Title: 'Til I find you, 'Till you find me

Author: Goldy

Email: thegoldoneb_a@hotmail.com

Disclaimer: Not mine. Definitely not mine. I can thankfully claim that they are not mine. So don't sue.

Synopsis: Future fic. Buffy and Angel meet in an unlikely place.

Spoilers: Many. If you haven't watched the lasted BTVS or Ats episodes, consider this a spoiler warning.

A/N: Very, very unbetaed since I wrote this for my beta. And the title comes from a song by Lifehouse. There's no way I can come up with these things myself.

Dedication: ALL FOR JENNEM! If it wasn't for your birthday I wouldn't have written this for you… because it's for you… and, therefore, if it's really bad, it's your fault.

Rating: G

The day was hot and bright. Buffy liked it best that way. When the sun was shining and the birds chirped happily. It helped to keep her grounded and remind her that she wasn't a part of the darkness.

She walked lethargically down the road, taking her time. Closing her eyes she pretended that she was the only one in the world. It was just her, the road, and the bright sun.

The darkness wasn't a part of her life.

'And never will be again,' she thought firmly. "Never again," she said, echoing her thoughts. "It's just me. Regular, little, Buffy me." Smiling a little to herself, Buffy increased her pace.

Soon her destination appeared in the distance. One of those big stores that called themselves food and drug, but really sold everything from flowers to videos. Buffy wasn't sure why she had decided to walk all the way from her little cottage in the woods to the supermarket on an old farmer's field. *And* all for a bottle of fresh milk and a salad for dinner.

Maybe she would eat outside, she reflected. It was early spring and the days were starting to get longer and hotter. Buffy tried not to think about the fact that she would be eating all alone. In fact, Buffy didn't do too much thinking about anything that had to do with her state of aloness these days.

The supermarket was crowded, and she tried to ignore the funny looks that she was getting from people. Dressed in a pair of shorts and white tank top with little beads of sweat collecting on her forehead, Buffy didn't look like the typical middle-class shopper.

It didn't bother her. No one would remember her five minutes after they had seen her anyway. Buffy liked it that way. Ever since Armageddon—the battle to end all battles—she preferred not being remembered. It was easier to be a regular human that way. With a little extra strength left over from when she had been a fantastic superhero.

It was that day that made her decide to leave it all and to stop having contact with her friends. They still kept up, of course. She would get a Christmas card every year from Willow and Tara, telling her about how well their adopted twins were doing. Xander, too lazy to bother would postcards, called periodically to check up on her. He was currently living happily alone, claiming that he had made the right decision so many years ago by not marrying Anya. Buffy wasn't as certain.

There was Dawn, too. Dawn came to visit all the time, babbling about something or another, and sometimes saying that she worried Buffy was too withdrawn, and didn't get out into the world enough. Buffy didn't bother arguing. Dawn was probably right. Not that it mattered. Nothing could hurt her as long as she was alone.

Thinking about the last fight, made her feel slightly dizzy. Buffy hated thinking. She just wanted to live her life in peace. She didn't want to think about the ones that survived, didn't survive, or… were completely different people from when she had first known them.

With a little sigh, Buffy faced the milk choices. Even that seemed to make her head spin. So many brands… so many different types…



It was at that exact moment that he saw her. She was poised thoughtfully, staring at the milk with great concentration. His gut immediately lurched with recognition that he couldn't understand. Somehow the sight of her standing there, her lips furrowed in concentration, her golden hair flowing gracefully to her shoulders, made his head spin like nothing—no one ever had before.

Approaching her cautiously, he pretended to be interested in the selection of orange juice when in reality he just wanted to be able to get closer and study her. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see her body stiffen. She apparently was as jolted by his appearance as he was by hers.

Turning her head slowly, she tried peering at him without looking like she was staring. Her eyes continued to widen as the roamed over his chest, and her hand flew to her mouth when her eyes landed on his face.

Wide eyed, she gaped at him. Incapable of speech, she floundered back, and leaned heavily against the refrigerated door. He stared back at her, feeling an unexplainable attraction, but, yet, not a sexual one.

"Angel?" she finally managed to whisper, her body ridged with shock.

He did a double take and shook his head. At that moment a louder voice could be heard from down the aisle. "Connor?"

Buffy's eyes immediately flew to the man walking towards them. "Oh god," she moaned. Staring back at the stranger, her eyes narrowed like she was trying very hard to remember a long lost friend. Her heart pounded wildly in her ears, and her palms were wet and clammy.

Turning her head wildly, she looked at the man standing next to her and then back at the one now only a few meters away. 'There's two of them,' she thought frantically. 'Why are there two of them?'

Finally, her gaze rested on the man who was now standing just in front of her wearing a bewildered expression. "Buffy?" he questioned.

Relief flooded through her. *That* was Angel. There was no mistaking the crackling in the air and the tingling in her spine. "You're Angel," she mused aloud. Turning her head, she studied the other one standing near the orange juice. Now that she really looked, she could tell that he wasn't Angel. He looked younger, a little shorter than Angel, and had a round face that hadn't yet lost its boyhood. "Who are you?"

"Connor," the man answered promptly. Raising his eyebrows, he studied Buffy intently. "So you're the famous Buffy."

Dazed, Buffy let out a shrill high-pitched laugh. "No one ever told me I was famous." Letting out a deep breath she tried her best to seem calm. "You… the two of you… you both look just alike."

Shifting, Angel tried to give a smile. "Buffy… I'd like you to meet my son."

If she hadn't been surprised at running into Angel in a grocery store, she was certainly surprised now. "Your WHAT???" Buffy shrieked.

"Son," Connor said carefully.

"But… but… but," Buffy shook her head in denial. His "son" looked about 20 years old. "That's impossible. Angel, you've only been human for 5 years."

"I grew faster than the normal human," Connor muttered.

"And I actually had him four years before the End of Days," Angel added.

"I played an important part in the fight," Connor continued.

Pressing her fingers to her temples, Buffy closed her eyes and willed the beginnings of a migraine away. "I was at the End of Days," she snapped. "I saw Angel fighting. Not Angel and his kid fighting."

Angel licked his lips. "Remember Wesley's five-year-old cousin that he insisted to bring along to protect?" Buffy nodded. "Uh… that was Connor."

Eyes wide, Buffy tried not to feel betrayed. "You've had Connor for almost ten years and you never told me? He was there right in front of my nose and you didn't bother to tell me?"

"That isn't fair!" Angel protested. "Buffy, we led separate lives! After you came back…" Angel gulped painfully, "after you came back… and we decided that we couldn't be part of each other's lives anymore, I took it seriously. Besides, you weren't doing too well then and I didn't want to hurt you."

Eyes blinking with unshed tears, Buffy slid down to the floor and rested in relief against the cool tiles. "It's a little late to worry about hurting me."

"That's not fair!" Connor burst out, coming to his father's defense. "You hurt him yourself!"

"Connor!" Angel hissed warningly.

Buffy wasn't sure to laugh or cry. She couldn't believe that she was having this conversation. In a supermarket, of all places. Taking a deep breath, she fixed Angel with a hard stare. "Who's the mother?"

Angel opened his mouth to answer, and to lie, when another person came down the aisle shrieking for Connor and Angel. "Oh look!" Buffy pointed out numbly. "It's Cordelia." Pausing, her eyes widened when the realization hit her brain. Angel, Connor, and Cordelia. Food shopping. Together. Mouth agape, Buffy stared at Angel in horror. "Cordelia?" she asked painfully.

Angel flinched. "It's not what you think…." Getting up, Buffy ignored the pounding in her temples. Her heart clenched painfully as she thought about Angel and Cordelia shopping with their son on a Saturday in a grocery store

Without looking back, she turned her back and left the three of them standing there. She was almost a safe distance away when she stopped abruptly. She had forgotten her bottle of milk. Weighing her options, she decided to go home and come back later when Angel was gone. 'Gone from where?' she questioned internally. 'The store, or your heart?'

Not wanting to know the answer to that question, Buffy was all ready to go and take up a fast trot when a hand grabbed onto her arm. She swung around in full slayer mode to come face to face with… Cordelia. "Let go of me!" Buffy hissed warningly.

Cordelia rolled her eyes. "Yeah, right Ms. I Can Just Walk Away And Leave Angel Feeling Crappy For A Week. Do you know how long it takes for me to stop his brooding after he sees you?"

"A good screw should do the trick," Buffy answered flippantly, ripping her arm free and turning away from the ex-cheerleader.

"Oh no you don't!" Cordelia cried running after her. "And hey! EW! Angel? What's wrong with your delusional little head this time?"

Buffy spun around to face her. "Like you don't know what I'm talking about."

Hands on hips, Cordelia fumed. "In fact, princess, I don't know." Holding up her hand Cordelia shoved a large diamond ring in Buffy's face. "See this?"

Buffy nodded weakly as her mind conjured up all sorts of horrible images of Angel and Cordelia getting married.

Smiling Cordelia smirked. "It's a wedding ring."

Gut rolling in jealousy, Buffy tried to keep her face an impassive mask. "Really? Wedding ring? Hadn't noticed."

"His names Groo," Cordelia continued like she hadn't heard her. "He absolutely adores me. We've been married almost three years now. We live in one of those houses, more of a castle actually, in the woods."

"Groo?" Buffy squeaked. Groo… not Angel. Unless it was a weird pet name or something.

Cordy rolled her eyes. "I know! His name is terrible. Actually, it's short for Groosaulug. I prefer to just say Groo."

"Oh," Buffy said.

"What gave you the idea that I would do something like sleep with Angel?" Cordelia wrinkled her nose. "I promised to never fall for a vampire."

"He's not actually a—"

"Whatever," Cordelia interrupted with a wave of her hand. "All the vampire habits are still there." Cordelia grabbed her arm again and dragged her back towards the store. "Anyway, you're going to talk to Angel. Not yell at him. Talk to him."

Heart pounding, Buffy shook her head. "I don't know if that's such a great idea…."

She was too late to do anything about it anyway, as Cordelia stopped her in front of a large—expensive, Buffy noted—car. With Angel and Connor standing in front of it. Angel's eyes swept over her body with a heat that made her blush and tremble.

Throat suddenly dry, Buffy had no idea what to say. Judging from the nervousness in Angel's eyes, he was having the same problem.

Cordelia cleared her throat. "So, anyway," she began cheerfully. "Buffy, why don't you tell us all about what happened between you and Spikey Wikey?"

Buffy's stomach fluttered in fear and revulsion at the mention of that name. After Buffy had told Spike that she couldn't love him, and their sex needed to stop, he had grown increasingly frustrated and had finally left town. Buffy figured that he had gone to get his chip removed. She hadn't heard from him since.

"Cordelia," Angel said testily, "Can you give us a moment?"

Rolling her eyes, Cordelia grabbed Connor's sleeve. "Our cue to leave so they can get on with the angst," she whispered loud enough so Buffy and Angel could hear.

Once they were gone, Buffy, not being able to stand staring at him anymore, looked at the car Angel was leaning against. "Yours?" she asked, not wanting to bring up the topic of Spike.

Angel cleared his throat. "Yeah."

"It' nice." 'Understatement of the year," Buffy thought. The car was a small convertible with leather seats, and white paint that glistened in the sun.

"I quite like it," Angel said, trying not to think about how forced their conversation sounded.

Fiddling with her hands, Buffy's eyes snapped to his face. But, damn, he looked good. For someone that was pushing 300, he still looked young and fit. His soft brown eyes were as passionate as ever, and made Buffy feel like she was staring into his soul. "Who's the mother?" she asked with venom in her voice.

Angel regarded her coolly. "What made you sleep with Spike?"

Buffy staggered backwards. She didn't want to think about that. She had spent the past years erasing all memories of that time from her brain. Pursing her lips, Buffy struggled for control over herself. "Why do you have a 20 year-old-son?"

Angel sighed, and looked down at his feet. Buffy cocked her head, taking the opportunity to study him in sunlight. He looked good in a tan, she decided. When Angel looked up, he gave her an amused smile. "You're staring."

Blushing, Buffy quickly turned her head away. "Sorry," she mumbled.

Opening the driver's door, Angel slid comfortably into the car. "Get in."

Cautiously, Buffy slid into the passenger seat next to him. She tried not to concentrate on how her body responded to his nearness.

Staring out the windshield, Angel turned on the air conditioner. "I love this. Being able to feel temperatures… going from the hot outdoors to the cool indoors."

Resting her head against the back of the comfy seat, Buffy closed her eyes and sighed with pleasure feeling the cool air sweep over her body. "Yeah… it's pretty nice."

Angel watched her in concern. "You have a headache."

A half smile flitted over her lips. Shaking her head slightly, she didn't open her eyes. "You can tell… of course you can tell."

Hesitating a moment, Angel raised his hand, and pressed it against her forehead. Buffy dragged in a ragged breath feeling his warm hand pressing against her skin. "You don't have a fever," he told her, letting his hand linger a little longer before pulling it away.

"Just a headache. I've dealt with worse."

"You have," Angel agreed, voice grave. "It's your birthday tomorrow," he said abruptly.

"Is it?" Buffy shrugged. "Huh, I didn't realize."

Angel raised his hand to her chin and turned her head so she was forced to look into his eyes. "What did Spike do to you?" he whispered gently.

Buffy shook her head and pulled away from him. "I don't want to talk about it."

"Buffy! You can't just keep this locked away. He did something to you. He changed you. You're turning 30 tomorrow, and you didn't even bother calling friends and family!"

Turning around, her eyes blazed with emotion. "I didn't stop Spike from doing any of the things he did to me." Buffy explained, her voice tight with emotion. "I welcomed it. The pain… the sex. Anything to help get away from my life. He told me I belonged with him in the darkness… and for a while I believed him."

"He was slowly killing you," Angel murmured.

Nodding, Buffy's eyes glistened with tears as memories of fear and hate welled in her. "I hated him. So much… but I wanted him, too. Even though I knew he was evil… I wanted him." Angel flinched, and Buffy felt guilty. "It doesn't matter now," looking out the passenger seat window, Buffy didn't want Angel to see how raw that wound still was. "Spike is gone. I haven't seen him in years."

"Buffy… I'm sorry."

Turning, Buffy's mouth dropped. "For what???"

"For not realizing how much pain you were in that year. When I saw you… I wanted to pretend that things were okay, and I could go back to being the Angel that everyone expected in LA. I tried… I tried to forget about you and move on with my life." Angel tried not to wince when he thought of all that his grand-childe could have done to her. No one knew Spike better than Angel. Everything in him revolted against the idea of his *grand-childe* touching his *mate.*

Though his words hurt, Buffy realized that she had tried to do the same. Forget about everyone and everything. She had used Spike. And he had broken her, damaging her soul, knowing all the right buttons to push and all the wrong things to say.

"I understand," she said softly.

Angel smiled. "I suppose that you do."

"So… do you… have a girlfriend?" Buffy asked lightly, trying to sound interested, but not *too* interested.

"Married with three kids, actually," Angel deadpanned. Off Buffy's horrified look, he chuckled. "No girlfriend."

"Oh," Buffy muttered.

"You? Boyfriend?"

Buffy shook her head, turning to look away from him. She was suddenly filled with an unexplainable sadness. "Sometimes I'm afraid that he'll come back," Buffy admitted. "That he'll come into my bedroom at night, and do stuff to me." Lowering her voice, Buffy continued keeping her head away from him, and Angel had to strain to listen. "I'm afraid that I won't be able to stop him if he comes back."

Angel took in a long pained breath. "He won't come back."

Buffy turned to look at him. "You don't know that."

"Yes, I do."

Buffy gave him a suspicious look. "What did you do?"

Something resembling guilt glinted in Angel's eye. "Do you really want to know?"

Thinking a minute, Buffy shrugged. "I don't know."

"Did you love Spike?" Angel questioned abruptly.

Shocked, Buffy could do nothing but stare at him wide eyed.

Mistaking her silence as guilt. Angel tried not to let his hurt show. "It's alright if you did." Gulping, his eyes clouded over. "I understand."

Finally, Buffy managed to shake her head. Staring down at her hands, she tried hard to prevent the tears that she felt in her eyes. "There's only been one person I've ever loved," she whispered.

Angel's head snapped up and he studied her. "You do mean me, right?"

"Yeah," Buffy smiled a little. "Yeah."

Still watching her intently, Angel chewed over the best way to answer her Spike question. "Remember when Spike left to get his chip out?" Buffy nodded, feeling her stomach bottom out. She remembered how angry he had gotten over her dismissal of him, and how he had left, promising to come back and make her life hell. "He came to see me after he'd gotten it removed."

Startled, Buffy looked at him in sudden concern. "Did he hurt you?"

"Physically, no. But he told me about what he did to you."

Shame entered Buffy's gaze and she shook her head. "No... Angel, I didn't… I never… I hated him."

"I know… but when he told me you loved him… I snapped. I…" Angel paused, and closed his eyes. "I killed him." He kept his eyes shut thinking about how he hadn't told her that he'd tortured his grand childe for hours before finally staking him.

"Angel, look at me." Angel opened his eyes, dreading what she'd say. Pursing her lips, she tried to figure out her confused emotions. "Thank you," she finally said. "You did what I should have done the moment he wanted to put his hands on me."

Angel didn't know what to say to that, so he lowered his eyes and waited for her to begin the next painful topic.

Clearing her throat, Buffy tried not to notice how much smaller the car suddenly seemed. "So, anyway," she said, "how did you end up with a son?"

Shaking his head slightly, Angel seemed to stare off into space. "Sometimes I can't believe that it's really true. I mean, I have a son. A son. I got him while I was still a vampire… I don't understand it."

It hurt Buffy's heart a little to know that this gift was bestowed upon him from someone that wasn't her. Reaching her hand over, she gently picked his up and gave it a squeeze. She was surprised at the emotion that welled through her. It felt so… right. "I can't think of anyone more deserving."

Momentarily surprised by the feeling of Buffy's hand in his, Angel forgot for a minute what he'd been talking about. Smiling a little, he held her hand tightly and slowly began telling her about how Darla had walked into the Hyperion almost a decade ago, changing his life forever. Voice strong, he explained how happy he had felt, and how he had even started believing that he might have feelings for Cordelia. He felt Buffy stiffen beside him when he mentioned his old co-worker's name.

"I never loved Cordelia," he said firmly.

"You thought you did," Buffy protested.

"Cordelia was safe. I could be happy with her but not too happy. She was a strong woman that I admired. It was easy."

"What made you change you mind?"

Angel's eyes darkened. "When Spike came to see me with his latest news of you."

Buffy looked away and never mentioned that topic again. She soon forgot all about Cordelia, though, when Angel told her about Holtz and how he took Connor into a hell dimension. Voice cracking a little, Angel explained the long months that he spent trying to get him back. When he finished his story, Buffy held his hand and felt all jealousy leave.

"I'm sorry that you had to go through all that." Buffy murmured.

Angel shrugged. "You went through a tough time yourself."

"Yeah, but… you almost lost your kid for a while. That's…" Buffy sighed, "I don't know what that's like."

"It was tough," Angel admitted, "but in a way… it kind of grounded me. Made me realize that my life can never be easy and it was wrong for me to live thinking it could be."

Leaning her head back against the headrest, Buffy noticed that the horizon was starting to darken. "It wasn't wrong. You're life can still get easy."

Angel glanced at her with sadness in his eyes. "I don't know if that's possible."

Sitting up straighter, Buffy felt her heart speed up. "What do you mean?"

Angel didn't answer her question. "We never knew why Connor grew up twice as fast as a normal human. It could have been a side effect of the dimension that he was taken to, or it might have been part of the Power's plan to get him into the final battle."

"What did he do in the final battle?" Buffy asked.

"What I couldn't."

Frowning, Buffy vaguely wondered where Connor and Cordelia had wandered off to. "What's that supposed to mean, Cryptic Guy?"

"He closed the gates permanently. You couldn't because you got overwhelmed fighting the armies of demons, and I couldn't because I was… I was too busy protecting you."

Buffy felt her throat go dry. "You were fighting next to me? I didn't realize."

"You were knocked out half way through. I wasn't about to let anything happen to you." Angel mumbled.

Buffy winced. "Right. I remember the whole world going black. Then there was that whole 'waking in the hospital thing.'"

"I was afraid that you weren't going to make it," he whispered.

Mouth dropping, Buffy spun around and looked at him angrily. "You weren't even there! I never saw you after the End of Days! The only reason I knew that you had survived was because XANDER told me you had TURNED HUMAN and left with CORDELIA!"

"I couldn't take it. I thought that… I thought that you wouldn't have cared."

"WHAT?" Buffy hissed. "You're right. I wouldn't have CARED that you turning human fulfilled ALL my DREAMS!"

"You weren't exactly pleasant before the fight!" Angel snapped.

"I was SUPPOSED to be OVER you! How was I to know that you would completely throw me when you showed up with your battle sword???"

Angel sighed, and pressed a finger to her lips before angrier words could come out. "It doesn't matter, that was a long time ago."

"Wasted time." Buffy cried bitterly.

Suddenly nervous, Angel nodded. "I actually had a reason for coming here."

"Usually people do when they go to a supermarket," Buffy muttered flippantly, still feeling a little angry.

Ignoring her, Angel continued. "I know that you're birthday isn't until tomorrow. And I didn't plan on doing this till tomorrow, but then you sort of ruined my plans." Angel gave a small smile. "Besides, things never went the way that we wanted them to." Taking out a little black box he handed it to her. "I want to give you this."

Buffy's questioning gaze flew to his face and was surprised to see nervousness. Taking the box, all anger disappeared and she noticed that her hands were trembling slightly. She gasped when she saw what lay on a piece of cotton.

"It's a claddagh," he told her, voice hoarse with emotion. "The hands represent friendship, the crown represents loyalty, and the heart… well, you know."

"Oh, god," Buffy murmured as a lowly tear fell down her cheek.

Haltingly Angel continued his speech. "Wear it with the heart pointing towards you, it means you belong to someone." Holding up his hand, Buffy noticed that he was wearing one. With the heart pointed inward. "Like this."

Crying, Buffy could do nothing but stare at the ring feeling love swell in her. She tried not to think about how long it had been since she had last felt love. Feeling like crying himself, Angel picked up the ring and slipped it onto her finger.

"Happy birthday, Buffy."

Touched, and sobbing, Buffy threw herself into his arms. He held her tightly, murmuring words of love and apology into her hair. They stayed holding each other until dusk fell and Buffy could make out two shapes coming towards them. Connor and Cordelia. Wiping pathetically at her eyes, Buffy pulled away from him. She could read the question in his eyes and she answered it the best way she knew how.

"Take me home, Angel."

END

A/N: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JENNEM!