EPILOGUE


"About time," Xander grumbled as Spike approached the table with a tray full of drinks. "What happened, bleach boy, did they need to check your proof of age?"

"Bugger it, puppy, I seem to have forgotten your drink," Spike replied, handing glasses around. Buffy smiled, the repartee familiar but the lack of bad feeling behind it a welcome change. She watched as Xander grabbed his beer from Spike. A tentative friendship seemed to have sprung up between the two males, based largely on a mutual respect for beer and sports. Anya, sitting between them, looked bored as they continued a conversation on the relative merits of different brews.

Buffy turned to watch the dancers at the Bronze - her sister with a group of friends, Willow and Tara with their arms wrapped around each other, oblivious to the crowds around them. It was wonderful to see the two of them back together. If her abduction could be considered a good thing in any way, then it was that it had brought the two witches back together.

Willow and Giles had been in constant email contact in the past fortnight, discussing the fact that Buffy's Slayer strength had become an almost tangible, physical part of her. Although Giles had no answers yet, he was devoting himself to research. Meanwhile, Willow and Tara were helping Buffy master some meditation techniques that she had found useful in drawing on the strength. While she had not experienced the same communication that she had known while at the Initiative, Buffy was somehow sure that if she needed that link again, it would be there.

The events at the Initiative had also brought her and Spike together. There had been no suggestion of him moving back to his crypt, or even of him moving out of her bedroom. No one had commented, but she got the feeling that her friends were pretty happy for her. Spike had devoted himself to looking after her in the two weeks since her return, bullying her into eating so she would gain some weight, forcing her to start some light training but not allowing her to exhaust herself, keeping her company during the day while Dawn, Willow and Tara were at school and Xander and Anya at work.

Without discussing it or formalising their relationship, the vampire and the Slayer had become inseparable. Buffy smiled to herself as she thought about what she had planned for tonight. Although Spike had spent every night of the past fortnight in her bed, it had only been to hold her as she slept. Tonight, though, Buffy definitely had other plans ...

Spike noticed her secret smile, but before he could lean over to her, Willow joined them at the table, out of breath.

"That sister of yours is becoming a bossy-pants," she said, not really complaining. "She's hijacked Tara to show her some of those dancesteps, Spike. I think you've created a monster."

They all looked over to where Dawn was instructing poor Tara on the dancefloor. Anya stood up abruptly.

"Come and dance with me Spike," she said. "I'm sure we can do better than that."

Xander straightened up and frowned slightly, not sure if he liked this turn of events, and Spike smirked at him, then winked at Anya. "Sure thing, pet," he said, taking her hand and leading her onto the dance floor. He swung her into his arms and they began dancing.

Buffy, Willow and Xander sat in companionable silence, watching the others dance. Suddenly, Willow spoke.

"Do you remember, back in high school, when I was tricked into thinking that demon Moloch was a boy called Malcolm who was messaging me on the computer?"

The other two nodded in unison.

"And we were all sitting around outside the school afterwards, joking about how the one boy who seemed to actually like me had turned out to be a demon robot, and the teacher that Xander had had a crush on was a giant preying mantis, and the only boy Buffy had liked since moving to Sunnydale was a vampire ... Xander said that we were doomed to never have a normal relationship ..."

The other two nodded together again. They all watched the dancers - the vampire salsa-ing with the ex-vengeance demon, the witch jiving with the Key.

"Guess I was right," Xander said cheerfully.

"Absolutely," said Buffy, smiling. "And you know what? I wouldn't change it for a thing."

"Me either," Willow said. She raised her glass. "Here's to love on the Hellmouth!"

They all drank deeply, then rose to join their loved ones on the dance floor.

THE END