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Happy birthday, you're adopted! (extended version)

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I tell you I have this theory? it goes where, you're the one who's not my sister 'cause Mom adopted you from a shoebox full of baby Howler Monkeys, and never told you 'cause it could hurt your delicate baby feelings.

Dawn, in No Place Like Home

Dawn balanced the tray on her hip and knocked on Buffy's door.

“Birthday waffles delivery! I didn't bring you any beer or anything, though. You might be 21, but it's still gross.”

There wasn't any answer, but she could hear rustling inside.

“Buffy? I know you're up. And Willow helped with the waffles, so they're probably okay. Let me in.”

There was still no answer. Dawn huffed and grabbed the door knob, fully intending to rattle it until her sister was annoyed enough to answer her. Waffles could not wait all morning. The knob turned easily in her hand, and the door swung open. The tray jolted as Dawn scrambled to regain her balance. Orange juice sloshed onto the plate of waffles.

“Darn it! A little help?”

Dawn scanned the room and, seeing no sign of Buffy, set the tray on the bed.

“Buffy! Breakfast! Hey, are you invisible again?”

A soft hooting noise drew Dawn's attention to the window sill, where a golden monkey sat, looking at her with its solemn eyes. It clutched its long twitching tail in its tiny paws. It was as if restraining the tail was the only thing keeping the monkey from going, well, apeshit. After a moment, the monkey looked at the tray and, with a little shrug, it let go of its tail and leapt to the bed, jostling the OJ once more. Dawn squeaked and jumped back. The monkey selected a strawberry from the plate and nibbled on it for a moment before putting it back.

The monkey's fastidious manner was way too familiar, and Dawn's brain was yelling at her that there was something about monkeys that she should be remembering right the hell NOW. Then the monkey hooted at her loud enough to be heard all the way down at the Magic Box.

It was a howler monkey. And that was when Dawn realized what was going on. Her hands started shaking.

The monkey gave another booming hoot and then leapt back to the window sill and ignored her, its tail swishing angrily.

“What's that noise?” Willow called as she started up the stairs.

“That is the sound of Dawn Summers: complete idiot,” answered Dawn. Willow approached with a confused look.

“I'm sure it's not that bad,” said Willow.

Dawn pointed at the monkey.

“Oh, cute!” squealed Willow. The monkey glanced at them and Dawn could swear that it rolled its eyes before turning to look out the window.

“It's Buffy,” said Dawn. “Oh god, Willow. I made a wish. How could I be such a lamebrain?”

--

Spike tucked a packet of burba weed into his coat pocket before heading up the storeroom stairs. Buffy might want him to steer clear of her “real” life, but his sore face reminded him that he wasn't obliged to do what she wanted. Not if she was going to be so unreasonable. He was still a little bruised, emotionally — perhaps bullying a nice hot cuppa out of Anyanka would soothe the not-so-savage breast. With any luck, Buffy wouldn't even be there, it being her birthday and all.

“It sounds like Hallie.” He heard Anya's voice before he'd even got the storeroom door open. “Neglected children are her thing. Of course, their wishes usually leave them orphans, so it's not like their lives improve.”

Spike rounded the corner. The whole gang was assembled, excepting the Slayer.

“I'm not a child,” said Dawn, sunk low in her chair. “Hey, Spike.”

“Lo, Dawn.” He headed for the tea makings and loudly sloshed the kettle before flipping on its switch. “Sidekick Convention convened in service of anything? Some new evil afoot?”

Xander bristled, but then seemed to deflate.

Anya piped up. “Dawn made an ill-considered wish, and we're working on ways to change Buffy back.”

Spike halted his perusal of the tea selection. “Change Buffy back from what, exactly?”

A loud hooting sounded from the training room. Dawn buried her face in her hands.

Spike threw open the door and stared at the golden-furred monkey swinging from hand to hand around the pommel horse. When it caught sight of him, it dropped to the floor and loped over without hesitation. He stepped backward.

“You're saying that this...this is Buffy?”

All those gathered around the research table nodded, but didn't bother to look up from their books.

The monkey clambered up his body. It wrapped its tail tightly around his waist and clung to his neck with one paw. It laid its head on his shoulder and gently stroked the bruises on his face with the other, looking contrite.

“She likes you,” said Dawn with a sigh.

He tried to dislodge the creature, but it hung on and howled at him.

“They always this buggering strong? And loud?” he asked.

Willow looked up from her laptop and said, “Howler monkeys with smaller testicles have louder calls.” Tara ducked her head and covered her grin. Xander stared at Willow in disbelief.

“That's...probably not relevant,” mumbled Willow. She clicked to another site.

“I don't know about that,” said Spike, gingerly prodding his ear.

“We just need to summon Halfrek,” said Anya. “She told me she was in town on business. I'm sure she'll be open to a deal.”

“Wait a minute. Halfrek? As in your veiny friend Halfrek that threatened to tear me into a specified number of pieces? That Halfrek?” squeaked Xander.

Anya waved her hand dismissively. “That was just a misunderstanding, honey. I'll call her. HALLIE! GET YOUR ASS DOWN HERE.”

A round-faced, dimpled beauty with dark curls appeared in the middle of the shop, smiling.

“You rang, Anyanka?”

Anya hurried over to kiss the air by the new arrival's cheeks.

“Thanks for coming! There's been a little mix up with Dawn's wish.” Anya smiled expectantly.

Halfrek gave the monkey an assessing glance. “Really? Everything looks to be in order.” Her attention shifted over to Spike and her eyes widened. “William? Is that you?”

Spike frowned at her and then blinked. “Cecily?” The Buffy monkey howled again, this time at Halfrek, although Spike got the worst of it.

Halfrek brought her hand up to fiddle with the chunky pendant laying on her breastbone. “My,” she breathed. “It's been awhile, hasn't it?”

“I didn't know you knew each other,” said Anya. “But you can catch up after Buffy's back in her bridesmaid-ready shape, alright?”

“Oh, is she in the wedding party? That's unfortunate. But hey, you can give her a little hat and a wind-up organ and cancel the band, right?” Halfrek's tinkling laugh echoed around the room, which was otherwise silent except for the rumbling growl coming from Spike.

The monkey scrambled out of Spike's arms and swung up the ladder to the restricted section. She planted her knuckles at the edge of the loft and issued a series of booming howls at Halfrek, who flinched under the barrage.

“You tell 'er, Slayer,” said Spike.

The monkey snorted and dropped back down onto Spike. He hesitantly patted its back. The monkey huffed and tucked its head under his chin. They both glared at Halfrek.

“That was really mean,” said Tara, looking at Halfrek with disappointment. Willow and Xander glared in solidarity.

“Not a good idea to brass off the Slayer and her pals,” added Spike.

Anya wrung her hands. “Hallie, it was all very amusing, but you're putting me in a very difficult position. If I have to eat the deposit on her dress, we'll have to ask the caterer to eliminate an appetizer. Can't you just, you know, turn her back?”

Halfrek goggled at her. “Oh, come on! You know I can't just undo a perfectly justified wish! That child was in pain,” she said, pointing at Dawn. “None of you even realized,” she accused the room at large.

“Not a child,” Dawn reiterated, shifting in her seat. “And I didn't really want for Buffy to be a howler monkey! That's the opposite of what I wanted. I just wanted for her to act like we're a real family. I was being sarcastic!”

“Oh? Well now you've learned to be more careful what you wish for, haven't you?”

Spike's voice cut through the resulting uproar.

“Think you owe me a wish or two, Miss Addams, or whatever you're calling yourself these days.”

Halfrek turned to him with an appraising look. “I suppose a case could be made.” Her eyes narrowed. “You'll want that geegaw out of your head, I expect?”

Everyone gasped. Xander scrambled for the stake basket by the cash register.

“No! I bloody well do not wish for that! I wish that Buffy be put to rights. That clear enough?”

“Pfft. You're still no fun,” said Halfrek with a pout.

“If you're lucky, you'll never find out just how much fun I'm not.”

“Fine. Wish granted,” said Hallie in a bored tone.

Spike staggered as the monkey turned into a full-sized and completely nude Slayer, still clinging to him like a limpet. He pivoted to the training room door, allowing her to jump inside while he removed his coat and threw it after her in one motion. He pulled the door shut and turned to the room, running his hands through his hair.

“Much obliged. Now shove off.”

Halfrek waggled her fingers. “Toodles. See you all at the wedding.” Her arms swept up dramatically and she disappeared.

There was a moment of silence while the Scoobies all stared at one another. Then Spike found himself with an armful of tearful girl.

“Thanks, Spike. I can't believe I was so stupid.”

“Not stupid, Nib. She tricked you.”

“But you could have had your chip out and you wasted your wish fixing mine!”

The door to the training room opened and Buffy, red-faced and serious, stood there wearing his coat buttoned up to the neck.

“Didn't waste it, Dawn,” he said.

--

Buffy let herself into his crypt a little before sundown. She held the handles of a shopping bag containing his duster. He was standing in his kitchenette nook, pouring his evening blood into a glass.

“Hey. Um, I guess some thanks are in order,” she started, not looking at him.

“Don't mention it. Or, no: go ahead. Makes a nice change.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Okay. Here's your coat back. Thanks.” She put the bag down on a sarcophagus. He slammed the refrigerator door shut.

She soldiered on. “I should, uh, probably thank you for some other stuff, too.” She huffed out a breath. “It's getting chronic with you. The helping all the time. I just don't understand why...” she complained.

He sighed. “Yeah, well, guess I'm just a complete mystery, then. How's Dawn?”

She brightened. “She's guilty enough to clean up the kitchen without being asked. I'd say that's a pretty good sign of true remorse and lesson learned. No active parenting needed. But we did make a plan to 'hang out' tomorrow. Maybe at the mall.”

“And you? How're you feeling? Over that thumping banana craving?” He grinned.

“I think so. I feel weirdly better about things. Maybe it's because I didn't have to go to work today.” She shrugged.

“Right. Can take patrol tonight, if you like. I expect you'll want to make merry with your pals.”

“Actually, I was wondering if you'd like come to my birthday party later. It's not a big thing, and it's sort of late notice, but...”

He was suddenly right in front of her, looking down at her through lowered lashes. “I'd love to come, Buffy.”

He toyed with a lock of her hair. “Gave you your birthday spanking last night, as I recall.” She blushed and broke out in goosebumps, even though she was bundled up warmly. “Might have something a bit more family friendly laying about, though.”

“Like, a present?” Buffy asked in a hopeful tone. She reconsidered. “You don't have to give me anything.”

“Think I might,” said Spike. “After all, got what I wanted.”

FIN