Title: First Love Never Fades (1/1)

Author: Sandy S.

Rating: PG-13

Spoilers: Everything on Buffy and Angel up to this point. Set well in the future.

Disclaimer: I own nothing. All belongs to Joss and UPN.

Summary: Buffy and Angel meet for the first time after many years have passed. Buffy POV. I've tried to stick as close as possible to hints of future developments on the shows. Yes, yes, I know, a B/A story, but I have good reason!

Dedication: This story is written especially for my dear friend, Natalie, who is a B/A shipper. Happy 25th birthday, sweetie (December 4)! Only for you would I, a B/S shipper, undertake such a storyline! ;o)

First Love Never Fades

Today is the day.

I've known that for five weeks now, but that knowledge doesn't stop me from being surprised by my mixed feelings today. Even though I know that I won't see him until this evening, I dress with extra care for work, donning the silk suit I only wear on days when I have a major presentation or am going on a business trip to New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles. I even take the time to curl my shoulder length blond hair. Usually, I just twist my hair up in a bun to work.

At the office, Cynthia, my assistant, notices right away, "Ms. Summers, you left your hair down today. It looks beautiful. Something special happening today?"

I can't tell her that I'm meeting someone later. . . someone from my past. "No, nothing special. Just felt like dressing up."

"I see," Cynthia acknowledges, smiling slightly before returning to the agenda in her hand. "Well, you have your usual staff meetings this morning. Your lunch appointment for today cancelled, so I moved your two o'clock meeting with the Atlanta people to noon. They wanted to meet over lunch anyway. Mr. Bennington said he negotiates better over a meal."

"Mr. Bennington wants to get me in the sack," I comment wryly, crossing my arms.

"Which is why you hold all the cards in this deal." Cynthia grins at me.

"I suppose so."

Suddenly, the outfit I've chosen to wear today seems a little over the top, and I don't have time to return home and change before lunch. Damn. If only Mr. Bennington knew why I wore the silk suit. Somehow, I don't think he'd believe me.

Vampires, teenage slayers, hellmouths, blood, death? The need to feel secure when faced with the past?

Nah. He wouldn't believe me.

"And would you like some coffee before your morning meeting?" I barely hear Cynthia.

Vaguely, I wave my hand and stare at the papers on my desk. "No, no coffee. But some tea would be wonderful."

Cynthia nods. She doesn't question the change of routine and leaves the room to fulfill my request.

Somehow, I have the strange urge to feel closer to Giles. Even though I haven't seen my ex-Watcher in years, drinking tea always reminds me of him. He's British, so my need is stereotypical, I know, but I feel vulnerable today in more ways than one.

* * *

Two hours early.

Because of the cancelled appointment, I get out of work two hours early. In four hours, I'll be meeting him in a tiny corner coffee shop in downtown Houston, and I have no idea what I'll do with myself until then.

Deciding to change into more casual clothing, I return to my loft apartment. I glance through my closet. No trace of leather or clothing in red or black remains. I got rid of all those items when the other man. . . vampire. . . in my life died. . . when I retired as a slayer and didn't have to be so tough anymore.

After a warm bubble bath and an hour of trying on and discarding several outfits, I choose a soft pink sundress and a white cardigan sweater. Even though the winter season is in full force, Houston remains warm. . . like California, only more humid. The dress and sandals I wear make me appear soft, youthful. I don't feel that way inside. I wonder if he'll notice.

Smearing shiny pink gloss over my lips and fluffing my curls, I snag my keys and head to my covered parking spot. My Mercedes hums to life, and I wave back to Justin, the security officer, as I drive into the busy city street.

I steer through the traffic like a seasoned professional. He's never known the me that drives a car, that has a steady nine-to-five job, that isn't a slayer. Will we even be able to connect. . . to understand one another?

Before I realize what I'm doing, I find myself paying four dollars to park in a family-owned, hole-filled parking lot several blocks from the coffee shop meeting place. The older man running the lot raises his eyebrows at me as I lock the car and hide the keys in an inside pouch of my purse. He doesn't understand why I've chosen to park such an expensive vehicle in a crime-ridden downtown neighborhood, far from the bustling shopping area.

I know why. I'm afraid for him to see what I am now, what I've become. . . at least, not until I'm sure he won't reject the new me. For some reason, I almost hear ex-lover's chiding voice in my head, asking me why I'm concealing myself after he worked for so many years to get me to not hide behind my fears.

"It's because of you that I'm willing to talk with him now about my feelings," I whisper nervously to myself. . . to Spike if he's listening.

"You won't be able to hide it from him, pet," I almost hear Spike saying.

"I know; I know. You certainly remain as annoying as ever with the truth." My mumbling earns me some odd stares from passersby. My limbs are tingling from nervousness, giving my walk extra speed.

"Tell him."

"Buffy!"

The familiar voice startles me, making me jump and my heart pound in my ears. My eyes scan the crowd around me, searching for the visage to match the voice. Our eyes lock, hazel green on deep brown, and my heart stops, sending a wave of dizziness over me. A cool hand grips my elbow, steadying me. My eyes never leave his, and he doesn't break contact either.

"Buffy," he murmurs more quietly, concern evident in his tone, "You okay?"

I shake my head. Not the first impression I want to make. "Yeah. Yeah. I'm fine. . . Angel." His name feels foreign on my lips. Will other things about him feel unnatural? The designated coffee shop looms before us. "Coffee?"

"Sure, that's why we're here, right?" He sounds so sure of himself like he's met with his ex-girlfriend thousands of times. In reality, this is the first meeting in more years than I can count.

"Yes." That's not why we're here, and you know it, buddy.

He guides me to a little corner table he's claimed. The table is in the little outside courtyard, near enough to the throng of people to provide both a sense of intimacy and of safety. Can he be as on edge as me?

I study his movements as we climb up on the stools. His gestures, his essence are so memorable that I can almost predict what he will do and say next. Part of me wants to shout to the world that these movements, these gestures are mine! I claim them! I know them like no other person ever will! The other part of me knows better, and when I think about my own history since being with him, I wouldn't have it any other way.

I wonder if he feels the same when he looks at me.

The waitress appears. "What can I do for you, tonight?" She's one of those perky college-aged girls who is working her way through college.

Her focus is on him, and stepping beyond the stab of jealousy, I survey him through her eyes. His hair is thick and dark but styled differently than I remember. A loose lock falls over his forehead, and I resist the urge to sweep aside the errant strand with my fingertips. His chest is as broad as ever, and his long legs touch the ground despite the height of the stool he's perched upon.

Black is his color, and the darkness of his black slacks and un-tucked black shirt contrasts with his pale skin, bringing out the rich depths of his eyes. . . eyes that hold the promise of understanding and of secrets to uncover. He doesn't seem to be a day older than the night I met him in the alleyway twenty years ago.

"A double shot of expresso for me," he informs her with a sparkle in his eyes. Have I ever seen that glow? I can't recall. "And whatever she wants." He nods at me, and the waitress tears her gaze from him reluctantly.

Self-consciously, I run over my appearance and how my presence across from him must seem. Blond curls that I've made certain will remain fluffy and touchable despite the humidity, a dress that conveys elegance but also youth, and strappy sandals that are in every store window and catalog catering to young women. I know I look good for being thirty-five. I have one of those faces that will be eternally youthful no matter what my experiences or age.

We. . . Angel and I. . . can conceivably be a couple like every other couple in the coffee shop.

So, I'm confident when I present her with a smile. "Mocha for me please. Skim milk."

"I should have known that," Angel comments.

The waitress is gone before she has a chance to become permanent in my mind, and I'm faced with the man. . . vampire before me. I can't remember when he made the transition from being a vampire to a man. Maybe he never was a monster to me. . . not even as the soulless Angelus.

"So, how've you been?" Angel's question is informal, cool.

"Fine. . . . Quite wonderful actually." Simple, uninformative.

"I've been okay myself."

I decide to break through his wall of perfection. Hey, we have to start somewhere. We can't just keep pretending to be normal. "I heard that you lost your son. That must have been hard."

"Yeah." He turns to watch the crowd. Damn, did I say too much too soon? "I did."

I let the silence remain for a few minutes. We've waited how many years to talk again? A few more minutes can't hurt. Reaching out, I lay my warm hand over his cooler one. He automatically turns his wrist, engulfing my tiny hand in his large palm. The touch is natural, somehow right.

Finally, I can wait no longer. Patience has never been my strong suit. "How? What happened?"

"Car accident. He's always been pretty impulsive. Ran a red light. The other car went on green."

Quickly, I decide on levity. "Guess he didn't inherit his dad's penchant for planning." That's me, Miss Cover-Up-My-Feelings. Maybe that just makes me human.

My half-joke earns me a grin. "Nope. He didn't."

"Were you satisfied with how things ended between you?"

The waitress sets steaming mugs before us, and Angel removes his hand from mine. Instantly, I feel irrationally naked.

When she is gone, he answers my query, "No. But with Connor, I was never satisfied with the way things were between us. He's always gone out of his way to be whatever I don't want him to be. . . to do things I don't want him to do."

"I understand that." Thoughts of Dawn flicker through my conscious.

"Dawn?" He reads my mind.

"Yep. She refused to go to university and ended up married to a mechanic. At least, she does seem happy with her two point five kids."

"Two point five kids?" He takes a sip of expresso.

"Two toddlers and one on the way." I cup both hands around my mug, studying the rising steam. I can hardly blame my little sister for wanting some semblance of a normal life even if she went a bit extreme in her determination.

"Ahh. But you, you finished university."

"Yeah. Got a business degree. Does that seem like me? Business Buffy?"

I'm rewarded with a quiet chuckle. "Heard you were quite successful."

"Well, I needed something to put my drive toward after the whole slayer gig ended. You know me. . . always driven."

The laugh fades from his face but lingers in his eyes. He knows, and he sees me. He's always seen me. "Yeah. Well, I'm proud of you."

"You are?" I'm secretly pleased.

"I am." This time he takes the initiative to take my hand. "I've always been proud of you, Buffy. Even when we were fighting."

I don't waver. "Thanks. I'm proud of you, too."

His thumb strokes my palm tenderly. I allow the touch. . . cherish it, in fact.

Breaking the silence first, I ask, "So, you closed 'Angel's Investigations.'"

"Yeah. After Cordy died. . . . And Gunn. I just couldn't keep it open." He avoids eye contact then. The pain radiates off of him; he's had so much loss in such a short time.

Jealousy mingled with respect for Cordelia, the girl I once knew and the woman I never knew, tinges my feelings. "Did you love her?" So, I'm a glutton for punishment, but I have to know.

There's no hesitation in his voice, "I did. She was my best friend."

"And more?"

"And more, but we never got the chance." He stumbles over the last word, and regret is tangible in his tone.

Perhaps soon he'll have no more regrets. I hope.

Angel's next question shifts the spotlight from his uncomfortable subject to mine. I deserve that. "Did you love Spike?"

"In my own way."

"And what is your 'own way'?" He won't let me get away with my usual evasion. Damn him. At least, his hand is holding mine more tightly.

"I loved him." That's all I'm going to say because that's all Angel needs to hear. I don't feel like going into the details of Spike's death at the moment. I'm healed, but talk of his death still brings tears to my eyes. Angel doesn't need or deserve to witness them. I clear my throat and ignore the hurt in his posture. "So, you're moving to Houston?"

"Yeah. I'm here for a while. Something about a demon uprising here. Wesley knows more about it than I do."

"Wesley?" I didn't know that he and Wesley, the ex-Watcher turned demon hunter, were so chummy. Not from the stories Fred has told me about their falling out.

"He and I have an apartment downtown near the university," Angel explains. I try to picture he and Wesley sharing a bathroom or cleaning house together and have trouble holding back a giggle.

"How long will you be here in town?" I'm satisfied with the modulation of eagerness in my question. I untangle his hand from mine and bring the mocha to my lips, relishing the sweet taste of chocolate on my tongue.

He smiles at me. I'm not used to Angel smiling so much, especially after the recent deaths. I find his happy edge a nice change of pace from the past. "How long do you want me to stay?"

And cocky now, did I say cocky? "Well, aren't we cocky. Who said I wanted you to stay?" Oh, I do want you to stay. . . how's forever?

Without warning, Angel moves onto the stool next to mine, pressing his thigh into my leg and putting his arm around my shoulder. "I want to stay." His boldness fades with the same rapidity as his motion. "If you want me to."

Now the ball is in my court. I lean my head against his familiar chest, placing my hand lightly on his knee. I feel more "right" than I have in months. So, I go with the feeling. "I want you to. But what about the happiness clause to your curse?"

The curse is the one thing that stands in our way. If Angel has one true moment of happiness, he loses his soul and becomes Angelus. Even today, I have to constantly remind myself of that fact. I don't want to unleash that on my life. . . not when everything's finally going my way again.

"Oh, Buffy. I don't think we have to worry about that." He sounds resigned.

"How come?" Even as I ask the question, I know the answer.

"Too many. . . ." He pauses before continuing, ". . . things have happened in my life as Angel. I won't be perfectly happy no matter what."

I remain wary. "I don't want a repeat of Angelus."

A hand runs down my hair. "Plus, there's the little loophole Wesley found for me."

I inhale sharply. "Loophole?"

"I will safely never become Angelus again." He's sure. . . more sure than I've ever heard him. "There's only one thing I need to know first."

"What's that?"

A cool index finger strokes my chin and turns my head to face him. A heat I haven't seen since I was sixteen pours forth from his eyes. I might drown here unless he says something else soon.

"I need to know if you still love me."

"Angel."

"I'm sorry, Buffy. I know it's sudden after so many years, but. . ."

Balancing carefully on the stool, I reposition my body so that he has my full attention. Lacing my arms around his neck, I breathe in his familiar scent and bring my lips to meet his. He responds instantly, melding his mouth to mine like we've never been apart. When I have no more air to spare, I force myself to breach our connection. He is as breathless for unneeded oxygen as I am. My fingers lave deftly over his familiar forehead, eyes, nose, and cheekbones.

"I love you, Angel."

As his arms find their way around my waist, and we become lost in the oblivion of each other, ignorant of others' stares, I realize that I am truly happy for the first time in a long time. And I slowly comprehend a truth that I already unconsciously grasped. . . .

First love never really fades. The love may be hidden and denied, but its essence never truly disappears. . . no matter how many loves come in between. How lucky am I to have the chance to experience the purity of that love again?

The end.

PLEASE . . . no flames! I AM A SPIKE and BUFFY writer!!!! And I support S/B! I just wrote this for a gift for a friend for her birthday! *waves* HAPPY BIRTHDAY, NATTIE! (And see how I managed to squeeze a little S/B stuff in there. . . hehehe)!