenches her fists and walks from the room unapologetically.

Her strides are long as she walks through the empty hallway. She casts her eyes downwards in a hard stare and one thought pierces through her mind, clearer than anything Dawn has ever felt or known before in her life.

Warren Mears had deserved to die.

And she would never feel sorry for believing that. Willow shouldn't either.

Thanks for reading :)

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