'Birthdays should never be forgotten,' Faith thought as she walked home from Mount Pleasant Cemetery at five a.m. 'They don't have to be as memorable as B's, but they shouldn't just be ignored.'

Faith had been 22 for five hours. She'd worked at the club until 2:30, getting the last of the rowdies out into the night, and then hit three cemeteries on the way home. She'd slayed five vamps, one demon, and made note of an empty crypt with a freshly busted lock. It looked like it was getting a new undead tenant.

"Hell of a way to spend a birthday," Faith muttered aloud.

Despite her weariness and self-pity, she still walked through the moist darkness with a hip-twitching swagger. It would take a lot more than being forgotten to make Faith listless. Her dark eyes caught every glint of light and motion, giving them brilliance, and her lips showed signs of smiling more frequently than frowning, despite her current unhappy pout.

She was still hot, she was still sexy, she was still eye-catchingly vibrant. She was still Faith.

She was also still in Cleveland.

While Buffy, Giles and Xander trained and raised the hordes of little Slayers, and Willow and Kennedy roamed the world looking for interesting magic, and Robin hunted evil demons with a band of intensely violent young women, Faith was comfortably set up in a comfortable apartment in comfortable Cleveland, home of the most boring Hellmouth in history.

Sure there were always demons and vampires to kill, but none of them seemed to have any big plans. None of them were interested in opening the Hellmouth, unleashing fire and doom. None of them had any intention of trying to end the world. Faith had decided the Cleveland demons and vamps was the most unimaginative and lazy bunch of evildoers she'd ever met.

Unfortunately, they still ate people. So, she stayed, trying to get rid of as many bad guys and save as many good guys as she could.

Too much evil to leave unattended, not enough to justify calling for backup. And it was her birthday, and she was alone.

Life sucked.

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Faith kicked off her shoes and pressed the play button on the answering machine. As soon as Butch heard her shoes hit the floor, he jumped off the bed and came running, bouncing joyfully and looking for treats. Faith laughed and got out the Milkbones as Buffy's voice filled the room.

"Hey, Faith. It's Buffy. I, um, I guess you are still out slaying. I just got in and thought I'd give you a call, just to chat. We haven't talked in a while. Anyway, I'll call in a couple of days. See you!"

Faith had to smile at Buffy's cheerful message. The "generalissimo" of the battle with The First was long gone. This Buffy was more confident, more compassionate, more contented. This Buffy was a friend.

Faith made herself a snack and sat down to eat, Butch chewing on his rawhide at her feet. It had been a long road, from angry young slayer unwilling to trust anyone, to reasonably well adjusted woman with friends and a position of trust. Despite all the things that had happened, it was worth it to end up here, safe, comfortable and loved.

Even if her friends had forgotten her birthday.

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It was about two pm when Faith woke up. Butch was whining at her to be let out, and Faith was feeling wide awake, so she dressed quickly, grabbed the leash and headed out to the park to take Butch for a nice long walk.

The park was beautiful. The weather was perfect, and the old trees in the park provided lots of shade. Faith let Butch off his leash to play catch with him. It had taken a few months, but Butch was very well trained now. It helped that he was completely devoted to Faith, and unwilling to get beyond eyesight of her.

Faith washed her hands at the picnic shelter in the centre of the park, then decided it was time to go home. On her way she grabbed a dog from a street vender.

She was still licking mustard off her fingers when she reached her apartment door.

"Surprise! Happy Birthday, Faith!"

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The room was filled with people and decorations. Balloons bounced against the ceiling, and streamers dangled from the corners. Newbie slayers chattered excitedly in groups and cooed over Butch, who was lapping up the attention and performing all his best tricks.

The Scoobies were huddled around Faith, wide smiles on their faces as they watched her surprise change to shy happiness.

"How? When? Huh?"

Faith was practically left speechless by shock, but Buffy and Xander answered her questions anyway.

"As if we would forget your birthday! Willow tracked you with magic while we decorated and brought the food in."

"And can I say thank you for the nice long walk you took today?" Xander said.

"And I called your boss last week to make sure you had tonight off. So you are totally free to enjoy yourself," Buffy said smugly.

"And I convinced Giles to take the Newbies home by 10, so we can hit the clubs after they leave!" Xander finished triumphantly.

Faith just smiled, hugged Buffy and grabbed Xander's hand.

"All right, kids, what are we waiting for? Let's get this party started!"

Happy Birthday, married_n_mich!