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No Happily Ever After

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Buffy found that once she’d gotten all that out, she was sort of at a loss for what to do now. Should she go after Spike and let him know that she was finally ready to say what he’d been waiting to hear? Then what? Fall back into the same routine? Pick up like nothing ever happened. She didn’t think that was necessarily a successful plan of attack.

Plan of attack? Since when did she need a plan of attack with Spike? Since she decided to take one last risk on following her heart, that’s when.

And why was Riley just sitting there watching her pace back and forth in her own room? Shouldn’t he have left by now? What else did he want? Was he expecting her to make some other big revelation?

She stopped and turned to face him, assuming her best ‘I’m in control’ pose, with her arms crossed and one foot planted slightly forward, toe tapping impatiently.

Which seemed to amuse him for some strange reason.

“Something else you’re expecting to happen, Riley?”

“Just enjoying watching you try to figure out your next move,” he grinned, crossing his own arms in a gesture of ‘I’m not buying the attitude’.

That unsettled her just a bit. Was she really that readable? Had she pulled off too much of her mask?

“Well?” He asked.

“Well, what?” She parroted. That earned her an eye roll from him.

“So what are you going to do now?” He clarified.

Wasn’t that the million dollar question.

“I don’t know!” Buffy said, flopping down and back on the bed in frustration.

“Can I make a suggestion?”

“Sure, why not. Seems to be the order of the day.” She opined.

“Look, the way I see it, you could run off after Spike and try to pick up wherever you guys left off…”

“There was nowhere that got ‘left off’,” She snarked.

“Are you certain about that?”

Huh. That was a hell of a question. Had she missed something? Did Spike tell him that there was something?

“What makes you say that?” She looked over at Riley, one eyebrow cocked in clear disbelief.

“What makes you think there wasn’t?” Riley cocked his own eyebrow in challenge.

“We just weren’t ever like that.” She insisted.

The silence that followed made her look over to see if Riley heard her response. Now he had the look of disbelief. Which made her wonder…

“Did Spike tell you something I don’t know?” She narrowed her eyes in suspicion.

Riley snorted. Snorted! “He's not exactly the chatty kind. So, you mean to tell me that you guys have never dated? Kissed? Slept together?”

Buffy was going to immediately deny any of it, but then, that wasn’t *all* exactly wrong, was it?

“As I was saying…”

She shot him a look of warning. Which made him smile again. Why did he find all of this so dang funny?

“You could do that. But I wouldn’t recommend it.”

Ok, now he had her attention.

“Go on.”

“Buffy, you got to this point for a reason.”

“And why is that, oh wise one?” She rolled her eyes and looked back up at the ceiling.

“I’m serious, Buffy. Look, I get it. You did what you had to do. You felt like you didn’t have any choice but to push everything aside and keep going. And sure, that might work for a little while, but it’s not a long term solution.”

“Riley…” She really hoped he picked up on the warning in her voice. She didn’t like the direction this was going.

“Hear me out,” He urged. “You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over. You’re just going in circles and all it is doing is digging you deeper and deeper into a hole. Eventually, you won’t be able to climb out of it. And it’ll be sooner rather than later. You need to see someone.”

“I’ve tried, OK?” She sat up, throwing her hands up in exasperation. “It doesn’t help. They just sit there and stare at me like I’m some sort of freak, waiting to hear my freaky little story, so they can probably tell me I need some freaky little medicine to get rid of my delusions. Think about it, Riley… if I had walked up to you one day and told you my life story, would *you* believe even half it?”

“I get it. I do. But let me talk to some people…”

“NO! You will NOT tell anyone else any of this!”

“Not what I meant.” He held his hand up in a sign of surrender. “I just meant let me do some general checking and see…”

“NO.” That was all she was going to say.

“Ok, ok.” Once again with the hands up in surrender as he leaned back in the chair. “But you need to talk to someone, Buffy.”

“What about you?” It was a last ditch effort.

“Me?!”

“Yes, you!”

“How am I qualified to do anything other than shake my head and say, ‘hmmmm’?” Riley demonstrated his point.

“Look Riley, I know you just want to help, but trust me on this. I tried it. More than once. Different people. I’m not going down that road again.”

Riley huffed out a breath as he stared up at the ceiling. Buffy contemplated if she was going to stay in the little room much longer, she should put some posters or something up there, as much as everyone kept staring at it. Maybe some Zen sayings or something. Couldn’t hurt anything.

Buffy began wondering around the room, straightening up everything. There was a cup of water sitting on the desk with a hand towel next to it. Pillows, chairs, blankets, her… everything just needed to be put back in place.

“Buffy?”

“Hmmm?”

“You said that Spike didn’t know everything?”

She stopped, but only for a moment.

“No one knows everything.”

“Except you.”

She nodded. No need to say anything more.

“So why not talk to Spike?”

“I talk to Spike all the time.” Well, she had at one point, anyway.

“But he doesn’t know everything?” Riley gently pressed.

She tossed a pillow a little too hard towards the bed, overshooting it by a little and sending it right by Riley’s head. Ok, so she’d thrown it. What caught her off guard, was that Riley caught it.

“Tell him.”

“What?” She asked, barely loud enough for her own ears to pick up.

“All of it. Tell him everything.”

“I don’t think… It’s not something I can just…say.”

Riley seemed to consider that for a moment.

“Write it down.”

“Write it down?” Buffy asked.

“Write it down. Put it in writing. Type it out. Write a poem. Draw a picture. Ok maybe not that. Put your story in words. Heck, write a book if you want, just… write it down.”

“You want *me* to write a story?”

“Yes, *your* story.”

“And then what?” Buffy asked. “Give someone my manuscript?” Buffy asked, half joking.

“Sure, why not?”

“Sure! Why Not! I’m sure it would make the New York Best Seller’s List. ‘No Happily Ever After’ by Buffy Summers.”

Riley let a laugh slip before he caught himself and covered his mouth. She gave him her best hairy eyeball. To his credit, he managed to get control pretty quickly.

“Just… write it down, Buffy. One line at a time. Write one page. Then the next, and the next. Then when you think you’re ready, give it to him. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s not about creating a masterpiece. It’s about you getting it out, giving it life, and letting it go.”

She rolled the idea around in her head a bit, but everything seemed kind of muddled. She glanced at the clock. It was late. Or rather, really early. No wonder she couldn’t think straight. Maybe what she needed was to not think for a little while.

“I’ll think about it,” She said. “Tomorrow. But right now, I think what I need is to take the world’s hottest shower and sleep. It’s been a long, long, day.”

“That’s an understatement.” Riley replied as he stood up and walked toward the door. “You’ll consider it, though?” He asked, reaching for the doornob.

“I’ll think about it.” She conceded.

Riley nodded, then opened the door.

“Riley?!” She called after him. A little more urgently than she’d intended.

He froze in his tracks, and after a second turned to look at her.

“Thank you.”

He smiled, a sad little smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. He nodded. And then he left.

The shower felt long overdue, and she let the scalding spray and steam wash away the tension and tears, while providing the healing warmth and clarity of rejuvenation.

She quickly dried her hair, applied her lotion, brushed her teeth, and got dressed for bed, letting herself get lost in the familiarity of routine and then settling into her sheets to let sleep claim her.

Her mind had other ideas.

Thoughts and feelings raced around her head. Moments from the day. Moments from her life. All surfacing and screaming to be given breath while stealing her blessed sleep.

Maybe Riley was onto something.

Kicking off her covers, she slid her feet into her fuzzy slippers and shuffled over to the little desk in her room. She rifled through her books and papers until she found a notebook that was mostly empty. She wasn’t really one for writing stories, but maybe if she just started writing….

And so she did. Letting the storm inside spill forth on pen and paper, until sleep’s blessed oblivion finally claimed her.