B/A/S essay

Inextricably Linked: an essay on B/A/S

By Nevernever

A few things you should know about me before we start talking about my favorite love triangle:

Iím new to the fandom. I saw my first episode of Buffy on January 1, 2004. I saw the first five seasons within the next ten days. I also saw the first two seasons of Angel in that time. A few months later I saw Season 3 of Angel. A month or two after that I saw Season 6 of Buffy. A little over a month later I saw Season 7 of Buffy. A week or two after that I saw Season 5 of Angel. I have not yet seen s4 of Angel.

I started out as a B/A shipper. And in a world without threesomes I ship B/A and S/Dawn. But what kind of fun is a world without threesomes?

Also, you should be aware that I tend to view everything through the lens of Buffy. I over-identify with her a wee bit (especially in Season 6). Keep this in mind when you read my opinions on things. I do care about and love the characters of Angel and Spike, but Buffy is the one who I tend to think of first and root for most.

***

The idea of a threesome between Buffy Angel and Spike is never directly addressed on the show. Itís understandable. The writers already pushed the sexual envelope and there is only so much they could do. Itís no wonder they didnít want to tackle polyamory as well. And of course thereís the fact that after Angel got his own spinoff the characters were never all on the same show at the same time.

However, each of the possible pairings within the threesome is addressed and amply supported by canon. It is clear that these are three people who share great love, affection and chemistry with each other.

Each pairing within the threesome works. None are perfect, all have work that would have to be done if they wanted to be happy and functional, but each has potential. There have been beautiful manifestos written by theantijoss (B/A ), kita0610 (S/A ), tallgent (B/S ) and moscow_watcher (B/S ) on these pairings, so I wonít go into too much detail here, but let me give you a quick rundown of what works and what will be hard for these pairings.

B/A

Buffy and Angel are my original OTP. I was sold on them from the moment she knocked him down in the alley in Welcome to the Hellmouth. They have incredible chemistry, the screen sizzles when theyíre together. They love each other with an intensity that threatens to consume them both whenever they are together. He achieved perfect happiness when he slept with her. She loved him more than she will ever love anything in this life.

Neither of them was ever as happy in a relationship as they were when together. And every time they are in the same physical space it is clear that their love has not diminished. In the AtS episode ďThe Girl In QuestionĒ Angel calls the love he shares with Buffy ďa forever loveĒ I couldnít agree more.

They were and are equals. Champions. Fighters of equal stature who know what it is to have to sacrifice everything to save the world. They were able to lean on each other more than either of them has ever been able to lean on anyone else. They can share each others burdens and understand each others pain. They are extraordinarily well matched.

That being said, their relationship is not without its problems. It existed in a very narrow context, Buffy was in high school, Angel was still figuring out that he was worth something. They have both grown and changed enormously since they were together. They are stronger, more stable, more grown up, more jaded and darker than when they were together. They have both been forced to confront their capacity for darkness. They have both been forced to make uncomfortable compromises and sacrifices. They both understand ambiguity more than they did when they were together (though Angel has certainly been forced to confront more ambiguity than Buffy has).

If they are going to be together in the future they will have to get to know each other again. Angel will have to learn that Buffy is a grownup now. He will have to learn that she is capable of making her own decisions and her own mistakes. He will have to accept that his innocent princess is darker, more complicated, and kinkier than when he knew her.

Buffy will have to learn that Angel isnít perfect. He isnít her prince coming to sweep her off her feet. He isnít the solution to all her problems. She will have trouble understanding the choices heís had to make, for instance the decision to take over Wolfram and Hart. Angelís life and role has always been more ambiguous and complicated than Buffyís, especially after he went to LA. She will have to come to understand that there wasnít always a clear right or wrong and that he did the best he could to be the best he could.

They will have to work through her abandonment issues, and his martyr complex, their communication issues, their trust issues and many other things.

If they can work through these issues, and I believe they can, they have the opportunity to have an amazing relationship. They will have to work at it, but I think they can come to have a more mature and realistic love. The love and passion they already share can hopefully carry them through that process.

B/S-

Buffy and Spike have the sort of fiery relationship that could easily consume them both. They have ridiculous amounts of chemistry. Even when I shipped B/A exclusively a part of me wanted to see Spike and Buffy get it on. Cause the snarky chemistry of S4 and 5 is just...delicious.

His love for her is stunning. He struggled against his nature and became a better person for her. His journey towards redemption began with the desire to be good enough for her.

Season 6, the season in which the sexual tension transformed into actual sex, was difficult to watch. Their canon relationship played out in an incredibly painful way. She used him to feel alive, to punish herself, to transfer her self-hatred onto something external. She treated him in a horrifying manner. His being soulless does not excuse her actions. She was lost, confused, in pain and she needed an outlet. He provided it. She used him, and they both knew it.

He took her treatment and even encouraged it. He let his love for her, and his desperation to have her overwhelm any self-esteem he had. He let go of his professed commitment to her well being and instead exploited her pain to keep her with him. He tried to lock her away in the shadows. He tried to bring her down so that she would stay with him. It didnít work.

The attempted rape was an expression of the desperate unhealthiness of the relationship. Violence was a frequent part of their coupling, and so was some initial protesting from Buffy. Given that context it is entirely possible that Spike, who was a. drunk and b. soulless, genuinely misunderstood the situation. However, and I canít stress this enough, that DOES NOT excuse his actions, nor does it make them Buffyís fault. The blame for the attempted rape lies squarely on Spikeís shoulderís.

The blame for the unhealthy dynamics of the relationship overall lies on both their shoulders. I donít buy Spike as pure innocent abuse victim. I donít buy Buffy as innocent victim either. They hurt each other, they were shitty to each other, they found each otherís tenderest spots and poked. Hard. For him, it was his twisted concept of love and a desperate attempt to keep her, for her it was an exercise in self hatred and a desire to have someone to pour her bad feelings onto.

In Season 7 Buffy and Spike began to move towards a place of peace in their relationship. It was confusing and painful for both of them, but they moved tentatively toward togetherness. Spike clearly still loved her and Buffy was clearly confused. Spike having a soul made him in many ways a new person. A person capable of doing good for goodís sake, capable of a healthier type of love. But Buffy felt conflicted wanting the man who tried to rape her, the man who sheíd had such an unhealthy relationship with. The attempted rape was a huge betrayal. The man who said heíd never hurt her, never leave her, hurt in her in one of the worst ways imaginable and then left with no explanation. She had enormous trouble opening herself to the idea of a renewed relationship with him despite her obvious continued attraction.

For Spike, the idea that Buffy might have feelings for him was foreign. He had trouble reconciling Season 7 Buffy who liked herself, and believed in him, with the Buffy who beat the crap out of him in an alley. With the soul came significant guilt and low self-esteem. He felt guilty for everything he did to her and for everything heíd ever done. Spike was, in many ways, lost in Season 7 and he was unable to accept that by the end of the Season Buffy had come to love him.

But these issues were not insurmountable, nor do they negate the genuine feelings between the two. Spike, in all his confusion and self-doubt, still loved Buffy. And Buffy, by the end of Season 7, came to love Spike and was able to admit it to herself and to him. Unfortunately, there was not adequate time for them to deal with the fallout of her realization before Spike met his fiery end.

They will have a lot to work on. Any sort of sexual relationship will be threatened by fallout from the attempted rape and the violent nature of their couplings. Any emotional relationship will be threatened by their prior treatment of each other. The ghost of their Season 6 relationship will be present, but can be worked through.

They have seen the best and worst of each other and they are still able to love each other. There is enormous potential here for a rewarding and healthy relationship.

S/A-

Spike and Angelís relationship has been given the least screen time (at least in terms of explicit onscreen enactment, there is plenty of subtext there) but it is the one with the most history. Very little of that history is canon, but given what canon has said itís difficult to deny its existence. Really for this ship you should go read kita0610 ís essay cause there is no way in hell I can do an adequate job with these two. I used to be pretty slash blind, and while I could buy them enough to get the fic written about them, I wasnít truly sold on them until I read Kitaís essay and watched ATS S5. (Really, if you remain slash blind through S5 I think thereís no hope for you.)

Spike and Angel understand each other in ways other people never can. They both know what it is to have been a monster. They know what it is to have killed and enjoyed it. They know what it is to have a soul after having committed such atrocities.

Their genuine chemistry and affection is threatened by several things. Angel is thoroughly unsettled by Spike. Angel has, for a long time, defined himself in terms of his uniqueness. He sees himself as alone, the sole champion, the only vampire with a soul, the man who has to take the weight of the world on his shoulders and carry the burden alone. Spike calls this into question. He is also a champion, he is also a vampire with a soul, and he is capable of sharing the burden of world-saveage.

Spike, for a long time, was someone that Angel was superior to. Angel was older, smarter, crueler, a better fighter and a more successful lover throughout much of their time together. Post-soul Angel could still see himself as superior to Spike because Spike was evil. Angel was good. Angel was a champion. Angel was still top dog.

Now Spike is able to challenge most of those notions. This is deeply unsettling for Angel. In addition, Spike is a reminder of who Angel was as Angelus. Spike is a reminder of the things Angel hates about himself. Spikeís ability to be irreverent about things Angel broods endlessly over is maddening for Angel. Spike is a challenge to the notion that a soul must weigh one down with guilt.

For Spike, Angel is a constant reminder of perceived inferiority. For years and years Angel was Spikeís rival, and Spike kept coming up short. Angel always gets the girl, Angel gets to be champion, Angel gets to be most beloved of all. Spike has incredible amounts of resentment built up over the years towards Angel.

Angel played an enormous role in shaping Spikeís personality, he was his sire (in many ways, if not in terms of the actual bite), his Ďyodaí. And Angel left him. Angel rejected him. Spike has been screwed over, rejected and abandoned too many times, and one of the most crucial in terms of identity formation, was Angel leaving when he got the soul.

None of these problems are insurmountable. They will take work (and there will be delicious and interesting angst as they are worked through) but the fact remains that there is potential for deep, meaningful, snarky, sexy love between the two.

So the question is, how do three pairings with enormous potential translate into a threesome? Where is the three in this OT3?

The deep and real feelings from each member of the threesome for the other two means that any relationship any of them has will be colored by the other two. If any of them pair off the specter of the third person will be ever present. There can be no B/A that doesnít consider S, no B/S that doesnít consider A, no A/S that doesnít consider B. Unless one of the three were dead, I canít see any of the pairings being truly fulfilled without the third, and even then the dead member would still be a presence.

Itís not just that the potential pairs in this trio canít exist without thoughts of the third, itís that there is enormous potential for the third to add positively to the dynamic.

Spike could do an awful lot to lighten up Buffy and Angel. Those two are so very entrenched in their tragic love and their view of their relationship as star crossed. They have spent so much time being heros and martyrs and carrying the weight of the world that they forget that not everything has to be do or die, life or death (let me be clear here, I am not criticizing them for being weighed down by responsibility etc, given the lives they lead it makes perfect sense. I am merely suggesting that they might be happier and healthier if someone could help them lighten up sometimes). Spike, with his snark and irreverence could help. Both Buffy and Angel need someone who takes them and life a little less seriously so that they donít get mired in eternal angst. Spike would provide that reality check and help Buffy and Angel Ďfind the fun.í

In addition, Spike has seen, and is comfortable with, the darkness in both Buffy and Angel. He could be a great help as they try to adjust to it in each other. He knows and accepts more facets of both of them than they do of each other.

Also, Angelís innate jealousy and possessiveness would probably keep him from being perfectly happy as long as Spike was in the mix sexually. (Though I have to say that Iím not entirely convinced that Angel is capable of perfect happiness anymore. I think the original perfect happiness may have been a lot more about the knowledge that someone loved and trusted him after he thought he was worthless for so long than any sort of magic Buffy-ness. And, though I havenít seen the second, according to the episode summaries I read, it seemed an awful lot like a spell was in the mix. And Angelís world is a hell of a lot more complicated and darker than it was during BtVS S2. I sort of doubt that perfect happiness exists for him (or really any of the three) any more.)

Angel could help keep Buffy and Spike level through the long hard process of building trust between them. He could keep the violent fiery nature of their past from consuming them again. He could act as a balance for them so their relationship doesnít destroy them.

Buffy could serve as a mediator between Angel and Spike when the snarky fighty side of their relationship became too much. She could help soothe egos when their competitive side comes out. She could remind Angel heís worthy when seeing Spike reminds him of his past wrongs. She could remind Spike that she loves him too when he gets too jealous.

Each potential duo in the trio could benefit from the addition of the third member. This, combined with the genuine love each member has for the other two makes this Ďship have the most potential in my mind.

Triangles are stable shapes geometrically, but not in human terms. Itís likely that the power dynamics of this particular love triangle would be fluid and everchanging. Shifting allegiances and affections are natural and would complicate the relations of a group of three even more than a more traditional pair. But this threesome has enough love between its members to keep things together even through the difficult times.

Overall what attracts me to a Ďship is two-fold. I want things to be hard. I am immensely drawn to relationships that are screwed up and angsty and needing of much work. I like my characters a little bit broken. I tend to think that most real people are a little broken, so I look for that in fiction. But the second, and more important part of what draws me to a Ďship is the potential for happiness. My real love is really broken people fumbling through together and finding a measure of happiness together.

I like my heroes happy. I need to be able to see the possibility for a happy ending for me to get behind a ship. Angst along the way is great, hell it makes it worth it, but if there is no potential for happy ending anywhere than Iím out.

Buffy Angel and Spike are all broken in some ways. They have been hurt beyond what anyone should have to bear. Given the nature of their lives there will be more hurt to come. But in each other they have the chance to find some measure of true happiness. Perhaps not perfect happiness. But comfort, and love, and joy (and really really hot sex). And after all theyíve done for the world donít they deserve that?

One final point in favor of this ship? The pretty. Three incredibly hot people all naked and sweaty together... *wipes drool from chin* right. anyway.

Recs and resources:

There isnít a ton of B/A/S stuff out there, but there is some, and there is even more if you consider stories that deal with one potential pairing while acknowledging the importance of the third person.

Fic:

My FAVORITE B/A/S story of all time is whenbuffysmile's Three Hearts Entwined. This story, and itís sequel Menage a Trois , first sold me on the viability of this ship. A lot of how I think of the three of them as a unit was born while reading and re-reading this story. It starts at the end of (a slightly altered) BtVS S3 and goes AU after that. Itís lovely. If you havenít yet, go check it out.

Another great one is the Ducksís story Bringing Him Back. Ducks is firmly in the camp that think that B/A/S was much more interesting before S/B and S/A were explored onscreen. This is her interpretation of how things might play out between them in BtVS S5 and AtS S2.

Tarnished by Havoc is a fic that I read some time ago and completely forgot about until today. I reread it and really really liked it. It takes place two years after an alternate beginning to S7. Itís quite lovely.

Dark Rhiannon's story Breaking the Slayer and its as of yet unfinished sequeal Taming the Beasts are dark but lovely.

Chrislee's Old Ghosts is a lovely post NFA look at how this threesome might play out. And the discussion it generated is really interesting.

Sofia Neto has a B/A/S series at her site, An Unholy Trinity. The first few bits of it arenít B/A/S, but the series overall is and itís completely worth reading. She also has a really good rec list.

Any B/A/S shipper should be aware of vampkiss's site Deadly Passions. Itís got a great B/A/S archive. I recommend most of the fic she has listed.

Also two interesting lj conversations I think you should read:
Romanygís discussion Monkey in the Middle, or Does the Order of Your Threesome Matter? discusses the way we list our pairings, and also generates some comments about the overall viability of B/A/S as a ship. Sofia Netoís notes on what sheíd write if she were writing a B/A/S essay is here and it's fascinating.

Iím running out of time and I know Iím forgetting to rec things and Iím sorry, but this gives you a good starting point. So go enjoy the threesome goodness. OT34EVA!

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