Author's Notes: Written for Schmoop_Bingo, prompt "long walk on the beach."
There had been a time, earlier in the summer, when all she could think about was Angel. It had bothered her at first- her former flame was not going to get in the way of this new, magical summer with Riley- but she'd eventually resolved it in her mind. Riley was the first boyfriend who'd lasted to summer, to sunny days spent on the beach, and how could she not compare that to her time lost in the dark with Angel? And yes, her heart may have pounded a bit more when it came to the vampire's kisses, but Riley brought her comfort, something she'd never experienced before. Angel was the kind of guy who gave her that wrenching passion and love, but Riley was the type to marry, and while Buffy had no intentions of even thinking about marriage, she couldn't help but enjoy the simplicity of their relationship. He made her feel secure and cherished and content, and that was more than she'd even known to wish for.
I love him, she'd realized one day as she'd chased him through the waves and they'd toppled down together into the sea. I really do. It's…different… than how I loved Angel, but that doesn't make it less. She wondered if, had Angel ever been there every waking moment of summer like Riley was, their relationship would have remained intact. Maybe. Maybe not. But it didn't matter; that ship had sailed, and now she had to forget about Angel and focus on the man beside her, who was giving her a curious look and asking, "Penny for your thoughts?"
She grinned up at him, squeezing his hand. "Just marveling at how we've managed to spend this much time together this summer without getting sick of each other."
His grin warmed her. Riley-Grin was the kind of smile that couldn't help but make you smile back and kiss it wider, and Buffy did just that, standing on the tips of her toes to reach his lips. "I can't imagine getting sick of you," he murmured, bending down to deepen the kiss.
"I'm dreading the end of summer," she admitted. "And not because of school starting up again. I just really love…" Her voice trailed off, because she really did have no way to describe it. The sun pounding down on them, the freedom of the demonless daytime, that overwhelming sense of carefree abandon…
She'd once wanted normal, then cast it aside in favor of harsh reality. Normal didn't suit the slayer.
But this…if this was normal, she could certainly see the appeal. And she'd keep hanging on to normal for as long as it would have her.
"You love…?" Riley prompted patiently, but there was something impatient in his eyes, something more driven and focused than she'd seen in them since the lovers first lost themselves to the blissful oblivion of summer.
She shrugged, twisting around so that they could continue walking hand-in-hand down the beach. "All of this," she said vaguely, waving her hand around at the beach. "Being happy."
There was a brief second during which Riley's face twisted into something sad and defeated, but the grin was back almost instantly, stronger than ever. "Yeah," he agreed. "This is perfect."
"Perfection," she echoed, and they moved on together, strolling leisurely down the beach in the direction of the setting sun.