Dawn sometimes found herself thinking about the old days in Sunnydale. Things had been simpler, although at the time a younger Dawn would have told you that this was as hard as it gets; especially after her Mom died. Joyce Summers had already partially faded from Dawn's mind and she knew that Buffy was scared of losing Mom altogether because of the grim, steady march of time.
The Ancient Greeks had got that right. Time was perhaps the worst enemy of all; its gaping maw had swallowed everything, taken everything from them. It took them farther away from those lost in battle.
Dawn couldn't remember the little things now, like how Giles had blushed faintly when Buffy teased him about Ms Calendar or how Tara had a secret craving for Wonka bars when she was sick. Joyce Summers had become faded, indistinct, but undeniably warm in her memories.
There were some days when Dawn wished that the monks had never sent her to Buffy, that she had never existed at all as a human being; being human hurt. There was pain and loss, suffering and darkness. Dawn's heart ached with the sheer weight of the names they had etched into the stone monument near the new Council Headquarters in London.
Spike (He would have found a way to come back from the afterlife if they had called him William).
So many had been lost. Robin had died fighting demons, their blood coating his axe and a roar on his lips. He had saved five of the mini-slayers with his courage and he was remembered appropriately. Dawn hoped he got to meet Nikki Wood in the afterlife, she knew he had missed her.
Giles had died of a mortal illness, not from the supernatural. His heart had simply given out one day and he had died peacefully. Willow and Xander and Buffy had mourned him the most; they were still mourning him truthfully. Dawn grieved quietly and silently in the vast empty space of his library, surrounded with the knowledge that he held so dear.
Faith's death had hit Buffy the hardest. Dawn had seen her sister break when her other, darker half had died. Buffy hadn't needed to be told, she'd known the instant Faith had stopped breathing. The oldest slayer had screamed and yelled, bargained and pleaded with every demon, god and power she could find. Dawn had seen her talking to Faith's headstone on one occasion; she'd heard the bitter words of a lover left behind. They'd never been in a relationship as such but after Wood's death, Buffy had been there for Faith as much as she could be. They would've been glorious together, a pair of goddesses linked for eternity as their lives had inexorably intertwined.
The Old Guard, the Sunnydale natives, had mostly left; leaving the slaying and world-save-age, and teamwork to the younger generation. The younger ones had yet to be disillusioned by their work. Their heads were bloody but unbowed under the bludgeonings of chance.
Xander hadn't moved back to America. He lived in England and was working as a carpenter when Dawn had last heard from him. His work was good, but he'd had to practice a lot after the loss of his eye in Sunnydale. Willow visited him the most, whenever she left her self-imposed exile in whatever secluded corner of the world she could find. The romance between the Red Witch and Kennedy had broken apart under the stress and strain of fighting for your life on a nightly basis. Dawn had seen it coming though, she knew how much Willow missed Tara and the jealousy this had caused in Kennedy had slowly corroded anything good in their relationship.
Buffy flitted between Xander, Willow when she could find her and Dawn in England. The younger Summers could see how tired her sister was, how injured she was getting from her rogue demon hunting. Buffy would never be able to stay still and she couldn't completely leave the supernatural behind as Xander had but she couldn't, and wouldn't Dawn thought privately, ever create another Scooby gang. Buffy Summers had become the archetypical lone warrior and one day soon it was going to kill her.
They were all broken.
Dawn wished they could go back in time, back to Sunnydale. Their time on the Hellmouth had been their brightest time, their best time. They had been young and fit; they could handle the losses dealt to them because they were still able to see the good they did in the world. They hadn't been tired.
Dawn Summers knew she would never have had these thoughts when she was younger. But lately she could feel time pressing down on her, strangling her with thick grasping strands. She was going to wait though. Wait until she had a suitable successor. Then she'd move back to California, go back home.