Starting Over

By Sweetprincipale

Post Season 7- Non-canon beginning at the end of the final episode. No comics. Buffy and Spike find themselves trapped in a void between two dimensions, watching their mirror images acting out pieces of their lives in another realm. If both halves can find true love, choose each other, and make some other important choices, Buffy and Spike will have a chance to rejoin their world, and have a chance at starting over from the point where they perished in the Hellmouth.

Dedicated to all the ones who read, reviewed, followed, and favorited. Your support is the best gift a writer could have. Thank you.

Direct quotes from shows or songs are obviously not mine, but belong to the enormously talented people who created them.

Nothing of Buffy belongs to me, except my sincere admiration. However, this story is all mine.


"The Chosen Ones must be female. The Slayer cannot be a male."

"That's bloody sexist." Alex huffed.

"Shh! Let me finish, this is serious." Giles peered over his glasses at his grandson and namesake.

"Could you hurry, Grandpa? I'm supposed to meet Madge to help unpack a new shipment." Tanya asked softly.

"Been tellin' him to hurry, he won't listen." Alex protested, leaning into his best friend/pseudo-cousin-or-sometimes-pseudo-sis/neighbor- his partner in everything, even in name, Lexy.

"Alexander Giles!"

"Sorry, Mum." The twelve year old silenced himself with a contrite look.

"It must be important, or I would hardly have all of you crammed into the living room." Giles took a look at this family. Six survivors of an apocalypse that had occurred twenty one years ago. Look how we've grown. Buffy and Spike with their three, Willow and Xander with their two beautiful girls, Dawn and Joey with one and one on the way. And his own, at long last found, true love of his life, his Vance. "Please let Dawn and I get through this."

"The Slayer born of a Slayer will be the most powerful one to be called." Giles continued to read from his notes.

"But, Dear, lots of slayers have little ones, plenty of daughters." Vance stopped writing her latest supply request list and handed the paper to Joey, the other medic in the family, to check.

"I know, my love, and some of them will be called, and some won't."

"So I'm good? For now?" Sarah Joyce huddled back between her parents.

"Fifteen is often when it happens."

"But I am fifteen"

Spike snarled softly. "Get on with it, Rupes, you're upsettin' SJ."

"The Champion's child will bear the soul of a champion."

"Giles, are you reading fortune cookies, or actually telling us stuff?" Buffy demanded crossly.

"Fine. Fine, I give up." Giles slammed down his Watcher's Diary, now in its thirty-somethingth volume, he having been the longest running Watcher, with the longest running slayer, in history. "Dawn?"

"I'm not standing up." Dawn took her rights as a pregnant female seriously, and remained firmly seated in the comfiest chair in the room.

"If it's prophecy crap, we don't want to hear it." Xander said defensively.

"Yeah, 'cause this group makes its own luck, our own fate." Willow supported her partner.

"It's not prophecy, it's information, and it may or may not concern SJ, so could you all please listen?" Dawn said with an edge in her voice.

"Don't brass her off, please." Joey, a rugged man with rugby player's broad shoulders, still had a healthy respect for his slender, fine-boned wife's temper.

"Go on, Niblet. We're listenin'. All of us." Spike said with a significant look at his youngest, who was whispering to Lexy with a purely devilish smirk on his face.

"I'm not doing all the stuffy crap, sorry, Giles, no offense." Giles closed his eyes and waved his hand once, giving up. "Basically, the eternal champion, and the eternal slayer, that's you two," she pointed to Buffy and Spike, "have a baby girl, which you did-" she smiled at her biological niece, "she's going to be both a champion and a kick butt slayer."

"But- I'm not a slayer. Mummy's the slayer!" SJ protested.

"We don't think you'll be called." Dawn comforted, and the entire room relaxed. Everyone knew what the 'family business' was, and all of them planned to continue in it, in some way or another. William and Tanya, only eighteen, were already sure what they wanted to be, a demon hunter and Alliance wicca respectively. Alex, at 12, and Lexy, at 13, wanted to follow in their fathers' footsteps, demon hunters as well. SJ wanted to be the medic in the family. But there was only one Slayer, and it was still Buffy.

Dawn cleared her throat, ending the mumbled noises of relief that her family was beginning to make. "Because we think you might kinda be- something else?" She laughed nervously. The room fell back to silence.

"What?" SJ asked with hitch in her breathing. She turned her naturally ivory toned face, with bright blue-green eyes, framed by light brown locks (Buffy and Dawn's natural color) towards her aunt. "I'm going to be- be a something?"

"No! No, a someone. Someone wonderful." Dawn comforted.

"Baby, all of us have titles 'round here. We're still just people." Spike rubbed her back and gave Dawn a quick jerk of his head, meaning to hurry up and spit it out.

"It's not the parentage only. You were also born because of the Amore Immaculate."

"We all were!" William left Tanya's side and stood beside his father. "Means nothin', S., nothin' but that we were miracles for Mum an' Dad."

"It's the combination of all three things. They never, ever, ever thought that all three things would come together. And there hasn't ever been one of these. I mean, there are people who can cross into dimensions, but it's because of magic."

"A World Walker?" Everyone in this family still researched, still pitched in, not strictly following their job descriptions, as it were. Willow was the one who still devoured books for fun as well as business and knew almost as much as the Watchers. "A World Walker?" she cried.

"A who in the where?" Buffy demanded with a puzzled cry.

"A person who can walk easily in and out of dimensions. On their own. With their own powers, no magical assistance."

"I can go between worlds? That's awesome! That's not scary at all. Gee whiz, Grandpa! Aunt Dawn! You scared me, I was gonna wig out!" SJ relaxed and stopped huddling in the protective grove of her parents and big brother. "So, like, I can go on instant vacations? Is there a dimension with all chocolate and hot guys?"

"Hey!" Spike threatened. "No visitin' hot guy dimensions without a chaperone, you got me, Missy?"

"You'll have to learn about all the various dimensions we know of, and there will still be thousands and thousands more. There's never been a World Walker, it took us eighteen years of researching slayers and the Amore Immaculate, plus throwing in champions, plus undead champions, to even find this little tiny bit out. We don't know how the power works, we don't how to control it, we don't know if you can only go alone, or if you can bring things back. We don't know if anyone else knows you would be the one. If they did, they might... come after you?" Dawn concluded with a wincing half-smile, the look of nervous expectation she'd worn so often in her life.

"We'd have to do massive amounts of training, and this is a full force thing, we'd need to keep up heavy patrols, tons of research, an army of protective spells and tethering spells until we know you can maneuver in and out between worlds easily." Giles spoke again.

The room was full of grave, determined faces, all firmly nodding. Whatever it takes to keep the family safe. That was the unwritten credo of this strangely blended family.

Only SJ looked shocked or nervous. "I changed my mind. I want to be a slayer." she whimpered.

Are you quite happy now? You've forged your link between the worlds. She's coming into her fullness.

Not quite yet. There's still a wound in the world. I made it, much to your dismay.

So what will you do?

Finish stitching it closed, of course...

"It's no big deal, Mummy. Lots of people go away to college." SJ smiled bravely.

"Not to other dimensions!" Buffy cried. "Well- except my first college roommate was from a Mok'tagar demon family and she was all with the trans-dimensional stuff. Oh! And- it went really bad. You should stay here."

"Buffy... it's the only dimension we know of where there definitely isn't evil. Except for the heavenly dimensions." Willow chewed her lip. Buffy's eyes glossed over and she retreated inside herself for a minute.

"You don't want me to go there, Mum." SJ said softly.

"There weren't any schools, were there, Luv?" Spike took Buffy in his arms.

"No." Buffy whispered.

"It's a nice place. You told me. All those stories about the other you. Where Aunt Tara and Aunt Anya didn't die. Uncle Xander still has two eyes. Where all the demons take off their masks at the end of the day, and they sit down with the good guys and have a beer."

"No beer." Buffy sniffled. "Beer bad!" She broke into a sob and threw herself into her eighteen year old daughter's arms. Tanya had long ago cast a permanent, but flexible glamor on Buffy and Spike, making them appear an appropriate age in relationship to the situation. To the outside world in Pine Ridge, the Summers were hitting middle age, little lines, little sags, one son finishing college a year early and engaged, another child just about to head to school, and one left in the nest. But to the family itself, they were still locked in time. To Willow and Spike, it looked like two sisters were hugging, not mother and child. "Baby girl, be careful!"

"I will. And I'll be home a lot. As soon as you think the major bads who want me to give them a dimensional free pass are taken care of, I'll come home for good. Okay?"

"They're so stupid. Only the World Walker can cross through!"

"Why don't bad guys do their research?" Willow demanded angrily.

"Oi! I did plenty of research in my time." Spike argued. "Jus' that no one could take on this lethal love of mine." He stroked Buffy's hair back, and pulled her away so he could hold Sarah Joyce in his arms. I don't want to let her go. I- she's my baby girl. My baby girl, not the same as it was with Dawn. She's mine. With Joyce's apple cheeks, and my mum's hands, all soft and delicate. With Niblet's hair and Buffy's smile. With a blend of all our voices. My perfect baby girl. He sniffled once, gruffly.

"Oh Daddy! You were supposed to be the strong one. We had a deal!" Sarah Joyce broke down and cried, setting off Willow.

"Give us a minute." He controlled himself with a painful effort. "Listen to me now. You come home every night. To this spot. One of us'll be here. If one of us isn't, leg it back. Tanya and Willow can reach you if they have to, but you know the deal, only you can move between without help. That means- you're on your own." He swallowed hard and made his eyes turn stoney. "There's still human evil there. Be smart. Stranger safety. Remember your training. I dunno if magic works there, so spells and protective charms might be useless. So remember what Xan, your mum, and I taught you."

Buffy stepped in and curled her daughter's hand into a fist. "Remember. Knuckles down." She wiped her eyes, and then SJ's. "Don't drop your shoulder, and for God's sake- don't act like they say girls are supposed to act. If someone comes at you, unleash the inner pissed off slayer, okay?"

"I promise." SJ pushed her shoulders back, hoisting her knapsack. "And I have money, from my 'recon' mission. I gave Tanya some to practice duplicating."

"Is it different?"

"No. But, hey, more money is good."

"Sarah Joyce!" Buffy gasped at this larcenous behavior.

"I'm kidding, Mum! It's because of the serial numbers, and only in case I need money, in case there's something I can't buy here and take with me." The World Walker could carry non-living items with her, but only what she wore and touched.

"You'd better get going." Willow smiled softly, choking back her tears at this point.

"I'll be back! I can control this. Don't worry." She kissed the three other occupants who stood in her room and waved once, again smiling bravely. And she was gone with one thought.

"She'll be back tonight, Honey, shh." Spike pulled both women into his embrace.

"What am I gonna do for a whole day? She's never been away for so long."

"It is us! The Awful Alexes! We have got the keys to the DeSoto and the Jeep! Catch us if you can!" Alex and Lexy appeared in the doorway for a split second before disappearing.

"Bloody hell!" Spike tore off after them with a vampiric roar.

"Alexa Rosenberg-Harris!" Willow shouted. "You bring those back right now!"

"Not yet, Mom! We're going to go get Grandpa's glasses, too!"

"Stop, stop!" Buffy held back her lover and her best friend. "They're only doing it to piss us off and take our minds off of SJ, don't you see? It's really sweet."

"Oi, Mum! Got Dad's duster!"

"Never mind. Let's go kill 'em." Buffy released her captives.

"Still think it's sweet?" Spike asked, clearing the stairs with a single well-placed leap.

"Yeah. In a totally annoying way. He gets that from you."

"What's Lexy's excuse then?"

"She's her dad's daughter, through and through. She got my hair, and nothing else." Willow panted, trying to keep up.

"I just hope they don't do this every day she goes to school." Buffy gasped, and followed the trail of roars and screams.

A short, soft scream broke the air. But not their fall. "Oh, my God! I am so, sooo sorry!" SJ nervously brushed herself down as she stood. That was the only problem with this non-magic dimension. Even after six months of daily "Walking", she'd never found a space that was deserted each time, and there was no cloaking spell, or anything really, that worked to hide her entrance. But fortunately, people were so busy, and so involved in the bustle of the sunny California campus, they didn't usually notice one more teenaged girl appearing in the mix. Unless you landed on a guy...

"Oh, no. No,it's my fault, I didn't even see you there." Max gathered his books, and hers, also standing. Wow. At least I bumped into someone with a nice smile. The sandy-headed teen with dark blue eyes and his father's strong jaw helped the girl to a nearby bench, putting the pile of spilled books and papers between them.

"No, I'm sorry. I wasn't looking where I was going." SJ sat on one end of the bunch. My luck I'd bump into a totally hot guy. I love the little pony tail he's got. She looked at him harder. Something- was oddly familiar about him. "I'm SJ."

"Please, don't apologize. Is this your pen or mine?"

"Yours." She handed him another notebook.

"So, what's SJ stand for?" He smiled as she rifled through her folders, seeing if she'd lost any papers.


"Hey, Ess. J.? Ess is my mom's name." My mom's name is the same as yours? How lame of a pick up line is that? "Sorry, not to bring up my mother, I must seem like a nerd."

"No, S, like the initial. But- that's fine about your mom. I mean bringing her up. Family is important. Family in the broad sense. Blood ties mean nothing, it's life ties that count." That sounds so pompous. And random. "Blood ties?" God. Or "quest-ish", I have might as well have "magic traveler chic" written on my forehead.

"That's so cool. That's how we are. All but two of my aunts and uncles are actually not 'related' to me." Why the hell am I telling her this?

The guy didn't seem to think she was nuts. He seemed to genuinely mean what he said, he wasn't just trying to be polite."Me too! Only one of my aunts is actually my mom's sister." He smiled and she felt another pang of oddly familiar recognition. Instantly liking this guy. "What's your name?"


"Max. Are you... in one of my classes? You look familiar." SJ squinted at him.

Great. This is always how it goes. She likes me, until she finds out that I'm related to the actor/rock star dad, or rock star big brother. Or maybe even my mom, although she hadn't always used her married she's all over Sul, or sometimes, Dad. But at least with him, they know after twenty years with one girl, in Hollywood that's love and that's damn near unheard of, and they lay off. "Well, my dad's been in some stuff on TV, and movies. Then he started into music..." She didn't show any sudden flash of recognition. "You might have heard of him? Or his band?" Still nothing. "Maybe my brother? Um. Sul. Sullivan. He's second guitarist in the band." He gave in name dropped the band. He waited for the familiar eye light up, "Can you get me his autograph?" thing to happen.

"I don't think so." She cocked her head, stories buzzing in her brain, and nothing coming forward clearly. "So your dad and brother are 'in the biz'?"

"Yeah." He laughed uncomfortably. "Mom, too. They actually met on a show they were filming together. Vampires and cheerleaders. It wasn't supposed to be a big hit, but it was. And then they-"

"Got together." SJ managed to say with barely a gasp. It wasn't a question. It was a story she knew.

"Funny, huh?"

"So funny." All the sudden it wasn't. It was stunning. He couldn't be- not one of theirs? Not one of the other halves' kids? There were a million people in this town alone. No way I could meet one of them.

She'd stopped smiling, and all their belongings were sorted now. Wow. She's even pretty without the smile... Push this just a little bit farther, shall we? He turned the family "big blue eyes" to full wattage. "Hilarious. Do you know what else is funny, Miss-?"


"That's wacky. Summers was the character's name. Last name. My mom's. I mean, the girl she played." Max ran his hands through his hair and down his ponytail with a nervous flick. "Whoa. There I go again." I'm losing it. Why am I talking to her like I've known her forever.

"It's okay." Really, okay. That you love her like that. I know, first hand, how great she must be. "So what else is funny? Let me think. Me tripping over you like a spaz?" She gave him a rueful half-grin that made him blink. That was so odd. It was like- oh, she must have seen have seen his mom act in something, because only two women in the world had that weirdly cute half-grin, his mother and his big sister.

"No, coffee."

"Coffee? Coffee is funny?" Maybe there was a reason he didn't think she was weird...

"Well, the way they make it on campus, yeah."

"Are you asking me to go get coffee with you?" SJ's heart did a confused dance. This would be unbelievable! This would be amazing, an unbelievable event, finding out about the people that had these special ties to her parents. Plus, she kinda of liked this guy. But you can't like guys from over here. They don't get the "Walking" I do. Besides, if this isn't just some strange name similarity, he's like your cosmic relative.

"If you're interested. Maybe we'll go and find more names in common?" He gave her a contemplative look, one eyebrow cocked.

He was deep, golden tan, California boy tan, and his eyes were a few shades bluer than the men in her family's eyes. It was odd. He looked like them, and yet, not like them at all. I can't pass this up. "Sure, let's go."

"Mum, Dad, I found them." SJ waited for a month to tell her parents. She'd done her homework on this guy and his family, blood or otherwise. "It was them!"

"Are they- happy?" Buffy asked. The didn't need to ask who their daughter was talking about.

"Yes! Still married. They have the older boy, Sul? And then a girl, Elizabeth- Lizzie, and Max."

The-the other members of the family? I mean cast?" Buffy pressed, heart suddenly fluttering.

"Good, I think. I only met his Uncle Max, the one he's named after, and his Aunt Ellie. That's Uncle Xan- and Anya." SJ bit her lip, shaking her head. "Both of them are divorced, not from each other, from someone else. They're best friends. I don't want to tell Uncle Xan that, okay?"

"Can't lie if he asks you, SJ." Spike smiled wanly. "Poor Pirate."

"Aunt Willow's perfect for him. I know he loved Anya, and I know he'll see her someday. But I don't want him to wish for things he can't have right now."

"Xander knows what he's got." Buffy reminded her gently. "But you don't have to tell unless he asks you to."

"What else did you find out?" Spike inquired.

"Lots. I know only I can Walk, but I know you'd like them if you met them. I know you'd want to meet them. I'll keep finding out more and I'll bring back stories."

"You want to finish school there, then?"

"If you don't mind?"

"You're not gonna come home every night anymore?"

"I will, Daddy. But then- maybe I'll go back to a little apartment I rent?" She asked tentatively.

"If you can handle coming back and forth." Spike said gently, with a brave smile.

"I can deal." SJ hugged her parents. "Plus, summer and winter break I'll be here! You know I'll have to be here for like, a solid month just to get things ready for Tanya and Will's wedding."

"We're gettin' to be empty nesters, Luv." Spike took his wife's hand. 'But that's okay, init, Baby? Back to full volume soon.'

'Spike! No sex talk in front of the kids!'

'They can't hear me...'

"Daddy! Stoppit! Oh eww. Old people sex!"

"She doesn't have to hear you. You just get that look." Buffy sighed. "Look, SJ, if you can deal, we can deal."

And she did. Until one day, two years later, she came home, and said she couldn't go back anymore...

"I love Max. H-he says he loves me. He knows we're both young-but he says I'm the one. I'm the one for him, and I think he's the one for me. It's too hard to leave and come back, knowing I have to tell him no, knowing I have to choose." SJ found her parents waiting for her in her room, as they always were, a standing appointment between them, Mondays at sunrise. When they had to be in to avoid flame-y injuries and before her classes began.

"What? The one?" Buffy tried to understand her daughter through her tearful explanation. "I thought you two were just friends. Party dates, but nothing more?"

"I know! I know, it's wrong. I didn't mean to like him. I didn't think he'd like me like this, either." She cried and tried to stop, but couldn't. "I hate this. I hate all of this. I hate-ha-having to choose!" She wailed.

Spike and Buffy surrounded her on the bed, heads resting on hers, talking quickly with their claimed bond. 'We can't have this. Can't have this happen to her, a broken heart.' Spike met his wife's eyes across Sarah Joyce's head.

'I can't, Spike. A lifetime without her? I can't.'

'I know, Luv, I don't want to either. But all I can think of is what it feels like when you know you can never be with someone an' they're the one for you...'

'But you did end up with me! Oh...'

'See?' You chose, didn't you? Jumped in with me, away from your world, into the unknown one, with me. Turned out to be a bloody timeless, colorless void. And you'd do it again.'

'For you. You're my one. My everything. What if he isn't? If it isn't real? They're so young.'

'She's two years younger than you were, when you knew. And no offense, Luv, but she's a whole lot more careful with her heart. Even so, if it isn't real, she'll come home.'

Silence. Inside silence, outside, the soft shushing noises of trying to comfort someone when you yourself can barely stop your tears. 'I would've died without you, Spike.'

'Know what that's like. When you'd rather die than be without someone, when you feel dead without 'em?' He rubbed his damp eyes on SJ's soft hair. 'We get eternity, Luv, an' maybe another hundred years down here. But it wouldn't mean anything without each other, would it?

'You are very unselfish, and I hate you for it.' Buffy raised her head from SJ's bowed one, and glared at him.

'I hate myself for it, too, if it makes you feel any better.' he shrugged at her helplessly.

'Should we say it together then? So she knows we both support her decisions?'

'Yeah. It freaks the sprogs out when we do it. Claim plus!'

"You don't have to choose. Love him. Be with him. Visit us." They said in unison.

"Argh! Don't do that! It's so creepy!" SJ shivered and sat up, looking reproachfully at her parents.

"Told ya'." Spike grinned.

"You can't mean that, guys." SJ shook her head, wiping away remaining tears with the back of her hand. "I'll- you'll never see him. Or your grandkids, if we ever had them. Alex and Will won't ever get to threaten to beat him up if he hurts me, and that's like a Summers' male ritual! Oh, not that he would hurt me, he's so good to me, he's so good... But, Lexy- oh God, Lexy won't get to be my maid of honor if we ever- I mean I think he means he wants to someday..."

"She rambles like you do, Luv." Spike sighed and lounged back on the bed. "Must be in love."

"I'm- I'm mystical, I don't belong there." SJ's rambling stopped abruptly, replaced by a somber whisper.

"Baby girl, you belong where you're happiest. The Wankers that Be say the World Walker will bring the dimensions together, in time, all the pieces fuse, right? So, one day-"

SJ cut him off frantically. "I know! I have a duty, a mission, I have to stay here, figure out how to do it!"

Buffy spoke soothingly, but directly. "Maybe this is how you do it. The child of one half and the child of the other? Maybe you're supposed to be together, Honey."

"No. No, see even that's wrong. Especially that! Doesn't that make him like my brother in terms of DNA?"

"It shouldn't. Not with all you've told us. The parents, you've met his grandmothers and sibs, right? They don't look like our family. It was only our other halves and the cast, their 'Scoobies'."

" And only Max's parents, and your dad and I made the same choices. This is about the soul, Sweetheart, not the physical stuff." Buffy added, nodding in agreement with her husband's analysis.

" What if I'm just doIng what I want 'cause I want it? What if I'm selfish, and I'm not serving my destiny, helping like I'm supposed to in the grand scheme of the worlds?" For years, her family knew she had a purpose, a mission, but there was no guide to being this super special person. There wasn't just the weight of one world on her shoulders, it was all of them. But in this family, no one ever pressured you to do anything but your best, helped you be normal, and wanted you to stay safe. But now...

Spike had seen too many slayers collapse under the burden of "fate". His own most precious girls, in fact, his Buffy, and in her pressure to be some magical "key", his Niblet. His baby girl would not be thrown on this unforgiving altar.

"Bugger destiny." He growled firmly. "My little girl gets to be happy."


"There is no but! Love is what moves dimensions, stands up to time, even death. Your mum and I know that the best of anyone. So you go to where you need to be, for you. But, I warn you, SJ, if you don't pop home every week or so, bloody hell, I will find a way to come after you an give you a- uh- a damn good-talkin' to!" Spike concluded. Buffy sighed and shook her head.

SJ looked at him skeptically. "Real scary, Dad."

"Don't mock him, Honey, he can't help it. The Big Bad turns all soft and squishy with his kids. Just like tigers and their cubs." She nuzzled her forehead to his and kissed him.

SJ let her parents pull her into their hug."You think I can really just turn my back on what I'm supposed to do?" She asked in a quavering voice.

Buffy looked at her only daughter with steady, if wet, eyes. "If you want it this much, SJ, maybe it is what you're supposed to do."

It was. The chain was set in motion, and would take many years to link together, centuries, until all dimensions were neatly fused. One world. One hell. One heaven. But that is how it began.

Epilogue: The people you meet in heaven.

The people you meet in heaven. There are millions and billions there. It takes an eternity to meet all the people you knew in life, and another million eternities to meet all the others, making new friends. There is no sense of day or night, or time at all. Your memories are clear, but even the bad ones are seen with the perfect happiness that every action was needed to bring you to this point, a place of eternal rest and bliss.

It was startling when they ran into each other. They both recognized each other immediately , one couple with surprise that fictional characters were in heaven, the other pair with wild excitement that at last, at long last, they could meet their "other halves" and as it turned out, their in-laws. Both pairs were frozen in time where they were easily recognizable to one another, because your soul takes the form of your happiest moment. For both sets of partners, that perfect moment of happiness occurred on their wedding days.

"Yeah, we're real. An' we know who you are." Spike grinned at these two, the gentler, weaker versions of himself and his mate. Those who they had secretly admired, envied for their normalcy. "Funny thing, isn't it, how we all ended up in the same place?"

"We wouldn't be together- not like this, without you." Buffy stretched out her hands to her counterpart, even though their non-magical halves clung tightly together, still in shock.

Jim and Essie stood cautious and disbelieving, even though they knew that in heaven there is nothing to hide and no ability to lie, so it was true. All true. "We wouldn't be together without you either." She finally extended one hand and let Buffy, the girl she had portrayed for seven solid years, hug her.

Jim watched Spike openly leering at the women embracing, but he couldn't tell if it was just pride in his own wife, or if he was gazing a little too appreciatively at his Ess. In a low undertone he murmured, "Don't get any ideas. I know you."

"I know you, too. An' I'm glad you've actually got some stones. Don't worry. Only want mine. Gotta say though, yours is pretty nice lookin'."

"She should be. Mirror images, aren't they?"

"They are, pretty close anyway. And us. Wow, mate. How'd you get that scar?" Spike pointed, but didn't touch his other half's sliced brow.

"Mugged in Queens one night. Brass knuckles. You?" Jimmy surveyed Spike's forehead.

"Blessed ritually prepared sword wielded by the first Slayer I- I met up with." He gulped. "I gotta find her someday. 'Pologize. It should've killed me, it was poisonous to my kind, but Slayer blood takes almost anything out of you. Instead, just got a scar."

"You two ended up together, I'm so happy for you." Essie told Buffy. "We talked- about if you would. If it was real."

"Kinda was. Surprise!" Buffy grinned. "Yeah. We ended up together. He's kind of a cocky jerk sometimes, but I love him. He makes me happy. And thank you. Thank you for picking Jim. Because of you, choosing each other, we were freed from a void we were trapped in after the high school collapsed and we-"

"Hang on. Hang on, please. The- all the stuff we acted out, was that real? If you're real, and your stories are real then..." Essie interrupted. A spasm crossed Jim's face, and then relaxed. It all had to happen. It all had to happen...

"Everything was real. Up to that point. We don't know what happened next in your show. And I don't want to know right now. We're just so happy to run into you. To thank you. We got out, we got married. We had three beautiful children. You know our daughter." Buffy's smile trembled.

"Your daughter?"

"SJ? Sarah Joyce Summers."

"We- we have- Max's wife is your child?" Essie took her husband's hand again, securing herself for yet more shocks.

"Bloody strange worlds we live in. Or, world, now, I should say. That her doin', hers and Max's. But that's a long, long story."

"We have eternity." Jim said firmly. "Talk."

"You happy, Wills?"

"Very, very happy." Willow looked back to her best friend. Even up here, he had the eye patch on. His happiest day? The day Tanya called him "Daddy" for the first time.

"We should go find Tanya. I want to see all the little Harris-Summers people. Although, I guess, they won't look little now." Tara took Willow's other hand, the one not being held by Xander.

"It isn't like we haven't been monitoring them with a near stalker like obsession, Tara." Anya said with a smile. "We watched them grow up, you know." She looked adoringly up at he soul mate.

"I know you did."

"Tanya always said she saw you." Willow leaned her head to Tara's as they walked, four abreast, in fields of snowy whiteness, lit by light gold that had no other match, no comparison to anything outside of heaven. "Spirit mommies, she called you."

"Lexy didn't see us?" Anya protested. "I took a particular interest in her. She's just like you." She laid her head on Xander's arm. "Except with the genetically transferred material that caused red hair."

"Oh, she did see you. But she only ever said things like 'Anya says you need to give me more allowance.' Not real stuff." Xander explained.

"No, I did say that!" Anya protested.

"She did say that." Tara whispered.

"I told you she said that." Willow rolled her eyes.

"I knew you'd say that." Xander smiled, and squeezed his arms tight around the women in his arms, Willow on the right, Anya on the left. Willow wormed Tara in closer to her with her other arm. "This is heaven. Got our best friends and life mates, and our soul mates."

"A-and, hey! Our souls are still together." Willow said eagerly to Xander, her old enthusiasm bubbling up, making her stammer. " So we were life mates, now we're soul buddies, too! And we have our soul mates!"

"That's right,Wills. All together now." Xander noogied her hair affectionately. All four sighed blissfully.

"There will be no sharing." Anya said pointedly to Willow, breaking the contented mood.

"It's okay, Anya. He's with you now. I've got my own girl to make up lost time with." Willow stroked Tara's silky hair with happy fingers. "But we're all finally together."

"That was unbelievable. You think Max knew, all this time, and never told us?" Essie put her hands on her hips and faced her stunned husband, watching their other selves setting off.

"Sounds like he knew before the wedding." Jimmy blinked. "That explains why he was so nervous. And why we could never meet SJ's family."

"I am so gonna kick his cosmic butt!" She cried. " I'm his mother! I would've understood!"

"No, you wouldn't have, Ess."

"I would so too have!" She pouted. "I understood when Sul told me he wanted to take a year off college to tour with you. I understood when Lizzie told me she'd snuck out and gotten a tattoo."

"That's not in the same league as, 'Mom, Dad, the show you acted on is reality in another dimension and you are magically linked to fictional characters.' "

"Oh, my God. I cannot believe we are having this conversation!"

"You would have thought Pat and Max let him get drunk. And then Sully would've gotten mad at Max, and Max would have gotten mad at me, and somewhere in there, Lizzie and her pint-sized shouts of death would have happened. As it is, we've got awesome kids, and awesome grandkids. And other generations we've yet to meet." He bent his head to hers as he stood next to her. "The main thing, baby, is I've got you."

"We said eternity."

"Looks like we meant it."

They kissed lingeringly, maybe for a minute, maybe for a decade, it was hard to tell there. Finally, with a satisfied grin, she pulled back. "Should we go tell the gang? That there are other halves of them roaming around?"

"Yeah, we can do that. Who should we try to find first?"

"Max Sr. If we find Max, we find Ellie, and that's two down."

"Yeah, well, this time we're going to approach very loudly and I'm gonna start shouting about a hundred yards back. 'Heavenly bodies' or not, I don't want to walk in on the two of them doing what they were doing the last time we met up."

"Hey, they finally found someone for eternity. That's good. Still... I don't wanna see anyone doing that, but us. Who should we look for instead?"

"Luv, I appreciate you lookin', but maybe my mum isn't here." Spike whispered. "Cause of what I did."

"No, because when you're in heaven, only good things happen, and you know that you did what you did for a good reason. And you know that everything happens for a reason. There are no regrets here." Buffy said firmly, tugging him along behind her.

"Yeah, well, I was never big on followin' the rules." Spike grumbled."How can there be so many people here but it never feels crowded? An' if there's so many of us up here with all this space, why isn't there some sorta directory? For mums, head to the left cloud banks, for children, head to the amazingly gorgeous waterfalls, somethin' like that?"

"Well, the next time we go visit God, you can tell him."

"I can't tell him how to run the bloody place, He's been doin' it so well for years. Plus, anyone who can control the Wankers that Be gets my full love an' support."

"William told me he saw my mother."

"Well, this is the tricky bit, Luv, not gettin' here until a couple centuries after the sprogs. He might've seen her when he first arrived, not recently."

"And when-" Buffy huffed, climbing a steeply sloping bank of glowing grass, "would 'recently' be?"

"Beats me. All I know is, I got you, I got all our mates, I got all our kids, the grandkids, most of the great-grandkids, an' Dawn told me that somewhere she, Joey, and Rupes found a stream that tastes like whiskey. I'm in heaven, Baby."

"I'm not gonna stop looking until I find her." Buffy set her jaw.

"Isn't the stubborn s'posed to leave you when you die?"

"Never did the last three times. Besides, technically, we didn't 'die'. We walked into one of SJ's open links and ended up here."

"In that case, I'm glad we have eternity to look for people, 'cause with that stubborn streak we're-"

"Mom!" Buffy let go of his hand and broke into a run. "MOMMY!"

"Oh! Oh, Baby, Baby, you're here, you finally got here!" Joyce, a younger looking Joyce than Spike had ever met, clutched her daughter in her arms as Buffy tore across the soft ground spreading out before her at the top of the rise.

"Mommy, I'm so glad, I missed you so much!" Buffy cried happy tears.

Spike beamed, watching this sight. Joyce was here. He'd never gotten to tell her goodbye. Now, he wouldn't have to say goodbye, he could tell her hello, an' never separate mother and daughter again. Buffy was getting to see her, that was all that mattered.


Spike turned very slowly. Very, very slowly, in case it wasn't her. Lots of women had soft voices, soft, gentle voices with that fluting accent that still sounded warm and happy, not at all stuck-up.

His gasp knocked him back a full step before he could get words out. "Mother? Mum!"

"Oh, William, son, you've come at last!"

"Mum, you're okay! You're - you're here." He brushed her hair back to look at her better, gazing at the smooth, unlined face, lively snapping eyes. A girl in her mid-twenties, an old-fashioned mass of pin-curls on her head. A doll made alive. "I thought-"

"Oh, no, dear. No. You thought wrong." She reassured him with a hand to his brow. "Your hair looks different."

"But it's still me, Mum."

"I know it is, William."

"Hello, Spike." Joyce opened her arms to him without hesitation.

"Joyce! Glad to see you're keepin' well." His voice lost its dreamy quality, William's more genteel accents masked by Spike's hard edges.

"This is your little boy, Anne?" Buffy's mother turned to the other woman.

"It is." She said proudly. "And this must be your eldest. Charming. Beautiful. Oh, come, Dear, don't turn shy now." Anne ran her hands over Buffy's cheeks. "You're my son's redemption. His happiness. Don't you think I've longed to look at you?"

"It- it's an honor to meet someone who is loved so much." Buffy hugged her, her mother-in-law, she supposed, with surprising strength, even for someone now composed only of heart and soul.

"Um. Yeah, about that. I know you've met the kids 'n' all, so..." Spike trailed off, looking nervously at Joyce.

"Oh, really Spike." She laughingly patted his arm. "Your mother and I have been friends for- well- for a really long time now."

"You have?" Both children cried in disbelief. Their mothers laughed softly, exchanging a look.

"Indeed." Anne's smile spoke volumes. "For many, many years, I suppose it must be, by this time."

"So you knew about us, an' you're not upset?" Spike asked, peering cautiously at Joyce.

"Mom?" Buffy took Spike's hand, knowing that this was heaven, and it was all going to be fine.

"I always hoped Buffy would find a nice boy like you." Joyce told him softly, and all the weight lifted from her children's shoulders.

Relieved and nodding, Spike embraced his mother-in-law, his own mother, and then his wife. "But I'm not exactly nice, you know." He explained in his own defense.

"Give it up, Honey." Buffy smiled at him. "You are."

"I am?" He sounded genuinely concerned.

"In a totally vicious way." She comforted.

"Oh. That's all right then." He rubbed his hands briskly and looked at the faces surrounding him. "So, what shall we do next?"

"Should we try to round up everyone at once, have a family reunion?" Buffy suggested brightly.

"Oh, that sounds lovely! Your father's here someplace, William." Anne looked around vaguely.

"But the entire family isn't here yet." Joyce pointed out gently to her children.

"That's okay, Mom. We have all eternity to have a family reunion. We'll just keep the party going until everyone shows up." Buffy took her elbow. "Right, Spike?"

"Right, Luv." He put one arm around her waist, and offered his free arm to his mother. "We have forever together."

For every end, a new beginning.

Author's Final Note:

I am deeply grateful to all of you who read along with me to this final chapter. This was my first "Buffy" story ever, and your encouragement meant everything. I especially want to thank Lithium Reaper and Hannah the Bloody, who came in at the beginning of the original "Behind the Scenes", who remained until the end.

As an aside, there is a sequel "Deleted Scenes", which will be a collection of stand alone chapters that fit into the story. It will be glimpses of major, and not so major, events that were not included in this piece, but run concurrently with "Starting Over". If you enjoyed this tale, I hope you'll continue to enjoy its sequel.

With my sincerest and humblest gratitude,