Word count: ~2.6K
Setting: The Summerlands
Summary: Buffy goes home.
A/N: Beta'd by Gort. (Sorry dear, thank you!)
Happily Ever After
As soon as she opened her eyes, Buffy knew where she was. Her memory hadn’t done it justice. It’d been all impressions of connection, warmth, and love, but being in the middle of it was so much better. The sense of relief at having finally laid down her burdens was all encompassing.
She was wearing a flowing white dress and standing amid a lush garden. The temperature was perfect and the breeze carried a lovely scent. Overhead, the sky was blue and gold without a rain cloud in sight.
Buffy smiled and hugged her arms tightly around herself. It was good to be back. Her life had stretched on much too long as it was. The whole not aging thing because of Willow’s resurrection spell had been fine for the century that Sp…her vampire had been at her side. They’d become so close that they’d hardly felt like separate beings. As everyone who’d remembered him before the soul had passed, it’d become normal to all the Slayers and Watchers that she and her vampire had always been together.
When Spike had dusted–sacrificing himself to hold back demons while two young children had fled–Buffy had gone catatonic for weeks. And then, to her horror, she’d lived. Sort of. She’d continued to exist in the world at any rate. Life had lost its meaning. After the first few years people had given up on trying to draw her out of her shell. She’d gone on missions when asked, fought, and then retreated to her rooms. She’d avoided everything, even doctor’s visits, until the pain in her abdomen had become too much to bear.
The doctor had been grim as he’d delivered the diagnosis of stage IV ovarian cancer. It’d already spread to her liver as well. Despite medical advances there was little hope he could offer and he’d lamented it hadn’t been caught earlier. Her blinding smile had surprised the heck out of him. She’d laughed and laughed. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was going to die lying down in a bed. She’d refused all treatment and asked to simply be made comfortable. There’d been no one for her to say good-bye to and no belongings with any value to give away.
Death had found her more than willing.
Her rest was finally at hand.
She walked barefoot across the spring grass and laughed at the antics of the brightly colored birds in the trees.
“Buffy!” a voice called.
Her eyes lit up. “Mommy!” She dashed into her mother’s arms. Joyce squeezed her tight, but then let her go so Dawn could hug her. So many people were there: Giles, Willow, Xander, Oz, Tara, Anya, and even Merrick. She was passed from loving set of arms to loving set of arms as her friends and family murmured their greetings.
“Hey,” said a voice she almost recognized from behind her. Buffy turned.
“Hi, Riley!” she said brightly.
“I hope you don’t mind, I just wanted to stop in and say welcome…or I guess it’s welcome back.”
“Thanks, Ri. It’s good to see you.”
He smiled and put a hand out to rest on her shoulder briefly. She covered it with her own and squeezed. Riley hadn’t lived very long, he’d died unceremoniously in a South American jungle. It was good to see he didn’t somehow blame her for that.
When he pulled his hand back. Buffy swiveled her head. This was all wonderful and she had so much she wanted and sit and talk about with everyone, but she was ready for the main show to start.
Where was he?
Honestly, she’d been expecting Spike to be the first one to greet her, maybe knocking her flat in his eagerness. She didn’t know if he’d look like she remembered with his perennially bleached hair, or if he’d appear more like his human self. And if there was anyone who’d manage to break heaven’s all-white dress code, it’d be Spike.
She stood on her tip-toes to see if maybe he was hanging back, perhaps sitting on a bench and waiting for her to come to him.
But he wasn’t there.
Buffy took a deep breath. Okay, she had to be wrong, this was heaven. She looked again, and then again, panic mounting. Spike wasn’t there.
“Buffy, is something wrong?” Willow asked.
Buffy backed away from the concerned faces of her loved ones. She felt sick in the pit of her stomach. This was no reward. The air clung hot and heavy to her and the scent of the flowers became cloying. The once perfect sky now mocked her.
“Honey?” her mother said, reaching out a hand towards her.
“This isn’t heaven, it can’t be heaven,” Buffy mumbled.
Xander knelt beside her. “It is, I don’t understand–“ She scrambled away from him. How could they not know who was missing? Were they all pretending he had never existed? Tears flowed freely down her face.
“What did I do?” she sobbed. “This is hell. It’s not a reward.” She curled up on the ground into a ball. “I’m in hell. This is hell. I was sent to hell.”
She could hear her friends and family talking amongst themselves, arguing about what to do and how to fix this, as if it was something wrong with her.
“Maybe I can help,” said a steady male voice. Buffy raised her head to look at the newcomer. He was leaning against the edge of a glowing white portal the size and shape of a door. It took her a few seconds to place him.
“A-A-Angel?” She hadn’t thought of him in years, he’d dusted in an alleyway in LA a year or so after the Sunnydale hellmouth had been closed. She’d come close to losing Spike that day without knowing it. When he’d appeared bruised and battered on her doorstep in Rome she’d nearly passed out from joy. Spike had been horrified to find that the Buffy he’d seen with Angel hadn’t really been her, but a decoy, and that the painfully thin, grieving girl that’d fallen weeping against him had been mourning and missing him all that time. They had never been further away from each other than the next room over until he’d been stolen from her. The last thing he’d said to her had been: “See you in a minute.” And she’d inanely replied: “Okay.” His had been a lie and hers had been stupid.
She was weeping again.
Angel knelt down beside her. “This is heaven, Buffy.”
“It can’t be,” she sobbed.
“It is, but Spike’s a vampire and while the good and the bad balance out, demons still can’t stay here.” Angel’s hand ghosted over her side, but he didn’t try to touch her. “C’mon. I’ll take you to him. Like me, he’s a permanent resident of Purgatory, but it’s not so bad. He’d be here himself if he knew you’d passed, but it’s difficult for him to watch the portals to Earth and see you but not be able to be with you, so I do it for the both of us.”
Buffy looked at the shocked faces of her friends and family.
“Don’t blame them,” Angel said as he helped her stand. “They don’t know all the rules. Usually here you don’t miss anyone, it’d be too sad, and those missing people are usually still alive. So even Dawn doesn’t understand what’s wrong. And don’t worry, whichever side of this portal you decide to live on, you can always visit the other.”
Angel walked through the glowing doorway. Buffy waved at the others and then stepped through with no hesitation. The difference was immediately apparent. The warm glow-y feeling of heaven was gone, replaced with a sort of blankness.
“This way,” Angel said, waving his hand to guide her down a dark street. It took her a minute to figure out why everything felt so familiar. They were walking down the main street of Sunnydale.
“Is this…?” she trailed off, looking at buildings she had long forgotten about but now that she could see them, she remembered with perfect clarity.
“Spike.” Angel turned down a side street that she knew would lead to her house. “Purgatory is malleable. You can make it how you want. He’s spent a lot of time reconstructing Sunnydale as it was when you guys lived there.”
“What about you?” Buffy asked.
“I have a little Irish farm, just like the one I grew up on. I don’t suppose my family will ever forgive me enough to come and see me, but it soothes my heart.”
“Thank you, for bringing me.” She couldn’t stop looking around at the houses and cars. It all felt so right.
“I didn’t do it just for you. Spike’s not really been okay since he got here. He barely speaks to me, except to ask about some detail of the town he doesn’t remember well, like the library of the old high school. I’ve had to live with his grief and watch him hurt. I’ve never known him to be like this. It’s been a good thing he’s had this to work on, I can’t imagine how much worse it’d be if he didn’t.”
“But why? Why do all this?” They were almost to her street. Anticipation was gnawing at her belly.
Angel sighed. “For the same reason I want to be in my childhood home. It’s easy to pretend that those who care about you are just on the other side of the door. Spike can sit on your back porch and believe you’ll be out in a moment, or sulk outside of the back door of the Bronze thinking you’ll come barreling out. Hell, even I do it. I’ll climb up that tree outside your window and pretend that you’re about to come through your bedroom door.”
Buffy stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and put her hands on her hips. “Angel–“
“Don’t worry.” He shook his head. “I know whose girl you are. It doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy those memories, or that I don’t still care about you.” She searched his face, but it was the truth. Angel at long last was putting her own wishes first.
They started walking again. “Is he at my house?” she asked.
“Probably not. Most nights there’s only one place he sits and waits for you.”
She didn’t need a second clue. Her muscles tensed.
“Buffy,” Angel said, catching her by the shoulder. “Your thoughts give things form here. Maybe a different outfit?” She looked down at her white dress.
“Oh, yeah.” She only had to concentrate for a moment before she found herself in a pair of jeans, boots, and a blue peasant blouse.
“The guy recreated an entire town for you, maybe you could at least give him a skirt?”
Buffy giggled and after a second her jeans changed into a tight black mini-skirt.
“There you go.” Angel patted her shoulder. “I’ll see you later.”
Buffy rose up on her toes and kissed him on the cheek before taking off in a flat-out sprint. She glanced at her house as she passed, excited for when she had time to come back and look inside. She hoped Spike had remembered Mr. Gordo.
She ran through the gate to Restfield and dodged headstones. It’d been more than a century but her feet remembered the way as if it’d been only yesterday. The crypt loomed before her and she hurled herself against the door, busting it open and landing lightly on her feet inside.
Spike, gaping, was rising from his chair. “Buffy?” he whispered.
It was him.
She couldn’t even speak, just throw herself into his arms. They banded around her and at last she was at peace.
Her hands couldn’t stop moving. They ran over everywhere she could reach: his arms, chest, back, shoulders, neck, hair–bleached and slicked back–and finally his beloved face, damp with tears.
“Oh luv, is it you? It is really you?”
“Yes, yes! I love you!”
“I love you, too.” His lips crashed into hers. He tasted perfect. This was heaven.
His mouth devoured hers, erasing their time apart until it became nothing, and then less than nothing.
Panting, she finally had to pull back to catch her breath. She looked into his fathomless blue eyes as he rested his forehead against hers.
“Will you stay with me?” Spike rasped.
“Forever, and then maybe a little longer.”
“Oh, Buffy.” The hand he had on her ass gripped her tighter. “Love the skirt by the way, kitten.”
She giggled. “Wait until you see what’s under it.”
He growled and nipped with blunt teeth at her neck, making her moan. His lips were just covering hers again when he paused. His brow furrowed as he turned his face towards the door of the crypt. “Do you hear that?” he asked.
She had to strain her ears, but then she did. Voices outside the door. Reluctantly, Spike let go of her. She took his hand and walked to the door, swinging it open. In front of the crypt, dressed in the clothing they would have been wearing in her junior year of high school, were Joyce, Dawn, and all her friends.
She pulled a slack-jawed Spike out of the crypt and onto the grass. “What are you all doing here?” she asked.
Willow grinned and waved shyly at Spike, who managed a faint wave in return. “Red,” he said in wonder.
“Well…” Willow twisted her fingers together. “We got to talking and it just didn’t seem right that there was this whole big place here without anyone in it…”
Joyce put a hand on Willow’s shoulder. “If you belong here, Buffy, then we do too.” Oz and Tara, standing on either side of Willow, nodded in agreement
“But it’s not heav–“
“Close enough,” Xander said with a laugh. Anya was leaning against him. “I want to be here, in our apartment.”
“I want to work at the Magic Box again.” Anya was clutching a bridal magazine in her hands.
Dawn sighed happily. “I want me and you and Mom to be a family in our house. When you’re not…y’know.” She blushed and waved a hand at Spike. He winked at Dawn, making her flush glow brighter.
“I suspect with us here others might start to show as well.” Giles pulled his glasses off and fished a handkerchief from his pocket. “And as you’re a Slayer in a town with a hellmouth, you will still need to patrol and I doubt those patrols will be uneventful. Otherwise you wouldn’t enjoy them much.”
Buffy threw her head back and laughed. Because it was true, patrols with nothing to slay would be lame. It seemed impossible that she’d once desperately wanted to be someone else doing anything else absolutely anywhere else besides Sunnydale.
Now it was paradise. Her heaven.
She wanted nothing more than to spend eternity with these people in this place.
“Thank you, guys,” she said, overwhelmed with the gift she’d been given. Spike’s fingers squeezed hers. “And I’ll see you all tomorrow.” The rest of her night was already planned. Angel, standing a ways from everyone else, caught her eye. He nodded at her and then Spike, who raised a hand in acknowledgement.
Buffy yelped as she abruptly found herself bent back over Spike’s arm as he kissed her passionately.
Dawn squealed, Willow sighed, and Xander mumbled something about PDAs. All was right with the world.
“Rupert, ol’chap,” she heard Merrick say. “You owe me a pint and an explanation as to why William the Bloody is snogging my charge.”
“Your charge?” Giles replied in a clipped tone.
Spike’s eyes opened, love and desire making them brilliant. Her heart was bursting with happiness. His lips moved against hers: “Welcome home, Slayer.”