"And you just let her go."

"Uh, hello, Slayer power. Not a lot I could have done, Giles," Willow pointed out as she, Giles and Oz power-walked down the street toward the mansion.

The Watcher looked down and apologized to Willow before saying, "but it's most peculiar that Angel's back at all. You say there was a flash of light and then there was Angel? Well, that makes no sense at all unless he'd been sent back for a reason… but even then, something must have triggered it. Are you sure there was no other detail you're letting pass?"

"There was something on the ground," Oz piped up. "Willow couldn't see it, but I thought I saw something glint before the earthquake started."

Giles raised his eyebrows at the stoic gentleman. "It was small, then, if Willow couldn't see it?"

"Yeah. Barely visible. Something that might fit around Will's finger or someth… what is it?" Oz asked Willow, seeing the expression on her face.

"We talked to Buffy right around here, right?" she asked Oz.

The werewolf nodded. "About, yeah."

"And we're headed to the mansion. She was headed in the opposite direction. Maybe she was coming from the mansion."

"Weren't you?" asked Giles, not sure he was following.

"We took an alternate route in case Angel felt like an ambush once he recovered," Oz explained.

"So what if," Willow continued, "Buffy had just been visiting what would pass as Angel's grave? What if she was just trying to let him go by putting the ring he gave her on the spot he'd last been seen?"

Tears leapt from Buffy's closed eyes as the trail of liquid running from her neck became more noticeable. She'd prepared for this. Everyday that passed, she'd wondered if she'd see Angel again, and she was happy that he was the last thing she'd see.

But she wasn't getting any weaker. Or any less alert.

Buffy waited a few more minutes and then opened her eyes to make sure she knew what was going on. Yes, Angel was here. Yes, he was still fantastically shirtless. Yes, he had his arms around her and yes, he was still dangerously close to her neck.

But Buffy wasn't dying because Angel wasn't trying to kill her.

He was crying.

His lips were also moving. He was whispering something. Buffy paid attention to the slight movement of his lips on her skin to try and decipher what he was trying to say. Eventually, she figured that he was repeatedly saying her name.

"Angel…" she whispered back, putting a hand to his head as though to make sure he was really there. Angel finally put his head down on her left shoulder and hugged her tightly as Buffy stood in utter disbelief at his presence.

"Buffy," came a croaky voice from Buffy's right. She whipped her head around in astonishment but calmed when she saw it was only Xander. She'd totally forgotten he'd been there.

"Faith's dead."


They decided not to have a service; Faith probably didn't have a lot of friends. That didn't really surprise Xander; her tendency to go evil at the earliest possible opportunity probably drove most of them away. They did all sit around the library, looking very morose and having a few minutes of silence for everything that happened.

Despite copious warnings from Giles, Buffy nursed Angel back to health in the comfort of his vandalized mansion. She helped him through the psychological trauma of killing Jenny Calendar when he was evil, and especially that of killing a Slayer when he was good. She helped him through his escapades in hell as well as she knew how.

Spike left town before indirectly causing any sort of accidental relationship mishaps such as, oh, say, breaking up Xander and Cordy. Their relationship was stronger than ever after Xander saved Cordy from the depths of unconsciousness… though she chided him often for taking his time. Willow and Oz's relationship never suffered for whatever reason either, and though Willow still secretly loved Xander, Xander was far too interested in having Cordy back to notice. He never appreciated Willow that way.

Buffy convinced Giles to tell her what he knew about Angel's reappearance on earth. "He's back for a reason we can't comprehend, Buffy," he'd said. "Though you brought him back by trying to let him go. Ironic, isn't it? The Powers That Be are the only ones who could truly tell you why he's back. I can't tell you anything like that. I can tell you, however, that if he's back, it must be for a damn good reason. I certainly wouldn't give him a 'Get Out of Hell Free' card if I were…" he'd frowned as Buffy had raised her eyebrows. "Oh my. I must be glad you're back, Buffy… I'm beginning to talk like you."

Buffy continued on with her life; she got re-admitted into school, though late. Willow helped her catch up and Angel helped her with particular sections of history.

What nobody noticed for the longest time was that Faith's death opened the doors for a new Slayer, didn't it?

---

Fin