Title: "Time Changes Everything"

Summary: This is the response to a fic challenge on the Buffy Cross & Stake General Spoiler Board. (http://www.angelicslayer.com/tbcs/main.html OR http://www.voy.com/14562/) The object is to take your favorite 'ship and turn it on its ear. In no uncertain terms did we have to explain WHY our shippers can't ever really be together, and you can't cop out by saying, "Well, they couldn't be together, because in my story I have Xander die." Nothing dramatic like that. Only real, plausible reasons would be accepted. So here's mine, with my favorite 'ship, Buffy and Angel.

Author: Carrie aka Buffychick

Website: http://www.angelfire.com/mo3/fanfic/SMGMain.html (more fanfic, some wallpapers, etc)

Rating: PG

Timeline: I'm changing the timeline of Angel and Buffy around for my own purposes. Let's assume everything we've seen up to Wrecked on Buffy has happened, but Angel doesn't know about Darla's pregnancy on Angel.

**************

"Tell me the story," the child demanded as she lay nestled in the arms of the woman, rocking steadily in the sturdy chair that had been in the room for as long as she could remember—all of her seven years.

She smiled to herself. Every night it was the same, the child never tired of hearing about her mothers' friends, of her birth…of the fairy tale-like quality of her parents past.

"Again?"

The child nodded and gripped her teddy bear more tightly. "Please?"

She sighed. For not the first time in the child's life did she wish things were different. She wished that the girl couldn't hear this story…that she wasn't growing up in a world full of monsters and demons…that she hadn't seen all that she'd seen in her short seven years…that she wasn't aware of the dangers that lived around her. But it wasn't so. Erin knew full well of the evils that lurked in the dark; of the trouble that her parents, even to this day, still faced. She had been in danger more often than her parents liked, and because of that the seven-year-old had an odd maturity about her.

And so, she began the tale.

"Once upon a time there was a beautiful warrior. She was the Slayer, the girl who stopped all the monsters and the bad guys from hurting people."

"Like the monster that lives in my closet," the child interrupted, on schedule.

She smiled to herself again, grateful that even with all the growing up the child had to do, she still found time to have a typical seven-year-old imagination. Although…a monster living in her closet wasn't too far-fetched…but she'd investigate that later.

"Yes, just like that one," came the automatic response. The story continued. "The Slayer became friends with two wonderful people; a girl who grew up to be a powerful witch, and a boy with a heart of gold. They were the closest of friends, sharing all their experiences. Eventually they all began to stop the monsters together."

"But some of the monsters weren't bad monsters, right mama?"

"Right. Some of the monsters were actually good. There was a special vampire who had a soul, and he would never hurt anyone…not all monsters are bad, that's important to remember, Erin," she reminded. "In fact, the vampire with a soul wasn't the only good vampire to ever exist."

The child nodded solemnly.

"So they began to stop the monsters together. They went to school during the day and became friends with the librarian, who, as it turned out, was the Slayer's Watcher. A Watcher helps look after the Slayer and make sure she knows how to do her job and that she never gets hurt."

"Like daddy watches over me," the child decided.

She smiled at the child's words, "Just like that. Anyway…one day the Slayer met this vampire with a soul…and it was like a fairy-tale. He was a vampire, she was the Slayer, but they fell madly in love and they fought the monsters together. For a long time things were wonderful for them…but then some things started to go wrong."

"What things?" Erin asked, though she knew this story as well as the teller.

"Well, vampires live forever, unless they get staked or killed in some other way. And the Slayer wasn't a vampire, so she wouldn't live forever."

"And it would make the vampire sad to see her grow up and die," Erin said earnestly.

"That's right. And they couldn't have babies."

"And the vampire wanted the Slayer to have babies."

"Yes, among other things. So he left. They had a big battle, where they stopped a giant slimy snake, and after that was over the vampire moved to another city."

"Los Angeles."

"That's right. And there he made new friends, a new family, and started over."

"Without the Slayer," Erin added. The storyteller was silent for a moment and the child shifted to look up at her. "Right?" she asked, tugging on her sleeve.

"Sorry, baby…where was I? Oh yeah…so the vampire moved to another city and they started their lives all over again, without each other. And they were both sad, for a long time, but eventually they moved on and were able to be happy again."

"…and then the bad thing happened," This was the child's favorite part of the story.

"Then, a few years later, the Slayer and the whole gang were up against something new, a god. The god's name was Glory, and she did something bad. She opened a door to another world and let all this bad stuff in. And the only way the Slayer could close that door again was to jump inside it. So she did, but it made her go away."

"She died," the child corrected with disdain.

The rocking stopped for a brief moment. "Yes, she did," the words came out painfully, even now, years later.

"But she came back," the child said pragmatically.

The rocking started again. "Yes, she did. She came back, and she was the Slayer again, but she was sadder than before."

***

"This is ridiculous. Why can't we just use the phone, Angel?" Cordelia cried as she watched the vampire shoving random clothes inside a leather travel bag.

His eyes snapped up to meet hers and she saw the reason in them. The fear. "I won't let her die again, not if I can help it," he snarled.

Cordelia's vision had been a mere half an hour earlier; the vision that showed her that the Slayer was in trouble and that led her to believe death was a strong possibility for the little blond. Against her better judgment she'd informed Angel of the situation, and watched as he'd predictably raced around to get back to Sunnydale.

"If you're coming with me, let's go," he told her, pushing past his pretty co-worker to walk to the elevator that would take him to the lobby of his hotel.

"Me?" she squeaked. "Go back to Sunnydale?" It wasn't something Cordelia Chase had ever really considered. "I guess…I could, if you need me."

Angel glanced at her impatiently. "Whatever, Cordelia. I just have to leave. I don't know how much time I have."

His tone was panicked and that alone forced Cordelia to make up her mind. "Of course I'll go," she said, laying a gentle hand on his arm. "We all will."

The doors opened a moment later and the two stepped out, greeted by Gunn, Wesley and Fred. "When do we leave?" Gunn asked them.

Angel didn't question him as his eyes met equally brown ones. "Now. You ready?"

Gunn nodded.

"Angel…I can accompany if you wish…but perhaps it would be best if…" Wesley began.

"No, stay. You and Fred. Watch the hotel. God knows what Wolfram and Hart are up to. It's better if you stay."

Wesley and Fred both nodded and watched as the vampire and his companions breezed out of the hotel.

***

"You tell me, Willy. What's going on? Lots of new vamp activity going on, coupla new demons in the past few days…seems like an awful lot of hub-bub."

Willy backed up to the wall. "I don't know, Slayer, really. Honest. No new business in here, not in weeks."

Xander cocked an eyebrow at him. "You know lying just pisses her off."

He gulped. "I swear! I don't know nothin'!"

Buffy sighed and let him go, trying to convince herself that pushing Willy around would cheer herself up. "Fine. Whatever. You don't want to tell me…" she whirled around before he had a chance to move and buried her fist in the wall, two inches from his head.

Willy almost fainted. "Ok! Ok! I heard this the other day, didn't think nothin' of it, might be something, might not. Some powerful merlin's all holed up on the south side of town, near Eternal Rest Cemetery. Next to that old clothing warehouse. Hear he's been looking to work some serious mojo on the Hellmouth. That's all I know, I swear!"

Buffy glared at him hard for a few seconds before spinning on her heel and exiting the bar, Xander at her side.

***

"So…round up the troops, grab us some merry weapons and head out?" Xander chattered as he and Buffy walked through the streets of Sunnydale.

Buffy shook her head. "Nope. Got all I need," she said, revealing a large silver sword that she carried beneath her long coat.

Xander glanced at her. "Buffy, seriously. That's not a good idea. You need back up. We need more weapons. I need more weapons. Let's go back to your house, get Willow, grab…"

"Grab who?" Buffy snapped impatiently. "Tara? She's not around anymore, remember? Giles? Gone. That leaves us with…who?"

Xander watched his friend carefully. "Spike?" he suggested. "I know, I know, not my first choice either, but come on! You can't do this alone."

Buffy leveled her eyes with his. "You're wrong. Now go home. I can handle this."

"Buffy, it's suicide. You don't know what's in there…and Willy said this guy's a wizard for the love of Pete."

"Xander, I don't do this, someone's going to die. You know what this is. It's bad. It's always bad. No one ever just shows up in this town for no reason. No one ever just moves here because they like the climate. If there's a new wiz in town, it's because they're evil. I'm the Slayer. I have to go."

Xander grabbed her arm as she stomped up the street. "Buffy, if you go, what if you're the one who dies?" he asked her sincerely.

Buffy looked into his eyes and then he knew. "You don't care…" he whispered.

"What? Of course I care."

"No, no you don't," he said slowly, realization coming over him. "You don't care if you die. That's why you want to go…that's what's up with the risk taking and the seeking out danger. You're not doing your job, you're hoping some demon does their job on you."

"You're wrong," she hissed and shrugged his arm off, starting up the street again.

"No, I'm not," he insisted and took her arm again.

This time she whirled on him. "Let me go!" she shouted. "Stay here, or run home to Anya, I don't care. But leave me alone! I have to go do this!"

Xander watched as she ran up the street and disappeared into the dark.

***

Willow opened the door to find Cordelia, Angel and Gunn on the other side. "Oh. Oh! Hi! What are you guys doing here?" she asked, moving to let them inside.

Angel walked in, grateful at not needing an invitation for once. "Cordelia had a vision. Is Buffy here?"

Willow glanced from one to the other. "No…she left earlier to go beat up Willy the Snitch, I haven't seen her since."

"How long ago?" Angel asked gruffly.

"Maybe an hour or so…Xander went with her."

"Xander's right here," he said, walking in behind the three newcomers. "I've been ditched by a kamikaze-Slayer."

"What?" Willow asked.

"You guys showed up just in time. She's out of her mind…going off to face some wizard on her own. Practically forbid me to go with her, much less gather reinforcements." He looked around. "And hi, I might add."

"Xander, this is Gunn. He works with us," Cordelia explained.

The two men nodded at each other.

"Where's Dawn?" Angel asked.

Willow glanced up the stairs. "In her room, homework."

"Is she okay here for a few hours?"

Willow hesitated and Anya spoke up. "I can stay, if you want. Keep an eye on her."

Willow grabbed her coat. "I'm coming too."

"Then let's go."

They walked out the door and climbed into Angel's car. "There's something you need to know, before we do this, something you're probably not going to like," Xander told them hesitantly. "Buffy, uh, she's having some life issues right now. You know how we thought she'd adjust to coming back from the dead? Well, she hasn't. She all but told me tonight that she doesn't care if she lives or dies. And I think she's tipping the scales a little, on the side of death."

"What? Why?" Cordelia asked as they sped along.

Willow and Xander exchanged glances. "Buffy…she wasn't in Hell, like we thought. We pulled her out of Heaven when we cast that spell to bring her back," the witch whispered, shamefully.

The entire car was silent. "Oh," Cordelia murmured moments later.

"We didn't know," Xander muttered. "We had no idea. We thought we were saving her from Hell."

"You couldn't have known," Cordelia said, sympathetically.

"But I guess she's taking it a bit hard, huh?" Gunn asked. "I probably would too."

Angel's grip on the steering wheel tightened. He would deal with this piece of information later.

***

Buffy was in full battle mode when the five of them arrived. The wizard was actually doing very little to stop her advance, preferring to sit back and watch her fight his minions.

"Damn," Gunn muttered, getting his first eye-full of the capability of the little Slayer.

"Doesn't look like she's trying to get dead to me," Cordelia commented and Buffy cleanly delved her sword through two minions at a time.

Suddenly the wizard's patience snapped when the Slayer began getting the better of them. He raised an arm and all battle stopped. The room became silent. He twitched a finger and Buffy rose off the ground and began floating towards him. When she reached the wizard, her eyes now level with his, he smiled wickedly and began to contract his fingers into a fist. As he did, Buffy's throat tightened. She hung, suspended in the air, arms hanging limply at her side, gasping for breath as the wizard worked to constrict her airway. She did nothing to stop him.

"No!" Xander shouted, running into the room. The demons, subdued by the wizard, instantly jumped to life and the battle began again.

Angel headed directly for Buffy calling to Willow to work a spell. She glanced worriedly at Xander, afraid to start using magic again. "Oh, the hell with it. This is important," she muttered to herself. "Desiste!" she called, waving an arm and sending the right half of the demons flying against the warehouse walls. Repeating the action she cleared the left half, allowing the Scoobies to barrel straight down the center of the room, right for Buffy and the wizard.

With a rebel yell Angel went flying for them, sword at the ready, when the wizard flicked a finger and Angel's jacket caught on fire. The vampire shouted and struggled to free himself of the flaming leather as Gunn grabbed an abandoned ax off the floor and ran at the wizard. Instead he found himself levitated off the ground, rising higher and higher until he came to set down on the support beams, one hundred feet off the ground.

Willow grabbed Cordelia's hand. "Those vision things have to give you some sort of magic boost," she muttered and snapped her eyes in the direction of Buffy. Magic soared through their veins and the wizards' grip on the Slayer loosened. Angel roared and dove at her legs, pulling Buffy down to safety, rolling to protect her. The wizard hissed and shot electric charges from his fingertips, narrowly missing the tumbling couple.

"Mezari, chempute, sisatay, verdum!" Willow shouted, her eyes going black. The wizard laughed at her for a brief moment before his eyes went wide. His body began to swirl around and around, tornado-like. Willow opened the locket that hung around her neck and held it before her. Suddenly the wizard shouted and his body was sucked across the room and plunged into the locket. The minions scampered.

"I can't believe that worked," Willow gasped, closing the locket quickly and fastening it around her neck again. She rushed to where Buffy and Angel lay entangled on the ground.

"Buffy, are you okay?" she asked her best friend.

Buffy looked up at her, then at Angel, and finally into the eyes of everyone who now stood around her, and said nothing. Rising to her feet she didn't even bother to dust herself off before walking out of the warehouse.

The Scoobies and the LA Gang exchanged worried glances.

"Uh, a little help up here?" came Gunn's voice from above.

***

"Are you going to stay out there all night?" the Slayer snapped impatiently, crossing to her window where Angel sat.

"You knew I was here, huh?" he asked, stepping into her room.

"What do you want?"

He glanced at her, at her sharp tone. "I wanted to know you were okay. You left the warehouse without even a word."

"Yeah, well, thanks for rushing down here to help me out. I appreciate it. You saved my life. Thanks," she bit out at him, angrily picking up clothing that was strewn around on the floor.

"And you're unhappy with me," he guessed, watching her carefully.

"I'm dancing inside," she countered.

"Buffy…stop," he ordered gently, taking her arm. "Talk to me. What's going on? When we met…right after you came back…you weren't this bad."

"Oh no…I was this bad. I was just still trying to pretend, to play it off. But I was this bad. You just didn't notice," she snapped.

"Tell me what I can do," he said softly.

"What you can do?!" she hissed. "You think you can come in here and *poof* just make everything better? How? How can you make things better?"

"I don't—I don't know…I could stick around a bit, if you want," he stammered.

"Oh yeah!" she laughed. "That'll do it! You'll stick around, just long enough for me to get used to you being here again, then you'll take off. Leave me. Again."

His temper started to boil. "You want to fight about this again, Buffy? Are you looking for another fight? 'Cause let me tell you. This one, about you and me? It's going to end the same way it always does."

"With you leaving," she snarled.

He whirled around running fingers through his hair. Taking a few calming breaths he turned to face her again. "I didn't come here to fight with you. Cordelia had a vision. She said you were going to die."

"Wouldn't that have been handy to know seven months ago."

Guilt itched at the back of his mind, but he plunged ahead. "I didn't want to see you get hurt, so I came." He leaned back against her dresser. "Why don't you tell me when you quit caring? When you quit trying?"

Buffy eyed him uneasily for a moment before crossing to her bed and sitting against the headboard, pulling her legs up underneath her. Angel followed suit and sat on the far end of her bed.

"Fine," she said, but with far less feeling than her heated comments a few moments earlier, "We'll share. Willow and my friends decided to bring me back from the dead, adding just one more thing to the list of life choices that Buffy has no control over. I didn't choose to be the Slayer. I didn't choose for you to leave. I didn't choose to have Dawn become my magic-Key sister. But I chose to die." Her words from the alley-talk with Spike came back to her. "I was finished."

He said nothing for a moment, knowing that everything she said was true. It was terribly unfair to her that she had been pulled from whatever heavenly dimension she had been at rest in. To be thrust back into this world, even from Hell, was traumatic, he knew. And he could perfectly understand the desire to end it all, to die, to have it over and done with.

"You told me once," he began quietly, "when I was ready to end it all, that strong is fighting. It's hard and it's painful and it's every day. You have to fight, Buffy. I know that what's been done to you is a horrible thing. It's unjust and against the laws of man. But we live above the laws of man. We've been appointed to these ranks by higher powers. Did it ever occur to you that the reason Willow and Xander and the others were even allowed access to you, wherever you where, was because you weren't supposed to die? Because you're needed here?"

Buffy's eyes met his. "Why then? Why would they have given me such a wonderful place to be at rest in? Why not make it hell-like so that I wanted to leave it? So that I was grateful when I was returned here?"

He sighed. "I don't know. Maybe to make you stronger. Maybe they figured that small amount of rest was enough."

"So that was supposed to be the heavenly equivalent of a nap?" she snapped. "I don't buy that."

He sighed again and reached out for her hand. "I don't know, Buffy. I don't know. I wish I had the answers for you. I won't tell you to just 'get over it,' because I know it will take more than that. But there's a reason I was brought back here. And I believe in my heart that there's a reason that you've been brought back."

Buffy stared at him for a moment before drawing her hand away from his. She stood up and walked around to sit next to him. "I'm sorry," she said after a moment. "I shouldn't have treated you that way."

"It's okay, you're having a rough time."

"It's more than rough, but that's no excuse. You were only trying to help. I seem to be good at yelling at you when you're just trying to help," she said, a smile playing on her lips.

He smiled gently. "Tell me what's going on now…what are you doing?"

She ignored him. "Can I ask you a question?"

"Sure," he said, a bit surprised.

"At my mom's funeral…after. Why did you kiss me?"

He looked away, then dead into her eyes. "Because I wanted to."

"But why?" she pleaded.

"Because…because you looked so beautiful, and so lost…and we were in a cemetery and it was night, and it was like it used to be. And I wanted to," he said honestly. "Why?"

She looked up at him nervously. "I always wondered. And then I wondered why we stopped," she whispered huskily.

Angel began to get nervous. Taking an unnecessary breath he swallowed hard. "What?"

Leaning in Buffy pressed her lips to his, snaking a hand up his arm and around the back of his neck, pulling him closer.

Angel lost himself in the feel of her, her warmth and her familiar scent, but only for a moment before he forced himself to pull back. "Buffy, what are you doing?"

"Making a choice," she said, then cursed herself for saying the same words to him that she had once uttered to Parker. "Don't you want to kiss me?" she pouted.

Angel watched her, unsure. "I—yes. I do. But, Buffy. We can't. We can't do this. It will just stir up everything all over again. We've got different lives now. I've been gone for almost three years."

"Are you…what are you saying, Angel?" she gently demanded. "We can't even have one night?"

"Buffy, I—I care about you, I do. But I don't think that's what this is about right now. You're…you're hurting. And you're reaching out in the wrong way," he told her, pushing her back and rising off the bed.

She remained where she was. "What do you mean?" though she knew full well.

"You know what I'm saying, Buffy. We can't do this. We can't just waltz back into each others lives."

She let him talk.

"Things are different for both of us. You've got Dawn to look after, and your friends. Willow's getting more and more powerful every time I see her. Giles is gone now, so you're probably a little lonely. And your mom…" he trailed off then steamed ahead. "Things are confusing right now, so it's natural to reach out to something familiar, something that can make you feel, feel anything, even for just a moment."

Darla, his mind screamed.

Spike, hers shouted.

She looked so hurt that he instinctively moved to her. "I will always love you, a part of me will always be with you, you know that. But…"

"It's been forever and nothing's changed and parts of us have moved away from each other," she summed up quietly.

It was what he hadn't wanted to say, to even admit to himself, but he knew it was true. He nodded. "I will always love you, Buffy. And I will always want to know that you're safe, and if I can help keep you that way, you know I'll be at your side. But things are even more different between us now than they were when I first moved. My business has expanded. I work with more than just Cordelia and Wesley now. People, they depend on me. I've got a little family that I care about…they need me. And I need them. And you! You have things here that don't involve me anymore."

Buffy toyed with her hands. "And, at the same time, things are the same," she sighed. "Even if we could work through all the differences…it's the same old story, Slayer and vampire, bound for doom and gloom. Plus…some of those feelings aren't there anymore, are they?"

He watched her carefully for a moment, then shook his head. "I'm sorry…if it helps, this is hurting me all over again."

"Like if you didn't say it out loud it wasn't real?" she asked.

"Exactly like that. In all my life, I've had one person to love…I don't want to be over you, Buffy. And I'll always cherish what we had."

"But it doesn't work with us," she summed up. "And if it helps, I don't want to be over you, either…but I think parts of me are…I'm sorry."

He chuckled. "Don't be. It's what I wanted for you."

"Do you ever think about what you want for yourself, Angel?"

Humanity…love…children…

He shook his head. "I've got too many other things going on."

She took his hand and squeezed it. "Maybe just once in a while you should try, okay?"

He smiled and squeezed her hand back.

"Want to go watch ER with me? It's an ER/The Practice crossover," she asked, rising and offering him her hand.

He took it and stood up. "Really? Aren't they on two different networks? I wonder how they pull that off," he mused as they headed down the stairs to the living room.

***

"So that's it? Just like that?" Cordelia asked suspiciously. She, Angel and Fred were sitting outside on the terrace of the Hyperion later the next night.

Angel nodded. "Just like that. I guess…I guess once it all set in, that she died, but now she's back, and she's okay…I finally let myself think that I could be at peace with it all."

"So you're over her."

He was thoughtful for a moment, then nodded. "I am. I never thought I would be."

"Me either," she muttered.

"But," he said, glaring at her, "I guess time really does heal."

"What about the prophecy?" the seer asked.

"What about it?"

"When you become human, someday…don't tell me you've never though that you and Buffy might still be able to make it work when that day comes around," she asked haughtily, crossing her legs.

"You know I did, I won't lie about that. But…are you still in love with Xander?"

Cordelia smirked. "What? Hardly."

"Who's Xander?" Fred asked timidly.

"No one," Cordy glared.

"But you still care about him…as a friend," Angel countered. "Or take Wesley, for that matter."

"What about Wesley?" Fred piped up again.

"Really, really nothing," Cordy huffed. "And yeah, I guess I still care about Xander, and you know I care about Wesley."

"It's a little like that," Angel said, rising up and walking inside the hotel.

Cordelia nodded thoughtfully.

"I don't get it," Fred said.

"Get what?"

"Why they can't be together, other than, of course, the obvious reasons like him being a vampire and her being this Slayer person and the fact that I just can't see him going for blonde, but that's really not the point now is it? I mean, I always pictured him more as a brunette-guy, but to each his own I always say! And besides, it's really not the physical stuff that attracts people, it's more of a metaphysical connection that is described quite well in Palmer's Theory of--" Fred yammered merrily.

"Fred," Cordelia interrupted. "It's…complicated. And long." Fred looked at Cordelia expectantly and the seer realized that she wasn't going anywhere. "…and you want to hear the entire thing anyway. Ok! So…once upon a time…" Cordelia delved into the story.

***

"…and so the vampire left her again, but this time it didn't hurt as much. Eventually they became friends, and sometimes even worked together again," the storyteller said, gently rocking the child in the chair. "And do you know what happens next?" No response. "Erin?" The child was sleeping.

Smiling to herself she continued the story anyway. "Years in the future, the group of friends were still in their separate cities, fighting the good fight. The Slayer was more powerful than ever, the vampire with a soul was more dedicated than he'd ever been. The Scoobies were better, stronger fighters. And then, in the middle of everything, the Slayer fell in love. She and her handsome mate were married and eager to start a family. Of course, on the Hellmouth, nothing goes as planned and she was kidnapped by a demon overlord when she was almost nine-months pregnant with her first child. It took the work of everyone, the Sunnydale gang and the LA gang combined, to rescue her…and then it was too late. She ended up giving birth to a beautiful baby girl right in the caves she was being held in. It was painful, but it was perfect at the same time…she was surrounded by her family, all those that she loved, including her most favorite, gorgeous Aunt Dawn."

"And that beautiful baby girl, with the incredibly vain Aunt, will grow up to be someone special…or so the prophecy goes," a voice came from the doorway.

She looked up and smiled, raising a finger to her lips to indicate that the child was sleeping. "The daughter of the Slayer, and niece of the Key I might add, shall come to rule the world with the son of the Souled One at her side."

"Do you think I'd have my daughter grow up to be something ordinary?" Buffy teased, stepping into the dimly lit room and smoothing a hand over the child's hair.

Dawn smiled. "With Giles coming back to train her? And you and Angel helping them both out? I think they'll be fine."

Buffy gazed down at the sleeping form of her perfect child and gently ran a hand over her brow. Bending down she planted a light kiss on her forehead. "I'm so lucky to have her," she whispered.

Dawn nodded. "She's lucky to have you."

Buffy smiled. "You got this? I can…she is my daughter, you know."

Dawn grinned. "Let me. Key's can't have kids…I want to enjoy all I can with yours."

Buffy nodded and walked to the doorway, glancing back one more time to watch Dawn lift Erin and place her in her tiny twin bed. "Love you Dawnie," she whispered.

Dawn looked up and smiled at her sister. "Love you too, Buff."