Disclaimer: Anything that you don't recognize is mine :-D

Rating: PG-13 (eventually)

Pairings: Mainly B/A, also W/T, X/A, G/J

Notes: This prologue begins directly after the events of Graduation Day Part 2, and then spins off mostly into AU. The only change to the story arc thus far are that Joyce is very much alive. Also, events happened as they would have if Buffy was not in Sunnydale from season 4 on. Ex- no Dawn, Tara is alive.

Dedication: I would like to dedicate this part to my best Buffy friend Tara. Thank you so much for your encouragement with this fanfic! :-D

One More Thing: Please review this!! It will end up being pretty long. I have had this idea for a long time, but it is my first fanfic of any kind, so please be nice. Thanks!! :-D


I was in shock. I couldn't believe he left me. He didn't even say goodbye. At that moment when I saw him walk away, I felt hollow. Like my life was no longer worth it.

Moments later, as I sat with the gang and looked at the remains of Sunnydale High, I realized that at least for the time being, my work here was done. As I watched Willow and Oz, happily in love, and even Xander and Cordelia, content with their respective lives, I felt so alone. I felt like I just had to get a fresh start. I needed to get away from this stupid town and it's stupid hellmouth. I had done more than my share, I stopped the Ascension, I killed countless baddies...my friends could handle the rest. Because I was through. I needed to get away from Buffy Summers.

So that is what I did. I went home that night after graduation and the battle. Mom was still gone, after I had told her to run. I packed a bag. Most of my clothes and all the money I could scrape up. At the last minute I slipped a stake and a photo of my mom and my friends in the bag. Then I left a note. I just basically said that I was leaving to start over and please don't try to find me, although I knew she would anyway.

When I got outside, I looked at my house one last time. Then I turned around and never looked back.

I walked to a pay phone a few blocks down and I called for a cab. I had a decent amount of money, I had been saving for college. Hopefully it would be enough to get me away from this town and this life.

During the ride to the airport I thought about my name. I knew I would have to change it, because if I didn't my friends would be able to find me too easily. I decided on Lynn. It was just a name I had always liked. For my last name, I chose Herring, the last name of a soap opera actress I had seen once. Lynn Herring. It had a certain ring to it that I liked.

We finally got to the airport. With the money I had, the furthest I could get was North Dakota and still have some money left. I waited about an hour, during which I just sat there, visions of Angel running through my head. Then I boarded the plane and the door closed behind me on my old life as Buffy Summers. And I eagerly got off the plane 2 hours later to begin my new life, as Lynn Herring.

Once I got to North Dakota, I had just enough money to get 3 nights in a cheap motel. My first day there I went around the town looking for work. I found a pretty nice restaurant that was hiring waitresses. I had a little experience from the last time I ran away, and I had an interview and got the job. I worked two very long days after that and made enough from tips for another week in the motel. I worked full time all summer, weekends too. The pay was pretty good, and I got good tips. By the end of the summer I had saved up a very good amount of cash.

I had always been planning on going to college, and I decided that maybe I should look into it. There was a small state college nearby the restaurant and I went and checked it out one day. I went in and spoke to a counselor, and fed her a story about how I was an orphan who had run away from an abusive foster home on my 18th birthday. I showed her my SAT scores, and she said I qualified for financial aid and student loans. Between that and my savings, I had enough for enrollment, books, and a dorm. I was so glad to get out of that motel. I was a little worried about keeping my secrets in a dorm situation, but I was eager to make friends. Ever since I came to North Dakota, I had pretty much been alone. There were some other girls that worked at the restaurant, but they weren't really my friends. Despite the hundreds of customers I served each week, and the many people in the restaurant, I felt more alone than ever.

The day before classes started, I boxed up my things, payed off my final motel bill, and caught a cab over to the university. I got up to my room, and met my roommate. Her name was Stacey. She was very friendly, and I found a good friend in her. However, she did have a boyfriend, and much of her time was spent with him, while I sat alone in the room, eating chocolate and watching Lifetime movies. I was pretty vague about my past, and Stacey didn't push. She did however try to get me dates though, and as you can imagine, that didn't turn out well.

I did surprisingly well my first two years there. I ended up majoring in journalism, because I heard the professor was great. And she was. I really ended up loving her class. Professor Strang was her name. I really came to admire her, and even love writing. I got the best grades of my life in that class.

About three-quarters the way through of my second year, Professor Strang pulled me aside one day. This was not uncommon, we had become good friends, and we had even talked for hours about writing and just life in general. But this time was different.

"Lynn," she said slowly, "have you made any plans for next year?"

"Not really," I said. "Why?"

She sighed. "Lynn...have you ever considered transferring?" I was silent.

"You have extraordinary potential Lynn," she continued. "I think you could really do well at a bigger, better school."

I exhaled slowly. "You really think so?"

"Yes I do," she said. She walked towards her desk. "Have you ever considered Columbia University in New York City?" She handed me a pamphlet. "They have an excellent journalism program. One of the best."

I thumbed through the pamphlet. Then I got to the page with the numbers. "Whoa!!" I exclaimed, as I looked at the 5 figure cost. "I haven't done this much waitressing, Professor Strang," I said with a laugh.

She chuckled. "I know that Lynn. But you haven't considered this." She handed me another pamphlet.

I looked at her sharply. "Scholarships?"

"That's right. At the end of each semester, we award one transfer scholarship in each major to a student. Lynn, right now you have an excellent shot at the journalism scholarship. Your grades are that good."

I was flabbergasted. "Wow....what else do I have to do?"

She began rummaging around her desk. "Write an essay, saying why you think you deserve the scholarship." She handed me a paper. "Here are some guidelines."

"Thank you so much," I said. "Wow. This is a lot to absorb."

She smiled. "I know. But please at least consider."

"I will." I smiled back.

I did more than just consider it. I totally went for it. I wrote my essay, which I thought was quite good. Then it came time for the scholarship ceremony in early June of my second year. My heart was pounding as Professor Strang took the stage.

She smiled out at us. "I am very proud to announce the winner of the transfer journalism scholarship." She opened the envelope and smiled right at me. I swear my heart stopped.

"I am proud to award this scholarship to....Lynn Herring!!"

I gasped. Stacey screamed.

"Get up here Lynn!!" said Professor Strang.

Shakily I walked to the stage. There I took the papers that she handed me and hugged her tightly. "I wish you the best of luck Lynn. This is well earned," she said.

That night I went out to the only club in town with Stacey and her boyfriend Matt to celebrate. I couldn't believe it: I was going to New York. I was going to Columbia!! But I was also leaving Stacey and Professor Strang. And North Dakota, which I had become strangely attached to.

Over the next few days, I submitted my application to Columbia, and was quickly accepted. I was to move in August.

My last day in North Dakota, Stacey and Professor Strang drove me to the airport. There were some tears shed, and we promised to keep in touch. "Remember Lynn: you can do anything you set your mind to," Professor Strang said to me. I smiled through the tears. "I think I know that now." Then I hugged them one final time, and boarded the plane for Chapter 3 of my life.

Part 1

a year and a half later

New York City

February 14th, 2003

"There she was, just a walkin down the street singing doo a didee didee dum didee doo!" Lynn Herring sang along to her radio as she gathered her things to go for her shower. She bopped over the radio to turn it up when she noticed something and sighed.

Valentine's Day. She couldn't believe she had forgotten that today was the holiday that always became the most depressing day of the year, at least for the past 4 years anyway.

Every other day of the year she was able to pretty much forget about her old life. She lived and breathed Lynn Herring. But she couldn't do that today. Today she couldn't stop thinking about him.

Angel. The man (er...vampire) that had broken her heart almost four years ago. Seems like a lifetime right, but she could still remember that day as if it was yesterday. How he walked away into the fog without even a glance back. The day her life as Buffy Summers ended and her new life began.

Lynn reached under her bed and pulled out her journal. She picked up a pen and wrote.

Buffy Summers

It felt like she was writing someone else's name. Like it was a random stranger in one of her articles.

She groaned. Thinking about articles reminded her of the long day she had ahead of her.

Most of Lynn's days went like this: go to her 2 or 3 morning classes at Columbia, then head to cheerleading practice, at least 3 days a week, then to the Manhattan Tribune office where she worked as assistant crime editor.

When she had first arrived in New York, she had a letter waiting for her from Professor Strang. She said that she had gotten her a job at a newspaper where a friend of hers was the editor. Lynn had been so excited, and she really loved her job. But sometimes the long days got to her. Especially days like today.

She sighed. "We just have to learn to live with our decisions Lynn." Because this morning she found herself wondering if she made the right one 3 and a half years ago.

Sunnydale, California

February 14, 2003

The bell rang, and Willow Rosenberg stood and gathered her books. She walked out the door, waving goodbye to her professor as she left. As she stepped into the hall at UC Sunnydale, she smiled when she saw Tara waiting for her.

"Hi baby," Willow said walking to Tara and taking her hand. "How was class?"

Tara giggled. "Boring as usual. Poetry was definitely not one of my better class choices."

They strolled out into the sunlight hand in hand.

"So what are we doing today?" Tara asked.

"Oh, I have to stop over and see Giles. I haven't seen him in over 2 weeks! I feel so guilty." Willow sighed. "I mean at first, when Buffy...left, we were all together so much, looking for her every day in every way we could. But then after the first year or so, we kind of slowed it down." Willow stopped and looked at Tara. "I feel like we've given up on her."

Tara shook her head. "Baby, you can't think that. You guys did everything you could to try and find Buffy, and you still are! I think...I think she just doesn't want to be found."

Willow nodded sadly, and they continued to walk.

Rupert Giles opened his door and smiled. "Willow and Tara. What a pleasant surprise!" He opened the door wider and they came in.

"Hi Giles, I'm so sorry, we haven't seen you in so long." Willow put her bag down on the table. "I've just been really busy, with class and all."

Giles nodded. "No, thats fine, I perfectly understand. Please have a seat. Can I get you some tea?"

Tara smiled. "Tea sounds nice, thank you." Giles moved to the kitchen area of his home.

Willow sat down on the couch, and patted the seat for Tara to join her. "So....have there been any new leads?" she asked cautiously.

"Well, there was one last week. An old contact of mine phoned with a report of a girl fighting vampires in Northern California." He sighed. "But it didn't pan out."

Willow's shoulders slumped. "Well, its good that you tried."

Giles nodded wordlessly. There was an awkward pause.

Tara broke the silence. "Have you heard from A-Angel lately?"

Giles walked over carrying the tray with the tea. "Yes, we spoke yesterday."

Willow sipped her tea. "How is he doing?"

Giles sat down next to them. "The same, I suppose. He is still trying as hard as he can to find her. I believe that he won't rest until he does find her. Especially after what happened last year." He sighed.

Willow spoke softly. "Do you think we're ever going to find her?"

Giles placed a hand on the her shoulder. "I don't know Willow. I don't know."

Los Angeles, California

February 14th, 2003

((Note: the song is Michelle Branch's "Where Are You Now."))

Valentines Day. Wonderful.

Angel sighed as he remembered what day it was. Of course he would think about her even more today.

Maybe I'd do better on my own
No one ever seems to understand me
It's easier for me to be alone
There's still a piece of me that feels so empty

He could still see her as if it was yesterday. Through the smoke, they had shared a silent goodbye. And sometimes he wondered if it was the last time he would ever see her.

He knew it was wrong to think this way. He could never lose hope. But it had been almost 4 years now, during which no one had seen or heard from Buffy. Most were wondering if she was still alive. But Angel knew she was. He would have felt it if she died.

I've been all over the world
I've seen a million different places
Back through the crowds and all the faces
I'm still out there looking for you? ho oh

He was still looking. He spent the greater part of most of his days looking. While he was in the office he would search online, search records of any kind that he could find, and try any name she might be using. But nothing. Cordelia, Wesley, Gunn, and Fred had to be so sick of looking, although they never dared say it. They never even complained that he was gone so often, following up on a new lead or just following a hunch.

Where are you now?
I'm trying to get by with never knowing at all
What is the chance of finding you out there?
Do I have to wait forever?

He walked to the window and pulled the blinds apart. It was a beautiful sunny day. How he would love to share that with her.

I write about the things I'll never know
I can find a moment just to a slow down
It makes me think I'll never have the chance
To figure out? what it's all about
So tell me? what it's all about? 'cause

Yes, his shanshu had come. Last April, he had been out one ordinary night, just like many others, in some western city, he forgotten which one, looking for her. And he had heard a woman scream. He found her being attacked by a vampire, and saved her. Afterwards, an oracle had appeared. Not one of the oracles who had been murdered, but one of their replacements. He could still remember what they said.

"Congratulations Angelus. You have finally completed your mission."

"What mission?" he had said, confused. What made this woman different from all the others?

Where are you now?
I'm trying to get by with never knowing at all
What is the chance of finding you out there?
Do I have to wait forever?
Yeah, la da da da da n da da da? oo oo oo

"The balance has now shifted, Angelus," the oracle had spoken. "You have now saved one more live than you have taken. Now you will get your reward. Your redemption."

"Human," Angel had said to himself. "But wait! The last time I was human, I.."

The oracle cut him off. "I know. That is why the Powers that Be have decided to let you maintain your vampire strength, only as a human."

Angel started to speak but the oracle held up his hand.

"Silence. You have deserved this reward. And so it is done." With that there was a flash of light and the oracle disappeared.

Angel doubled over as he felt a shock go through him. Moments later he raised his hand to his chest and felt his heartbeat.

Where are you now?
I'm trying to get by with never ever knowing at all
And I still don't know

And now he did the same. He wished that he could share his new life with her. They had both dreamed of this. And now with every second of his human life that passed, more precious minutes that he could be spending with her were wasted.

He sighed. All he could do was keep looking.

Where are you now?
I'm trying to get by with never ever knowing at all
What is the chance?
Of finding you out there
Do I have to wait, do I have to wait, do I have to wait forever?
Oo oo oo oo oo oo? yeah eh yeah