Summary: In "Forever", Dawn was warned that her spell could bring Joyce back wrong. But she had no idea in what way!
"Nobody's asking you to be Mom," Dawn cried.
"Well, who's gonna be if I'm not?" Buffy cried back. "Huh, Dawn? Have you even thought about that? Who's gonna make things better? Who's gonna take care of us?"
"I didn't mean to push you away, I didn't. I just, I couldn't let you see me. Oh God, Dawnie..."
As they looked at each other, the two sisters didn't see the shadow of a woman, stooped over, slowly sliding across the curtain of the living room window toward the front door.
"I don't know what we're gonna do," Buffy continued. "I'm scared."
Buffy turned to the door at the sound of knocking. A small, hopeful smile crept to her face. "Mommy?"
"Buffy," Dawn said again.
"Mom?" Buffy whispered.
Buffy ran toward the door, as Dawn picked up the photo of Joyce she'd used in the spell. Dawn looked hesitantly at the photo. No! she thought. They said she might come back wrong. But I have to give her the chance! I have to see for myself!
Buffy pulled the door open.
Joyce Summers stood there in the doorway: stooped over in a state of shock, dirt on her face, in her hair, and on the dress she'd been buried in. But despite the daze, her eyes still had the loving warmth that her daughters had always seen in them. She collapsed into Buffy's arms, and then Buffy and Dawn both wrapped their arms around her, all three sobbing.
"Oh, Buffy!" she cried out. "Thank God! I made it home! I don't know what happened to me, but I made it!"
"Mommy? Are you all right?" Buffy sobbed.
"I don't know, Sweetheart. One second I was lying down on the couch with this big headache, the next thing I knew, I was inside this box which was totally dark inside." Joyce's voice was shaking. "Then I punched my way out of it and started digging up through some dirt, then I was on my hands and knees in the middle of the cemetery. It was awful!"
"Oh, Mom!" her daughters cried in unison.
Keeping her arms around Joyce, Dawn pressed her ear to the middle of her mother's back. "Her heart's beating OK," she whispered.
"And she's warm," Buffy said, then added with a tentative hint of joy: "I think she's all right!"
"Let's get you upstairs and cleaned up," Dawn said.
Joyce entered her bedroom from the bathroom, all cleaned up and wearing a bathrobe with her hair still wet but combed. "That shower was just what the doctor ordered," she sighed as she sat wearily on her bed. Buffy sat next to her and put her arm around her as Dawn knelt at her feet. "I'm exhausted," Joyce continued, "but at least I feel human again!"
"We missed you so much, Mom!" Buffy cried. "You were only gone for four days, but we missed you!"
Joyce smiled back at her blonde-haired daughter, then looked at the dark-haired girl who now had her head in Joyce's lap, smiling up at her with tears streaming.
"Hello," she smiled back at Dawn, then added: "Who's your new little friend, Buffy?"