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Disclaimer: Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, 20th Century Fox, UPN and WB Television Networks own the television shows, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel". Dark Horse and IDW own the Comics. No copyright infringement is intended, no money is being earned by the owners of BuffynFaith.Net.

Chapter 1: Settling

Author's Notes: Author's Notes: I have kept to the BtVS/Angel canon to the end of Chosen and and parts of Angel's 5th season. After that, It's my little world! Acknowledgments: Just wanted to mention where I got the basic idea for this one. It was after I read Nero's For You, which I recommend, if you like this 'ship. Oh, and as always, much thanks to my friend, co-writer and beta, Willowfan. I woulda stopped writing ages again if not for you, B! :) Thanks!

Disclaimer: All of the materials borrowed from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel belong to Joss Whedon and to the entities and companies associated with their creation. I have borrowed them for creative and entertainment purposes only. No compensation has been or ever shall be received for the writing below. No copyright infringement is intended.
Distribution: If you are interested in posting my story on your site, please contact me first for permission. You'll get it, I just wanna know where it is, k?
Feedback: Yes, please. Any type you wanna send. Can't fix what I don't know is broken, right? Hopefully, enough feedback will convince my muse to move back home, not just stop by for sporadic visits. ;)
Spoilers: Show's been off the air since May of 2003. Can they still be considered spoilers?
F/F romance: This story assumes a loving and sexual relationship between people of the same gender. If this offends or is illegal for you, then please leave. Come back when you are older, have an open mind, moved, or changed your laws.

* * *

The late afternoon sun streamed in through the open window, warming the young woman as she sat at the small desk in her room. She was slender and youthful looking, though she gave off the feeling of maturity that comes from having survived young adulthood. Her eyes were locked onto a small framed photograph depicting a stunning blonde woman smiling happily for the camera.

Sighing, the woman put the picture back on the corner of the desk and picked up her pen. Taking a moment to read over what she'd already written, she once more took up her narration.

***Reading back over this, I suppose I should mention that I'm really very happy Buffy found someone who loves her so much and that she loves in return. Two someones, to be honest. Although, like almost everyone, except Willow strangely enough, I doubted at first they could make a go of a triad relationship, but they did. They made it work and I really do wish them well. After all, except for the odd fantasy, I gave up on the idea of us being together, at least as a couple, as lovers, years ago. Contrary to popular appearances, she could never see me that way. The way I see her. It's just not the way her mind works.

I'm not angry or bitter about that, no matter how that sounds. There's no point, after all. Things are the way they are and all the wishing in the world(vengeance demons aside) won't change that. And even if I found a vengeance demon, I actually listened to Anya's stories. Sure, they grant wishes, but always with a twist that makes both people miserable. Since I want her happy for the rest of her life, even if I'm not, that kinda rules out wishes, doesn't it?

I still remember, a buncha years ago, when I first started going out with Terri, everyone seemed so surprised to see me dating a woman that they didn't look at her. Now, my family just thinks it's just the type of woman I prefer, and they don't think anything else about it. They're right, of course. All the girls I've dated, from Terri, to Sammi, to Karen, then Emily and now Julie, they've all been a little shorter than me with blonde hair and grey/blue or grey/green eyes. Em even had hazel eyes, which I loved cause they were nearly the exact same shade as Buffy's. Her hair was a little off, but Em was a wonderful girl and between that and the eyes, I was okay with her hair color. I'm glad she found someone who could love her completely. Of course, all the girls I've dated had one other thing in common with Buffy; They were all Slayers, just like her. In some ways, I feel like it's wrong, settling for a copy of Buffy like this, but each of them, except possibly Karen, were wonderful women in their own right so, if there's any guilt, it's tiny. After all, at the time we were together, I loved all of them and for their own sakes, not just because they were 'Buffy knockoffs' or something. I still do love most of them.

Of course, none of the others and I stayed together for more than a year. Except for Julie, none of the other girls I've dated knew that I... I don't want to say "used them", because, like I said, I did love them all. It's just, I will always love Buffy more and that always tore us apart. All my previous girlfriends could tell eventually that they didn't really have all of me. That I was in love with someone else. Each handled finding that out differently, but, sooner or later, it caused us to break up.

Emily was the best parting. She had starting falling for Akane Yoshida, a girl that came here to be trained as a Watcher. I remember the night she told me we needed to talk, how scared I was. Scared of her leaving me, scared she knew I was in love with someone else. Scared she knew who that person was. I remember, she sat me down on our bed and told me she knew I loved someone else, but that that was okay. After my initial panicking and denials, she told me it was okay again, then told me about Akane and that they were falling in love and that she didn't want to hurt me, but, under the circumstances... Well, anyway, I got a little angry about her loving someone else, but she got this funny look and asked, in the most reasonable voice I've ever heard, "Let me get this straight; It's bad that I fell for Akane while we were together, but it's okay for you to be in love with someone not me the whole time we've been dating?"

That stopped me cold and I had to laugh. Ironic laughter, but laughter just the same. She was absolutely right and I was being an ass. Not to mention, I had just started feeling guilty, so it wouldn't have been more than a month before I found a reason to break up with her. Her way, it was an amicable parting and she even got a new girlfriend out of it. Of course, it took a few days to convince my friends and family that she hadn't cheated and that I was okay with the way things were. Everyone eventually settled down, though and, last I heard, Akane is Em's Watcher and they're thinking about marriage. I wish them all the best.

My worst split-up was with Karen. It was bad enough that, even though I met Emily about a month after Karen left, it took nearly six months before I would even think about going out with her. To a certain degree, all Slayers are control freaks and territorial. It's just part of the package of them fighting constantly and being a predator, because, when you strip it down, Slayers are as much predators as vampires and all predators are territorial. It's just the way things are. Karen was a controlling and possessive person before she became a Slayer, but she got really bad about it after she was called. When we got together, she let everyone know I was her girlfriend and acted like I was her property. Everything I did, from talking to friends to using the bathroom was treated as her business and I was supposed to keep her informed of anything I did or any change in my schedule.

To my shame, I'll admit, I did put up with that for nearly a month, though we fought about it a few times. The first time she hit me, I had been egging her on, never dreaming she'd actually strike me, but she did. I told her if she did that again, I'd leave and she was instantly apologetic, promising to never do it again and all the other crap abusive people promise. I bought it that time. The next time she hit me, she didn't keep control and I was knocked out. When I came to, she was near frantic with worry and was ecstatic when I woke up. I pushed her away and told her if she ever raised her hand to me again, she'd wake up hog tied in the middle of a vamp nest. She promised and fussed and generally groveled and, again, I fell for it, but with some reservations.

The last time she hit me was when I told her about being in love with Buffy, though I didn't tell her who it was, just that it wasn't her. She started screaming that I was hers and that she wouldn't let me leave her and that she'd kill anyone who tried to come between us. When I told her she had no say about me leaving, she punched me, then stood over me and yelled some more crap about me belonging to her. I managed to get to my feet and shoved her away, causing her to stumble over a chair, which gave me long enough to get away. I ran out of my apartment and up the three flights of stairs to Willow and Kennedy's apartment, pounding frantically on the door. Threats aside, I know the only way I can beat a Slayer is a big gun or catch them asleep. I don't own a gun and I didn't want to stay with Karen long enough for her to sleep again.

Kennedy opened the door a few seconds later and she, at first, smiled at seeing me. Well, until she noticed the black eye, then her smiled died and her eyes narrowed. Since Willow and I consider ourselves family, she thinks of herself as my sister-in-law and she's got a serious thing about her family getting hurt. Almost as bad as Buffy. Movement behind me caused her eyes to shift that way and I looked a split second after she did. Karen rounded the corner with an ugly expression on her face, clearly looking for me and I whimpered in fear. Kennedy just pulled me inside the apartment with an absent "Find Willow!", then launched herself at Karen. I didn't stick around. Instead, I ran into the living room, looking around for a place to hide.

Willow came in from the kitchen about then, asking Kennedy who was at the door. Her reaction was the same as Kennedy's when she saw me, a smile quickly replaced by anger. Walking over to me, she reached out, not quite touching the bruise around my eye and asked, "Karen?" Tears in my eyes, I nodded and Willow got this hard look on her face. "Is Kennedy taking care of her?" Again, I nodded and we heard a loud, indistinct yell from the corridor. Willow didn't say anything else, just walked to a blank section of wall and raised her hand. It glowed for a moment, then a part of the wall dissolved to show a big safe. She put her hand on a hand-shaped scanner, then typed in a number on a keypad and the door opened to show the Scythe.

Willow pulled it off it's hooks and turned back to me, walking to a clear section of the room, asking me to grab seven candles and some matches from a drawer in a nearby dresser. I did as she asked and had just turned back when we heard the front door open loudly and Kennedy came back in. She had a bloody lip and an unconscious Karen over a shoulder. She looked around for a second, until she spotted Willow, then carried my now ex-lover over near where she was setting up for the spell she was planning. As Kennedy unceremoniously dumped my former girlfriend at Willow's feet, I extended the candles to Willow, then retreated behind Kennedy. I knew I was being cowardly and part of me hated myself for it, but I just couldn't help it.

Anyway, Willow arranged and lit the candles, then sat down with Karen on one side of her and the Scythe in front of her, with one hand on each. She chanted for a few minutes and I watched goggle-eyed as her hair turned white and a soft glow surrounded Karen for a second, then leapt from her to the Scythe. Whispering, I asked Kennedy if Willow had just removed Karen's Slayer powers and she nodded, adding that she didn't deserve them and Karen was no longer even a potential. Even if every other Slayer and potential on Earth dropped dead, she would never again be a Slayer. A part of me felt guilty for that, but only for a second. The next person she tried this shit on wouldn't have been able to get help like I did and would probably end up dead. That thought pretty much took care of the guilt.

After the spell was over, Kennedy moved my ex to the couch, then left to get cleaned up. Once she was back, we all talked until Karen came to. Willow started to explain what had been done, her voice stony. When Karen jumped up and acted like she was going to attack Willow, Kennedy pushed her back down on the couch, telling her unless she wanted to be knocked out again, she better calm down. Karen tried pleading with me next, but Willow cut her off, telling her she needed to pack her stuff and get out. She told Karen that a plane ticket would be waiting at the airport for her so she could go back home, but to clear out quickly. Karen blustered and threatened and I think it would've gotten bloody, but we were all interrupted by a knock at the door, followed a moment later by Buffy coming in, asking what the noise had been about.

She looked over all of us until she saw the black eye I was sporting, then Kennedy's roughened knuckles and Karen's bloody lip and nose. Her eyes hardening to solid rock, she asked if she had done that, nodding toward my eye. I looked down, ashamed I couldn't take care of myself, but nodded, fighting the embarrassed blush that crept over my face. Buffy growled and launched at Karen, screaming at Kennedy to release her when she caught Buffy just shy of a now scared Karen. After a lot of shouting and threats toward Kennedy, Willow finally got Buffy to understand that Karen wasn't a Slayer anymore. Since we hadn't told Karen that part yet, she and Buffy had identical expression of shock, but it quickly changed for both of them. Buffy smiled savagely and nodded to Kennedy to release her, which she did, now that Buffy appeared calmer.

Karen went from shock to horror. She'd told me she loved being a Slayer because that made her special, gave her life meaning. That it made her somebody. Now, she was just a petite blonde woman who'd never gone to college, that had no real skills to use to get a job and that had no idea what to do with her life. I could see it was hitting her hard, but I didn't care. I couldn't afford to let myself care.

I watched as Buffy walked up to my former lover and grabbed her face, forcing her to look at her. "I want you to listen very carefully, Karen." She enunciated every word and there was a growl behind them. "You have one hour to pack your things and leave. If you're not gone at the end of that hour, I will throw you out and I will being trying to set a record for distance and number of bounces when you do land. Do you understand me?"

I couldn't believe it, but Karen scowled and looked at Buffy, then she actually smirked. "And if I don't want to leave? You heard Willow. I'm just a regular girl now. You won't hurt me." She crossed her arms over her chest and smiled.

I looked back at Buffy and... Uh-oh. Moving too quickly for even Kennedy to stop her, Buffy wrapped her hand around Karen's throat, picked her up off the couch and slammed her against the nearest wall, hard enough to leave a girl shaped impression. "You sure about that? Are you?!?" I watched, fearful for Buffy now. She was slipping dangerously close to blind rage now and we'd all seen what happens when a Slayer does that. Cautiously, I edged closer and saw from the corner of my eye Kennedy was doing the same. "You have fifty nine minutes now, bitch, then I feed you to a vampire, 'cause you're right. I won't kill you while you're human, but I will get you turned, then take my sweet time killing you once you are a vampire. Which is it going to be?"

I couldn't see Buffy's eyes, but Karen could and I guess she saw something in them that scared her, because her smug expression vanished and she nodded quickly, then practically ran from the room when Buffy released her. I breathed a huge sigh of relief because I knew Buffy had been truthful when she said she would feed Karen to a vamp. She might stake it right after, but she would've let it kill and turn Karen first. I didn't want Karen in my life anymore, but I wanted Buffy to be a murderer even less, so...***

Bent over her task, the young woman didn't notice the door to her room open and a slender blonde woman enter. The blonde smiled and walked over, placing a hand on the other girl's shoulder, jumping a little when she did. "Sorry, baby. Didn't mean to scare you."

The sitting woman looked up at her lover with big blue eyes and smiled, though she also blushed at being caught so unaware of her surroundings. Turning halfway around in her chair, she drew the blonde toward her, gently tugging on her hands until the girl was standing right in front of her. Smiling mischievously, she tugged her lover's face down toward her and softly kissed her, taking her time about it.

Finally, the blonde straightened with a sigh and a slightly silly grin. "So, what was that for?" she asked as she ran her fingers through long, chestnut brown hair.

Innocent doe eyes looked back at her as the brunette smiled coyly. "Do I need a reason to kiss the woman I love?"

The petite blonde threw her head back and laughed at that. Looking at her girlfriend again, she smiled and shook her head. "No, I'm pretty sure you don't need a reason. Not all all." Her smile turned impish, which was all the warning the brunette got about her girl's playful mood. "On the other hand, if you kiss Buffy like that, Faith or Xander might get a little pissed, don't you think? Especially today."

Instantly, the brunette's face fell and she looked down, her cheeks darkening. The blonde's smile vanished as she mentally kicked herself for that comment. Gentle fingers slipped under the dark haired girl's chin and tipped her face up. "I'm sorry, Dawnie. I shouldn't have said that, if only because I know how sensitive you are about the whole subject." Her expression lightened a little in reminiscence. "It's not been all that long since I was the same way about Jen, so... Well, I'm just sorry."

Dawn smiled hesitantly before turning her head a little and kissing the blonde's palm. "No, I'm sorry, Jules. I've been hiding this for so long that I forget sometimes that you know about my feelings for Buffy and how that makes me feel." She smiled up at her lover as she felt tears fill her eyes. "Just knowing that you don't think I'm sick or perverted because I'm in love with my sister, that you still love me even though you know that... I can't ever tell you how much that means to me."

Julie gave her love a tender look and moved her hand until she was cupping a cheek, her thumb automatically wiping the tears on that side away. "Baby, I remember what I was like when you first saw that picture of Jennifer. How shocked I was when you just told me you knew I was in love with her." She smiled a little, her vision getting a little watery from her own tears. "You'll never know how much it meant to me that you understood or how much I treasure the fact that you loved me enough, trusted me enough to tell me about your own feelings for your sister."

Julie bent down and brushed her lips lightly over Dawn's, then straightened. Smiling slightly, she gently tucked a lock of hair behind an ear. "As for how this all makes you feel, I've definitely been there, but I think you're coming to accept things like I do now. You're always going to be in love with your big sister and want her, just like I'm always going to be in love with my cousin and want her and there's nothing either of us can do about it. It doesn't stop us from loving each other." Her smile broadened a little. "In fact, I think it brings us a little closer together." She kissed her brunette softly, but didn't pull back much, looking directly into emotion-filled blue eyes. "I do love you, Dawn Summers," her head cocked and she smiled playfully. "With most of my heart." Her smile changed into a loving one. "Jen will always have a part of my heart, but everything else is yours, if you want it."

Dawn just looked up at her girlfriend, unable to speak for a second, her emotions too raw. Getting control of herself again, she reached up and took Julie's hand from her cheek and pressed a kiss to the palm. "The parts of my heart that aren't Buffy's are yours and only yours. I love you too, Julie Honaker." She tried to say more, but, again, her voice was choked off with emotion, so she chose another form of communication. Tugging gently on the hand she was holding, Dawn pulled Julie down and kissed her lips, softly once, then twice. Little teasing, lingering kisses. The third one, she continued, drawing it out until they were both breathless.

When they finally broke their kiss, Julie straightened, smiling down at her love, as Dawn did the same back up at her. Julie's eyes flicked to the open notebook on the desk, then back to Dawn. "I see you're following my advice. Is it helping?"

Dawn looked confused for a second, then she too looked at what she'd been writing. Looking back up at Julie, she smiled warmly. "Actually, yeah. It has been helping. I was just writing about what happened with Karen, and..." She trailed off as an ugly expression flickered across her lover's face and a low growl echoed slightly. "Jules, baby... She's gone. I have no idea where she is and no desire to find her. And I really don't think she'll ever come near me again 'cause Buffy scared the shit out of her." Dawn smiled and stood, her arms slipping around the shorter girl's waist as she did so. "Besides, ever if she did come back, I'm sure I can depend on my brave champion to defend me, right?" When Julie tried to look away, Dawn gently turned her face back. "Right?

Julie took a deep breath, held it, trying to get control over her emotions, then released it slowly. "Yeah. Of course I'll defend you against anyone. Even Buffy when she gets on one of her little 'I'm your sister and I say...' tirades. And don't give me that look. I've been around for a bunch of those now, remember?"

Dawn tried to maintain her stern expression, but failed when she couldn't contain her giggles. "I remember. I also remember her expression when you got in her face that time and informed my loving sister that you were my girlfriend and you said different and if she didn't like it, you'd meet her in the gym."

Julie blushed lightly and looked away. "Well, she was being stupid. There's nothing wrong with you coming on patrol occasionally. I mean, you've taken down Slayers in fights, for God's sake!" She stopped and closed her eyes for a second, then looked at her lover. "And yeah, I know that they were all newbies who weren't used to fighting, but it still happened and besides; I was gonna be right there the whole time with my team. There was no way you were gonna get hurt, not while I was still alive, so she was just being stubborn and I called her on it!"

"You also fought her to a standstill about it as I recall." Dawn lowered her gaze for a second, then looked back into her girl's grey/green eyes. "You do know, no one but Faith has ever been able to do that, right? I think that's when I knew that you really did love me, 'cause no one but Willow, Xander and Faith have ever stood up to Buffy like that and made her back off."

Julie smiled and pressed a soft kiss to the brunette's lips. "Hey, you're my girl. No one hurts you or belittles you without dealing with me first!" She glanced at the notebook lying forgotten behind Dawn and frowned. "And I mean that in a non-creepy, not stalker way. I mean, you can claim me too, if you want, so..."

Dawn laughed as she placed two fingers over Julie's lips to stop her. "Easy there, Tough Stuff. I knew what you meant and I know you're not like Karen. I couldn't love you like I do if you were like her, so stop worrying about it, okay?" She slid her hand away, bringing it around to cup the blonde's cheek. "And I do claim you as my own. I intend to keep claiming you as long as we both live."

Julie smiled at Dawn, her eyes sparkling a bit with unshed tears before turning her head enough to gently kiss the younger woman's palm. They stared into each others eyes for several minutes, letting the feelings and emotions wash over them, enjoying their togetherness before Julie blinked and draw back just a little. "Well!" She said briskly, the little smile she'd worn the whole time broadening and turning mischievous. "We better go check on Buffy and the others, make sure sure one or all of them haven't escaped yet." Her smile got even bigger at Dawn's giggles. "Hey! Buffy and Faith both had that 'Run for your life!' look in their eyes yesterday and that was just the rehearsal, right?"

Dawn waved her hands excitedly and shook her head. "No no! You're right. They were both looking a little sick yesterday and this morning at breakfast, well, you saw them! Besides," she leaned a little closer to her girlfriend and dropped her tone to a conspiratorial one. "I have a bet going with Kennedy on whether or not Buffy faints when Giles comes to get her. I say she will." Dawn's eyes glowed with impish glee as Julie laughed at her antics.

When she caught her breath again, the blonde pulled her girl to her feet. "Come on, then. Let's go make sure your big sister stays here so she can faint in a little while."

Dawn giggled again, but didn't move when Julie tried to tug her after her. When the Slayer looked back, she pulled her close and smiled at her. "I'm glad I found you. I mean, I'll always want Buffy, but until you, I hadn't found anyone I wanted as much or more. I love you."

Julie smiled tenderly and returned the kiss, adding another as the first one ended. "I feel the same way, Dawnie, and I love you just as much." She leaned forward enough to touch her forehead to the brunette's. "I'm pretty sure you're stuck with me for long time."

"Just the way I want it." Pressing one more quick kiss to Julie's lips, Dawn pulled her toward the door. "C'mon. Let's go annoy my sister and soon to be sister in law." The echoes of Julie's laughter faded slowly as the pair scampered down the hall.

* * *

The room was silent for several minutes before a light knock sounded through it. There was a pause, then another, slightly louder rapping happened, following by the door opening a crack. "Dawn? Julie? Are either of you in there? And if both of you are, are you decent?" There was another pause, then the door opened wider and a blonde head appeared. "Dawnie?"

Buffy opened the door fully and looked hesitantly around, calming when she understood that she wasn't going to see her sister and Julie doing something she really tried to not think of her little sister doing. Then her expression altered to annoyance, since Dawn wasn't in the room when she had wanted to talk to her. This was her wedding day and she was scared and nervous and wanted her sister/maid of honor to calm her down like only Dawnie could.

The fact that Dawn could now calm her down from almost any mood struck her funny sometimes, considering how much they fought growing up, but it was true. It also sometimes weirded her out that, in some ways, she and Dawn were even better friends now than she and Willow were. Maybe it wasn't all that different from other sisters, but, considering how many times she could've cheerfully throttled Dawn as a preteen and especially after she was a teenager, that spelled WEIRD in Buffy Summers' book.

Sighing, she gave one more look around the room, wondering if she had time to look for Dawn herself or if she should snag one of the mini-Slayers running around to go find her. Sighing again, growling lightly as well this time, she decided to let one of the younger girls search for her. After all, Willow would most likely go nuts if she checked her room more than twice and she wasn't in it, so looking around herself was most likely a bad idea. No one said anything, but everyone remembered or had heard about the last time Xander was going to to get married and no one wanted her or Faith or, worse still, both of them to kill the one who let it happen again. If she was gone too long, Willow just might think she'd gotten cold feet this time and ran for it. Turning to leave, she spotted the notebook laying open on the little desk across the room and she smiled and turned back. She could leave Dawn a note telling her she was looking for her and maybe that would cut down the time it took to find her.

That decided, she crossed the room and picked up the tablet, noticing the writing on it, but intending to simply flip through it until she found a blank page that she could write on. The sight of Dawn's full name caught her eye, though, and she scanned the first couple sentences, feeling the blood drain from her face and her legs get wobbly as the full meaning of the words sank into her mind.

***My name is Dawn Marie Summers and I've been deeply, passionately and completely in love with my sister Buffy since I was thirteen years old.

It feels and looks both strange and wonderful to see that written out like that, to admit it "out loud", so to speak, but it's true...***

Several minutes later, Buffy took notice of her surroundings again, having been thunderstruck. She found herself sitting with no knowledge of how she'd gotten there, the notebook still clutched tightly in her hand as her thoughts raced faster than she had ever experienced. One thought dominated, though. Dawnie loves me? Well, of course she does! She's my sister! was the answering, acerbic thought. Well, yeah, but she's IN love with me, apparently and, also apparently, has been for a very long time. But she never said anything! was the first thing that popped to the surface, followed immediately by a sarcastic, Oh, sure! I can just hear that conversation now; 'Buffy, I'm in love with you and I want you to be my girlfriend, even though you're my sister and everyone we know will consider it to be wrong.' Yeah, THAT'D work!

The more Buffy worried her discovery, the slipperier her feelings and thoughts became until, finally, she managed to tighten everything down with her best, most tried and true technique ­ denial. Okay, let's think about this. I do love my sister, but I don't wanna love my sister, and since the monks made her out of me, she has to feel the same way, right? I mean, this has to be some kinda of joke. There's no way it's for real.

But what if it is, her subconscious whispered. What if it's true, what do we do then? Do we tell Faith or Xander or both? Do we talk to her about it? Do we...

NO! No ifs, no maybes, it's not real! Dawn is my sister and you can't be in love with your sister, not outside of those cheesy internet porn stories and everyone knows they're not real, so we - I'm not going to do anything! I'm gonna just forget I found this and go back to my dressing room. I'm getting married in a couple hours and that's what I need to be worried about!

Buffy glanced down at the notebook again and snorted as a thought occurred to her. Wait, this has to be a joke! I mean, she left it laying out where anyone could find it and on the day of my wedding. The blonde rolled her eyes and dropped the pad to her lap. Ha ha, Dawnie. You got finally got me back for all the times I tricked you with my diary, she mentally acknowledged. I'll get her back later. Maybe after our honeymoon. Nodding to herself, Buffy stood and half turned, intending to drop the tablet back on the desk when the door opened suddenly. Turning quickly in toward the sound, she instinctively whipped the note pad behind her back. Seeing her sister's diminutive blonde girlfriend, Buffy forced a bright smile to her face and called, "Julie! Hey, I, um... I was looking for you guys!"

Julie narrowed her eyes when she saw exactly where her lover's sister was standing and that she seemed to be trying to hide something. The younger blonde's eyes flicked to the writing table Dawn had been using and, sure enough, the pad was gone. Julie felt her stomach sink as she realized Dawn's fears had come true, that Buffy had read about her sister's true feelings for her. She had to play this just right, get Buffy to see just how much she would hurt Dawn if she confronted the brunette with what was on those pages. Pasting a smile on her face, Julie said, "Yeah, hi, Buffy. We were in your dressing room, looking for you, actually. Dawn was worried you might be having a meltdown or something."

Buffy smiled a little too big and shifted a bit, trying to get to where she could surreptitiously drop the notebook soundlessly back onto the desk. "Yeah, funny that. I came looking for Dawn because I wanted someone to talk to so I could take my mind off things." Carefully, she laid the pad down as soundlessly as possible. "Why don't we head back there? I mean, Dawnie stayed there, right? We should join her." Buffy quickly brought her hand around and took a step toward the younger Slayer. Julie held up a hand to stop her, though, and Buffy halted, staring at Julie in a combination of confusion and apprehension. All she could think of was that she had to keep Julie from reading what was on the notebook. Even if it was a joke, and really, what else could it be, it could still damage or even end her relationship with Dawn and Buffy had no desire to see her sister hurt again due to a girlfriend leaving her because of her. "What's up? I thought we were going to go see Dawnie?"

"We will, in just a minute," Julie said, her expression serious. "First, we need to talk a bit." She started around Buffy to pick up the notebook Dawn was using as a journal, but Buffy was quicker.

Snatching the pad from the table and whipping it behind her, Buffy smiled widely and gushed. "Oh, that's just an clean pad of paper I found while I was trying to leave Dawnie a note to come find me. Nothing to worry about at all!"

The young blonde stopped and stared at the older one, giving her a compassionate look. "Buffy, how much of that did you read?" The elder Slayer looked worried and started to deny that there was anything to read, but Julie cut her off firmly, though not harshly. "Buffy, we both know that the notebook isn't blank. If you're saying it is to spare my feelings or something, you needn't bother. I just need to know how much you read and how big a problem it's gonna cause. Can you tell me that, please?" She held out one hand for the book, her face carefully schooled to a completely neutral expression. Buffy tried to stare her down, but Julie wasn't really challenging her. Her attitude was completely non threatening, but still the Slayer hesitated. Julie sighed and let her hand drop. "Buffy, please, let me have that. You wouldn't want Dawn to come in right now and see you with it, right? I mean, think how that would make her feel, how embarrassed she would be." Her eyes pleaded with the older woman. "You don't want that, right? You don't want to Dawn to be mortified and then run out of here in tears, not on your wedding day." She extended her hand again, taking a step closer.

Buffy watched her, feeling her heart clench at the other blonde's description and she knew, beyond any shadow of a doubt that Julie was right about what would happen. She'd only left off the part about Dawn never speaking to her again. Even knowing all that, she still took nearly a full minute to slowly bring the note pad around and hand it off.

Julie released the breath she hadn't even realized she'd been holding and walked over to the overnight bag she and Dawn had brought. Lifting the clothing still in the bag, she slid the pad to the bottom of the bag, then turned back to face Buffy. "Thank you," she said simply.

Buffy nodded absently, still watching the younger girl. "How did you know," she asked suddenly.

"How do I know what Dawn wrote?" When Buffy gave a short, somewhat jerky nod, her face covered in a medium-dark blush, Julie smiled benignly. "That's easy. I'm the one who suggested she write it all out. I told her it would make her feel better and it did. We talked about it just before we left to find you." She stopped and grimaced, then explained what the look was for. "She only got as far as that bitch Karen, but I think she plans on finishing it when we get home. Now, do you have any questions about it? Any that I can answer, I will as long as we understand each other that this will never be discussed in Dawn's presence unless she brings it up first. Do you agree to that?" Buffy looked away and stared at a wall for nearly a full minute before giving Julie a curt nod. Julie smiled a little and sketched a little bow toward the elder Slayer. "Thank you."

The silence stretched out, awkward and almost painful before Buffy finally looked back at her sister's girlfriend. She took a deep breath, then released it. "Why did you tell her to write that stuff? Was it your idea?"

Julie took her time answering Buffy's hostility-laced questions, pausing to sit in a nearby chair first. "It was my idea that she write out her feelings, yes. I'm the only person she's ever confided in about this and you have no idea how incredibly hard it was for her to tell me, even after I'd told her I suspected. She knew my secrets by then and still it was hard for her to talk to me about it." Julie seemed to stare off into another time, a faint smile curling her pink lips. Abruptly, she shook herself and refocused on Buffy. "Why did I tell her to write things out? Is that what you really want to know or is it more along the lines of did I tell her what to write."

Buffy scowled and stared daggers at the younger woman, who, now that she was actually looking, did seem to look a great deal like her. "Well? Did you?" She growled.

Julie sighed and shook her head. She'd been dating Dawn long enough, seen for herself and been regaled with enough stories to know that Buffy's favorite tactic when uncomfortable was to attack. "No, Buffy, I didn't tell her what to write. I didn't have to. I mean, yes, I suggested she write out what she felt. I know from personal experience that it can really help you get your head straight, that it can help you move on with your life. Dawn needed that today."

Buffy shifted uncomfortably for a moment, before sinking into the chair Dawn had used so recently. "And you read it? You know everything in that notebook?" Julie assured her she did and Buffy just looked confused. "If you know, then how can you sit there so calmly? How can you not be going crazy, knowing that Dawn doesn't love you?"

The younger blonde tried to suppress it, but the urge just wouldn't be denied. She burst out laughing, trying hard to get it under control as quickly as possible. She saw Buffy's face cloud up again and she raised a hand, still trying to stifle her mirth. "S-sorry, sorry. I'm n-not laughing at you, Buffy. I'm laughing at what you said." She took a deep breath, finally getting herself back under control, though she still smiled broadly. "Of course Dawnie loves me! She loves me very much, just as much, in fact as I love her." The younger Slayer locked eyes with the older, grey to hazel. "It's just I know she loves you just a touch more, that's all, and I'm perfectly okay with that. After all," she hastened to add, cutting off Buffy's protests. "She's in the same situation as I am and we both understand that."

"What do you mean by that? I thought you were an only child," Buffy spat, her anger resurfacing.

Julie just smiled again. "I am, but, y'see, I have this cousin... She's just incredibly beautiful. About three or four inches taller than me, long, long mahogany hair, big blue eyes, slender, but not skinny..." She smirked a little. "Starting to see a pattern?"

The elder Slayer scowled. "So, what? You started dating my sister because she looked like this other girl?"

"Exactly, just like Dawn was attracted to me at first because I look so much like you," she confirmed matter of factly. Buffy's jaw dropped and she lost the angry expression, causing Julie to snort in amusement. "You mean you never noticed? Think about it, Buffy; What did every girl Dawn's ever seriously dated have in common? We're all Slayers that have blonde hair, are on the short side and have blue, green or hazel eyes. Sound familiar?"

The older woman looked extremely uncomfortable now, almost like she wanted to bolt. Julie watched closely, then caught what she was afraid she would, that Buffy was going to deny that it meant anything, or worse, confront Dawn. That would hurt the younger Summers woman so much and Julie wouldn't let anyone hurt her girl, no matter who it was. She sighed and said, "Buffy, I can tell you don't like it, but you're just gonna have to accept that your sister has been deeply in love with you for nearly half her life. Nothing you say is gonna change that, but anything you say to Dawn will damage your relationship with your sister. Dawn loves you, both like she loves me and as her sister, her only blood family left on the planet. And don't mention your dad," she cut her off. "We both know neither of you count that asshole for anything."

"Hey!" Buffy said in a knee-jerk reaction to someone calling her father names. After all, she really did love her father, she just didn't like him. Julie rolled her eyes, but apologized and the older woman nodded acceptance. Buffy glanced at the bag that her sister's girlfriend had put the infamous note pad into and the knowledge that Dawn wanted to make love to her again ran laughingly through her head and she grimaced. "How," she asked, her voice laced with confusion and pain. "How do I treat Dawn the same as I always have after I've seen that, after I know what I know now? Nothing can ever be the same between us again!"

Julie sighed and moved over to the love seat along the wall. "You just do because the alternative is for Dawn to never speak to you again, trust me on this." Buffy gave her a disbelieving look, though Julie was unsure if it was for the first part of her statement or the second. She looked down and growled a little before her eyes came back up and locked on the older blonde. "Buffy, let me tell you a story. See, once upon a time, there was this girl who had the crush of the ages on a member of her family, a first cousin. Her mother's twin sister's child, to be precise, so, genetically, they were almost siblings.

"Anyway, the girl would've done anything for this cousin. If they'd asked her to kill, she'd have asked for the name of the person they wanted dead and never thought a thing about it. Then, one day she realized that the crush was something more now, she'd fallen deeply in love with her cousin. Had all the usual fantasies, that the cousin returned the feelings and they would date and eventually make love, then live and grow old together. She was so caught up in her fantasies, she mistook regular family love for the same feelings she had and confessed all to her cousin, fully expecting that soon, her cousin would be hers to have and love."

Julie paused, her eyes taking on a faraway look, as though she were remembering something. Before Buffy could say anything, though, her face cleared and she looked at the older blonde again. "Of course, this is the real world and her cousin, far from being in love with her, was freaked out by the thought. Yes, her cousin loved her, but like a sister and nothing else. They tried to play it off, to ignore it, but it caused a rift that meant they haven't spoken for over five years."

Julie's voice lost the haunted tone she'd adopted while relating her story, taking on instead a passion Buffy had never heard before. "Buffy, I loved Jennifer. She was my cousin, my sister, my best friend from the time we were kids until our senior year of high school. She was also the love of my life for the first twenty three years of my life, but I haven't spoken to her since March seventeenth, two thousand one and I haven't even seen her since the night we graduated high school. I don't even know what college she went to, all because she hugged me and kissed my cheek on the night of her eighteenth birthday. I got her a necklace that had both our birthstones in it, with the setting intertwined, just like I wished we could be. When she kissed my cheek, I felt so close to her and felt that she just had to feel the same way I did, so I confessed. I told her I loved her, that I had always loved her and that I wanted to be her girlfriend. She laughed it off at first, like I was joking or something but, like an idiot, I tried harder, sure I was doing the right thing. I asked her why did she think I'd never dated in high school, not even once. I had guys asking me out almost daily, I even had a few girls ask for a date, but I turned them all down. I wanted Jen, not any of them."

Julie paused again, trying to get her voice under control as she remembered that long ago night and how much it had hurt. Absently, she wiped the tear that threatened to drip free. Staring at the floor, lost in her own private world, she once more took up her narrative. "I finally got through to her that I really meant it. I loved her, I wanted her, wanted to make love with her, that I would be hers if she just asked me to. Her first words to me after that? 'That's sick! I'm your cousin, we can't do that! Why would you ever think that we could?' I tried to defend myself, but she just screamed for me to get out, so I ran. I was heartbroken, so I did the first thing I thought of; I ran home and went to my room to cry my eyes out. I missed the next day of school, I cried so much. I did go the day after that, but it was horrible. Jen avoided me all day, I barely even caught a glimpse of her, so I stopped at a coffee shop we used to hang out in, y'know, just because it was kind of like our spot, sort of. I know it was pathetic, hell, I knew it then, but I couldn't face going home. Not yet. When I did get there, my mom frowned at me and told me that Jen had been by and left me something in my room. I immediately cheered up, because hey, maybe she'd changed her mind and left me a gift to tell me.

"It wasn't a gift," she said after a moment. "It was a box with a letter on top of it, so I ran over and opened the letter quickly. It had two lines on it; 'Never come near me again. If you do, I'll tell everyone in the family how perverted you are.' I dropped the letter and numbly opened the box. Inside, I found every gift I'd ever given Jennifer, from the stupid little gumball machine rings when we were five to the necklace I'd bought for her birthday and given her just two days before. She'd returned everything and I didn't need to look around to see that she'd taken back everything she'd ever given me. I glanced at the bulletin board I had on the back of my closet door and she'd torn every picture of the two of us in half, taking her half of the picture with her. She didn't even leave me a picture of herself. I'd offered her my heart and she not only rejected it, she ripped it to pieces, then destroyed the pieces one by one."

Silence ruled the small-ish room as Julie fought to control her emotions and Buffy sat speechless. She tried to think of something to say, anything, but she was coming up empty. No words of consolation, no commiseration, not even a hearty, 'Hey, that sucks, but it's in the past,' nothing. She even tried to form something along the lines of disagreeing that things were similar, but knew that she was wrong. True, Dawn hadn't actually told her out loud, but that was the only real difference. Well, that and she had no intention of casting her sister from her life.

Julie gave herself a shake and pulled herself from her memories to look at Buffy as the other woman thought hard. Standing, she dashed the tears from her face and walked the few steps to stand before the older Slayer, then knelt at her feet so Buffy wouldn't have to look up. "Buffy, listen to me. If you make a big deal about this, if you let on that you know, you will lose Dawn just as I lost Jennifer. Maybe not as permanently, but she will leave, we will leave and it'll be years before you talk to her again. I lost any chance of even a normal family relationship with Jennifer. If we saw each other now, if she would speak at all, she would be cold and formal and would leave again as quickly as she politely could. I know you don't want that to happen between you and Dawn. You love her too much to hurt her that way. I love her too much to see you hurt her that much. Please, please, just forget you ever saw that journal, that we ever had this talk and just keep being the big sister you've always been."

Buffy looked down at the tear filled eyes on the woman her sister was living with. The woman who, now that she was actually looking, she had to admit looked enough like her, they could be sisters, or maybe cousins. She winced internally at that word. The oldest living Slayer thought about what Julie had told her, about the younger woman's life and what she'd told her about Dawn. She thought it all over and made a decision.

* * *

"No! No, I don't think she 'ran for it'," Dawn said to Kennedy as the brunette Slayer looked at her anxiously. The younger Summers woman had laughter in her voice, amused at the idea that Buffy would run out on her wedding day. "Look, why don't you go tell Faith that Buffy's still here and that everything'll go off on time and like it's supposed to and I'll go find her and make sure neither one of us is lying, okay?"

Kennedy's face displayed every ounce of her skepticism. "You sure we can't just find Buffy first?" At the look Dawn gave her, the young Slayer wilted fast. "Okay, okay! Sheesh! Fine, I'll keep Faith distracted, Will's with Xander, keeping him from running for the hills, so you find your sister and sit on her if you have to, okay? Oh, if... I mean, when you find her, come tell me, okay? Or send Julie or something so I can stopped worrying about Faith flipping out?"

Dawn resolutely ignored the mental image Kennedy's words conjured and nodded exasperatedly at the slightly older brunette. "Yeah, yeah. I'll make sure you get the message," she said, her tone distracted as she tried to figure out where her sister was hiding. She'd checked Buffy's dressing room and found it empty. Ditto the nearby bathroom and the room the caterers were using to prep stuff. She'd even checked the meeting room they were using for the ceremony then the parking lot, but still no Buffy. Sighing, she decided to see if Julie was in their room and, if so, to get her lover to help look for her wayward sibling.

Reaching the room she'd been given, she opened the door and was somewhat astonished to see both of the women she'd been looking for. "There you guys are!" She smiled at them both before going to Julie and giving her a kiss. "You keeping my overly nervous sister from running, baby?" She grinned at Buffy, her eyes twinkling.

Buffy rolled her eyes and gave her sister an exasperated look as Julie laughed at their antics. "No, she wasn't going to run, Bright Eyes. She was nervous, though, so she came looking for you, but found me instead, so we've just been talking and waiting for you to come back. Now that you're here, maybe we should head back for her dressing room, okay?"

Dawn giggled and nodded. "That's a good idea, since someone already told Faith she was wasn't there and now she thinks Buffy's hightailed it or something. Considering what happened the last time Xander tried to get married, I hope no one's told him that Buffy might be missing!"

Buffy's face drained of blood as she realized how things might look to her soon to be spouses, especially Xander. Jumping up, she went to full panic mode and started pacing. "Oh my God! No! No, no, no. So not good! I need to go see her, let her know everything is okay, I still want to marry her, that I wouldn't even think of leaving her or Xander. And Xander! Oh, he's probably thinking that if I'm gone, it's payment for what happened with Anya! I need to see him too, both of them! God, I'm so stupid!" She turned and started for the door, but Dawn grabbed her by the arms, forcing her to stop and look at her.

Dawn smiled at her panicked sister. "Okay, first of all, I told Faith I'd find you, so she's only a little worried and I don't think Xander knows at all. At least, Willow said he was nervous but fine like twenty minutes ago, so I think we can assume that all's well with my soon to be brother in law, okay? Now, take a deep breath," she demonstrated, glaring at Buffy a little until the blonde complied. "Okay, here's what's gonna happen. You are going to go with Julie back to your dressing room so we can make sure you're more beautiful than ever so you can go out there and marry those two people that love you so much. While you do that, I will go to Faith's dressing room and tell her I found you and that everything's fine and on schedule. Then I'll go check on Xander and come back to your room and let you know what's going on, okay?"

Buffy took another deep breath and felt her nervousness, both for the events of the day and what she'd discovered about her sister's feelings for her subside a little. Dawn still knew how to get through to her, to calm her down and make her feel better and it seemed to the anxious blonde that that hadn't changed, no matter what else had. "Okay, okay. I'm calm. See? I'm the picture of calmness. People look at me and think, 'She looks so calm.' Nothing to worry about, cause everything's all perfect and did I mention I'm calm now?"

Dawn couldn't help but laugh at Buffy's words, though she tried to stifle it when her sister turned a reproachful look on her. "Sorry, sorry!" She cleared her throat and tried again. "Okay, since you're so much calmer now, you head back and Julie'll be right behind you, okay?"

Buffy took another deep breath, fighting down the feelings of terror once more rising in her. Smiling, she looked at the only brunette in the room and smiled. "Thanks, Dawnie. I don't know what I'd do without you, but I don't wanna find out, okay?"

Dawn smiled, her eyes a little misty as she hugged Buffy tightly, the embrace lasting quite a while. Finally, she pulled back a bit, pausing to press a soft kiss to her sister's cheek. Pulling away from the elder Summers, she smiled again, tears welling in her eyes, but not falling. Reaching up, she wiped the lipstick from Buffy's cheek as she said, "Hey, then it's a good thing you never have to worry about that, huh? I love you, Buffy and I know they'll make you so happy, so I'm happy too."

Buffy felt a little twinge of unease from what she'd learned, but easily ignored it. This was her little sister; sometimes bratty, but always supporting her, always there for her. So what if her feelings were a little weird? She herself was marrying two people, so who was she she to talk about weird feelings and the true meaning of the kinds of love. It broke down to three simple things for the eldest Slayer; She loved her sister and Dawn loved her and they were all they each had in this world and nothing mattered besides that.

The blonde smiled and reached up, tucking a stray lock of hair behind Dawn's ear. "I love you, too, Dawnie. There have been times over the years when I really wanted to kill you or tie you up and leave you outside for the vampires to find, but I really do love you. I'm so glad you're my sister."

Dawn smiled at Buffy, deeply touched at her sister's words. Her eyes glistened with the tears she was trying so hard to not shed and she saw a matching wetness in Buffy's eyes. "I'm glad we're sisters, too," she manages say softly, her voice heavy with emotion. She held Buffy's gaze for another moment, forcing a chuckle to trying to break the mood a little. "I think we better cut this out, okay? I mean, if we keep this up, we'll both be crying and all our mascara will run and we'll scare everyone away before we can get you married, so enough with the sappiness!"

Buffy produced a gurgle of laughter at that and she smiled broadly, a single tear tried to roll down her cheek, but it was swiftly obliterated. "You're right, Dawnie, no more sappy. Okay, I'll just go back to my room and... You'll be right there, right?" she asked, her nervousness returning.

Dawn rolled her eyes a little and flashed a grin at Julie. "Yes, Buffy, I'll be there as soon as I tell Faith everything is fine. Just like I said I would like five minutes ago!" She shook her head in fond exasperation as Buffy blushed lightly. "So, you go on and Julie will be right there to keep you company until I get there, okay?"

Buffy nodded and left, leaving Dawn and a mischievously smiling Julie. "What's with that smile? Are you plotting something that I'll need to keep Buffy or Faith from killing you over?"

The blonde shook her head, the smile never leaving her lips. "No, nothing like that. I was just thinking about how much alike you two are." She laughed when Dawn sputtered and tried to deny that. Closing the distance, she wrapped her arms around the brunette and gave her a little squeeze. "You are a lot alike, but you're also very different. I can't even imagine being in love with Buffy..."

Dawn scowled playfully and lightly hit Julie on the shoulder. "You better not be able to, cause I'm not sharing you!" Then her expression turned dreamy. "Course, that would mean that you two would be sharing me, so... Think of the possibilities!" She sighed dramatically as she appeared to be picturing herself in the middle of a Slayer sandwich.

Julie shook her gently, looking to be angry, but Dawn caught the way her lips were fighting to curl into a smile. "Stop that! I never agreed to share you, not even with Buffy, so no imagining!" The Slayer fought with herself, but failed and started laughing, joined a second later by her lover.

Dawn got her giggling under control fairly quickly and said, "As fun as that was, we should go and check on everybody, like we said we would." She kissed her girlfriend, quickly, but firmly and started to move away, but Julie's hand on her arm stopped her. Dawn looked back, a question in her doe eyes and one eyebrow raised gracefully.

Julie pulled her taller girl back into herself and kissed her again, this time more slowly, passionately. Finally breaking for air, she touched her forehead to Dawn's and grinned. "You just wait till we get home, missy and I show you why we don't need Buffy in our bed," she informed Dawn huskily.

The brunette shivered at the promise of great pleasures to come and smiled, nodding. "Gonna hold you to that, you know. Now, come on. We need to stop Buffy and Faith from trying to escape before they can be illegally married!" She turned and headed for the door, Julie's hand in hers as the blonde followed her, a smirk on Julie's lips as she enjoyed the view.

* * *

Later, after the vows and the sight of an extremely nervous Xander and an even more nervous Faith, everyone was dancing at the reception. Dawn and Julie had laughed as hard as anyone when the newly married triad had tried to dance the first dance all together, instead of in pairs. By now, though, everyone was dancing and the happy triad was taking turns with each other. Currently, it was Buffy and Faith dancing together a few feet away from another blonde/brunette pair.

Julie watched her lover as they swayed to the slow ballad currently playing, a somewhat melancholy feeling going through her. Following Dawn's gaze, she saw that the younger woman was watching her sister again, though she wasn't sure the usual look of longing was present this time. Even with their earlier playful banter, she was genuinely worried about how Dawn was dealing with today.

Making up her mind, she gently nudged her lover, asking, "Hey, you okay?"

Dawn started a little, then smiled, a bit sheepishly, at the blonde in her arms. "Yeah, fine! Why?"

Julie half forced a teasing smile on her lips. "Well, for one thing, you haven't taken your eyes off Buffy since this dance began. Or the one before that or the one before that." Her expression sobered and one hand came up to lightly cup Dawn's cheek. "Are you regretting not telling Buffy how you feel?"

Dawn blushed lightly at having been caught staring, but quickly shook her head. "No, I don't regret it. Besides, if I'd said anything, it would've messed today up and I wouldn't do that for anything." She smiled at her lover, brushing a few errant locks of hair from Julie's forehead. "I'm deliriously happy for Buffy today. Faith and Xander love her almost as much as I do and I know that they'll all be really good for each other." She looked over as Xander broke in and started dancing with Faith and smiled again. "The three of them balance each other."

Julie followed her gaze once more, finding herself nodding with the brunette's assessment before looking back into Dawn's sparkling blue eyes. She searched through them for any sign of sadness or regret, but didn't think she saw any. Still, the blonde remembered her own reaction a few years earlier when she'd been told about Jennifer's impending marriage and, as much 'fun' as getting drunk and leveling a bar had been, she didn't think Dawn would want to do that. Still... "I'd have to agree with that, but..." She bit her lip for a second then continued. "Are you sure? I mean, with her being married now, there's pretty much no chance you two will ever hook up. I know how that feels," she hastened to add. "I just... I don't want you to feel what I did a couple years ago."

Dawn smiled tenderly and stroked a satiny cheek with the backs of her fingers. "Always looking out for me," she murmured. "Julie, it doesn't matter that Buffy got married. I mean, it does, 'cause it makes her so happy, but even if she hadn't and we weren't together, Buffy and I would never be together. Not that way." She paused and sighed, a little of the melancholy she'd been entertaining since Buffy's engagement was announced and her own acceptance of the situation coming through. " Julie, Buffy will never be able to see me as anything other than her little sister. She's just not wired that way and it would seriously weird her out to know how I feel."

Julie drew a breath to respond, a sympathetic expression gracing her lovely features, but Dawn put two fingers against the Slayer's lips. "No, it's okay. I'm not really upset or anything, don't worry. It is what it is and I accepted all this a long time ago, even if a little part of me was holding out a little hope. And besides," she adds, a twinkle in her eye and a loving smile on her lips. "Think about it; If I was still waiting for Buffy to notice that I loved her like I do, then I wouldn't be able to love you as much as I do."

Julie smiled and felt her eyes prickle as tears threatened, but shook the feeling off. "I love you, too. I don't say it often enough, I know, but you're everything to me, Dawn Summers." Dawn kissed her softly, lingeringly, then pulled back and the blonde had to laugh at the happy, yet wary look in the clear blue eyes of her lover. "Don't worry, I'm not gonna do the cliché thing and propose today or anything." She giggled at the playful, exaggerated look of relief on Dawn's face but silently wondered if the brunette took notice of how she emphasized the word 'today'. Knowing her, oh yeah, she noticed. Julie calmed and her expression became more pragmatic. "I know I shouldn't feel this way, but I just don't want you to feel, somewhere down the road, like you, I don't know... Like you 'settled' for me because I look like Buffy when you might have had her instead just by saying something now. I just want you to be happy, even if it's not with me."

Dawn could tell and feel that her lover was sincere in what she was saying and a part of her was touched at the love and depth of feeling that it must have taken to say it. Still... She made a little face and lightly hit the blonde on her left shoulder. "That's because you're a dummy. A sweet dummy, but still a dummy," she explained before caressing the place she'd hit. "What you said was beautiful and I love you for it, but don't you realize that if I wanted to settle for what I don't want, if would be with Buffy, not you?" At Julie's confused look, Dawn rolled her eyes and let out her breath in a somewhat exasperated sigh. "Julie, sweetie, lemme ask you something; Have you ever noticed just how much Buffy and I are alike?"

Julie started to say something, then stopped, suddenly wary of a trap. Dawn smiled and chortled a bit before continuing. "Exactly. How long do you think we could possibly be together as a couple before we wanted to kill each other?"

The Slayer started to respond, then stopped and really thought about that. After a moment or two, she made a little "Huh." noise as what Dawn was saying sank into her consciousness. "I never really thought about it like that," she commented in an offhand manner. She jumped slightly as she felt a slim, warm hand cup her face and gently force her to look up.

A serious expression on her face, Dawn said, "Baby, you may look a lot like my sister, but the only things you two really have in common are the whole Slayer thing and wanting to keep me safe. And even in that, you couldn't be more different; Buffy wants protect me by not letting me experience anything, by keeping me basically locked up where she can watch over me. You, on the other hand, are willing to let me try things for myself, but also be there to 'save' me if it backfires. You share everything with me, but she only shares what she absolutely has to, and even then, she'll try to get out of it."

Dawn took a deep breath and looped her arms back around Julie's neck. "Yes, I love Buffy and I always will, just like you will always love Jennifer in some way, but you are the one I want, Julie Honaker. The one I want to wake up with, to fall asleep with, to be with for the rest of my life. I want you to put the idea that I might leave you for my sister out of your head, you hear me? I don't think I could love you any more than I already do if I tried, but I want to find out and I have never felt like I was just 'settling' for a Buffy clone with you. Not ever!"

Julie just stared at her lover, not feeling the tear that broke loose and slowly rolled down her cheek. She tried to say something to that, but her voice simply wouldn't cooperate. Finally, she did the only thing she could think of to convey what she wanted to say, she leaned forward and captured Dawn's lips is a heated, drawn out kiss. She put everything she could into the kiss, everything Dawn meant to her, everything she felt upon hearing her lover's words of love and devotion.

Dawn herself returned the kiss with equal fervor. She'd meant what she told her Slayer. She had found the person she wanted to stay with for the rest of her life and, as much as Julie seemed to be worried about it and as much as she herself would've been surprised just a couple years ago, she had meant it when she said she and Buffy could never be a couple together. Julie was the one she was meant to be with and she was never going to let her go.

Finally, both women ran out of air and pulled apart, both panting lightly as they touched foreheads. Dawn opened her eyes and tried to look into Julie's but the blonde still ahd hers closed.

"Hey, are you sure you two ain't the newlyweds?" Faith's amused voice startled them both from their own little world.

Both looked slightly guiltily toward the older brunette, Dawn blushing lightly. Julie's eyes cut back to her girlfriend and she smiled. "I guess I could do the romantic cliché and propose," she said, only partially joking.

Dawn smiled in return and gave the blonde a quick kiss. "Let me save you some time. No."

Julie gasped sub-audibly and fought down the sudden hollow feeling that filled her. Sure, she'd been most joking, but to be turned down so flatly, especially after all of Dawn's words of love...

Dawn saw the hurt that flashed through the grey-blue eyes of her lover. With gentle fingers, she tilted Julie's face up until the Slayer was forced to look at her. "Hey, no. I didn't mean it like that. No, I don't want to get married right now, but I've got no objection to continuing to live in sin. And hey, you can keep asking, y'know, whenever the urge hits. Who knows? I might even say yes. Eventually."

Julie smiled, then giggled, as much at the feelings of relief that flooded her as the silly expression on Dawn's gorgeous face. "I'll wear you down, just wait!" With an ecstatic laugh, the Slayer picked her love up and spun her around once before pressing their lips together in a kiss even steamier than the one just moments before.

Over to the side, Buffy stood with Willow as her husband and wife danced together and watched her sister and Julie as they at first danced as well then seemed to get into a heated conversation. She'd caught Dawn looking at her off and on since the reception started and had blushed when she remembered what she'd discovered just hours ago. Still, from what she could see, both the expression on her sister's face and her body language seemed to lack any indication of her doing anything embarrassing.

As she watched the couple's interaction, that worry faded and she started to feel apprehensive for Julie. The other blonde looked worried, yet sincere, like she was trying to make a point that Dawn just didn't seem to want to get. Then, they seemed to sort of change places and Dawn was trying to get Julie to understand something. For a second, she thought Julie was going to walk away, then Dawn made her look at her and then they were kissing. Passionately. Maybe more passionately than either Xander or Faith had kissed her and it was their wedding day!

She couldn't help but smile as Faith teased them about their public display of affection, then giggle a bit as they both blushed, Dawn much darker than Julie. Then Julie once more looked like she might walk away, then she smiled radiantly and picked Dawn up to spin her around before kissing her even harder, more passionately than she had just moments before. This time, even though they got even more comments and catcalls than the previous kiss, they kept it going until Buffy was worried they both might pass out, still attached at the lips.

"You know," Willow said in an amused, yet contemplative voice. "I don't think Kennedy has ever kissed me like that. Actually, now that I think about it, I'm not sure Tara ever gave me a kiss like that!"

"It was romantic," Buffy sighed, agreeing with her best friend. "And no, before you ask. I've gotten a hotter kiss from Faith, but nowhere near as romantic."

Willow smiled and bumped her shoulder into the blonde's. "I guess we'll be going to their wedding next, huh?"

The original Slayer shrugged. "Maybe." She watched her sister and Julie resume dancing, seemingly oblivious to everyone around them.

"I'm glad they found each other," Willow mused. She glanced at Buffy and smiled. "I mean, when you think about Dawnie's other girlfriends, none of them seemed to fit, you know? And of course, the less said about Karen the better!" She matched the scowl on her friend's face at the thought of the control freak that had hurt Dawn several years before. "Dawnie had a crush on Tara, you know."

Buffy turned and looked at Willow, her eyes opened wide at that revelation. "No, I never knew that! I mean, remember how surprised I was when she announced she was dating Terri?"

"It's true, though. She told me a few years ago when she asked me what it was like to kiss a girl. I asked why she wanted to know and she said because she liked Kit Holdren and was going to tell her. Since she'd also told me that Kit was making her way through the 'low-rent district' of the Sunnydale High male population, I asked what the real reason was and she finally admitted she liked one of the potentials. I said this girl liking was kind of sudden and she said that it wasn't really, since she'd had crushes on Tara and a couple girls in grades above hers." The redhead stopped and chortled, turning an evil smirk on Buffy. "She even said she had had a crush on Faith for a little while!"

Buffy looked at Dawn quickly, an incredulous expression on her face. She wanted me and Faith?! Does she just have a thing for Slayers or something?

Willow misinterpreted the look and rolled her eyes, though she also gave Buffy a commiserating look. "Hey don't worry about that. Has anyone ever looked at Faith and not crushed on her?"

The blonde raised an eyebrow. "Including you?"

Willow blushed a little at the undertone in Buffy's voice and answered in a stuttering voice, "I-I MAY have looked closer at her. Y'know, once or twice." The redhead blushed even harder when Buffy gave her an 'Oh really?' look. "Hey, it's not my fault your wife is so damned hot, now is it?" She said hotly. "Besides, it's not like I don't have to put up with that kind of stuff too, y'know! Have you seen how many lusty looks Kennedy gets? I even caught you looking once, Missy, so you can't give me a hard time about looking at Faith like that!"

"I always knew ya loved me, Red!" Faith called across the room, causing the witch's blush to deepen to a couple shades darker than her hair.

"I always forget about the damned hearing," Willow muttered in an undertone, not being able to meet Buffy's eyes.

The blonde chuckled even as she blushed a little herself. "Don't worry, Will. It still gets me in trouble too sometimes." Buffy laughed outright when her sister/friend muttered something that would have caused her teenage self to pass out in embarrassment before walking away. She watched as Willow joined her own lifemate, giving Kennedy a kiss on the cheek, much to the chagrin of the gentleman talking to the petite brunette. Buffy thought he was probably one of Xander's work buddies.

Turning her attention back to Dawn and Julie, she thought over what she'd read again and made the conscious decision to forget it. One look at her sister's face and she could tell Julie had been right. Dawn really did love the other blonde. From the snippets of their conversation Buffy had overheard, she was sure that it was real, that Dawn was with Julie because she loved her like she herself loved Faith and Xander and not because of any resemblance to herself.

The original Slayer smiled, feeling a weight leave her shoulders. She was happy and so was Dawnie. She could stop worrying quite so much about her baby sister because she knew Julie would die before letting Dawn get hurt. As Dawn and Julie kissed again, this one slow and loving, Buffy was glad they'd found one another and that her much beloved sister hadn't settled for anything less than real, true love.

The End

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