Disclaimer: I do not own or claim to own these characters.
A/N: Written as a fill on Comment Fic for Leni Ba who prompted: "This is our happily-ever-after. Don't judge.
For someone whose life expectancy ends with '-teen,' Buffy takes a long time to figure out what her idea of a happily-ever-after is. For the first two and a half years after she moved to Sunnydale, she thought for sure it was Angel. Of course it was. He was tall and smart and strong and mysteriously handsome. He was a great kisser. And, most importantly, they loved each other.
And then he left, and she wasn't sure there was a happily-ever-after for her.
With Angel gone, she lost her fairy tale future, lost what she thought she was trying so hard to get to. And she tried, after a while, to convince herself that happily-ever-after actually meant a normal life. She tried, so hard, to convince herself that normal would make her happier than anything else. And that she could get both normality and happiness from Riley.
And not long after she gave up on that, the only happily-ever-after she could see was death. She'd been so close, again, to happily-ever-after. Not close, even. She'd had it, aside for the 'ever' part. She'd been warm and loved and peaceful. She'd been done fighting. And then for nearly a year, all she could imagine for a happy ending was death.
And when that faded, she was left trying to figure happily-ever-after out all over again. She'd told Angel that, two nights before Sunnydale collapsed. He still reminds her of the cookies now. The analogy isn't her best work, but it's sweet that he wants the whole Buffy Summers package now.
After she told Angel maybe, she spent two more nights curled up with Spike. She held his hand as he slept and on their last night in Sunnydale she tucked her arm around him and slept with her head against his chest.
She lives in a castle (how much more fairy tale can you get?), she sleeps with Satsu, she and Dowling… almost think about starting something. And none of it is right.
And when Spike comes back, really comes back, it's closer. She loves him. She's loved him for years. When she 'd realised she did, when her hand caught on fire and the town she'd spent seven years in collapsed around them, she'd seen no happily-ever-after between them. There'd been hurting, then healing, then comfort and pride in the end, but no future. She hadn't seen her future with him.
But he comes back. He holds her dying sister's hand, he moves in across the hall, and when she finally gets it, finally tells him her feelings he kisses her. He kisses her and they trip over kittens to get to his bed and she sees the way he sees her, glowing and gorgeous, and after all that, she thinks she can see what she wants in a happily-ever-after.
Then Angel comes back.
The old happily-ever-after that she used to see for them is gone, but there's a new one in its place. A new one from the way Spike looks at her and the way she loves him. A new one from the way he and Angel bicker. A new one from the new way she can see Angel now. Not some dark mystery, not some force of strength, not some anchor of stability in her life of chaos. But instead as someone who's been broken and pieced back together. As someone who's hurt her and who himself hurts. Someone she can love despite all that, the way she loves Spike.
Her happily-ever-after with Angel keeps crowding in on her happily ever after with Spike. Spike's the one whose stuck with her, he's the one she's dating. He's the one she should be loyal to. She knows this, no matter that Angel makes her heart thump still. Because Spike does too.
She doesn't love Angel more, not anymore. But she loves them both, differently but both.
She pulls back. She doesn't call Angel. She spends the nights with Spike, only Spike.
After a week of not seeing Angel, she has that dream again. The one where, no matter how much she glows in Spike's eyes, no matter how much Angel is willing to risk for her she still can't give them, either of them, what they get from each other, from twenty years of close friendship (or whatever that was) or how they know each other just from being the only two creatures like themselves.
After the eighth day of not seeing Angel, she asks Spike what he wants to do.
She says nothing, not even to Dawn (Buffy's about eighty percent sure Dawn knows anyway somehow) as they try to sort things out. As she tries to make everything come back into focus, to see things with the clarity with which she'd seen her future with Angel when she was seventeen. She says nothing as more and more frequently Angel meets them in the graveyards, and then to bring them new cases, and then in bars where they all three hide in a corner booth away from everyone else and talk (or argue because everything is an argument between Spike and Angel) and try to just… sort everything out.
She says nothing because she doesn't know what she's doing. Doesn't know what she sees ahead of her.
She says nothing because she remembers the gang gathered around the table in the library to confront her about Angel, and she remembers the gang standing around her living room asking her why she was having sex with Spike (several months before they needed to).
She says nothing until she wakes up in bed with Angel's arm for a pillow and Spike snoring on the other side of the bed. She says nothing until she wakes up with the orange cat staring at her with big green eyes from Spike's open dresser drawer and a mug with dried blood around the rim a few inches from her face and the sound of Xander in the kitchen on the other side of the wall and she doesn't care. She says nothing until she wakes up the way she wants to always wake up.
Spike and Angel don't stir as Buffy rises. She finds her clothes, scattered and buried, and dresses as the cat climbs down from the dresser and rubs against her ankles. When she's dressed, she opens the door only enough for herself and the cat to slip through and then closes it behind her.
Xander looks up from his newspaper. "Hey, Buff. Want some coffee?"
Better than an intervention.
"Yeah," she says. Then, "No. I mean, yeah, but also I should tell you something."
"Okay?" He puts the paper down and stares straight at her. "What's up?"
"Angel's in there. And we're together."
Xander looks as horrified as she expected him to. And also a littler angrier than she expected him too. "What?" he asks. "Buffy, shit. In Spike's bed?"
"Spike's there too," Buffy says, gearing up for the next expression of disgust. This is what we want. This is our happily-ever-after. You don't get to judge us. "We're all together."
Xander looks relieved for a moment, but then he frowns again.
This is our happily ever after. "Look," she says, in her most self-assured, confident voice with a side of 'I'm the Slayer, don't upset me,' "I know it's… unconventional… but it's what is going to make us all happy."
"Yeah, but, Buffy, do they actually make bathrooms big enough for all those hair products?"
She stares at him.
He grins at her. "Aren't you and Spike already kinda pushing that…" he trails off, presumably from her expression. "I'm supposed to be supportive right now, aren't I? Dammit." He throws his paper to the table in mock anger. "Another swing and miss. I tell you, it's those damn after school specials. Deprived a whole generation of proper supportive procedure."
Is it a joke to him? Does he think she's telling a joke? Or is he just not actually not caring? He has to care, right?
Also she's totally without a clue for what he's talking about.
"Xander, this is serious."
"You think I'm not serious? They try and prepare you for how to treat other people. Then you get all congratulatory and your Geek in Residence runs away, you play it cool and you end up here. Something should be done about those things."
She frowns at him.
"Ah," says Xander. "Okay. Not right now. Human bra Xander, here I am." He gets up, comes around the table, and hugs her.
Buffy glares at his chest.
Aren't there a lot of things that support other things in construction? But he still thinks of bras.
"Really, Buff, I'll support you with whatever you want. Just because I've had the wrong response to every single one of these moments in my life doesn't mean I'm not going to be happy if you and Spike are happy."
So, Xander's changed too. Obviously. His happily ever after doesn't involve her going to the school dance with him or Spike turning into dust. He's evolved.
She hugs him back. "Angel's happy too," she adds. "Not too happy. Soul-having happy."
"Which you don't really care about."
She can feel his jaw moving against the top of her head. "Yeah, not so much. But I'm still happy for you guys."
She pulls out of his arms and smiles at him. "Thanks, Xand."
"Yeah, hey, I'm learning. I'll get it right one of these days."
Buffy nods firmly. "Yes, absolutely."
She's sure he will. She finally did.