Birthday Girl
by Hecate

Dawn has no birthday.

She hasn't noticed for a long time. She can't remember any parties or presents. Or birthday cards. She has never blown out birthday candles. She tries to tell herself that this isn't bad, because there could never be as many candles as there really need to be. She never quite manages to laugh at her own joke.

She does know her birth date; it's on her ID card. But she can't remember ever celebrating it. She wouldn't have noticed if her friend Kit hadn't asked. There were questions about her last parties, and she couldn't answer Kit, just stared at her, frowning, trying to remember. Kit laughed and said that she sometimes forgot her age but never the parties. Dawn lied and told her she doesn't like to party these days and that her family rarely had time to celebrate them much anyway. She forced a smile on her face. She cracked a joke, saying she's weird like that. Strange. Odd. Not normal.

Not real.

She tries not to think about it, but that doesn't work, so she asks Buffy. Asks about birthday parties and why there have never been any. And the Slayer looks at her, confused and helpless, and can't answer. The Slayer - not her sister. Dawn doesn't have a sister. She isn't real. Not in a human way.

She tries to forget it again, to tell Buffy that it isn't important, but her not-sister can't let it be. Buffy is the Slayer after all. She promises a big party for Dawn's next birthday ,and when the date nears she starts planning with the rest of the gang. They sit together for hours, even days, because Buffy wants everything to be perfect.

But it isn't. It's strange. Unreal. Dawn smiles the whole time until her face hurts, and still she smiles, because she thinks it's what she has to do on her birthday. She laughs at the bad jokes, blows out the candles, eats the cake and lives through the hugs. She tells everyone that she's happy, she enjoys the party. But when it's all over she's relieved and carries her presents into her room.

Dawn locks her door that night. She goes through the presents and tries to feel something, tries to be happy - tries it until she cries. She pretends that everything is okay. She never admits how she really felt at her birthday party. And they never ask. Sometimes she wonders if they haven't noticed anything wrong or if they have and just ignored it. If they don't care.

Dawn asks herself if she will feel differently at her next birthday. She tells herself she will. She tells herself so often that she nearly believes it. But inside she knows she won't.

She knows that something inside of her doesn't let her be human. It's there all the time, choking her, and sometimes it feels like it's eating everything human, everything Dawn in her, away. And at her birthday she felt it even more than usual, felt how it set her apart from all the other people, living and undead, in the room. Growing older doesn't really matter to that thing in her.

Dawn has no birthday. Because she has never been born.


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