Disclaimer: None of these characters are mine

This is my first attempt at this and constructive criticism would be awesome

A kick to the side of the head and a satisfying snap of the neck and Buffy brought the axe down hard.

Another dead demon.

Axe in hand she turned to head home, and then stopped. The Calypto demon had been her big problem for the night and now it was dead, and she really didn't want to go home. Since telling the gang where she'd been it had been awkward and she hated it.

Maybe she would run into Spike and – 'NO!' She thought. That certainly couldn't happen again. If Dean had been there it wouldn't have happened in the first place.

Why wasn't he there?

Buffy shook the thought off. She could only take small doses of pain right now and these thoughts were going to lead to her being a crying mess in this cemetery, so she decided to head home. No matter how she felt she needed to get home to Dawn.

She walked past the old high school without a thought for it. She won a battle. There really wasn't anything else to do. It was win or lose. Although even in winning she tended to lose things.

Angel for one.

But Angel was long gone, a fond memory even. Right now all she wanted to see was Dean. His stupid smug face kept pushing itself to the forefront of her mind.

"Center stage always babe." She could almost hear his snarky comment and see the wink that accompanied it. A tear rolled down her cheek and she wiped it away along with the memory of Dean himself reaching out to wipe it from her eye before it ever fell. Always anticipating her needs.

She noted a movement in the bushes to her left. She moved over and pulled the bushes back to reveal a feeding vampire. Gratefully, she allowed all thought to slip away and gave way to the motions of The Slayer.

Once the vamp was dust she helped the girl to her feet. One look at the bite wound showed that it was already healing. He hadn't been able to take much.

"Go home and eat a cookie or something. You might be light headed tomorrow so don't forget to eat breakfast." The girl opened her mouth to respond, but Buffy cut her off, "You can thank me by not going out with strange guys, alone, at night anymore." Then she turned and walked home. The fight, though brief, had let her mind slip back into numbness.

When she got home she opened the door and walked down the hall to find Dawn dancing around the kitchen and humming. She panicked immediately grabbed her to keep her from burning.

"Dawn! Are you alright? You have to be careful!" she exclaimed as she checked to make sure there weren't any signs of Dawn burning

"Buffy it's okay. This isn't left over from dance-till-you-burn demon guy. It's just me making cleaning the kitchen a bit more fun…. Um Buffy?"


"Teachers are gunna think you're abusing me when they get a look at the bruises on my arms." Buffy quickly let go and rolled up Dawn's sleeve to see that sure enough it was already starting to turn a bluish purple. She just stared at it for a bit, wondering how she was constantly hurting the people who were trying to help her. A look to the kitchen showed Dawn's work had paid off. The sink had been piled with dishes before Buffy left for patrol and the island had been a mess with Dawn's attempt at cooking dinner before Tara stepped in. All of it was almost sparkling now.

"I figured you could use something of a break since….. ya know"

"Thanks Dawn." Buffy answered with a smile that was about ¼ sincere and ¾ forced, which was actually very good for her at the moment. Dawn looked at her with eyes that were already filling with tears (no one seemed to be able to speak to her without almost crying lately, unless you count Anya) she quickly blinked them back. "So did you find Calypto?"

"Yep and got slayee. Also ran into a vamp who got dusty." Buffy trying to slip some of her language in to display normalcy. "It's already 12:30. Don't you have school tomorrow?" Buffy looked at the calendar to make sure it was a week night.

"Yea I was just headed… wanted to make sure you got home and clean the kitchen up… but yea. Night." She said as she headed back to the stairs.

"Night" Buffy called up to her. She then headed to closet to strip off her coat and put it away. Then up the stairs to her own bed. Lying down, her thoughts again wondered to Dean. So unlike any of the other men she had been with. She had loved Angel with everything she had, but she could have done without all the drama and brooding. Even if it was incredibly sexy. She had also love Riley in a way. He didn't have a deep dark past that required sorting through and shutting her out which had been an excellent change of pace. Although he never could accept her being stronger. He had needed someone to protect and take care of; the demon world was like some sort of romantic adventure to him.

Dean didn't hunt for fun, he did it for necessity. He didn't need someone to protect and watching her work had actually been a turn on. Where was he?! She remembered him next to her in this very bed, holding her. It had always felt good to be there. No worries or troubles. Just them holding onto the small part of normal that they had found in the incredibly weird lives they call theirs.

She was beginning to cry now. All of her carefully held numbness was constantly being shattered with thoughts of that man. She couldn't sleep in this bed. That's why when Dawn heard her screaming at 4 in the morning she ran into find her on the floor clutching a pillow. Dawn ran over to try and hold her.

"Buffy it's okay. Oh Buffy I'm so sorry! I'm so so sorry," but Buffy was still sleeping and she clutched at Dawn trying to fit more of herself into Dawn's arms.

"Dean," was all she said and she slowly stopped sobbing. Dawn just held her as tight as she could. Suddenly a shadow blocked the light from the hallway and Dawn looked up to see Willow silhouetted in the door.

"We have to tell her Will. It probably hurts her more thinking that he just won't come."

"It's going to hurt either way Dawnie. We're just trying to let her deal with one thing at a time."

"But she deserves to know. Maybe it'll be better if she is able to deal with everything at once. I mean know it won't be easy but… And you know sooner or later she'll try to call him herself, or Sam will call her! You know he missed just as much as the rest of us. He's as stubborn as his brother and he won't take that 'she needs time to adjust' crap for much longer." Dawn was getting a bit loud now and only realized this when Buffy turned in her arms. Both Dawn and Willow went very still and silent until Buffy began a slight rhythmic snore.

Dawn looked up to see tears streaming down Willow's face, and she couldn't hold her own back any longer. She held out and arm and Willow went to join her on the floor with Buffy.

"I'm so sorry Dawnie. How could we have—Why didn't I think?" After that they sobbed themselves to sleep, holding Buffy between them.

Tara woke up the next morning and instantly moved to snuggle into her Willow, but she wasn't there. She sat up and looked around the room. Still no Willow. She got up and checked the bathroom, not there. She walked out of the room and down the hall, stopping at Buffy's open door to see the three of them, still clinging to one another. She decided to leave them to wake up privately and go make breakfast. She checked the clock in the kitchen to be sure Dawn had to sleep a little longer before needing to get up for school. Still a solid hour.

Buffy assessed her body before she opened her eyes. She was a little sore but well rested in a weird sense. She knew that her dream had been nothing more than a dream so she didn't bother reaching out for Dean. Still she needed to figure out exactly where she was and just who was holding her so she opened her eyes to find out.

Her room, but on the floor and the arms and legs oddly intertwined with hers, Willow and Dawn. She was kind of comfortable, even if the hard floor hadn't been great for her back. This human contact wasn't enough to reawaken her spirit but it did remind her of life before the hell god. She allowed herself to live in that moment, until Dawn stirred then Buffy shot up and out the door to the bathroom.

She didn't want them looking at her in that awkward way, and she certainly didn't want to see the hope in their eyes that maybe last night had made it all better. Like them holding her pulled her out of the numbness. She didn't want to see that hope squashed anymore so she just tried to avoid looking at it. They tended to speak in fragmented sentences around her now, and were never really able to mention where she'd been by name.

No This morning she just didn't want to deal with it. She would like to hold onto the dream she'd been having for just a little longer, even if it was an illusion. That was the first good night's sleep she'd had since… well since before Glory really (if you weren't counting heaven).

Dawn stretched out an arm and was surprised to find that she wasn't in her own bed. It only took her a few seconds to remember having fallen asleep with Willow and Buffy. She sat up to see where they were. Willow was lying down still looking at her through droopy eyelids, and her face still held the signs of someone who had cried until they had fallen asleep. She sat up now and pulled Dawn into a hug.

"We have to tell her Will." She spoke into Willow's hair.

"We're going to. Today alright? As soon as you get home from school." Willow figured Dawn would want to be there just in case there was anything she could do. She figured correct.

"Alright. Is there anything else we can do to make it easier? Some sort of heart healing spell?"

"Well there's—no Dawnie. I think we've all been through that enough. Giles still won't have a full conversation with me. And… and I really hurt Tara."

"Yeah, no I get it. I just can't help but want to do something. Anything."

"I know Dawnie. We all do."