Chapter Eleven

-Buffy-

I'm pounding on the door of Willow's apartment. She flings it open like she's used to emergencies that require people to pound on her door hysterically. She takes one look at me and pulls me inside. She leads me over to her couch and pulls me into her lap. Her fingers stroke my hair softly. That just makes the tears come harder.

"I thought-I thought I could do it. I thought I could let him break my heart one more time," I sob.

"Oh, Buffy, I'm so sorry. I was afraid-I was afraid he wouldn't leave her."

"Yeah, because he's so damn good at leaving me. Why can't he be good at leaving her? Why is it always me? " I choke out.

Willow holds me, rocking me the only way a best friend can. Angel breaks my heart and Willow is there to help me deal with the aftermath. Well, it's good some things don't change. I don't know how long we sit there on the couch, me crying, Willow crying and comforting me, but it's good. It's good to have my friends back and the life as Buffy Summers may suck beyond the telling of it, but she's got really great friends. I wouldn't want anyone else's life, even with all the pain, heartache and slaying.

I finish my crying jag, sit up and take the tissue Willow offers. I blow my nose, dab at my hopelessly tear stained cheeks and smile at Willow. "What did I ever do without you?"

The red head shrugs and grins. "I dunno, doesn't matter now. I think I have some Cherry Garcia in the fridge. We can order some Chinese food, pig out on ice cream and watch bad ice skating movies. Oooo I have Ice Castles."

I grin at her. She really is a best friend, only a best friend would offer to watch that movie. Mom wouldn't even watch it with me after the first six or seven viewings. "What about Oz?" I ask. I seriously don't want to mess up anyone else's relationship just because I'm drastically impaired in the area.

Willow shakes her head. "Oz will deal. He'll go to practice or something. He understands girl time."

The funny thing is Oz would. I nod. "In that case, yes please."

Willow orders Chinese food while I'm in the bathroom. I splash cold water over my face and level a gaze at myself in the mirror. At least I know this is it. Angel's getting married and he won't have the power to break my heart, not ever again. My entire life I've been waiting for that one point when it's all over with Angel. I never thought it would come. I thought Angel and I would be for always. Forever, that's the whole point. Only it's not, not anymore and I have to say, it's a little bit of a relief.

-Angel-

I've been all over the damn city. I went to her hotel. I went to the park where I found her in the rain storm. I went to Giles' house and Dawn's house. Apparently becoming human stole some of my brain cells because I'm just now standing in front of Willow's apartment.

"Make sure you get that yummy sweet and sour sauce!" I hear from inside. My heart, yeah the beating one, actually skips a beat. It's Buffy's voice. If I hadn't lost a portion of my brain I would have come here first.

Willow opens the door and the smile on her face immediately turns to anger. "What do you want?"

"Can I-can I talk to Buffy?" I ask.

"No, she just stopped crying. I'm not letting you make her cry again," Willow says. She crosses her arms over her chest.

"Please, Willow. I need to talk to Buffy," I plead.

A frown creases her brow and she glances up at the bright, sunlit sky and then at me. Her hand covers her mouth and a look of wonderment crosses her face. "You're-oh God, it happened. You're human." The look of resolve comes back. "No. Human or not, you still can't talk to her."

"I'm not marrying Liv and I'd love nothing more then to marry Buffy, but I can't if you won't let me talk to her."

Willow gets pale. She steps aside and it's odd to be able to walk into her apartment, an apartment I've never been inside, without a verbal invitation. Buffy is sitting on the couch. Her eyes are puffy and red. She's wearing something of Willow's, not the pale pink dress she ran away in. She swallows hard and tears fill her eyes as she sees me walk in.

"We thought you were Chinese," she says.

"No, Irish." Lame attempt at a joke, I know.

"I'm gonna go be in my room and not here. If you make her cry I'll make you go bald," Willow threatens me.

I chuckle and nod at her. I gesture toward the couch. "Can I sit down?" I ask Buffy.

She nods, probably afraid to speak; afraid it'll come out a squeak. I know because I'm afraid of the same thing. I don't have a choice. I made this mess and it's up to me to fix it.

I rest my elbows on my knees, my hands loosely knitted between them. "Liv left me."

Buffy smiled brokenly. "So, what? I'm the consolation prize?"

I shake my head. "She left me because she wants to be married to someone who loves her as much as I love you."

"Oh," she breathes.

"I'm sorry I hurt you. I didn't mean to. The reason I sent you away five years ago had nothing to do with not loving you. I love you, Buffy. I love you so much that it hurts inside to think about never seeing you again, never touching you again. I sent you away because it hurt so much knowing that you were seeing someone else after we'd had that ridiculous discussion about cookies. I thought-I guess I thought you'd close the Hellmouth and come meet me in LA," I confess.

Buffy twists her hands in front her and looks down at the ground. "I wanted to. There was nowhere else on earth I would have rather been. That's why I couldn't come."

I look at her. Have I mentioned that after all this time I still don't get Buffy?

She smiles and shakes her head a little. "It's like- I didn't know who Buffy was. I knew who Buffy and Angel were, then you left and I knew who Buffy and Riley were, then Riley left and I knew who Buffy and Spike were. I never took the time to find out who Buffy was, all by herself. God, I know I sound crazy talking about myself in third person. It's like-did you ever see that movie Runaway Bride? She liked her eggs however the person she was with liked his eggs. She didn't know how she liked her own eggs. I was like that, only without the eggs because neither you nor Spike actually eat eggs. Anyway, the Immortal was part of all that. I needed to know what it was like to be in relationship that wasn't serious at all and I needed to know what it was like to not be a relationship at all."

"So do you know now?" I ask, not daring to hope.

Buffy bites down on her lower lip, slowly her mouth curves into a smile. "I know now and I like who I am. I guess if we're going to go with the whole ridiculous discussion, I'm cookies."

Epilogue

-Buffy-

I unlock the door to our apartment, yeah Angel's and mine. There was no use me getting my own when he was all human and soul bound and mine. All the lights are off and candles are everywhere. I smile. Angel is prone to candle light dinners. I think it's just an excuse for him to eat more. I drop my shopping bag by the door and wander a little further in.

There's a trail of candles and Hershey's kisses strung throughout the house. I follow them with a giggle, expecting to be led into the bedroom so I'm surprised when the trail curves toward the guest bathroom. It leads all the way to the shower. I push back the glass door and find the floor of the shower has been littered with red rose petals. I grin and pick up the fancy piece of parchment taped to the tile.

Now that I've kissed the ground you walk on

And showered you with rose petals

Will you marry me?

The tears are fresh and hot against my cheeks. I clutch the note to my chest and turn, feeling Angel behind me. That whole sensing each other thing, not something we ever lost. Apparently it has more to do with souls then it does with vampires and slayers.

Angel is there on one knee with a ring box. He takes the ring out and takes my left hand in his. The ring he slips on it is a perfect platinum claddagh with a heart shaped diamond in the middle.

"Buffy Anne Summers, will you marry me?"

"Only if you promise me forever and always," I say amid my tears.

He stands up and pulls me into him, gracing my lips with a kiss. "There has never been a moment that you haven't been my forever and my always."

Some things never change-- well the good things never change.