Joss Whedon is a genius at writing. That’s all I have to say. Enjoy!

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The "B" word was the love of his life. And he's what, two hundred and fifty? That ain't no short life. This grief-work's gonna take more than a vacation in Sri Lanka.

Charles Gunn, Heartthrob (Season 3, episode 1)

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The view was absolutely beautiful.

City lights were blinking in the distance with all the different colors of the rainbow and if one could photograph it, it would look like a postcard. In the distance, there was the faint sound of ocean waves crashing onto the beach as a lighthouse stood nearby, flashing its light onto the dark waters. There was a cool breeze swaying in the air and it smelled clean and not polluted like it would normally during the day. It was quiet and peaceful and looking at the wonderful scenery, one would never think that there was evil in the world.

Buffy stood leaning forward against the railing on the rooftop of the Hyperion Hotel, gazing out onto the view. Her blonde hair flowed loosely around her as she rested her arms on the cold metal in front of her. She loved the way Los Angeles looked at night, with all its lights and glamour. She took a deep breath, inhaling the air’s fresh scent, trying to remember the last time she felt this way… so content with herself and with her life.

It was hard to believe that barely a year had passed since she had been resurrected and almost six months since she had turned her life around. Looking back, Buffy could see just how far she had come emotionally and had grown as an individual – the difference between her now and a year ago was amazing. A year ago, she had been lost and emotionally damaged almost beyond repair. Some of the choices she had made… well, let’s just say they weren’t some of her better ones. Struggling to live in the world and learning to love life again was one of the hardest things she had ever had to do and she had become a stronger woman for it, even if some of her emotional scars would never fade – at least they were slowly healing.

Her calling as a slayer had changed her life drastically and she had finally come to accept it all – all the good and the bad. She no longer craved for a ‘normal life’ but rather a peaceful one. What was normal anyway? She sure as hell didn’t know anymore. She found that she liked being different and she liked breaking the rules. When she took the time to really think about it, she discovered that she was more than just the slayer.

She was extraordinary.

She was a role model, a sister, a daughter, a friend and a warrior. She was a protector, a caregiver, a leader and she was one of two girls in the entire world with the power and the abilities to fight against evil and for a safe future. Above all, she was a woman and a smart and resourceful one at that. She was determined not to waste her second chance at life, fully intending to live to the fullest and not take anything for granted. She would change the world or die trying, that she was sure of.

She was Buffy Summers and she was proud of her identity.

She stared out into the scene before her and remembered how her life began, here in this very city. The young teenaged girl that was popular and got invited to all the social events of the year seemed like a lifetime ago. Buffy could hardly remember the self absorbed girl she had been. Given the choice, she would never want to go back. She was finally happy with who she was.

A tingle started at the base of her spine, interrupting her musings and the thoughts in her head. The feeling moved slowly down her body until she could feel a strong bolt of electricity hum through her. It hit her all at once, a grave weight that pressed into her from all sides until she felt breathless and she grinned, feeling Angel’s presence. She stayed in her position though, giving no indication that she knew he was there and continued to gaze into the night.

It was amazing that they still had a connection, that she was still able to feel him deep down inside. She’d had plenty of time to think about their past relationship over the summer while she searched for him and she came to the conclusion that as far as Angel was concerned, she would never regret a single thing – except for maybe the time she sent him to hell. What Buffy had told Fred and Gunn a few nights ago was true – Angel had ruined her for anyone else. She could never love anyone else the way she loved him. Goodness knew she had tried, but the fact remained that Angel will always be the only one to ever truly hold her heart. And if given the choice to go back in time, she would live through the pain and anguish again in a heartbeat if it meant experiencing Angel’s love no matter how short their time together had been.

Buffy shifted her weight from one foot to the other as she turned and stared into the dark shadows. She couldn’t see Angel but she knew he was standing there, watching her. “You know, the whole lurking thing is getting so old,” she called out. “You really should think of a new approach.”

She heard a chuckle and her heart sped up as Angel suddenly appeared out of the darkness and began walking towards her. He looked healthy again – his skin no longer in the gray, cracked, waxy and sunken condition it had been in. He no longer looked weak and walked with his usual grace and quiet confidence. Not to mention, Buffy privately thought that there should be laws against how handsome he looked that night. Was she biased? Probably. She turned back to face the scenery again as Angel came to stand beside her and for a few minutes, the two stood, enjoying each other’s company and feeling comfortable with the silence. It felt like old times.

The slayer stood there, thinking over the past few days since she had brought Wes back to the hotel with her. Slowly, but surely, everyone was getting use to the former Watcher’s presence again. The biggest surprise was how civil Gunn had been. Who would’ve ever thought? With Fred’s help with the books, Wesley had thrown himself into full research mode, doing everything he could to help locate Cordelia – who was still missing. And because she didn’t do research, Buffy had gone out to patrol every night since Angel was still recovering from his ocean activities and twice, to her great surprise, Connor had joined her. They had made a surprisingly good team against the creatures of the night.

Yes, it had been a strange couple of days.

Eventually, her curiosity got the better of her and she broke the silence, glancing up at the man next to her as she did so. “So, how’d you know I was up here?”

He met her gaze and a shiver went down her spine. How could that gaze still have the same affect on her? It made her feel sixteen again. “I saw you come up here.”

“Oh,” she paused and tried to think of something else to say. She was beginning to feel a little awkward. “Well, congrats. You found Buffy!”

Silence ensued.

Buffy stayed silent, waiting for Angel to say what he wanted to say. It was times like these that the blonde knew that whatever Angel wanted to talk to her about; he would when he was ready. She suspected that he wanted answers and she hoped that whatever he would ask, she could answer. She still wasn’t sure she knew the entire story.

Angel was still looking at her, gazing down at her with the intensity that always seemed to be there whenever she was around him. She felt his eyes studying her, as if he was trying to memorize every detail he could. It made her feel a little self-conscious and she ran her right hand through her long hair. She hadn’t had a chance to shower yet after her patrol that night and she could only imagine how she looked.

As if he sensed her insecurity, Angel reached out and grabbed Buffy’s hand, pulling it from her hair and clasping it tight in his own. “You’re beautiful,” he told her softly.

Buffy blushed, trying to remain calm as her heart rate sped up. “Yeah well,” she said, trying to sound nonchalant. “It’s dark. Look at me after I shower.” She didn’t pull her hand away, content to let it stay where it was.

He shook his head. “You’re always beautiful to me. That will never change.”

She smiled and let out a chuckle. She had no idea why she found that funny but she couldn’t help laughing. She was happier than anything else though, at the fact that Angel still found her attractive. She gave him a fond glance, feeling extremely flattered. “How are you feeling?”

Angel stood gazing at her, still holding onto her hand. If he had his way, he would never let it go and would hold onto it forever. Here, in front of him, stood the girl – no, woman, that had changed his life in so many ways. For a moment, memories of when he first saw her filtered through his mind. With just one glance, the young, beautiful, innocent girl had changed his entire way of living and he had fallen in love for the very first time. Now, she was standing here no longer innocent, but still young and very beautiful and he still loved her with all of his heart. He blinked, suddenly realizing that Buffy was looking at him, waiting for him to answer her question. He squeezed her hand lightly. “I’m all better, thanks to you.”

Buffy’s smile because wider and then she shook her head slightly. “I’m glad to hear it. And I don’t deserve all the credit; I had a lot of help from Wesley.”

While that statement was true, as far as Angel was concerned, Buffy had been the one to save him. “How did you know that I needed help? Everyone told me that they had no clue where I was.”

She stared at him, her green eyes taking in his look of curiosity and for the first time, she wondered if their connection was as strong for him like it was for her. Once upon a time she would’ve said yes, sure of his feelings for her without a doubt… but it had been years since they had been together… She didn’t know but she liked to think that if she had truly been in trouble, Angel would’ve done anything to help her. It was a very nice thought. She held Angel’s gaze, turning her hand in his so that their fingers intertwined and she gave it a squeeze. She brought her left hand up to her chest and placed it right above her heart. She watched as his gaze followed her left hand and then looked at her questioningly, his eyes searching hers for answers. She smiled softly. “I told you before, Angel,” she said, the tone of her voice was gentle. “I feel you inside. I felt your soul crying for help… crying for me…”

Though he had no need to, Angel had a sharp intake of breath. He was remembering now exactly what he had felt as Connor and Justine pushed his box down into the ocean. He closed his eyes as the images vividly played over in his mind like a movie. The saying that life flashed before your eyes when you were in danger wasn’t just true for people that were alive, it was true for the undead as well. As his box had dropped into the ocean, images had flashed through his mind of all the pivotal moments in his unlife. Doyle’s death… Connor’s kidnapping… Fred’s rescue from Pylea… Gunn and Lorne’s teasing… Wesley’s betrayal… losing his soul in Sunnydale… Darla driving him over the edge… Cordelia trying to bring him out of his shell… seeing Buffy for the first time ever… the pain he felt when he learned of her death… the first time he and Buffy made love… their forgotten day… etc.

His last thought before his box had hit the ocean had been of Buffy.

A flourish of emotions rushed through him and he took a step closer to her, never breaking his gaze from hers. He was close enough to feel her body heat radiating from her and with one tug of her hand he could pull her into his arms. He resisted the urge to do what his heart wanted though, and instead chose to smile at her. Both of them had changed so much, but standing here with her, he felt like he did four years ago – before he left her, before he lost his soul – light, happy and all he could see was Buffy. “I’m glad you found me,” he said softly. “Saying ‘thanks’ just doesn’t seem like enough.”

The slayer shook her head. “Angel, you never have to say thanks. I’ll always be here to help you, no matter what.”

There was a brief silence and Angel smiled slightly. “You know it’s the same for you, right? I’ll always help you any way I can.”

She nodded. “I know.”

From that point on, their conversation turned to heavy topics. They held nothing back from one another, telling each other everything that had happened since their separation years ago. Angel explained the circumstances of Connor’s birth, his tryst with Darla and the long held grudge that Holtz had against him. He had been surprised at how calm Buffy had been when he mentioned Connor. All she had done was smile and said that the fact he had a child was miracle. She was happy for him. In return, Buffy told Angel all the events from her life in the past year including her time with Spike, her attempts to get back into heaven and her reaction at hearing his baby news. Angel hadn’t looked very surprised when she told him she had been in heaven but nonetheless pulled her into his arms. She told him her fears when she had discovered he was missing, how she felt when Wes explained everything that had happened with Angel’s life, her newfound friendship with Wesley and everything that had happened with Willow in the past few months.

“I’m really sorry I wasn’t here for you,” he told her.

She smiled and shook her head. “Things are okay now. Well, as okay as things can be I guess. All last year I’ve had to worry about finding a job to pay the bills, while worrying about slaying and to make it even worse, Giles went back to England. But I understand why he did it, you know? He wanted me to grow up and to be honest, I’m really glad I was able to.” She looked up at him, pride in her eyes. “I’m a much stronger person now, Angel. Not just physically, but emotionally. I’ve finally realized who I am and I’m proud of that. I feel like I can take anything that comes my way. Being a slayer isn’t as much of a burden now.”

Angel smiled back at her, happy that she had finally realized what he had known for years. He held her tighter, his eyes closing as he enjoyed being near her again. It had been too long… he breathed deeply, taking in her scent. It had definitely been way too long. Suddenly, Buffy pulled away and he frowned, reaching for her again. He wasn’t ready to let go of her just yet. But Buffy didn’t want to be pulled back into his arms and she was looking at him as if something had just occurred to her. He felt… worried.

“Angel,” she began quietly. “I’m going to ask you something and I want you to answer it honestly, okay? I want the truth no matter what.”

He nodded, anxiousness filling him.

“Are… are you and Cordelia dating now?” she asked.

His eyes widened… of all the things he had expected her to say, this wasn’t one of them. “How…?” he croaked. “How did you find out?”

She gave him a wry smile. “When I said Wes told me everything… he told me everything. We had a lot of time this summer to get to know one another. And you know, he’s not a bad guy. I like him better now than I ever did in Sunnydale. I respect him a lot now - guess it’s all a part of growing up.”

Angel shook his head. “There was never anything between me and Cordy… for awhile there, I thought… but nothing happened.” He reached out and grabbed her again, and this time Buffy allowed him to pull her back into his arms. He leaned back slightly and brought her gaze to meet his. “Truth is… I was lonely. And Cordy was there… she had seen everything that had happened between us… and she had been there throughout the past couple of years… but Buffy,” he paused, staring at her straight in the eye. “I don’t love her like that. I thought I did but all that time spent down at the bottom of the ocean made me realize something… in my very long life there’s only ever been one woman that I love and that’s you.”

Buffy smiled, feeling tears come to her eyes. “Really?”

“Yes. I love Cordelia, yes, but like a sister. I’ve only ever really loved you. I still love you, I hope you know that.”

She smiled and Angel felt that if his heart could beat, his heart rate would be through the roof. When her smile was directed at him, there was nothing better in the world than that. “I still love you, too,” she whispered. “I’ve never stopped.”

Time seemed to slow down for the two as their lips met in a sweet kiss. It wasn’t the kind of innocent kiss shared between two good friends upon the discovery of their feelings nor was it the kind of kiss that ignited passion between two lovers. It was the kind of kiss that was full of respect and love for one another and acknowledgement that while the time might not be now, someday they would be together. With all they had been through, there was no way that they would not end up together. Fate couldn’t be that cruel. It was certain that they would have their someday, they were sure of it.

Buffy and Angel pulled apart (though still stood with their arms around each other) smiling at one another as they did so. There was no need for words as their once dulled connection was now renewed and understanding flowed between them. They would be in each other’s hearts for always and that was something that would never change. For the first time since his rescue from the ocean, Angel felt hope filling him. It didn’t escape his notice that it was once again Buffy who had been the one to restore it. She was his salvation.

They stood up on the roof in each other’s embrace for hours, both content with the silence and company. It was a few minutes before sunrise before Buffy broke the silence with a sigh. Her gaze broke away from the slowly brightening sky and she turned to face him. “I’m going to have to go back to Sunnydale soon,” she said quietly. “What are we going to do now?”

He held her gaze and his arms tightened around her. “We keep in touch,” he vowed. “Letters, phone calls – I’ll even learn how to use email.”

The blonde giggled. “Angel using email,” she mused. “That’s something I have to see.”

“I’ll do it for you,” he promised. Then his expression turned serious. “It’s going to work this time Buffy. I believe. You make me believe.”

That was all the reassurance Buffy needed. She smiled at him and pulled him down for one more kiss before pulling away. “Come on,” she said as she tugged on his arm, steering him away from the dawning day. “Let’s get you inside before the sun turns you into vampire ash.”

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Buffy’s goodbyes were bittersweet later that afternoon as she threw her bags into the backseat of her car and slammed the door shut. It was finally time for her to go back to Sunnydale and back to her responsibilities whether she wanted to or not. Dawn had called, informing the slayer that Giles was sending Willow home in a few days and Buffy wanted to be there to welcome her friend home. Wesley, Fred, Gunn, Connor and Angel all stood in the shadows by the front doors of the Hyperion Hotel watching her as she turned back and walked towards them. Fred approached her first, followed by Gunn and she was surprised when Fred threw her arms around her and gave her a warm hug, pulling back with a bright smile. Gunn gave her an equally enthusiastic hug that made Buffy glad that she’d had the opportunity to meet them.

As she turned to him, Connor regarded Buffy with a look of what could only be respect and she smiled at him, feeling her maternal instincts kick in. She pulled the young boy into her arms and gave him a quick but firm hug, whispering in his ears as she did so. “Always remember to hear both sides of the story before you make a decision. Look me up in Sunnydale if you ever need anything, okay?” She pulled back and was happy to see Connor nod and smile at her. Maybe things wouldn’t be so hopeless between him and Angel after all.

Wesley then approached and Buffy had no qualms about hugging her former watcher. She threw her arms around him and hugged him tight, thankful for everything he had done for her over the last few months. Wesley’s friendship was something she now deeply valued. She felt his arms go around her, returning her hug and she grinned widely. She pulled back and looked at him straight in the eye. “You will always have a friend in me,” she told him, noting the way Wes stood taller at her words, as if he was proud to hear her say them. “Call me if you ever need to talk about anything – and I mean, anything, even if it’s about the weather.”

Wesley nodded. “I will Buffy. Thank you for everything. Be safe.”

Buffy gave him another smile before turning to the person that would be the hardest to say goodbye to. Angel regarded her with a look of sorrow on his face as he pulled her into a hug. She felt tears come to her eyes as she breathed in his unique scent. They shared one more kiss before she pulled away. She hated goodbyes.

“You’ll be careful, right?” Angel whispered.

Buffy nodded and kissed him once more with gentleness. “I’ll be fine. Take care of yourself okay? I love you.”

“I will.” He hugged her tightly, pain gripping in his chest. He couldn’t believe that he had to watch her walk away again after they’d only just found each other again. It was more painful than he remembered it being. “I love you, too. Never doubt that.”

“Promise me you’ll give Wes another chance,” she whispered in his ear.

This time it was Angel who pulled back. He looked at her and nodded. “I’ll try,” he replied.

Buffy stepped away from his embrace and grinned, though there were still tears in her eyes. “That’s good enough for me,” she laughed. Her gazed traveled around the five people in front of her once more. “Take care of each other, okay guys? And let me know when you find Cordelia, will you?”

“We will,” Gunn answered. “Take care, girl.”

“Come back and visit!” Fred waved.

“If you ever need help in Sunnydale, please call us.” Wes took a step forward. “We’ll do anything we can.”

Buffy opened the door to her car and slid in, slamming the door shut. She rolled down the window and grinned at them once more. “I’ll keep that in mind. Bye guys!” And with one last look at Angel, she pulled out of the drive way and onto the road.

To her, the future had never looked brighter.