Disclaimer: Not mine. Not at all.

A/N: And with this story, I break my curse of only writing three stories per series! Go Fox.


No one mentions her birthday. Not in the days leading up and not on the day itself.

January 19th passes uneventfully for the first time in eight years. No one is called for a higher purpose or expelled from school. No one loses their soul or their powers. No one turns into a demon or takes up self-mutilation.

They do what they always do lately.

They train. They research. They put patches on what's broken but can't quite be repaired.

At the end of the day, the Potentials tremble their way through the cemetery and finally fall to the floor in a cheap imitation of a slumber part. Half a dozen girls, and also Andrew, huddled up in sleeping bags and whispering amongst themselves, though the topic of their muted chatter is far from boys and nail polish.

Buffy leaves them there and slips onto the back porch.

They're waiting for her; Xander, Willow, Giles, Dawn, Anya, Spike, and a pink bakery box.

They eat cupcakes in silence. No one sings. No one gives out presents. No one makes any wishes.

"Twenty-two," says Spike, just after the clock finishes its final rotation of the day; when everyone else has turned in for the night and it's just the two of them, sitting on the top step and staring at the night sky. He says it in the appropriate tone of a person marvelling at the young girl of sixteen they'd known having become such a powerful woman.

"Yup," says Buffy. She sits with her elbows on her knees and her head turned away from him, though not in avoidance. "Catching up on you." She does turn then, and gives him a smile.

"Headed in that direction," Spike agrees. He smiles a small smile back at her. "And that was alright for you, then? Wasn't too disappointing?"

"It was perfect."

It was.