The Angel's Knight, Epilogue - Happily Ever After


And so it was all over but the shouting.

Not exactly like that, of course. No true story is ever really over, not even when large parts of it took place somewhere that is much closer to myth than reality. For the people who had given their all to defend their world, who had set all their many differences and personal problems aside, the story wasn't over, of course. For them the happily ever after came next, or the closest people will ever come to it in a world that isn't part of a fairy tale.

Before that could happen, though, the revived heroes became aware of one final casualty of this final battle. Celeste had vanished amidst the commotion of resurrection, disappeared without a trace. With the fires of the Torch burning low it didn't take them too long to figure out what had happened. Celeste entire existence had been an impossibility, a blatant disregard of all laws of nature. When Dawn and her pooled their power to bring back the fallen warriors, it used up every last bit of power she had managed to gather for herself. The Torch still existed, of course, but its human incarnation was lost forever.

Emerging from the underground battlefield the tired combatants blinked in the light of a new dawn. The eternal dust storm that had obscured Sunnydale for so long was gone. Whatever demons, vampires, or zombies might have remained outside had also vanished. None of them were so naïve as to believe that the world didn't still contain monsters such as these, but for that single moment none of them really cared.

Angel and Buffy walked hand in hand in the morning light. There were many things to talk about, a lot of issues to work out. Angel was grieving for a daughter he had never really known. In the light of the new day, though, it could all wait for just a little while. Everything had changed. Destinies were fulfilled. For the first time in a long time this group of friends and allies was free to make their own plans and decide things for themselves.

And decide they did:

Faith and Gunn, who had danced around each other for years, had come to a realization when death nearly tore them apart. Faith was the one true Slayer, guardian of the Torch and protector of the balance between the natural and the supernatural in the world. Gunn was merely a man, but one who had traversed both the real world and that of myth his entire life. They were different, certainly, but both of them were happier together than apart, even when all they did was annoy the hell out of each other. Two months after the final battle in the chamber of the Torch Gunn proposed and Faith accepted. Another six months passed and they were married with Angel serving as Gunn's best man, Buffy stepping in as Faith's maid of honor, and Wesley giving Faith away at the altar. The couple's honeymoon took them to Paris, where, among other things, they cleaned out a large vampire nest and saved the French President from demonic possession. Some things never change.

Willow, now separated from Catherine Madison, tried long and hard to make amends to Tara, the woman she still loved. Many thought the two witches would eventually get back together, or hoped at any rate, but it was not to be. Tara, even though her feelings for Willow were as strong as ever, found that the trust that had once existed between them simply wasn't there anymore. She could never let her guard down around Willow again. Eventually Tara found happiness elsewhere and Willow ... well, Willow attempted the same, but somehow never found what she was looking for, the sins of her past haunting her to her dying day. Not all stories have a happy ending.

For Catherine Madison, now also alone in her own head again, things went a little bit better. For a long time Amy was quite weary of her mother despite Catherine's best attempts at regaining her daughter's trust. It helped, though, that Amy had acquired some experience of her own regarding the lure of dark magic and how it could tempt even the best of people. It took a long time, several years, but eventually mother and daughter managed to rebuild something closely resembling the family relationship they had once had and both their lives were happier for it.

For Cordelia, driven blind and to the edge of insanity by the power of the visions she had received, the road to recovery was long. It took many months and long sessions with Maryke's coven to successfully exorcise all the magical energy that had built up inside her. It was all worth it, though, just for that feeling on the first day she was able to see again. Able to watch her first sunset in years, Cordelia couldn't help but feel that this might in fact be the happily ever after part of their lives.

Xander retired from the demon-fighting business. Figuring that saving the world regularly for over twenty years and dying (even if it was but once) was enough for anyone (or anyone who wasn't a Slayer anyway), he returned to his family and vowed never to leave them again. He and Anya spent many happy years together and their family grew, their children eventually having children of their own. His nightmares of becoming the same kind of bitter old man that his father had been persisted, but grew sparser as the years progressed and never came true. He would eventually die at a ripe old age, surrounded by his great-grandchildren and with a smile on his lips.

Giles had made his peace with his existence during the final battle, resolving that he was the man he wanted to be, no matter how he had originally been brought into the world. With his family around him, including the daughter he had thought lost so many years earlier, he was as happy as any man could possibly be. He never went back to the old junkyard at the outskirts of London. The remains of the first Rupert Giles were buried in the Hyperion's courtyard, next to where a grave with the name 'Buffy Summers' on the headstone had once stood.

Wesley remained acting head of the Angel Foundation, its vast resources still used to help make the world a better place. It still employed and trained demon fighters, of course, but more and more its focus shifted towards giving a home to the homeless and feeding the hungry. For Wesley, whose sole wish in life had always been to serve a good cause, it was all he could ever ask for.

Darla, as close to human as someone like her could ever be, decided to live the kind of life she had always tried to build for Celeste, the only human being she had ever truly loved. A few years after the final battle she met a man who didn't know a thing about vampires or magic and some time later she married him. They had three children, all of them girls.

Dawn fulfilled her own last wish. A normal human woman now, she went about making up for over a decade of being little more than a ghost, living life for all it was worth. Sometimes she still reflected on what she was and where she had come from, but didn't allow it to get her down anymore. She was alive, she was a part of the world, and that was all she had ever really wanted.

Angel kept his promise to personally visit all the various employees of Wolfram & Hart who had been involved in creating the Buffy doppelganger that had nearly managed to fool him. It helped, of course, that he was no longer bound by such things as lack of invitation or daylight, yet still retained most of the strength he had had as a vampire. It seemed Dawn had done a good job during her resurrection of him. He didn't kill any of the Wolfram & Hart people, or at least none of the purely human ones, but took great care to emphasize his extreme displeasure. Wolfram & Hart, now abandoned by the senior partners (or the thing they had believed to be the senior partners), remained quiet for a number of years afterwards and, though they remained a thorn Angel's side, never again returned to their former level of power and influence.

And as for Buffy? Well, she and Angel certainly spent a lot of time together. There was a lot they had to work through, things such as Angel's never having been to Hell, Buffy's never having been dead, all the many truths about their lives they had learned in the span of just a few days. A fairy tale would have ended, of course, with them kissing and riding off together into the sunset, but this was not a fairy tale. Not completely, anyway.

Angel had once said that he and Buffy did not belong to each other, but rather the world. A world that, even though it was now safe from those who would use it as a chessboard for their universal games, still contained vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness. People still needed someone to protect them from the things that went bump in the night. The balance between the mundane and the supernatural world still needed to be maintained, a job that could definitely do with more than a single Slayer.

And so Buffy and Angel, neither of them quite human, both of them one-of-a- kind special, continued doing the thing they did best. There were many battles still to be fought, many evils that still needed conquering. They still belonged to the world, but there was a large part of each of them that belonged solely to the other. Their destinies fulfilled, they laid out their own road, one that would never branch off in different directions again.

Their lives and deeds eventually became legend, tales that parents would later tell to their children. Great adventures that featured evil monsters, glorious deeds, and a timeless romance to touch the hearts of everyone that read of it.

But those are different stories, to be told at another time.