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It couldn't have lasted forever. I knew that. Relationships aren't eternal. They're flimsy, temporary arrangements that collapse with a strong wind, no matter how hard you try to prevent it from happening. They're sinking ships in the ocean, and you're going to drown no matter what.
But I wanted it to. And for a while, I fooled myself into thinking it was possible. We were together for three years. Not long enough. I wanted him forever.
And now, I watch him walking up the aisle. Xander Harris, the only man I've ever really loved. And next comes his beautiful bride. Buffy Summers.
It's funny how you can know someone for so long and not realise how you feel about them. I've known Xander since our sophomore year in high school - eight years now.
He's always been there for me. A shoulder to cry on, someone to turn to. Never more than a good friend, though.
Then Riley died, and he became much more than that to me, although I didn't see it at first. Not until a year after Riley's death, when I suddenly saw what was going on.
And it was great, and wonderful, and just so incredibly amazing. I was so glad when he finally ended things with Anya, because it meant our relationship could finally develop.
I love him so much. Then, and this question really doesn't seem to have an answer, why did I do what I did last night?
The irony of this is unbelievable. I'm her maid of honor at the wedding to the man she loves. To the man I love.
It started off as a silly teenage crush, I'll admit that. And then…I don't know…it developed into more. Of course, he was always unattainable. First he was Anya's, then Buffy's.
She's my sister. I'm betraying her so much, and so is he. I'm standing here beside her as the ceremony begins, and I shouldn't be. Not when I'm having an affair with her fiance.
It's been going on for six months now, and she doesn't suspect a thing. Of course she wouldn't. I'm just her baby sister, insignificant. She still sees me that way, even though I'm a college student now. If only she would open her eyes and realise what's going on.
But she won't, will she? She's so in love with him that she believes he can do no wrong.
Buffy, honey, your little sister's pregnant with your fiance's baby. Could I bear to tell her the truth?
Last night. God. Last night. I look at Xander. He's smiling nervously. My soon-to-be husband.
I feel so guilty about what happened. Maybe I should tell him. Oh, sure, great idea, Buff. Tell Xander that when you were meant to be spending your last night at home, you were with Angel.
I can't tell him that. I can't say that I slept with Angel, and that it was great. He'd be so hurt. I can't do that to him. He expects me to be loyal to him, and I expect that of him. That's the way it works. Marriage.
In a short while I'm going to be Mrs Harris. I'm going to be married. Married people don't keep secrets from each other. Married people don't sleep with other people.
Married people don't want to sleep with other people again. But I do. I love Xander, I really do. But Angel - well, he was my first love. He'll always be special to me. And I thought I was over him. But last night I was proven wrong.
I love him. I'll always love him, no matter what. And I hate Buffy for taking him away from me. Because that's what happened. After Riley died, she was all mopey and depressed. So Xander took it upon himself to cheer her up.
Before, I would have been suspicious, but I'd really learnt to trust him. If he said it was friendship, that was all it was.
It obviously wasn't, though. He broke up with me and practically two seconds later was in her bed. He never told me it was because of her that we broke up. He gave me some stupid crap about us not being right for each other. Like I hadn't heard that before. 1,120 years and you learn enough about guys to recognise the excuses. I never challenged him, of course. Maybe because I was still hoping that we could get back together.
We never did, of course, and now he's marrying her. Oh my God, he's marrying her. They're going to have kids together, and grow old together. She's getting everything I ever wanted. It's killing me.
And now, here it comes. "If anyone knows of any reason why these two people should not wed, let them speak now, or forever hold their peace."
My heart is pounding. The minister glances around, not really expecting to hear any objections.
Say it, say it, say it.
"I -" It comes out unintentionally.
"Yes?" the minister looks at me. Buffy and Xander's eyes are focussed on me. In fact, I feel everyone in the church is staring at me.
Dawn, what are you doing? Buffy's expression is saying, while Xander's face is telling me not to tell them. But then he doesn't know, does he, of the baby - our baby - that I'm carrying.
It would be so easy just to say "Nothing, I didn't mean to say anything" and laugh it off. I look over at my mom, and suddenly I realise - she knows. She knows that I've been having an affair with him. And she's imploring me to go through with it. She doesn't want Buffy to marry a man who won't be faithful to her.
Neither do I. I'm not going to take the easy way out.
My God, what the hell is she doing? That little brat. She hasn't grown up one bit. College girl she may be, but she still can't let me live my life. She has to go ruin my wedding. I'll kill her.
I glance at Xander to see if he knows what this is about, and the look on his face shocks me. He is begging Dawn not to say anything. Say anything about what? Oh my God, there really is something going on. It's not just some stupid prank of Dawn's, it's real.
"What is it, Dawn?" I ask her softly. Not harshly. I need to let her know that I don't hate her for bringing this up. That I need to know why I shouldn't marry Xander.
She bites her lip. "Buffy, I'm so sorry."
"What is it?" I repeat.
Yes, Dawn, what is it? God, but do I even want to know? It's hurting me enough that he's marrying Buffy, but he can't have been seeing anyone else, can he? Another person in his life who isn't me?
"I'm pregnant," Dawn says quietly, and all the guests, including me, gape at her. "It's Xander's baby. We've been having an affair for six months."
No. It's not true. She's just a child. She can't be more than seventeen or eighteen. She's a little girl. She can't be carrying Xander's baby.
He's chosen the slayer, then her sister, over me. What is it about those Summers women? Why is he so attracted to them…and not to me?
I look at Xander, and the expression on his face is not one of guilt, but one of annoyance at being caught.
My God, I realise, he would have kept having the affair with her even after we were married. As long as he didn't get caught, things were fine.
He disgusts me, but then I remember that I've done exactly the same thing. I slept with Angel knowing that it was wrong, that I was going to get married the next day. I wanted - still want - to sleep with him again.
We're both as bad as each other. We shouldn't be getting married. The revelation brings sadness, but also - relief.
He's annoyed that I told. But I couldn't. I couldn't let them get married knowing that he wasn't going to be as loyal as she thought.
And God, I still love him. I'll always love him. I'm going to have his baby. But I'm slowly figuring it out, that I really shouldn't be with someone who would betray his fiancee like that. Because he would do it to me, as well. And I deserve better. So does my child.
"I'm sorry I had to do this, Buffy," I say.
She puts her arm around me. "It's OK," she says. "It's OK." Her voice is shaky but strong. "Xander, we really shouldn't be getting married. It's just not right for us. Not only because of this, but…I haven't been as loyal as I should have either."
This is the sort of thing that should only happen on soaps.
"Last night," Buffy says, "I slept with someone else."
At this stage the guests are practically munching on popcorn, watching the drama unfold in front of them.
"Angel," Xander says.
"Yeah," Buffy nods. "I'm sorry."
"So am I," he says, with a half-smile. "I think it's for the best if we don't get married."
Buffy nods again. Dawn hugs her supportively. I guess that means neither of the Summers women are planning to stay involved with Xander, then.
Which leaves me, I suppose, the devoted ex-girlfriend. Except now I'm realising that someone who would cheat on people isn't right for me, and never will be.
It's for the best. It would have broken her heart if she'd found out about Dawn and Xander after the wedding.
I watch them, my two beautiful girls, hugging each other tightly. After a moment, Anya gets up and speaks to them, and then she is included in the hug. I suspect she's realised that she has to let go.
They head my way, and Buffy speaks. "We're going to go get a drink or something, Mom, want to come?"
"I'll be there in a minute," I promise, and gather up my jacket and purse.
They wait at the entrance of the church, their eyes threatening to overflow with tears, but the support for each other as clear as day. I join them and we head off, to mourn loves lost - and to celebrate independence.