Buffy awoke slowly, blinking as the sun streamed into her room. She lay still for a moment, simply enjoying the weight of the comforter that covered her. It rustled softly as she stretched lazily beneath it. Rolling over to check the time, she smiled sleepily. It was still early yet.

She'd begun to enjoy the calm quiet of early mornings. Often she'd slip out of bed, throw on some clothes and tend to the myriad of plants that had taken up residence in the house. Sometimes, Giles would also rise before the others and the two of them would relax in the kitchen together, her with coffee and him with tea. They'd sit together at the kitchen table, wordlessly enjoying each other's company, watching as the sun rose over the horizon.

Sitting up, she scrubbed her hands over her eyes then paused, listening intently. She didn't hear any movement in the room next to her. Sighing disappointedly, she ran her hands though her hair and then yawned. Apparently she was on her own for coffee this morning. Slipping her feet into slippers, she shivered in the cold morning air as she snatched her robe from the bedpost and pulled it on over her tank top and sweat pants. She wrapped it around her tightly, knotting the belt around her waist. Another wide yawn split her face as she shuffled to the window and stared out at the front yard. Her timing was impeccable. As she watched, the newspaper boy, a rather enterprising young man who lived two blocks over rode by on his bicycle. Buffy cheerfully observed him as he tossed the newspaper in a wide arc onto their doorstep. It never failed to amaze her that the kid never seemed to miss.

A smile on her lips, she turned from the window, inexplicably pleased with herself. She dug both hands into her hair, ruffling it even more as she scratched at her scalp. Catching a glimpse of her reflection in the mirror triggered a bout of wild giggles. Her blonde hair was a mess, one side pressed flat against her face, the other standing straight up.

She opened her top drawer to pull out a brush. Tucked under some of her make-up and beauty products was the unopened letter that Willow had given to her after Christmas. Willow had been positively bouncing in enthusiasm, but Buffy just couldn't face it. Not knowing was so much easier then dealing with rejection. A dozen times since then, she had started to open it, but each time she had been interrupted or lost her courage. <Today> she resolved. She'd open it today. But only after coffee to fortify her.

She shuffled toward her bedroom door. There was no point in combing her hair since by now, everyone in the house had seen each other in various states of disarray. And since no one could be scarier than Xander in the morning before he'd had coffee, Buffy had stopped worrying about her appearance long ago.

As the door swung back, Buffy froze in horror as she stared out into the hallway. Adrenaline surged through her system, removing any remaining vestiges of sleepiness. Jumping backwards, she slammed the door shut, rattling it on its hinges.

“It can't be,” she muttered, her eyes wide with fear. Darting from the door, she ran over to the calendar hanging on the wall. Running her finger across the page, she halted as it landed on the current date. She stared at the number as it mocked her from the glossy page. “No,” she whispered. She glanced at from the door to the window, seeking escape.

Thinking quickly, Buffy rushed toward the bathroom she shared with Giles. She slammed unceremoniously into the door as she tried to yank it open only to find it locked against her. She rattled the door furiously, trying to break the lock.

“Open, damn it,” she muttered frantically. Belatedly, she remembered that Giles had Xander Slayer-proof the door after she had accidentally walked in on Giles toweling off after a shower.

The memory was surprisingly absent of ew's. She shook the smile from her face, focusing on the problem at hand. Shaking her head at the surprisingly non-eww-generating memory, she brought herself back to the problem at hand. “Focus, Buffy,” she ordered herself. With one last futile yank on the doorknob, she dropped her forehead to the door. She was trapped.

Taking a deep breath, Buffy straightened, squaring her shoulders. She moved to the mirror and ran her fingers through her hair, finger-combing out the worst of the tangles. Then, with a deep breath, she strode determinedly to the door. With a swift movement, she turned the knob and yanked the door open.

Outside her door, she found Willow , Xander, Dawn and Giles huddled together like some bizarre pep squad. Between them they held a flimsy poster board sign, decorated with bold, colorful writing and balloons taped to the corners. They smiled brightly as Buffy reappeared in the doorway.

“Happy Birthday, Buffy!” they chorused.


Previously   Credits

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