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Things To Do In Colorado Springs When You're Bored

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This story is No. 1 in the series "Things To Do In Colorado Springs When You're Bored". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: Riley and Graham are with the SGC. When they need help, who do they call? Of course, Buffy and the others have their own agenda and secrets...

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Stargate > GeneralbecuzitswrongFR1825104,854102638297,4209 Sep 078 May 10No

Chapter Eighteen

Author's Note: I changed Chapter Seventeen as a result of reviews by cmdruhura and others. The things each of you said about the SGC not having a test in place for the allergens from P3X-4991 make sense. Thanks for the feedback. Thanks to my beta, Ponder, for her suggestions on how to fix things. I recommend you go back and reread Chapter 17 before reading this chapter so that it makes sense. Now, onto the story...



Colorado Springs, CO...

Dawn stood in the doorway watching Buffy. After a moment, Buffy turned from folding clothes and asked, “What?”

Disconcerted, Dawn didn't speak for a moment. Finally, she said, “Just figured I would check to see if you needed anything. So do you? Need anything, I mean?”

Buffy sighed in exasperation. “No, Dawn, I don't need anything. I didn't need anything the first thirty times you or one of the other girls stopped by and I don't need anything now.”

“Sheesh, you don't have to be a bitch, you know? We're just... concerned.”

Buffy sighed again. “Come on in, Dawn, and shut the door.” She waited as Dawn complied. Buffy patted the space next to her where she'd cleared a space for Dawn to sit. A moment later, Dawn was seated next to her.

“Look, Dawn, I get that all of you were worried. I was worried about you as well. But you don't see me going around and...”

“Stop it. It's different. You know it's different. The others are just Slayers. And I'm... just the Slayer's kid sister. But you're... more.” The last word was said in a whisper almost too faint for even Buffy's ears to hear.

Wearily, Buffy stared at her sister. That was the issue in a nutshell. Without even saying anything else, Dawn had made her point. Because Buffy was more. More than a sister. More than a Slayer. Buffy was their hope for victory. Even Willow with her powerful magic didn't engender the same kind of faith and hope that Buffy did. That scared Buffy more that she could express. Because if she died, and all Slayers die eventually, who would lead the war against the Powers?

Buffy tried to reason with Dawn. “Dawn...”

“I said stop it. What are we going to do if you die? Everyone's waiting for the other shoe to drop. We all know it's just a matter of time until they hit us. When they do, we need you to be there.”

“Illyria...”

“Isn't you. You, Lyri, and Willow are our big guns. But none of the Slayers believe in Willow or Lyri, not like they do you. You're their hope. My hope. I don't see how we can win without you.” For a moment a sparkle of mischief touched the brown eyes of her sister. “Of course, truth be told, I don't see how we can win even with you, but then I'm not a Slayer.”

The two girls sat in silence for a moment. Buffy's thoughts ran the gamut from love for her sister to resentment towards her for putting so much upon Buffy's shoulders. But then, where else could Dawn put it? As she had said, Buffy was their big gun. It made Buffy appreciate how much of a burden she'd once put on Willow with those exact words.

“Do you really think we have a chance against them? I mean, they are the Powers That Be. They're gods...”

“They're not gods!” Buffy's vehement denial surprised both girls. Then Buffy nodded. Staring into Dawn's shocked eyes, Buffy said, “They are not gods. They're powerful, but a lot of beings are powerful. They can't force us to their bidding. They can ask us. They can threaten us. They can try to find those who'll kill us if we don't. But they can't force us. They aren't that powerful.”

“But they can do other things, can't they?” Dawn's worried eyes looked into Buffy's.

“Dawn, you know what they're capable of. I'm as surprised as you are that they haven't moved yet. They could have opened a doorway into one of the nastier Hell dimensions anytime and released who knows how many powerful demons before Willow could shut it. That would pretty much take care of the problem we pose. I don't think all of the Slayers working together could take on a huge army like that and not take casualties, a lot of casualties. But they haven't. I think they're waiting.”

“For what?”

“I think they're trying to figure out a way to separate the Slayers from me.”

“But that's insane! They can't touch the spell. You and Willow both said that. They have no power over the spell to call the Slayers.”

Buffy frowned. “No, we didn't say that. What we said was that they couldn't reverse the spell. And they can't. It would take a true God to somehow reserve that spell. Too much death and sacrifice went into it. That's why I won't let Willow touch it again. She could die so easily if she made even the slightest mistake. Even if she didn't, it could burn her out like candle. I won't risk that.”

“Then what are they going to try to do?”

“They may try to make their own potentials. Tap them into the spell that way, empower them, and use them to battle us.”

“Can they do that?”

“Make their own potentials? Sure, they just have to alter a few humans, probably using some type of sacrificial magic. Can they turn them against me? I don't know. I don't see how, but that's what Yvonda saw before she went catatonic. Her visions were always pretty accurate. There's only one scenario that seems even remotely possible...”

Dawn's voice was a whisper, “What?”

“They could be trying to create their own Slayer Prime. If they could figure out a way to replicate me, it would tear the girls apart to choose between us. They...”

Dawn's eyes flashed. “No one would choose against you. You've died for them. They know that. They wouldn't choose some other person over you. They...”

“Wouldn't have a choice. Dawn, you can't afford to be naïve about this. To pretend to not understand the relationship I have with the other Slayers. Except for Faith, they are for all intents and purposes, my slaves. But it's worse than that, they don't have free will. That goddamn spell Will cast took that away from them. They can't help but do what I want. It scares me so much I have nightmares about it more and more...”

“Buffy, you wouldn't do anything bad to them. I mean, you're a good person. You died to save my life. You couldn't even kill Ben. You...”

“Brainwashed Autumn. Took away her free will in the cause of expediency. Because we needed to work with the SGC and its teams. And Autumn was endangering that. I...”

“Fuck that, Buffy.”

Buffy looked up in shock at Dawn's angry exclamation. She started to speak and stopped when Dawn held up a finger. She couldn't remember the last time she'd seen Dawn so angry. Not even when Buffy had put blue dye in her body wash when Dawn was ten had she been that angry. Buffy waited for Dawn to say what was on her mind.

“YOU always try to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Every motherfucking thing that happens is your fault. A kid dies in China and it's Buffy's fault. THIS. ISN'T. YOUR. FAULT. Everyone did what they did to save the world. To save six billion lives. The First would have destroyed the entire world. Wait, I'm not finished.”

Buffy shut her mouth.

“The thing with Autumn. She changed. I know she did. But the thing is, you weren't doing it for expediency's sake. I know how much you care about her, about all of them. You love each and everyone of them, like they're family. Which, I guess, they are. Autumn...”

“Dawn, I changed her against her will! Dammit, I raped her mind!” There, it was said. It's what Buffy had been thinking the entire time. She should never have given in to the desire to change Autumn. Even if she had to beat the crap out of her a hundred times, it should still have been Autumn's decision to change, not Buffy's. By doing what she had done, Buffy had taken that decision away from her. It was evil, and no whitewashing from Dawn would change it.

“Maybe you did.” Dawn's eyes were hard as she stared at her sister. “Maybe you shouldn't do it again. That's up to you and your conscience. But I know this: Autumn's at peace for the first time since I've known her. Besides, if you think you changed her that much, you're a fool. She was all over this guy at Shamrock's the same night we got back from the Mountain. But she wasn't being a bitch about it. She wasn't being mean. She wasn't doing it because she thought she wasn't worth being loved or because she secretly hated him. So fuck it. I can't tell you what you did was right or wrong. I can only say this: Don't ignore your abilities. Don't lock them away in some little corner of your mind because you're afraid of them. We depend on them. On you. So, think three times before you do it again. Talk to me. Talk to Giles or Willow or Xander. We're your family and we're there to help you if you need it. 'kay?”

Buffy's brushed tears from her face. Silently, she gather her sister into a hug, careful not to squeeze too hard. “Okay. Thanks, Dawn. I...”

“Don't thank me. That's what little sisters are for. To provide direction when their big sister gets her head too far up her...”

Buffy stuck out her tongue. “Brat.”

“Bitch.”

“Smurf.”

Dawn looked shocked. “How dare you refer back to that... incident.”

Buffy casually stroked Dawn's hair back from her face. “Because you were cute as a Smurf, all blue and bouncy. Besides, you got me back.”

Dawn's expression was dark. “Yeah, but that was just a dress.”

Buffy's eyes narrowed. “A dress I had spent six months' allowance on. Which you destroyed...”

“You could have worn it. All I did was ventilate it for you. I'm sure the boys wouldn't have minded. Besides, even ventilated, it wasn't much worse than some of the outfits you wore later.”

“Yes, it was. It was worse than the dress that Mom wouldn't buy me at the mall that time.”

“Really? When was this?”

Buffy sighed. “Junior year. When those vampire Gorch Brothers were after me. As far as the dress, Mom said it made me look like a streetwalker.”

“But I bet it made you look thin.”

“That's what I said! But she wasn't buying it. Then I had to forget to pick up her outfit from Mom-R-Us.”

“Oh, right, now I remember. She was pissed.”

“She shouldn't have been. I was actually helping her.”

“Yeah, right.”

Both girls sat in silence. After a few minutes, Dawn brought up the other thing that was on her mind. With a studied casualness, she asked, “Have you heard from Riley or Graham since the itching wore off?”

“No. They're still in isolation until tomorrow. Dr... Janet said the itching has pretty much run its course, but she wanted to keep them in isolation a little longer before bringing them out. I think it was more to do with worry about reinfecting us, than anything else. Which doesn't make sense. Can you be re-infected by pollen?”

“Probably not. So they're both okay?”

“Of course. They have the constitutions of... well something with a strong constitution. As soon as they're out, we have a debriefing set up. Which I am not happy about. I have to see Colonel O'Neill as well.”

“What's wrong with Jack? He saved your lives.”

“Saved our lives? He shot me, Dawn. And most of the other girls.”

“So? It was for your own good. It wasn't as if I could do anything to stop you from peeling your skin off. Believe me, I tried. That Zat gun was great.”

“Dawn?”

“Yes?”

“He shot me five times and didn't knock me out. You're right about the other girls. He probably saved them a lot of pain and healing time. But he only shot them three times. He shot me five times. And it didn't work. Besides, it was his fault the planet was discovered to begin with. So I hold him completely responsible.”

“Well, he did drag you out of that patch of blue grass. And he did carry you all the way back to the gate himself which caused his knee to go out. And you did break three of his ribs as a thank you. And he's been itching like hell for the past week and a half. I think you should cut him some slack.”

Somehow, Buffy kept herself from muttering. It was hard, but as Slayer Prime, she had to stay under control. Buffy stared at her hands, thinking.

“Buffy, why are we here if the threat from the Powers is so dangerous?” Dawn met Buffy's eyes as she looked up. “I mean, I get that there's some kind of threat from space. But we're the anti-demon forces. So why here? Why now?”

Buffy was at a loss. She had only discussed this with her innermost council, aka Xander, Willow, and Giles. She knew she shouldn't tell Dawn. They all had agreed to secrecy. But looking at her sister's face, Buffy couldn't keep it in. She knew that Dawn wouldn't blab it about. She knew how to keep secrets. Probably better than Buffy.

“One of the things we found out about when we were researching the SGC was about a group called the Ancients. Willow hacked their mission reports and found them. I was going to tell them no. It didn't matter what Giles or any of the others said, I wasn't going to put my girls in danger for another government snafu. But what Willow found changed everything.”

“The Ancients? Weren't they supposed to have ascended.”

Buffy nodded. She looked expectantly at Dawn.

“They ascended... Buffy! They are the equivalent of the Powers!”

“Actually, I think they may be more powerful than the Powers That Suck. But the problem is that they're also sworn to not interfere. That's a big no no for them. So we may have a problem getting their attention. There's one though, named Oma something or another who might help.” Buffy paused for a moment thinking.

“What?”

Buffy looked at her sister. “Before this last training mission, I was thinking about going to talk to Jack and General Hammond about why we were really here. To come clean and ask for their help. But now...” Buffy trailed off, struck by something.

Dawn, interested in Buffy's analysis, asked, “What?”

Buffy looked dazed and slightly horrified. “You asked about Riley and Graham.”

Dawn looked uneasy. “So?”

“You asked about Riley and Graham. Twice. You don't ever do that, unless you really want to be sure about the answer.” Buffy stared at Dawn.

With studied nonchalance, Dawn replied, “I don't know what you mean.”

Visibly holding onto the reins of her temper, Buffy stared at her sister. “Since we've been here, I haven't seen you give one guy the time of day. But you basically asked me permission to lose your virginity to some guy.” Buffy ignored Dawn's horrified “Buffy!” “Now you ask about Riley and Graham. Twice. And you haven't even glanced at Graham since you've been here, so by process of elimination...”

Dawn muttered, “Like you'd know, the way you stare at Graham.”

“Dawn! This is about you, not me. Now where was I. Ahh... you haven't even glanced at Graham. So that leaves one person to be the object of your obsession. A person who just happens to be my ex. Dawn, this is sooo not of the good.”

“What's not good about it? So I like Riley. Big deal. I can't help that he's cute, funny, has great shoulders, is tall, has big hands, and...”

Buffy interrupted, “And is my ex. How could you even think about dating him? I broke up with him for a reason. And don't talk about his hands. I...”

Dawn had looked at Buffy steadily the entire time she was on her rant. Interrupting again, Dawn said, “I'm not you. Besides, it's too late, Buffy. You already gave me permission. You PROMISED not to threaten him. You PROMISED to let me go out with him. Or did you forget that too?”

“That's not fair. I was all distracted 'n stuff. You can't hold a promise like that over my head.”

Dawn's face wore a mulish expression. “Sure I can. I do in fact expect you to keep your promise. It's not as if I judge the guys that you go out with.”

“You do too! You sooo are judgy about who I date. I swear I think that's the reason I haven't been lai... err haven't had a date in almost a year. Too many expectations. From you, from Willow, from Xander. Take your pick. The only person these days who doesn't judge me is Giles.”

“That's just cause you've finally moved past the whole mentor/mentee thing and become friends. Totally mature, non-creepy friends.”

“Yeah, I suppose. Hey, don't try to change the subject.”

“I'm not. But hear this: I do like Riley. I am going out on a date with Riley. And if I want to sleep with Riley, I'm going to. If I want to lose my virginity to Riley, I'm going to. Got it?”

Buffy considered all of the things she could say. But the last thing she wanted was to alienate Dawn. What they had been talking about earlier didn't just apply to the Slayers, but to her sister as well. Buffy couldn't try to control Dawn's life. She could do her best to try to mitigate the mistakes Dawn would make, but if Buffy tried to control her sister to keep her from those mistakes, she would lose Dawn eventually. So she capitulated. Unhappy, but resigned, Buffy said, “I got it. Dawn... do what you feel like you need to do. Just be happy.”

Dawn jumped up and hugged Buffy. She also squealed, making Buffy want to find her ear plugs. “Ooooohhhh! Buffy, I so will. I'll be happy. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Buffy hugged Dawn back a moment, then dryly replied, “You're welcome. By the way, have you figured out how you are going to be asking Riley out?”

Dawn expression became one of horror. “Asking Riley out?”

Buffy slowly started to smile as she teased Dawn. “Sure. You're going to have to be the one who asks him out. You're his ex's little sister. He'll never ask you out on his own. He's too nice of a guy for that. So how are you going to go about it? Bring him more ham and cheddar croissants, while showing him your boobs? Cause Riley's definitely no high school boy to be drawn in that way. Although, come to think of it, it might work, he is a guy after all...”

Dawn's look of horror deepened. “Oh my God, Buffy! I don't even have the first clue how to go about asking him! What am I going to do?”

Smiling, Buffy said, “Why don't you go and think about it. Come up with a plan, and we'll talk about it then. How does that sound?”

Dawn looked at her sister with gratitude. “Thanks, Buffy. I'll do that. I'll figure something out.” Getting up, Dawn hurried from the room.

Buffy stood up and rolled her neck. She should have seen that one com... no, no one could have see that one coming. Dawn and Riley. That was as unlikely as... two unmixy things. Giles and Mom... wait, no. Riley and Faith... wait, no. Spike and Buffy... wait, no. Buffy and Autumn. Yep, that's how unlikely it was. No one could have seen that coming.

Riley dating her eighteen-year-old sister. Her eighteen-year-old virgin sister. Riley, Buffy's ex-boyfriend, dating her eighteen-year-old virgin sister. Buffy managed to put a stop to her thoughts before she broke into the Mountain and killed him. Riley was a good guy. She had to keep telling herself that. Or the next thing Buffy knew she would be putting his head on a spike...



Bam! Bam! Bam!

Buffy looked up from folding the last of her laundry and sighed. “Come in, Eve.”

Slowly the door opened to reveal the figure of the youngest Slayer, burdened with a huge tray containing about twenty sandwiches, ten or so packages of Twinkies, and a huge pitcher of juice. “Heya, Buffy.”

Buffy surveyed the feast as Eve placed it on the side table next to the bed. “What's all this?”

“I made lunch for you. See? No crusts, just the way you like them. Turkey, cheese, and avocado sandwiches. A pitcher of half orange, half grapefruit juice. And Twinkies for desert. All of your favorites.”

“Sweety, you didn't have to do this.”

“Well, no. But I wanted to. To make you feel better. Plus I know you're hungry.”

Buffy was amused and yes, she was starting to get hungry. The days when she had pined over some turmoil or another in her life were long gone. These days, she ate whatever her emotional state. Still...

“How do you know that?”

Eve's logic was simple. “Because I'm hungry. So, let's eat.”

“What? This isn't all for me?” At Eve's pained look, Buffy laughed and relented. “No way I could eat twenty sandwiches, crusts or no crusts. Dig in.”

Eve dug in. Taking a huge bite, she barely swallowed before announcing, “These really are good sandwiches, Buffy. But the thing with no crusts? Kinda weird.”

“Well, when you get right down to it, Eve, we're all 'kinda weird.'”

Eve nodded her head wisely. “I get that. Demons ain't got nothing on people when it comes to weirdness.”

Buffy looked pained. “'Ain't?' You know better than that, Eve.”

Eve grinned. “Buffy, people from California are not allowed to correct anyone else's speech. Well, unless they're cussing. Then anyone's fair game. Otherwise, no.”

Outraged, Buffy asked, “What's wrong with California?”

“Giles says California is full of hippies and liberals.”

“Oh, he does, does he?”

“Yep. Giles is usually right. Besides, he used the names Dawn, Buffy, and Willow as his biggest arguments.”

“I can't believe you dissed my name.”

“Sorry.”

They ate in companionable silence for a while. As they were finishing off the last of the Twinkies, Buffy decided to get to the root of the situation. “Eve, I know you didn't come in here just to bring me lunch and talk about my name. Doesn't mean I don't appreciate it, but I think you've got more than that on your mind. Am I right?”

Eve's eyes widened. How did she know?. “Uhhh...”

Buffy waited patiently. She suspected she knew where this was going.

“Well, Buffy, you see... It's like this. What happened back on the blue grass planet wasn't that bad. I mean, it was, but it wasn't. There weren't any deaths or world-endage. But still, you got hurt. That's with all of those other Slayers with you. Despite them, you got hurt. I think you need more back up.”

“More Slayer back up?”

“Exactly. I mean, Vi and Molly are awesome. And Molly's got that really cool accent... but their teams don't seem to be enough. Not to watch your back.”

“So who should I get to watch my back? Faith?”

Eve was stricken. “No! I mean Faith's busy hanging out with Illyria. Plus she's a bad ass. No one would ever think anything else. What you need is someone who people underestimate.”

“Underestimate? Why would someone underestimate this person?”

“They would be small, cute, and on the surface, harmless.”

“I wonder who would fit that description?”

“Me! People underestimate me cause I'm so young. But I am a Slayer, Buffy. You need me to watch your back. You...”

“No.”

“Buffy!”

“Eve! The answer is no. You are going to finish school. You are not going to go haring off after me and get yourself killed. Wait, is 'haring' even a word?”

“Fine! I think you're wrong. The Powers...” Ooops! Eve clamped her jaws shut as Buffy's face darkened like a thundercloud.

“Eve. Marie. Matthews. Were you Evesdropping on Dawn and me?” Buffy was amused at her own bad pun.

Eve frowned at the pun. “Not funny. And no.”

Buffy's eyebrows went up.

Eve explained. “I didn't eavesdrop. I couldn't help overhearing you. I was finishing up the dishes and saw Dawn and she shut the door so I knew you were talking about stuff. That extra insulation they put in isn't doing all that much good, you know what I mean?”

Buffy sighed. “Eve, respect my privacy. If I'm trying to have a private conversation, go where you can't hear me. Go watch TV and turn it up. Do something.”

“I'm sorry, Buffy. I won't do it again.”

Buffy hugged the smaller girl to her. “It's not okay, but I forgive you. Slayer senses are no one's fault. Don't do it again.”

Eve hugged Buffy a moment longer, reveling the feeling of safety, then released her. “Besides, I already knew about the Powers.”

“I suppose you did at that. You can't keep a secret when two hundred and fifty people know about it.”

“Nope. Do you really think they'll try to make another Buffy?”

“Honey, I don't know. Besides it won't be another Buffy, but they may try to recreate what happened and make someone with my powers. And that would be bad. It would tear the Slayers apart...”

“You're wrong.”

Buffy stared at the stubborn face that looked up at her. Well, that was the second time in the past few hours someone had told her she was wrong. “Wrong about what, Eve?”

“They can't do it. They can't make another you. It's not your powers that makes everyone love you. It's you that makes everyone love you. It's how you feel about us. We can feel you inside of us, like a warmth that's always there. The Powers can't duplicate that. Also, I heard what you told Dawn. About Autumn. You didn't mind rape her. I know cause she told me.”

“What? Since when have you been talking to Autumn?” Buffy's mind reeled. Autumn had talked to Eve? To Eve?

“Since forever. But only about important stuff since that night. She told me about what happened.”

“She did? I mean, why? When?”

“She told me that same night. She needed someone to talk to about it.”

“And she chose you?” Buffy tried to hide her skepticism, but didn't think she was that successful, based on Eve's frown.

“Yep. Buffy, Autumn hasn't made friends with any of the other Slayers. Not really. The person she's closest to other than you is Faith. But they don't hang out that much 'cause they're too alike, both wanting to nail all of those guys.”

Buffy choked. “Eve, I don't think you know what you're talking about. Faith...”

Eve interrupted, rolling her eyes. “Buffy, I'm thirteen, not six. I know about sex, and guys, and dating. I mean those commando guys were going to rape me after they beat me. I heard them talking and laughing about it. Of course then you killed them so they never got the chance. Which I'm really happy about. Anyway, Faith and Autumn like to scre...” Eve caught Buffy's frown and quickly changed her wording, “Err... sleep with, every guy they meet. That's the truth. But it doesn't matter. What matters is that Faith wasn't around, so Autumn came and woke me up to talk to me.”

“Why? Why you?” Buffy was honestly curious.

“I was the person she had the most in common with.”

Buffy choked. Eyes wide, she spluttered, “Autumn has the most in common with you, Eve? What does she have in common with you?” What the hell did Autumn have in common with Eve?

Sheesh, Buffy could be a dope sometimes for someone so great. But that was just because she didn't realize how great she was, Eve thought. “What she has in common with me is that I love you the most of all of the Slayers. I love you completely. I would do anything for you.”

Buffy smiled. She was so touched. But still... “Eve, I don't really understand.”

Eve rolled her eyes again. “Don't you see, Buffy? Autumn loves you. And not because of that stupid Vulcan mind-meld. She loves you for you. I mean, she swings both ways. Which. from your expression, you didn't know.”

Autumn? Autumn, the most man-hungry Slayer since Faith was bisexual? And in love with Buffy? Buffy sat there and tried to find something to say.

Eve continued, “Anyway she was in love with you before the whole mind-meld thingy. What you did just made it easier for her to admit it to herself. And you did help her. She's been acting more and more crazy for the last few months. She didn't tell me what happened when she was my age, but I know something bad did. Something with her dad. It really messed her up. And made her kinda hate men. Then all of a sudden she was all-powerful. Well, you know, Slayer-powerful. So she...”

Buffy interrupted, feeling embarrassed, “Eve, where are you going with this?”

“Autumn wanted to ask me how to get you interested in her. So I told her.”

“What did you tell her?”

“To just be herself. Well, not to be mean anymore 'n stuff. But otherwise, just to be herself. And to talk to you about it, which I can see she hasn't. So I probably shouldn't have told you all of this. Don't tell Autumn I told you, 'kay? She'll bounce me off the basement walls worse than you did her. Which isn't fair since this whole thing is your fault.”

“My fault? What did I do?”

Eve smiled. It wasn't the smile of a thirteen-year-old girl. Instead it was the smile of a young woman who was a Slayer, who knew that life was short and to be lived, one who had already lost so much in her short life. “You let her know you loved her. She hasn't been loved by anyone in a long time. Least, I don't think so. She was so closed up, I don't think she even felt that warmth you give us. So, when she found out you loved her, it was like getting hit in the head with a brick or maybe one of those extra-heavy quarterstaffs we train with. I think it knocked some sense into her. So don't be thinking you did something awful to Autumn. She doesn't think so. I don't think so. I don't think Dawn thinks so either. Just be happy, Buffy.”

Buffy's thoughts were whirling around in her head. She wasn't sure what to think. Eve made a lot of sense. Kinda sorta. “That's a lot to take in. I'll have to think about this.”

Eve snarked, “Don't hurt yourself.” Then she looked in horror at Buffy, who stared at her, eyes narrowed. Gulping, Eve explained, “You know, I think that was the whole puberty thing talking. Yep, that's it. I would never smart off to you. Not me...”

Buffy ruffled Eve's hair. “Uh huh. One more, and you're going over my knee if I have to chase you all over this house. Got it?”

Quickly Eve agreed. “Got it.” She waited a second, then asked, “Buffy, can I ask you something?”

Buffy smiled. “Sure thing. What's up?” She took a sip of the juice she still had in her glass.

Eve fluttered her lashes. “Can I go out with Riley, too?”

Laughing, Eve darted out of the room even as Buffy was coughing up orange-grapefruit juice. Not that it stopped Buffy, who was right behind her, yelling, “Eve Marie Matthews! Get back here! Eve!”
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