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Family Means No One Gets Left Behind

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Willow and Tara are taking Dawn shopping. Xander offers to do it, but everyone who hears the idea vetoes it immediately.

Even Spike, who says, "You aren't subjecting her to your buggered fashion sense. Want her to be shunned when she's just starting high school?"

"Like you dress any better," Xander says, eyeing Spike's duster with distaste. Spike smirks and opens his mouth to snark back but Dawn cuts in.

"This is a girls-only shopping trip," Dawn says firmly. Willow nods and wraps an arm around her shoulders. Sometimes holding on to Dawn is like holding on to Buffy. Willow immediately feels guilty for thinking that, though. Dawn is Dawn, even if she's monk-made from Buffystuff.

"Ow," Dawn says, and Willow realizes she's holding on too tight.

"Sorry," Willow says. "Ready to go?"

On the drive to the mall, Willow can't help but think about family, about the differences between the family she grew up with and who she has now.

There's Giles, more a parent to her than her own blood. And Xander is the brother she never had, loved unconditionally.

Buffy was like a sister. That makes Dawn her sister, too.

Willow always wanted a real family, and now she has one filled with love and caring and the understanding that only comes from going through hell together. Their family is a little broken, but it's family nonetheless.

She's thinking of words she's picked up along the way, like ohana. She smiles to herself at the Lilo and Stitch comparison and Tara looks over, smiles and touches her hand like she knows what she's thinking. Willow's heart squeezes.

They lost so much when Buffy died, but they still have each other. They're family. Mischpacha.

"So, Dawn," Willow says as they're pulling into the massive parking lot.

Dawn looks at her, waiting for her to go on.

Willow shakes her head and reaches back to touch Dawn's long hair. "I just love you."

Dawn rolls her eyes and smiles. "Love you, too. What brought that on?"

"Just your epic Dawnieness," Willow says. "So. Ready to get new school clothes?"

Dawn nods and Willow checks to make sure Giles's credit card is still in her wallet. It'd be embarrassing to be caught without it.