Willow: "And remember, if you hurt her, I will beat you to death with a shovel. A vague disclaimer is nobody's friend."

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters portrayed or mentioned here, they all belong ultimately to Joss Whedon. I do, however, own this particular storyline and the portrayals of the characters //in this story//.

Spoilers: Mild spoilers for all six seasons up until the episode 'Older and Far Away', vague spoilers for most of the sixth season (you need to know the gist of what's going on) and specifically the sixth season episodes 'Gone' and 'Older and Far Away' (though maybe not in this first installment).

Note: The first two 'installments' of this are less than a page long, but the entire story isn't like that. Whenever I was finished with a scene, I just cut it off and started another scene, which is why the lengths vary so much.

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Buffy let out a tremendous yawn, barely covering her mouth in time to be polite. Willow, who had been eating across the table from her, looked up with raised eyebrows. "You know, that's the third time you've given the mega-yawn. You okay?"

Buffy shrugged. "I'm just tired, that's all. Patrol's been really long lately, I guess I haven't been getting enough sleep." She - purposely - neglected to mention that after patrol, she was taking another hour or so to see Spike and let him help her 'unwind'. She really should stop doing that. However, after speaking with Tara ((read 'breakdown')), she'd sat down and done what she should have done at the very beginning of this horrendous mess. She cleared her mind and looked at the situation rationally and impartially. And she realized something. Other than Spike being a selfish bastard, which she'd already known, she'd realized that ((because of Spike)), she'd been making herself much too tense. Now, she didn't love Spike ((please)), but she did need him. He was the only one who hadn't pushed her into acting 'normal' when she was brought back - he'd let her be whoever she wanted, and hadn't crowded her, yet still looked after her. He hadn't judged her when she told him she'd been at peace. He was the only one to really believe her when she said someone was doing something to her ((which they'd later found out was the Trio of Nerds)). He had been there for her when she needed it, and so she had unconsciously begun to depend on him. After . . . that night in the abandoned house, he'd started pushing her more . . . but after thinking on it, she understood that it was because he realized the power he actually did have over her. He hadn't backed down when she'd threatened him because of that, either. He knew as well as she did that she could never hurt him ((aside from the 'love taps' they gave each other nightly)).

"Well, you know . . . couldn't you get Spike to take a patrol every now and then?" Willow asked tentatively - she'd been doing that lately, never really saying anything so much as asking. It was getting on Buffy's nerves, all this walking on eggshells with everyone. Willow didn't want to hurt Buffy's feelings, Buffy didn't want to hurt Willow's feelings, Dawn was throwing a perpetual temper tantrum with both of them, so Willow tried to stay out of Dawn's way, and Buffy was trying to be all sweet and supportive with her while still being the adult. And on top of all the tightrope walks she was doing between all her friends, she was trying to hide what she was doing with Spike, who was being a real bastard about it, always giving vague hints that only she picked up on. It was all accumulating to really get on her nerves.

Right now, she just shrugged again. "I don't know . . . I don't really want to ask for too much from him, what with . . . everything. But I think I will see if he can take it tonight." She saw Willow nod, and picked up her plate of half-eaten lunch and headed to the sink. She closed her eyes for a moment to try and rid herself of her tiredness . . .

"Buffy!" Willow cried, rushing to her friend as she swayed on her feet. Buffy's eyes snapped open and she stared at Willow uncomprehendingly. Willow bit her lip. "You . . . I thought you were gonna faint." Buffy frowned and shook her head. "Why would you think that?"

Willow shrugged and pointed at the floor by Buffy's feet. As she turned to look, Willow said, "You dropped it, then started to sway on your feet." Now, Buffy frowned at the floor. Where her plate of food had fallen and shattered by her feet. "I'm . . . gonna go take a nap. Could you get me up in about an hour? Good," Buffy said, not actually waiting for Willow to agree. She turned and headed for the stairs, not really caring that she'd left Willow to clean up her mess. What the hell was wrong with her?