By the time Dawn was five and Buffy was eleven a natural progression began to occur. At first nobody noticed and simply carried on as normal but as they days of Dawn's first year of school flew by, her completely secure relationship with her sister began to change.
This is normal in relationships between siblings. They can start out incredibly close only to end up yelling and screaming at one another. But it didn't happen quite like that. However, Dawn began to become something of an annoyance for Buffy at times. There were still times when Dawn could convince her older sister to read her something out of 'Buffy's Book of Bedtime Stories' but these nights were few and far between.
It wasn't simply one sided either. Now that she was in school Dawn had made a group of friends. No longer was she alone and she was learning to become dependent on more than simply Buffy. Her friends, her teacher, her daily routine were all things to keep her from falling through the cracks. It wasn't just Buffy anymore.
But as the changes in the relationship became more and more obvious it was Dawn who found herself feeling slightly hurt. As her sister talked about her friends and birthday parties and books at the dinner table, as she went to her bedroom at night without saying goodnight to Dawn, as she put 'Buffy's Book of Bedtime Stories' on a shelf, Dawn began to feel more and more lonely.
"Buffy!" she exclaimed one day, bouncing towards the couch Buffy was currently reclining on. Her older sister had a book in front of her face and appeared to be extremely fascinated by the events on the pages. Dawn stood on her tip toes to try and see cover but she couldn't read what it said.
It took another three tries for Buffy to actually register her sister. "Oh, Dawn" she said, blinking a few times. "What?" Immediately Dawn deflated. She missed the times when Buffy would drop anything. She missed treasure chests and princesses and watching stupid videos that they knew every piece of dialogue to.
"Wanna play a game?" Dawn tried, climbing onto the arm of the couch and peering over Buffy's shoulder at the book. Only a few words stuck out to her. 'little', 'Jo' and 'book.' "We could play pirates."
Buffy shook her head, still appearing to be reading the page in front of her. "I'm busy Dawnie" she said, voice low due to concentration.
"Or mermaids" Dawn suggested, still keeping her enthusiasm up as she bounced on the arm of the couch. "We could play mermaids. Or Peter Pan! There's pirates AND mermaids in Peter Pan. You could even be Wendy if you want." This was rather generous because even as a little girl Dawn had insisted on being Wendy. It was the one thing Buffy could never take or dictate.
"I can't, Dawn" Buffy said, her tone firmer this time.
"Why not?" Dawn whined, getting off the couch arm and sitting on one of the armchairs in front of the TV. She crossed her arms across her chest and made a sour face. It felt bad to be rejected.
Buffy placed her finger carefully on the inside of her book and closed it over the top, turning to look at Dawn. "Because I'm reading and it's a good book and I just don't have time" she said, sighing.
"Fine" Dawn muttered, turning her body away from her sister and staring out of the window. Outside a cat was walking around in their garden. The Summers' didn't have a cat. Dawn would have liked a cat. Cats were cute and fluffy.
While Dawn was thinking Buffy had gone back to her reading. But Dawn couldn't mind her own business for very long. The silence and watching the cat wasn't helping her feeling of loneliness. So after only five minutes she turned back around to face her sister.
"Is Ashley coming over tomorrow?" Dawn asked because she'd heard Joyce talking about it earlier.
Her sister just nodded, not even looking up from whatever dumb book she was reading and thought was more important than Dawn. Dawn had a sudden urge to grab the book and toss it across the room. The only book Buffy was allowed to read was 'Buffy's Book of Bedtime Stories.'
Watching as Buffy turned the page, Dawn pressed on. "Can I play with you guys?" she asked, hopeful.
"We don't play" Buffy said, positioning her finger inside the book again and looking at Dawn. "We talk…about big girl things that you wouldn't understand."
"I would so understand big girl things!" Dawn insisted, feeling the hurt come back. "You told me when I started school that I was a big girl, that I was grown up! Can I talk too? Pleeeease?"
Buffy shook her head. "No."
"Dawn, no! Can I read now?"
Pouting again Dawn smacked her lips shut, glaring at her sister as she continued to read whatever was in that book. Was it a good story? Were there mermaids and pirates? Why didn't Buffy want to share things with her anymore.
"We could bake something tomorrow" Dawn said quietly. Baking was something that Joyce had taught Buffy and Dawn to do together. "Before Ashley comes…Like cookies." Her voice was quiet and she wondered if Buffy knew what she was feeling. Did Buffy ever feel this way?
Looking up for a fraction of a second, Buffy nodded. "Maybe, yeah" she said, before returning to the words.
After that Dawn left the room feeling only marginally better.
Late that night Dawn was tucked up under the covers watching the shapes move across her ceiling. It was raining outside and she could hear it above her. To some children it might be scary but to Dawn the rain made her feel much less lonely. It also made her sleepy and she focussed on the sound patterns of the pit-pattering the rain made against their roof.
As she drifted towards much fuzzier images she thought about the day. The feelings came back to her but much weaker as she was almost asleep. That feeling of hurt grasping at her heart and making her sad once again. It was so hard to be the younger sister, she decided. You were left behind, always, when the older one wanted to grow up. They forgot you.
Just then something did frighten Dawn but it wasn't the rain. She jolted up in her bed, clutching at the bed-sheets and shrinking backwards. The door had opened, revealing a shadow making it's way across her bedroom floor.
"W-who…" Dawn began but she never finished her stammer for the figure had reached her bed and was climbing inside.
"Relax Dawnie" came Buffy's voice from beside her. "It's just me."
As her sister pulled the covers up around her something hard knocked Dawn's arm. She reached for it, curious to see what the object that had hurt her was. What had Buffy brought with her?
"Is that…?" Dawn began, trailing off as she felt the raised lettering across the front of the book. 'Buffy's Book of Bedtime Stories' it read and a huge smile stretched across Dawn's face and she reached out to hug her sister. Buffy returned the gesture, smiling in the darkness.
"Shh!" she whispered, taking the book back from Dawn. "It's late and we'll get in super trouble if they catch us. Now…which story do you want tonight?"
In Dawn's head she tried to decide which story she would most like to hear if she couldn't hear another one for three months. It was easy. Peter Pan. Her favourite.
So she told Buffy and the next fifteen minutes were spent with a flashlight, Peter, Hook and all the misadventures that happen when the boy who doesn't want to grow up is around. Every sentence had Dawn giggling into Buffy's shoulder because she couldn't make too much noise and even Buffy laughed, cuddling her younger sister when the story was finally over.
When they were finished the two girls settled down to sleep. And just when Dawn thought Buffy had drifted off she heard her voice again.
"Maybe sometime I'll read you Little Women" she said, quietly as if she had been thinking about it for some time.
"What?" Dawn asked.
"Little Women" Buffy repeated. "It's what I was reading today…"
"Maybe" Dawn pulled the blankets under her chin and fell asleep still smiling.