Part I

Really, when you got down to it, it was an insult.
The beer was the right stuff, but the chocolate chip cookies were wrong
as always; you'd even made a real effort this year to see to it that
they were up to snuff by slipping half a dozen rolls of frozen cookie
dough out of the local 7-11 the night before beneath your duster right
in front of the clerk and spent the evening trying to figure them out
after Buffy and the Potentials went out on another group patrol that
you narrowly avoided being dragged into.

Good riddance clompin' girlie feet. Now how do you turn on the oven?
Uhhhhh, what's the difference between Farenheight and Celsius?
The first three batches you burned because you kept getting distracted
by the telly.

It was a 24-hour Knight Rider marathon, all right?
The fourth found you sitting in a kitchen chair staring at the cookies
through the oven door until they looked exactly like the ones on the
package. Problem was, they were still frozen in the center.
Easy as 1-2-3, my arse! If I were ever to meet the Pillsbury Dough Boy,
I'd do more than poke the little sod in the belly and make him giggle.
The air conditioner gave out a death rattle like it had been
threatening to all week halfway through the fifth batch - which made
the kitchen heat up to inferno proportions even with the windows open.
Andrew barged in on you with your shirt off and stood there with a
stupid grin on his mug and a bulge in his Bugle Boys while you tried to
determine if the damned things were done or not while the Sex Pistols
bellowed in the background.

When you finally gave up and took the bloody things out of the oven and turned around to shitcan them, he was right behind you and you got a chest full of red-hot tray and cookie
dough. Once you'd peeled Andrew and the tray off of you, you grabbed
the aggravating twit by the ear, dragged him blubbering into the living
room and locked him in the coat closet. Then you snapped the key in two
and tossed the broken pieces down the garbage disposal and ran it until
the clattering went away.

Should'a killed the lit'l Nancy – too bad there's only just so much you
can blame on the First…

Batch six was perfect. By this time you realized that maybe it wasn't
as easy as you thought it would be and maybe it wouldn't be a bad thing
to read the directions on the package and follow them to the letter.
Savoring Andrew's wails from the coat closet, you inspected your
handiwork as they lay there cooling on the last clean dish towel in the
house. Not only did these cookies look exactly like the ones on the
package, they were done in the inside and not black on the bottom.
That was when Dawnie came in, yelled, "Mmmmm! Cookies!" And stuffed two
or three into her mouth. Around the crumbs, she asked, "Who made these,

When you said, "No, I did." Dawn got a look of disgust on her face and
pointedly spat them out in the crapper and flushed it twice. Then she
took down the spare key that you hadn't noticed hanging by the phone
and let Andrew out just as the Potentials came thundering in, saw the
cookies, and well, ate them, squabbling over who got the last one.
Bloody Hell!

You spent the rest of the night moodily smoking down in the basement on
your cot, drinking the one Coke that the Potentials hadn't found yet,
and watching Jay Leno.


Part II

You really didn't like Jay Leno. It wasn't because you were still brassed off about the cookies. How many more laughs could he get out of those misread headlines, anyway? Yeah, Johnny was an old bastard but at least he was his own man. Wait. Did Jay just make a joke about Sunnydale? Something about people abandoning the town due to natural disasters, and something about how some scientist said it was built on a sink hole. It could go down faster than Tara Reid on a red carpet. You rolled your eyes, but then it only got worse. He said that the town was famous for hoaxes and maybe they were jealous after LA had just finished its isolated solar eclipse.

You almost want the bad guys to win sometimes, now that you can't treat stupid people like Jay as Happy-Meals with legs. It would almost be worth it to see the look on the plastic people faces in LA. Yeah idiots—surprise! Anything and everything that ever mattered was going on right here in Sunnydale. You people all had one girl—one amazing girl-- keeping it all together for you. None of you sods would even take notice of her besides maybe noticing she was cute. No, you sods in LA wouldn't notice the girl that had been saving your ass because she wasn't some celebrity that might marry Ben-ass-face-Affleck. She wasn't some mother earth guru that everyone in LA would get sick of worshiping in a few weeks time. It wasn't fair. Buffy worked so bloody hard, and what did she get—nothing! Nothing but a bunch of brats to train that can't even thank people for making cookies!

"I knew it!" you heard one of the little brats huffing about something else.

You were at the punching bag again. Jay Leno made you angry; no it was really all that Buffy had to go through that made you angry. You wanted to talk about it with her, comfort her, but she was too busy with the lot of them these days. You understood. You also understood that you couldn't ever do enough to make up for what you did to her right before you went off to get your bloody soul. You were angry you wasted that time being crazy and killing those people and you were angry there was just not going to be enough time.

"I knew it was you that took the last coke. Didn't you see that someone was hiding it? Why am I even asking? Of course you did. You just don't care," the whining continued from the voice on the basement stairs, though it was more like chiding.

"You're damn right I don't bloody care! No skinny little useless girl who doesn't even have the stones to come all the way down here and look a vampire in the face is going to nag on me," You called to the voice, "None of you have contributed to this situation in any way, while Buffy is killing herself to save you and I'm right sick of it. You want to live, come to Buffy or me for help. You want a bloody coke go buy your own."

"Useless!" oh no. You know that voice, that angry shrillness.

You had been spending so much time concentrating on sensing Buffy, smelling her, that you had lost your way in sniffing out other people that you knew.

"I'll show you useless!" heels were clomping down the basement steps.

"Get out of here!" Dawn screamed and pointed to the door as if you would forget where it was.

"Dawnie, I didn't know it was you," you said apologetically.

"It's my house too and I can throw out whoever I want I don't need permission from anyone!" she said.

"Okay, that's fair enough. Just let me get my things," You said.

You didn't have much these days. A couple of articles of clothing along with your coat and a lighter. You realize this would be the 17th time you'd get all the clash albums again if and when you had the time to do it.

"I don't care if Buffy wants you here, I don't, and I want you to know that maybe my research isn't as helpful as your killing things, but at least I never research the wrong things, and even if I did, it wouldn't be like you killing the wrong things or people which you've totally done, Mr. Mayor of town helps-a lot," Dawn yelled her nostrils flaring.

You couldn't help but smile and tilt your head to get a better look at her. She was angry, so bloody angry, and she wasn't afraid to show it and tell the object of her anger what for.

"Don't look at me like that, you dick!" she spat, "This isn't a joke; I want you to go."

"All right, all right. There's no need for you to start swearing. I'm going," you said.

Yes, you realized that you lost any cool points you may have had with her by telling her not to swear. It wasn't as if she wasn't old enough. She was at that age where it should be her number two hobby, but there was something about her doing it that you found jarring. On Buffy a swear was good to prove a point, but on Dawn it just seemed ugly.

"Shut the hell up and get out," she said," and if you don't go I'll—I'll set you on fire in your sleep."

"I said I was going," you said through gritted teeth, "I'm just looking for my other bloody boot, all right?"

This was maddening. You'd much rather have Buffy's brand of anger being burned into you. You preferred hitting to all this brow-beating and idle threatening. Well, you supposed Buffy did those things too, but again on Dawn it was just wrong fitting.

"I really mean it---Wait. You're actually going? You're listening to me?" she asked as if this truly confused her as you were hopping around for your other boot.

"Yeah," you said, "Well, it's your house if you think I'm doing more harm than good than it's best I go. I'll just stay at my old place. I don't know how safe it is there, but maybe I'll find out something new. Tell Buffy that's where I am when she needs me."

"You're not going to run up and tell Buffy I'm kicking you out?" she eyes you suspiciously her light brows knitting together.

"I'm not a bratty child, love. Buffy has enough on her plate right now," you said and managed a small smile.

But, you were sad. She had grown up physically—a lot and you hadn't really noticed until now. But, that wasn't what made you sad. She was beautiful in that cute unique way like her sis. She actually had very nice hair. It was so healthy that the gold in the sandy brown was even shining in the basement light. What made you sad was the eyes. They were much bluer than her sister's, and when she had stopped being angry at you they looked like they were about to give up. She may've grown, but she was too young to be giving up like that.

"Huh," she scoffed and you were glad she looked angry again.

"Yeah, right. I'm not a bratty child either, but I'm not going to take you telling me that I'm dragging the mission down. I'm not useless. I do a lot. You just are too stupid to notice because what I do doesn't involve looking hot and throwing vampires around."

"Gah!" you almost really gag picturing her moving with the intensity of a Slayer, "Could you not talk like that? I thank God that you aren't one of these bratty potentials. I only said you were useless because I thought you were one of them yelling at me from the stairs."

"You thank God I'm not a Slayer? Why? Because I'm clumsy? I'll have you know I'm still learning to walk in heels, and I just grew…last summer. So, I'm still getting used to it, and wouldn't all that clumsiness go away with the power? Why do you think I'd be a bad Slayer? Why do I even care what you think? You knew me before I really knew anything. You don't know anything about me now," she concluded with somehow deciding she was angry at you again.

"I never said I was glad you weren't a Slayer. I said I was glad you weren't a Potential. One of these girls that sits around waiting for something to be handed to them, but then when there's real trouble they can't even tie their bloody shoes. I think you are useful in ways that they will never even know. That's why we're teaching 'em to fight on their own. When the storm comes they can be on their own, and you can have the shelter of me an' Buffy."

You helped that would make her feel better, more hopeful about things to come. There was really no need for her to feel so hopeless. She was definitely going to make it through this one.

"How can you say something like that?" she demanded, "That you'll work harder to save me over all the others because I'm not a Potential? Because you think I'm more useful. You're a horrible person! Those other girls are potential Slayers; they could go on to save lives. I knew you being all soul having wouldn't straighten out your priorities. It's not like it did for Angel whether he had it or lost it or got it again all he did was hurt my sister. I don't know why Buffy thinks it means anything."

"Look, you wanted me to leave and I'm leaving. I get why you're angry, kind of, it seems like you're mad that I won't let you get hurt, and because I think your useful. Actually, I'm kind of confused. What's my soul got to do with all this now? You know even before I had a soul I'd--"

"You tried to rape my sister!" she yelled.

She spat at your gentle tone that you had with her, even though you were a little angry that she compared you to the big poof vampire. She never did that before, actually no one had. Then, her angry squeak of a girl voice pierced you like knives. She brought up the one thing that the big poof never did, was never allowed the chance to do it because Buffy would never let the first vampire close enough. You wished Dawn had kept that quiet grown-up rage she had. You wished she kept the promise that she made with that rage and set you on fire…instead of this.

"So, I'll just go then," you said to the grown-up girl that no longer had the quiet rage, but it was grown up all the same.

"That's it?" she hissed, "You're not even going to say your sorry?"

"If I said it would it really make any difference? Wouldn't it just insult the whole thing to think it could be fixed with something like that?" You asked.

She didn't answer. You kind of hoped she would. Maybe she did believe that you could fix it by apologizing for it. You would do it then, apologize to her, if she didn't see it as an insult. But instead of answering, her blue eyes just looked past you to something else. What?

You wondered. You really didn't know. What did she think about these days? You used to know just what was on her mind. Why did her mother have to die? What was she really? Did she have a chance of being cool at the new high school they were building? What did it mean that all of her girlhood memories were fake and that she had been a key? Was she bad? She thought she knew she couldn't be all good. Why did her sister have to die to save her? What did Justin Timberlake see in Britney Spears?

"There really is no point to any of it, is there?" she asked very evenly now.

"Right, that's just how I feel about it, I did an awful thing and apologizing for it would just look like I did something---"

"I don't mean that," she said as if you were being deliberately slow, "I mean the whole thing. The huge battle, protecting the Potentials, banding together, love, hope. It won't make any difference. The world is going to end. Darkness is too powerful, evil can't be defeated and it will win in the end."

A look came over her face that you hadn't seen before; a look that she didn't have when Buffy died or when she said she would set you on fire. It was all together a new kind of scary.

"Niblet," you sounded or felt like you said that in slow motion, "Just because I tried to hurt Buffy doesn't mean that my evil won. If anything it made me realize I had to get a soul so—"

"Oh god, Spike!" she scoffed looking something like the child you has once known.

"Ego, much? This is totally not about you, if you did anything you just gave me more evidence that men suck, which I already knew. I'm talking about the entire world not being strong enough to win out against evil."

"And what I did probably helped you to start thinking that way," you said.

It wasn't a question.

"No!" she said indignantly. Then, "Well, hmmm, maybe. I dunno. Anyway, will you stop talking about yourself for three seconds? There's real evidence too."

"I mean, that's what I found in all the books and stuff while I was playing Watcher Junior," she said, "There's no way evil can ever be fully defeated. There were other Slayers, Champions, Warriors of the Mission—whatever. There are little blips about them winning and doing all this great stuff, I think the last Slayer fought some Samurai vampires. She seemed cool, but then they kind of implied that she had a thing for her Watcher and that totally creeped me out. She was younger than me when she died. I found myself hoping she really did get to hook up with her Watcher because then, at least she would have gotten something for herself. Maybe she even died before he could turn into a dick."

"God," you said, "You really have gone all Ally Sheedy in 'The Breakfast Club.' Where's your raggedy black clothes and your ton of black eyeliner?"

You couldn't help but smile because as much as she was talking about gloom and doom, the old Dawn was still in there. She was thinking about boys and love and dreams that girls dream whether she knew it or not. She still had hope, she still wanted life.

"Please," she said, "Just because I see reality doesn't mean I want to start looking like some Goth ho. I bet you would love that. There's a Slayer that you would love, too bad she went all crazy and went off to jail. You could have hurt her instead of my sis---"

"Faith, I know. Buffy has said that we would be well suited for each other on a few occasions, usually when she wanted to be rid of me. You never know with the way things are working out I may want her number after this is all over."

Right, by the time you'd be ready for the other Slayer's number she'd be dead having lived to a ripe old age of 97. You loved Buffy. Wherever she went you would follow and that included death. It was clear that her little sis didn't need you anymore. It was also crystal that she thought you were some kind of Wanker. So, you'd figure you'd play the part and rib her about the other Slayer if she was going to bring her up. After all, that's what you did when Buffy did it.

"The only number she has is a cell number," Dawn folded her arms and now looked a lot like her sis.

"What is it with you and Slayers anyway?" and then she didn't.

It was a sincere question Buffy never would ask. Buffy knew what it was with you and Slayers.

"I should ask the same of you," you said as you took your boot off.

There was no sense hobbling around with just one if you were going to have this conversation first.

"They have a clear purpose, a goal. They know who they are, and who they are makes sense in this screwed up world," she stated.

"Heh," you scoffed, "Look who thinks she has it all figured out. Haven't you been paying attention? The Slayer has it tougher than anyone. They have no bloody clue of who they are and what they could become until it's too late. Everyday they walk a fine line of who and what to be. Are they death, are they life? And what they decide can mean everything."

"I didn't say there wasn't pressure," she said as she sat on your cot, "You really think Buffy has no idea of who she is or what she could become?"

"I think she's come closer than any other Slayer to finding out, and that just makes her so beautiful, doesn't it? But there's a price…" You shut your eyes as you leaned back on your cot now.

"You mean dying for me, right?" Dawn said with no trace of neediness.

"Ego much, Nib?" You open your eyes to grin at her, "Not everything is about you."

"Nothing is about me," she said, "and before you say I'm feeling sorry for myself let me tell you I'm glad it's not. It's just that…even though Buffy may not know what she'll become at least she knows it's something—something great. I think it may be my job to just be extraordinarily ordinary and I'd be okay with that if I knew life was going to be more than this constant fight that we're probably going to end up losing and even if we win we'll lose people—people we love."

You were trying to pull something together about staying young and happy and seizing the day, but none of it sounded right in your head. It sounded too desperate or like you were trying to impress her or give advice, and it was all that or at least it would have been if you said it.

"You shagged that boy when you were under that spell," you said instead.

You didn't quite know why you said it. Maybe you wanted to show her you did still know something about her that the others didn't.

"Wha—How—how did you know about that?" her eyes widened in horror, "Oh god! I didn't do something crazy while I was under the spell I forgot, like make a web-page about it, did I? Did he tell you about it?"

"I wouldn't be the person to ask about the web thing, but he certainly didn't tell me about it. I got his smell of that bloody magical jock jacket of his, then I smelled it on you—so I knew. I was too distracted with having gone 'round the bend to kill him. When I got better I tried to look for him, but he already left town."

"Yeah, big surprise you wanted to solve a problem by killing. Well, thanks for not telling Buffy anyway," she said.

"How do you know I didn't?" you asked this coyly.

How was it she still knew what you would or wouldn't do while you weren't quite sure about her?

"Please, if you had she would have tried to hide knowing for three seconds, and then had gone ballistic with lectures and probably trying to hurt RJ too, and then feeling guilty about it, making everything a total Buffy mess," she sighed and gave that new far-off look.

You really should have done something about that whole boy situation. What had stopped you? Oh yeah, the incredible unbearable urge to kill innocent people planted in you by the origin of all evil. God, you really wanted to stick it to the bloody First more than you ever wanted to get back at anyone or anything in your life. No one makes you a bloody puppet! Of course, for Buffy, you'd be a willing slave, and you had been love's bitch before, but you wanted that. You felt that with every fiber of your soul and before you had a soul you felt it with every fiber of your dark heart for Dru. But, to be in the hands of something and to not even feel it? It was beyond violation. Well, that was evil for you.

"That boy really deserves punishment. I've done a lot of things in my life, but I never made someone think they felt something they didn't. I should have thrown him into the fire with his bloody jock jacket," you said as you suddenly hated the boy.

"Guess what? It wouldn't have helped. I wanted to kill R.J. too, for about three seconds, and then I realized it wasn't really his fault. He was caught up in the spell as much as anyone else," she said folding her arms.

"No spell forced him to violate you while you were under his. He knew he had power over you and he took full advantage of it," you said as you felt your jaws ache with the thirst for blood.

"Yeah, a guy like that should really die," she snorted.

"I'm sorry I was too insane to help you," you said softly now.

At least you could tell her you were sorry for something. Maybe she'd realize how special that was. It wasn't as if you apologized to just anyone. Buffy had never heard an "I'm sorry" seriously come from your lips, and she most likely never would. You weren't sorry for any of it, and for the things you were sorry for there was no apologizing for.

"Everyone is too insane to help themselves about anything that really matters," Dawn sighed, "What if we win this? What difference would it make? Evil will just win another time. Everyone will just keep falling in love with the wrong people, or just keep thinking they are falling in love and they'll be too busy fighting to do anything about it."

"You really do have a lot to learn still," you sighed a relieved sigh.

She was talking about love again. It didn't seem like she was very happy with it at the moment, but she still believed in it and that's what mattered.

"No I—What are you talking about?" she snapped.

"Love is what makes it all worth fighting for. Love may take you for a painful ride, but it's the only thing that evil can't bend itself around. The thing that you made to feel for that boy, it wasn't real but---"

"I know. I know. I should prepare to feel like an even bigger idiot when it is real and I can look forward to hurting people and getting hurt. It sure seems like evil bent its way around love to me," she said

Rolling her eyes far too much is what gave her that young silly looking beauty.

"Well, everything has to have a shadow. There is a dark side to love that makes you do foolish things," you said

"'Foolish things'," she scoffed, "That's a great phrase for saying 'rip-your-heart-out-and-step-on-it' I don't ever want to do that to someone I claim to love,"

"Well," you said, "too bad. Because you've already done it. You've hurt people that love you plenty of times."

"I don't—What did—Okay, I wasn't trying to hurt anyone with the shop lifting thing. I just—"

"It doesn't matter if you try to do it or not," you said, "Point is you will. It's unavoidable. Sometimes you won't mean to: You won't like a blouse someone you love bought you. Sometimes you might very well mean to: You'll spit out the cookies they've been baking all day because you're mad at them. Sometimes you might even have to: you'll tell them to get out of the bloody house because they aren't doing right by the mission and it—"

"Those cookies were frozen in the middle!" she exclaimed.

"Bloody hell! They couldn't a' been. I know that I did it right that last time," you insisted.

"Well, I don't know what you did. But the first one was fine, but the other ones had a core of ice," she told you.

"You sure it wasn't you that had a core of ice and was tryin' to show me you'd accept no mothering from me?" You raised your eyebrow at her.

You swore you baked those cookies right that time. There was no other way you could bloody do it because you tried every other way, and that last one had to be right!

"Huh, like I would turn down cookies from anyone," she scoffed, "You know how long it's been since I've seen a home baked cookie? In case you haven't noticed we're living on cereal. The First could come with a batch and I'd take it. Did you just say you were trying to be my mother or something?"

"No!" you felt your jaw stiffen in frustration, "But it really sounds like you need one taking cookies from The First. I mean, a four-year-old knows not to take candy from strangers."

She was just like her sister, you could be talking to her, pouring out buckets of thoughts and knowledge that you've gained from being alive longer than her and dead even longer than that, and she never got the bloody point!

"Spike?" she demanded, "Do you ever get the point of anything? I was just saying that I didn't spit out your cookies to be mean, and The First isn't a stranger, not really. But, even with all I don't know about it I bet it would never make cookies half baked."

"They couldn't have been half baked!" you insisted.

"What's half baked?" a voice said almost cheerily, "If you two found some magic weed Willow left behind you're going to be in trouble…for not sharing any with me."

"Buffy!" You and Dawn shouted out in a chorus.

"Oh c'mon," she gave a little smile. It had mischief, but it was still sad.

"I know it's not me that's half baked. Though a half-baked Buffy doesn't sound bad right about now. Did you find magic weed?"

"Buffy!" Dawn chided.

You just grinned your ass off because Buffy was happy for a moment, or the brand of happy she seemed to manifest in these times. It was a playful silky humored kind of happy with dry bitter edges. You loved it, actually. You loved her.

"What? I don't get any down time?" she pouted coyly as she ascended from the basement stairs in a flowing white night top with long silk knickers.

An angel. You want to kill the big poof vampire for ruining that word.

"Well, if you do so do I," Dawn said.

"Never mind," she sighed, "It would probably just make us paranoid. With my luck it would be real magic weed and I would turn into a half-baked something. The First could eat me."

"That's the spirit, love," you laughed.

"What's the—Oh," she reddened realizing what she said, "Yeah, I guess it is."

"What?" Dawn asked, "Getting high? Okay now you guys have really lost it. I may have to throw you out and Willow can run everything with that drill sergeant girl. When is Willow coming back, anyway?"

"She's on her way with a bucket full of surprise souvenirs from her trip," Buffy said and her eyes glazed over like she was watching a Greek tragedy unfold that was off in the distance.

"What's wrong, love?" you asked.

"Yeah, Willow's okay, isn't she?" Dawn's face drained, and you were sure if yours could it would too.

Not because you were worried about the witch. She could hold her own and then some. It was just that Dawn was really not ready to lose anyone else, as if anyone is ever really ready. Still you knew she would be losing more people, and there was little you could do about that.

"Huh?" Buffy snapped back into herself and then got that surprised look that they knew something was wrong.

Really the only kind of person that couldn't tell would be blind. She was smiling now. This was a huge flaw she had thinking that she was good at hiding her feelings. David Hasselhoff would be wining an Oscar before her.

"Will's great never better and it was really good she went where she went and did what she did, because not only is she warmed up and confident with her magic, but she's also bringing more help. It's good. Really good. It increases are chances by some-really-big-number-percent," Buffy said.

"Willow left to get warmed up with magic. Well, that's really stupid. She could have just done that here. Where did she go? And what help is she bringing back? Is it more magical artifacts? Did she go to get artifacts, Buffy? I have to call her! She has to describe them to me right away so I can---"

"Ugh!" Buffy groaned and flopped down on the cot on the other side of you.

It was as if she wanted some distance between herself and her sister, and it was almost like she didn't want any distance from you. So close, like the day the chip was making your brain explode.

"There's nothing more to find out about what Will's bringing back, Dawn. Believe me I know more about our little surprise than I ever wanted to. But, it's good, really good. I'm glad to have it. I need all the help I can get," she sighed and seemed to smirk at you.

"You'll like it, I bet," she smirked at you, "You better not like it too much. There's no time for that."

Now all of a sudden she was glowering at you like you had given her an obscene hand gesture or something.

"You're not gonna tell me what it is, are you? It's like some secret Slayer thing you think I can't know about," Dawn said.

"I'm totally going to tell you what it is, just not right now, okay. It's a Slayer thing all right, but there's nothing secret or quiet about it, and you'll probably be disappointed when I tell you what it is, but please, don't be a bitch about it, Dawnie, okay?"

"I'm totally going to be a bitch about it because you're asking me to do stuff and not telling me what it is. I thought you knew I was helping, that I was part of the team, but you just—"

"I DID think you were helping, but now I think you're whining. This is so what I don't need, Dawn," Buffy said.

They both had the fire in them, to fight like sisters, and to love each other and mean it. This couldn't have made you happier, but you had never seen them full on squabble before and it was kind of giving you a headache behind the eyes.

"It's all about you all the time. I forgot that—"

"Balls, niblet!" you grumbled, "The witch is bringing back the other Slayer. Again a child could figure it out with the giant blue's clues Buffy was leaving. She just doesn't want to talk about it. Naturally, Buffy has mixed feelings about it, as she does with people who have hurt her in the past. That's prolly why Red went off in secret and broke the Slayer out of the slammer with magic or something because there doesn't need to be a big sodding Scooby meeting about it where you all talk about your little feelings and people get to vote and whine about it. Buffy needs the other Slayer; Buffy also needs you; she needs all of us, and that's just how it is."

There was silence as Buffy looked at you with that eye popping expression, her misty colored hazel eyes looked like two brilliant works of glass sculpture. Would she ever realize how easy to read she was?

"We can't need Faith," Dawn whined now, "Please tell me we don't need Faith."

Buffy was still silent and looking at you. Perhaps to say something else to Dawn, perhaps because she was still shocked that you had figured it all out. You weren't always positive about everything. You just always new her feelings. Like you knew she needed you, wanted you, believed in you, but she didn't love you. You almost said something poetically stupid about "needing faith," but of course you came to your senses.

"She'll eat everything in the house again. She'll swallow the half-baked cookies whole," Dawn grumbled.

"What cookies?" Buffy asked looking at Dawn, "There were cookies and I missed them!"

"Don't worry," Dawn said, "You didn't miss anything. Spike baked them and most of them were half baked."

"They couldn't have been---"you began.

"Oh, that was what was half baked—cookies. I like half-baked cookies. I like all cookies. Of course, I don't get any cookies," Buffy pouted.

"Where are you going?" she asked looking up at you with big round eyes.

"To get more cookie dough, of course," you sighed.

"The nearest place that's still open is totally out of town," she continued to pout.

"I'll have to hurry up then," you told her putting on your blue shirt.

"Don't bother. Buffy, he doesn't know how to make them. They're all screwed up. Actually, I think our oven may be the thing that's screwed up. I think it cooks unevenly from the last explosion," Dawn said.

"Ah! So, it's not me, it's the bloody oven. You could have told me that you know," you said.

"I'm sure it's you too," she said dryly, not giving you an inch, "I just figured out the oven thing now. So forget it. It's pointless."

"It's not pointless!" Buffy said strongly as she straightened out her back to look at her little sis.

"He can just get chips a' hoy," Dawn said.

"No," Buffy said, "I want baked cookies, hot from the oven. I don't care if they're not perfect. It's nice when someone makes something, puts themselves into it."

"Not when what they make comes out all screwed up and gross," Dawn said.

"Cookies can't be gross," Buffy insisted, "How can a cookie be gross, even if it's not done baking, so what it's cookie dough. I love cookie dough and so do you. Whenever we made cookies you'd practically eat all the dough before we could get it in the oven."

"Yeah, well," Dawn said, "I was a little spaz and it's different when someone tries to make it a cookie and it's not really, kind of pathetic."

"It is NOT pathetic. You get cookie dough and a cookie at the same time, what's wrong with that?" Buffy said.

"Whatever, it's your food poisoning," Dawn said.

"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard! You can't..."

You smiled as you walked out to the bike to knick some more cookie dough. Feeling like there was hope for all yet, maybe even you.