Title: Amor Vincit Omnia

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Rating: T

Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not.

Summary: Whatever else they were, they were still Buffy and Murphy first; maybe her cookies had finally finished baking. 850 words.

Spoilers: B:tVS post-"Chosen"; no comics; "Boondock Saints" (1999)

Notes: Originally posted to LJ on Feb 28. I'd still kind of like to move this 'verse plotward someday? But for now I thought I'd wrap up the character arc, as I was reminded of it again by meeting the boys at Portland Comic Con. Title is Latin for "love conquers all".

Boston was soot-stained stone and rain-worn brick and rusting iron, glass and steel and living green and a shifting tapestry of accents. Old and new all at once, somewhere between California and Scotland in terms of pages in the history books, but at the same time more intense, more textured than anywhere else Buffy had ever lived. She felt suddenly dizzied by the solid familiar presence of the place, gazing up into the pewter sky outside McGinty's, and had to wonder what was up with that. She'd just found out that her boyfriend- and her sister's- were the so-called Boondock Saints; so why should she still feel like she belonged in their city more than she ever had anywhere else?

It wasn't as if it was the first time Buffy had found out that her lover was a killer, and she'd done the secret identity waltz before, too. But somehow, she just didn't feel as... betrayed as she had those other times, and the contrast was giving her a wiggins. It felt more like a tingle in her chest, like nerves gone numb with shock slowly waking back up, than the wrenching burn of a heart torn to pieces. Was she just jaded? Had she lost her touch when she left the Council behind her? Or were the MacManuses just an exception to yet another rule?

...Or maybe it was just that she'd finally met a lover on equal ground. Buffy Summers had been a society princess before becoming the One Girl in All the World, and after seven years of that she'd taken up the mantle of Queen Slayer. Until she'd come to Boston, she'd never managed to shake that privileged framework. And none of her four official boyfriends had stood on anything close to the same level; either from their side or hers, there'd been a lot of condescending going on in those relationships, and that wasn't even getting into her one-date blunders.

Murphy MacManus might not be able to match her for supernatural strength. But that had never been the basis of their romance; in every way that mattered, he'd always walked beside her before today. And nothing about that had changed, looking back on it with clearer eyes, except maybe to draw them closer. When she'd looked at him after sharing their stories, she'd seen a man who'd stared down the barrel of his own death, who would sacrifice everything for family, and who believed in doing what had to be done, no matter the cost. It was almost like looking into a mirror.

Except for one thing... Buffy had forgotten how to live in the moment, those last couple of years in Sunnydale. How to laugh, and love, and make joy, if she couldn't find it. Murphy never had, and it was one of the qualities that had always drawn her to him, long before she'd known his full history.

She reached out to him cautiously, slipping her small, strong fingers in amongst his... and smiled in relief as he squeezed them together, a quick pulse of acknowledgement and comfort. Whatever else they were, they were still Buffy and Murphy first; maybe her cookies had finally finished baking.

"...So, I don't suppose these fuckin' demons of yours ever work with evil men?" he finally said, in his lilting accent. "Because that would actually explain a great deal."

Buffy blinked at him- then caught her breath as long-slumbering instincts, already stirred up by the conversations inside the bar, perked up and took notice. Evil men working with demons! Her palms suddenly itched for a stake more than they had in months. Angel's little pocket war in L.A. had stirred up just such a hornet's nest; she remembered what had happened to Faith, Fred, Wes, and especially Cordelia... and found herself strangely comfortable with the idea of coming back out of retirement to use a certain bunch of soulless lawyers as a test case.

She still had a problem with the idea of killing humans herself, and doubted that would ever change, given her history. But she thought it might compare to how she'd felt about Oz' time in the Initiative's care, versus Ethan Rayne's; she'd had absolutely no problem holding a crossbow to a Colonel's head to steal her innocent friend back from Riley's old employers, but she'd never blamed Giles for turning his chaos-worshipping old friend over to the same government flunkies. Holding evil men responsible for what they'd done- as long as she wasn't the one holding the gun, she could deal.

She glanced over her shoulder to where Conner and Dawn were walking behind them. Her sister's body language was a little more tentative than usual, but still- leaning, like in that Sandra Bullock movie. She was pretty sure Dawn would be on board with that, too.

To each according to his ability: wasn't that from one of those old Sunday School parables? Maybe it was time to trust her intuition, like the fortune cookie had said.

"I don't suppose you've ever heard of a law firm called Wolfram and Hart?" she replied.