A/N Since today, the 25th, is my birthday, I'm giving you all a birthday gift! Have a wonderful day!! Please let me know what you think about my version of Buffy's birthday episode.

Disclaimer: All the characters in this story are not my property. Would be a nice birthday gift though!

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Buffy had been standing under the hot spray of water for at least ten minutes, eyes closed, clear, steaming liquid running down over her face. She desperately wanted it to wash away all her thoughts, to drown them, let them flow away down into the deep, dark recesses of the shower drain. The events of the evening still crept in and nestled themselves into the folds of her brain. Everything that happened crashed down on her in great gulping waves.

The visit from the first slayer wasn't so bad; she had visited Buffy before so she was used to it. Now, finding Chloe's limp body hanging from the ceiling was the beginning of the whirlpool of events as they began to unfold one by one. Having to bury another young girl who had barely lived long enough to enjoy any kind of life was beginning to wear on the slayer and Chloe had only been the second one to go. But she knew there were many more left that would have to be buried in the near future. The First showing up in her guise didn't help matters either. Buffy shook those thoughts away easily though. It may sound bad, but it would have been a more difficult situation if it had been one of her friends or her sister that she would have had to bury.

Buffy sighed and lifted her face into the gushing water. She knew she had been harsh with her little speech to everyone after taking care of Chloe's body. Spike seemed to have been the one to get the brunt of that harshness. She had hurt him with her words, she could tell. She could also tell he was angry at her by the venom that dripped from his last words. But she wanted him to get angry, mean in fact, even if she had to make him hate her to do it. He needed to fight back, needed to be vicious again...well, to a reasonable extent and towards only the bad guys. Maybe she should apologize to him.

She turned the water off, stepped out of the shower while grabbing her towel and wrapped it tightly around her body. Buffy sat on the edge of the tub. The kicker to the wonderfulness of this wacky evening came when she had quickly and without any question decided to jump through the portal. A portal that placed her in another dimension along with three magical, mystical men who claimed to know what she needed. Buffy shivered so she dried off and got dressed in a pair of sweats and a tank top all ready for what she knew would be a restless night of sleep.

While brushing her hair, the vision that flashed in front of her eyes was of her friends standing around her in the middle of her living room when she, in a flash of white light, appeared back into her own dimension. They, none of them, had failed her. Willow had found a way to open the portal, with the help of the others, and Spike had apparently found and killed the demon that they needed to make the exchange again. They all looked tired and beaten down. She couldn't say anything but just look at them all, hoping her face conveyed to them her gratefulness. All she could think of though was that they were all going to die. The world was going to be taken over by the Turok-hans and The First and there was no way their measly team of warriors was going to win.

She sighed again, standing and staring at herself in the mirror. There just had to be something; a miracle even. She wasn't about to give up so easily. Now wasn't the time to show any weaknesses. Something had to give somewhere. Buffy opened the door and began her trek to her bedroom. The house was too quiet and she wondered if everyone had turned in for the night. It wasn't too late but after the fiasco they just went through it could very well be a possibility that they were all asleep.

The full moon shone in through her sheer curtains, illuminating her bedroom like a comforting nightlight but casting eerie shadows on her walls. She shivered again as she hugged herself. Her body was still on edge, and she wondered continuously if she made the right decision by refusing the demon gift. She really didn't want to think about any of it right now as she flipped on the light switch. The light made her eyes hurt as she tried to focus them on the bright red object sitting in the middle of her bed.

A box; a deep, bright red box with an even deeper red, velvet ribbon tied around it sat in the middle of her bed. Under it was a pink envelope with her name written on it in elegant script lettering and the words "Open First" just below her name. She obligingly did so pulling out a card with a cartoonish picture of a female superhero on the front, sporting a cape and a large "S" on her chest. Someone had hand drawn a cross around her neck and a stake in her hand and Buffy chuckled. Upon opening the card, a folded piece of paper fluttered out onto her lap but she decided to read the inside of it first. "You will always be a hero to us. Happy Birthday!" The card was signed by every single person who was now living, dwelling or shacking up in the Summers' home. She didn't even realize that she had begun to cry until she sniffled a bit. Even she had forgotten her very own birthday, but her dear friends had not.

Before carrying on any further, she unfolded the bit of paper. In Dawn's handwriting she was sure of, it told her to "Come to the kitchen...soon!" Buffy giggled as she hopped off of her bed and rushed to the door. Before stepping through the doorway though, she remember the box with the pretty bow on top and turned hastily to retrieve it, taking it with her to her destination. She found herself bouncing down the steps and slightly skipping to the kitchen. It was still very quiet and it made her wonder what was going on.

She stopped abruptly at the closed kitchen door, and slowly pushed it open, noticing the lights were off. She could sense not only Spike but the others she knew were there as well. A lighter flicked, illuminating the faces closest to it, as Spike lit the lone candle atop a very large birthday cake. All of them turned to look at her with smiles gracing their faces and all of them wished her a happy birthday.

"Hurry, Buffy, come on and make a wish." Dawn called her over.

Buffy quietly walked towards the cake, closed her eyes for a second or two, leaned over and blew out the candle. The lights came on as everyone clapped and gave her birthday wishes again, this time the noise level exceeding the first round of wishes.

"Thank you, every one of you. This is something I would have never expected....Well, I would have expected it if I would have even remembered it was my birthday today in the first place. I guess you could say I've been a bit preoccupied lately. I just want you to know I appreciate everyone of you and thank you from the bottom of my heart." Buffy tried her best to fight back the tears that were annoyingly forming and the hitch that had crept into her voice.

Xander threw his arms around her as her other friends followed suit. Even Anya gave her a quick hug before grabbing a piece of cake that Andrew so proudly served for everyone. Buffy held the gift box up and thanked her friends for it. They all looked at her in surprise as they denied any involvement with the gift leaving. She stepped off to the side and pulled the ribbon before lifting the lid open.

Inside, nestled in the fluffy cotton, sat a beautiful bracelet that when held in the light, swirled with a multitude of colors. The inside of it, etched into the silver, were symbols of some sort of language she didn't know. She was feeling quite unsure about the piece of jewelry, especially not knowing who it was from. Scrounging around through the box, she pulled up the cotton padding and noticed a small card.

It was signed by Spike; the gift was from him. She looked up and around the kitchen but he was nowhere in sight. She lifted the card out to read what he had written in it. He mentioned that the bracelet was an ancient symbol used for strength and protection; the bearer who wore it with faith, belief and trust would send an invisible force of protection to everyone that the bearer held dear to their heart. He finished it with wishes for many more happy birthdays and signed it with love.

"Unbelievable", Buffy exclaimed softly to herself.

She wrapped the bracelet around her wrist and clasped it shut. 'Faith, belief and trust', she recited the words in her head. She felt an unmistakable difference in her attitude and demeanor as she looked down at the bracelet, which now seemed to have taken on a slight brilliance, almost like it was glowing. She really wanted to find Spike, to thank him for this very special gift, even though it did seem a bit too extravagant.

Most of the girls ventured out to the living room to gab while they ate their cake, the others left in the kitchen were busy talking to each other as well. It was then that she smelled it; the cigarette smoke. She silently slipped away and out the back door onto the porch where he stood, leaning against the rail and looking out into the night sky. He turned his head slightly as if silently saying he knew it was her.

"Not feeling up to being the center of attention, eh?" he jokingly asked.

Buffy walked to the opposite side of the porch steps and leaned her back against that rail.

"It feels that if I acknowledge my birthday too much, something bad will happen. I mean, not like something bad is happening all around us right at this very moment, but...you know what I mean."

"Yeah, I sure do, pet. That's why we all agreed we weren't going to go into too much detail over the event...the event being your birthday that is." He smiled sweetly at her as he crushed out the butt of his cigarette in an ashtray that Buffy had placed out there just for him. "But it couldn't just go on unnoticed. You deserve some festive in this unfestive time. Besides, the girlies needed a break from all the surmounting tensions. Everyone benefited, right?"

"Yes, yes they did. And thank you." Buffy walked over to stand next to him.

"For what? Lighting the candle? It was because I was the only one with a lighter." he smirked.

"You know what for. But yeah, also for lighting the candle." she smiled as she jabbed him in the ribs with her elbow.

"Oof," he grunted as he grabbed his side and winced playfully. Buffy laughed.

"It's good to hear you laugh, pet. Haven't heard that in a long time. We all need a bloody good giggle right about now, I think. Maybe help us win this bleeding war we're getting into."

"I wanted to tell you that I'm sorry for going off on you earlier this evening. I shouldn't have done that, especially in front of all the girls. I'm just...worried...about you. Afraid something will get the better of you and I won't be able to do anything about it. I know you, I know how you fight, been on the opposite side of those flailing fists and feet before. I just...I just want..."

Spike held up a hand to stop her. "I know, Buffy. What if I tell you I promise I will work on it, get the potential back soon. I don't want you to worry about me. Not anymore. Understand?"

Buffy shook her head yes.

A moment of silence followed before Buffy leaned a little closer to Spike and softly spoke.

"Thank you for the gift. It's beautiful and looks awfully expensive. I hope you didn't spend a fortune on it."

"And what if I did, slayer? That's none of your business anyway. Maybe I even nicked it. Who knows?" He acted as if he was miffed at her. Another moment of silence went by.

"Actually, pet, I got it in Africa, from some high priest or something. Told me to give it to the one I loved, would help with the demons. I had put it away and forgotten about it until I went through my stuff at the school tonight. Couldn't have worked out more perfect, it being your birthday and all."

"Wow, I'm...speechless. I mean...wow. Thank you again. It is really beautiful."

"Much less than its wearer," he replied shyly. Buffy even blushed slightly.

"What you wrote on the card, was that all true?"

"It's true if you can believe the one that gave it to me. Other than that, I couldn't rightly tell you."

"Well, then I believe it. I did feel something when I put it on. Stronger even, more confident. Relieved that I believe my loved ones will be protected by me wearing this." Buffy twirled the bracelet around her wrist as the light from the kitchen hit it and made it sparkle.

"Good. More power to you. Your friends are very lucky then." He shifted and looked away.

"My friends?" she raised her brows and stared at him. Spike turned his head back to her direction and shook it up and down. She turned so that she was facing him.

"You do know you are included in that, right?"

"No, love, I don't know," Spike whispered sadly and turned to look away again. Buffy caught him by the chin and forced him to look back.

"I know I haven't told you how I feel, and I'm still confused about it myself, but I will let you know that...yes, you are included...included among my loved ones."

Her words floated around his head. She wasn't admitting to anything just yet, but it was something. A beginning. Spike smiled and leaned forward, placing a kiss on her forehead, lingering there and softly said, "Happy Birthday, Buffy."

The End