And here is the second part. I also appropriated some Lisa Hannigan lyrics for this one. Enjoy!


She died with her hand stretched out

She died with a hungry mouth

She died with a mind full of doubt

(And a pulse of weakening)

Things are pretty good, for a while, in a sort of normal way. School is boring, but Buffy is a teenager, and there would be something wrong with her if she didn't find trigonometry mind-numbingly dull, and there are plenty of good things there to make up for math. She loves the flexibility that PPAS affords her. Living in New York is pretty awesome, and ballet is her life.

So she goes to school and she and Willow, and Oz and Xander and Kendra and Cordelia have a great time. She loves her friends, and she's pretty sure they love her too, considering the way they treated Riley after he dumped her right before Prom. Life is great and everything makes sense. She has a plan, sort of, and she works hard and has fun. Things are peachy keen in her estimation.

And then Kendra dies. It's crazy and stupid and senseless and so utterly unfair.

Kendra was really talented. She was also a dancer, like Buffy, but she was more into modern dance. She was also a singer and musician, and while she went to their performing arts school, her primary focus was her music.

Buffy remembered the first time she had heard Kendra sing. They had all been down in the Hamptons at Cordelia's parents' house and they had been having a bonfire out by the ocean. Oz brought his guitar and as he had strummed away, Kendra had sung a sweet husky tune beneath the dark sky. It was one of those moments that had stuck with Buffy. The peace of it all.

She had precious few of those moments.

When she had first moved to New York she had fallen in with Willow, a violinist, and Xander, an actor on a sitcom. They had been joined first by Cordelia, another actress, and Oz, an aspiring musician. Then had come Kendra Young, who had been shy and reserved at first, but turned out to be as passionate and wild as Buffy herself. Willow had been, and perhaps always would be Buffy's best friend, but Kendra had been like a sister. She had been a mirror to Buffy's self.

And then a stupid drunk had killed her blowing through a traffic light in downtown Manhattan. They had been dressed up to go dancing at some club that let teenagers in and Buffy remembers them laughing and joking about Harmony Kendall's pathetic attempt to snare Devon. And then Kendra, so pretty in her bright purple dress became a bloody smear on the asphalt.

Everything is so beyond fucked up. They're young. They're not supposed to die. And there is no justice in the world, and the driver who killed her survives and yes, is sent to prison but it won't bring Kendra back. Buffy and Xander and Willow and Oz and Cordelia all find themselves bereft and adrift and it's the strangest feeling, this loss of Kendra.

Buffy and Willow fight all the time even though they are best friends, and Buffy and Cordelia who just tolerate each other because Cordy is Xander's girl and Buffy is one of his best friends are suddenly close, and Oz becomes even more monosyllabic and Xander can't seem to stop talking with his need to fill up the silence left by Kendra.

Giles watches on, as he always goes. Most of them have parents who are very supportive of their dreams, but not as supportive of their feelings. Giles fills that void. He is a tweedy British counselor (who doubles as a librarian when students aren't having breakdowns), and Buffy has no idea what lead him to become one in the United States, but she is glad to have him.

It is Giles who helps them move on somewhat from Kendra's death. He suggests they all get away for the summer for some time together. So Willow and Cordelia make the arrangements for the gang to go to Ireland. Everything is ready to go, they are all packed and ready, when Buffy's mother Joyce, and Shelia Rosenburg decide that they need a chaperone. And so Giles ends up joining them for the summer.

I don't know if you read novels or the magazines

If you love the hand that feeds you

I assume that your heart's been broke

I'd like to know you

When Buffy met Liam Roarke for the first time she had been so charmed she had immediately started babbling at him. About prawns and Xander. Idiot. But he was so handsome, and so utterly charming, and solicitous.

The next time they met she was at the grocery store. Such a mundane setting to meet someone in. Liam Roarke was so dark and large and mysterious, to Buffy at least, that it seemed crazy to talk to him under the harsh fluorescent lights of the store.

Whenever she ran into him, they always ended up talking. Buffy could admit to herself that she had a crush on the handsome man, but was smart enough to know that nothing would ever happen between them. Liam was in his twenties, and there was no way that a man who looked like he did lacked for female companionship. Just hearing the stories he told of trips he had taken to Budapest, or Vienna made her think of scenes from old romantic movies. There was no way someone as cultured as Liam would have any interest in a seventeen year old girl, no matter how far she had traveled or how pretty she was.

And Buffy knew that she was pretty.

Yet, there was something there between them that defied logic. Her heart, a little bruised and tired with her recent grief, would flutter in her chest whenever she looked at him. Angel, as she was beginning to refer to him in her head, would listen so solicitously to her whenever she spoke. He would touch her delicately when they saw each other, just a brush on her wrist or a hand on her back, that he made her want to stop whatever she was doing and just savor the sensation. But his touches, and indeed, his words were utterly innocent. There was nothing but gentle concern in his eyes when she looked at him in those moments. It made her feel like a child, and sometimes Buffy almost resented him for it.

"I'm selfish," she said aloud one night before bed. She wanted him so much, and it was so wrong.

"Hmmm?" Willow replied.

"Nothing," Buffy shook her head. "Nothing."

It had been strange meeting Liam's grandmother, strange to think of him as a child in that imposing house. What would he have been like at her age, she wondered. Would he have been a joker like Xander or a tool like Riley or a sensitive artist-type guy like Oz?

Buffy wanted to ask him. She wanted to ask him a lot of things, some of which certainly were not appropriate things to be asking a twenty-something…whatever he was. Neighbor, acquaintance, sinfully handsome-tempter of not-normally-slutty-teenage-girls.

It was all so confusing!

"Buffy?" asked Willow, yawning.

"What?" she replied.

"What do you think of Liam?" Willow asked curiously.

"He's nice," Buffy said hesitantly, "Interesting."

"Yes," Willow agreed.

"Why do you ask?" Buffy queried, trying to keep the nervousness she felt from her voice.

"Well," Willow said hesitantly. "He seems to be around a lot, you know?"

"Mmm," Buffy responded noncommittally.

"And he always seems to talk to you a lot, like more than anyone else," Willow continued. "And you seem a little…different around him. Not in a bad way!" she hastily added, "Just, you two talk a lot for two people who barely know each other."

Buffy was silent.

"Buffy?" Willow asked nervously.

"I mean, I kind of like him Will," Buffy confessed. "More than kind of."

"He's pretty easy on the eyes," Willow observed.

"Yes," Buffy said earnestly, "And he's so smart and funny and he's been everywhere and done everything and he's sort of mysterious I guess, with that thing that he does. You know that thing that he does?"

"I can't say that I do," Willow said with amusement.

"Oh, what am I doing Willow!" Buffy moaned. "Nothing is ever going to happen."

"Right," Willow said, "cause he's a lot older than you and stuff and lives in Dublin and you live in New York and sometimes California and he's probably dating some really attractive woman who are his own age," here Buffy looked dismayed,

"And also travels all over the world and I'm just going to be quiet now, okay?" she finished nervously.

"Oh my god," Buffy said, "he probably is!" This idea was not improving her mood.

Only, hadn't he joked with her at the shopping center about how he was single and those evil nasty wanton local girls were trying to ensnare him and marry him for his money?

Something like that anyway.

So maybe he was still single, currently in between fabulously beautiful supermodels. The girls were quiet for a moment.

"So you like him," Willow surmised. Buffy sighed.

"Yes."

The girls were quiet again.

Cheers darlin'

Here's to you and your lover boy

Cheers darlin'

I got year to wait around for you

Cheers darlin'

I've got your wedding bells in my ear

It was a Friday night around halfway through their time in Ireland and the gang had decided to go down to the local pub. Xander and Oz were in disagreement about whether or not Oz should take advantage of his status as the only eighteen-year old in their little group to buy alcohol for the rest of them. Oz was maintaining that he wasn't in the mood to drink anyway, and he didn't want to give the locals a bad impression.

Buffy privately thought that the barman likely wouldn't give a shit, based on the inebriated state of a group of local boys nearby. They didn't look over 18 to her.

She and Cordelia were commiserating about the lack of fashion available locally while Willow listened absently. Fashion didn't really interest her.

The dull clink of glasses and the dark wood on the walls made Buffy smile. The pub was homey and comfortable. Surrounded by groups of people laughing, talking, and drinking, her friends were safe from the outside world and its harshness. She supposed it was an instinctual thing; safety in numbers or something.

Xander had given up and was rising to grab a soda like the rest of them. As Buffy sipped her diet coke she reflected back to the last time she had alcohol.

It had been a few days after Kendra's funeral and she and Cordy and Xander had all gotten drunk together.

Willow and Oz were uncomfortable with the idea but had not protested their friends' actions, or even chided them later when they were vomiting or suffering from hangovers.

She had not drunken since. Not much opportunity if she were to be honest. Buffy generally only had alcohol at parties, and she hadn't attended many since Kendra's death.

As she was debating the virtues of the retro trend with Cordelia, Buffy noticed a group of young people around her own age making their way over toward the group. A particularly bold youth slid into the booth and put his arm around Cordelia.

She gave him her death glare, and though he swiftly removed his arm, he continued to grin at them.

"Hiya," he said cheerfully, "I'm Cillian." One of his friends shook his head at him. Buffy's friends exchanged glances. Buffy shrugged.

"Hi Cillian," she responded, "I'm Buffy, and this is Willow, Oz, Xander, and Cordelia," nodding at each in turn.

Cillian's shyer friend scratched the back of his neck and said, "James."

A pretty redhead spoke next, "I'm Aiofe," she said, "And this is Ellen," pointing to another girl, "and Tom and Ed."

There was an awkward pause.

"So you're all from America then?" Aiofe asked. Buffy nodded.

"Yes, we are," she said.

"Cool" she responded. There was a slightly awkward pause.

"Are you all from around here?" Xander asked. Cillian nodded.

"Yeah, we're all locals. So, if you don't mind me asking, what are you all doing over here?"

"That's a good question," Cordelia muttered. Buffy rolled her eyes. For someone who was so charismatic, Cordelia had a shocking lack of tact.

"We're just over here for a sort of vacation," Buffy told Cillian and his friends. She didn't really feel like bearing her heart to these strangers, no matter how friendly or charming they were.

The hypocrisy that was blatant in such a statement went ignored.

Cillian widened his eyes comically.

"What are you coming over here for?" he asked jokingly. "I'd think if you were already traveling across the ocean, you'd at least end up somewhere with something to do!"

Ellen shot her friend a filthy look.

The cheer of the group was wearing on Buffy. She glanced around the cozy, wood-paneled bar. Here and there were groups of people of all ages, sitting together and laughing, or telling a story. There were a couple of old men with worn hands and wool hats who had to be at least eighty in one of the corner booths. To their right was a couple, a full-figured, ruddy-cheeked woman with long dark hair and a man who looked to be in his early thirties were steadily downing tall glasses of dark beer. People were just sitting around, but they seemed so alive.

She looked a little closer at her own group of friends. Cordelia had her face made up and her nose in the air, as usual, but something about her face had softened after Kendra's death. And all the glitter eyeliner in the world couldn't hide the sadness in her brown eyes. Xander was next to her the once sharp tension between them muted to a dull hum. They hardly bickered anymore, finding that they needed comfort from each other more than they needed the entertainment of a fight. Xander was still cracking jokes, but they felt like they were more for the benefit of his friends now. Willow looked tired, curled into Oz. She had taken Kendra's death the hardest, even though they weren't the closest. Having never faced loss before, it had terrified her and forced her to confront not only her own mortality, but that of everyone she loved. Oz was beside her, stoic as ever, but now it was the kind that came from someone who had faced tragedy and found them self to be the stronger for it.

As for Buffy, she could hardly look at herself objectively anymore. Things had been so confusing, and she had chosen not to deal with a lot of her grief, focusing on the easy parts, the sadness, how much she wished Kendra could still be with them. Anger at the idiot who killed her.

Only recently had she confronted her guilt for staying alive when Kendra died. Her anger at Kendra for not being more careful crossing the street. Her frustration with the world that had let her die. And the fear that death was simply the end, curtains, goodnight. No encore in sight.

The group of teenagers that stood before them, somewhat casually were not so marked by tragedy, or if they were, they hid it well. Ellen was glaring at Cillian, and Buffy wondered if they were going out. James looked terribly uncomfortable, and Tom was focusing on the vee in Cordelia's tight sweater.

They were normal, almost…innocent somehow. Buffy stood up abruptly, drawing everyone's attention.

"Back in 5," she said, waving a vague hand around in the air.

"You can smoke in here," the freckle covered boy said. Buffy couldn't remember his name.

"I don't" she said, giving him a little smile. She slipped out the door before anyone could comment.

Outside, she leaned back against the probably-dirty wall. It was never a good sign for her mood if she was willing to mess up her clothes for no reason. She tilted her head back and looked at the fading sun. It was weird how long the days were here. Willow told her that Ireland was pretty close to the same latitude or longitude (she couldn't remember) as Moscow. Only reason they weren't freezing their surprisingly cute asses (sometimes encased in good quality well used jeans) off was because of some warm ocean current thingy. It was actually pretty cool. Plus, ogling Liam in a Parka would have been a lot more difficult.

Liam. Tall and commanding, handsome and kind, utterly sensual and yet charmingly humorous. The man was absolutely devastating. That was part of the problem. He was a man. And however dreamy he was, the age difference wasn't something Buffy could ignore. He had done so much and seen so much that she hadn't. And she didn't even want to contemplate the number of past relationships he had certainly had. All with stunningly attractive modelesque types who were probably far more sophisticated than she could ever hope to be and who he had spent decadent days with, days that probably involved whipped cream and silk sheets and-

She mentally slapped herself. The mental babble was getting her nowhere. Though it had the plus side of distracting her from her very real grief, substituting the agony of loss with a healthy dose of teenage angst.

"Buffy," she heard. Buffy turned to find him standing next to her, somehow utterly unsurprised to find him there. He must have come up while she remained unaware of her surroundings, and yet she had somehow felt him.

His dark brown eyes were a little more serious tonight than usual. Realizing she had simply looked at him…like an idiot. She replied, with a little flush in her cheeks,

"Liam."

"What are you doing here?" he asked simply. She shrugged in response.

"The gang and I were out for the evening, but I needed a little break…" she trailed off.

Liam nodded in response, his quiet mood seeming to echo hers. As she looked at him out of the corner of her eyes, his gaze met hers. There seemed, in that moment, to be a kind of quiet understanding between the two of them. One of those large, long hands came up to hover gently turn her chin towards him. Buffy's heart started thumping. Was he going to kiss her, she wondered, and then marveled some more at the thought of that sensuous mouth brushing hers.

"Buffy," he said again, only this time her name dropped from his lips like a whispered prayer. There was reverence there. He had inclined his head not more than an inch when they were suddenly interrupted.

Cillian's impish visage stuck out of the door.

"Hey Buffy! I think yer friends want ya!" he exclaimed. The pair of them turned, startled. Buffy was astonished that the moment, whatever it was, had been broken. She chanced a look up at Liam. His chin was tilted down, eyes narrowed, frowning slightly. He looked coldly angry, to her surprise.

Cillian seemed to sense that his continued wellbeing was in jeopardy because his eyebrows drew together, and his grin faded a bit.

"Eh," he said, looking between the two of them. Seemingly, he could not decide what to say, so he just went back into the pub.

"Oh," Buffy said. "Maybe I should…" Liam took her hand.

"Can I see you tomorrow?" he asked. She looked up at him again, into burning eyes. The intensity shocked and thrilled her.

"Yes," she whispered.

"Good," he said. He raked his eyes over her body, lingering on the curve of her neck, her wide green eyes. He seized her hand suddenly, pressing his lips to it before stalking off. Buffy nearly swooned.

"Oh boy," she whispered. She was in such big trouble.

Brightness fills empty space

In search of inspiration

Liam took her to a nice place in Galway with a forgettable, ordinary name. It had a cozy feel, with exposed wood beams on the ceilings, cream walls, and comfortable chairs. The food was delicious, and the conversation even better. In the casual atmosphere, Buffy felt able to relax. She and Liam had laughed a lot, shared some of their more lighthearted stories, and despite her fears, she never felt inadequate once during the evening.

He was currently occupied stealing her fries, chips he called them, and acting affronted when she deigned to steal one back out of his hand before he could eat it. His rich eyes were dancing with amusement. She realized that though he was often laughing, it did not seem to stop her from thinking of him as a very serious person. She studied his face carefully as he was placing another fry between his lips.

Before meeting Liam, Buffy had never even considered being food. Now she would happily trade places with the inoffensive piece of potato. He looked at her quizzically, and she could feel herself blush and ducked her head. Still, she felt his eyes roam over her face and neck and shoulders, left exposed by the off-shoulder lavender top she was wearing. It had taken ages for her to get ready. He hadn't mentioned what kind of place he was taking her to. And she wasn't sure if it was a date. She wasn't even sure if she wanted it to be a date. Buffy knew instinctively, and also as a result of a decade of soap operas, that getting involved with a handsome older stranger from another country rarely ended well. This was not a fairytale.

Liam interrupted her thoughts.

"What drove you to commit yourself to dancing so early? Why the arts?" he asked softly, his eyes intent on her.

"Um," she said, all the while thinking Wow! Way to be articulate, "I think that sort of thing always starts out as a hobby and then becomes a passion, and then someone tells you, or you just realize that you're really good at it. And then, for me at least, I just felt like, this fits, you know? I could not imagine doing anything else. I mean, sometimes, after a really grueling week I ask myself, like, why did I not choose to aspire to something more normal-y. But when I dance, when I dance for me, when I feel the power in my body, and the movements, I know that I could never give it up."

Buffy glanced down at the table, surprised at her sudden outpouring of emotion. She felt his fingers stroke her jawline, tilting her head up. Their eyes met. Liam looked, God, he looked so intense.

"Oh Buffy," he whispered. Empty dinner plates lay between them, forgotten. His eyes were hypnotic, reverent. She couldn't tear her eyes away from him. He gave a little sigh.

"What am I going to do with you?" he said quietly, eyes sad. She felt her heart thumping in her chest, she felt every square millimeter where his skin brushed hers. Like never before she was aware of his body, large, graceful, and male, scant feet away from her. She wanted to scream and throw caution to the wind and kiss him, melt into him. He looked like a dark god in his black sweater, soft fabric opening to show the pale skin of his throat, the powerful muscles of his arms and chest hinted at. And yet the way he was looking at her it was like she was the holy one, it made her feel lightheaded.

He removed his hand and instead slid his warm large hand into hers, interlacing their fingers. He turned their joined hands looking at the disparity in the sizes. Her ring, with its garnet, glinted in the light.

He had entrenched himself inside her, she realized. She hurt to think of never seeing him again, after the summer drew to a close. He had slowly filled up some of the emptiness inside her and made her laugh and smile and obsess about something other than death. She could love him, as she had never loved anyone before. And as she met his dark gaze once more, she had a terrible, beautiful thought.

Maybe she already did.

Broken night

All is fallen,

When you take your flight

Buffy was looking out the window. There wasn't much too see, since it was raining steadily, obscuring the vision already obscured by the big tree directly outside the room she was sharing with Willow. She sighed again.

"Buffy," Willow said.

"Hmm?" she responded.

Buffy turned to look at her friend, who had set aside her book, something very old and boring no doubt, and was looking at her with some concern.

"Are you just going to spend all day staring out the window?" Willow asked, a faint note of disapproval in her voice.

"Maybe," Buffy replied, burying her head in her arms. "Ugh, I just- don't even know right know, you know?"

"Is it Liam?" Willow asked.

"He's leaving for London for a week. There's some kind of emergency or whatever," Buffy told her.

"Oh," Willow said.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Buffy questioned.

"Nothing really," Willow replied, tone kind, "Only, do you think it's a little bit unusual for him to be telling you that kind of thing. And, I mean, you two have been spending a lot of time together. Not in a polite neighborly kind of way too. He took you out to dinner. And I guess, even if he didn't kiss you it still sounds like he's interested. More than interested maybe."

"I don't know," Buffy said, "I mean, he's not always going to be around, you know? And I like him, we've already established that, it's just- whenever he's around it's like the lights dim everywhere else. You know how that is with some guys?"

Willow smiled at her, "I know the feeling."

Buffy nodded. Willow and Oz were ridiculously in love and adorable and the obvious affection between the two of them sometimes made Buffy a little jealous, and wish that she could have a relationship like that.

"I just, I don't know," Buffy said, She huffed a laugh. "And I keep saying that."

Willow nodded understandingly. "It's ok not to be sure of everything," she said gently. Buffy nodded in response. Willow was very good at soothing her when she got too anxious about something. Which was kind of ironic, since Willow was usually the one freaking out about stuff.

"He does seem to really be interested in you though," she continued. "And he's very nice, and smart, and," she grinned, "really, really hot."

Buffy laughed.

"You're telling me!" she exclaimed. Her expression softened. "It's not even that though. Like, he's super attractive but it's not just how he looks. It's how he does everything, how he talks, and always holds open doors and his expressions." She paused. "He said he'd call me."

Willow's eyes widened and her mouth formed an excited little 'oh". Buffy ran a hand through her slightly wavy hair. The humidity was not working for her, she noted absentmindedly. She stole a look at the little ancient alarm clock on the nightstand the girls shared. It read 10:13. Liam should be at the airport by now.

"So you gave him your number!" her friend exclaimed. Buffy gave a self-depreciating little shrug. "He asked after I ate lunch with his grandmother, he said it would be easier. So it wasn't like a big deal, but he has it, and hopefully will use it."

Willow smiled conspiratorially. "Let me know when he does," she said, turning back to her book.

Buffy looked doubtfully at the little, massively outdated mobile she had procured for the summer. "I will," she promised.

"I'm gonna go see what Cordelia and Xander are up to," she announced. Willow nodded, signaling she heard. Buffy unplugged her phone and charger, pocketing the former and made her way down the steep wooden stairs.

Xander was reading what looked like a script and Cordelia was engrossed in the pages of a glossy fashion magazine.

"Is that any good?" Buffy asked, nodding at the magazine. Cordelia shrugged.

Xander glanced up.

"Hey Buff, what's up," he said. She tilted her head to one side, and then the other.

"Lots of rain, not lots to do," she said.

"Finished your summer reading?" he asked. Buffy nodded.

"It wasn't too bad this year."

Xander grinned. "I wouldn't know."

Cordelia rolled her eyes at him. Buffy took a seat in the squishy orange striped armchair. The thing was an eyesore, but it was comfortable.

"What are you reading then?" she asked.

"Scripts for the next season," he said.

"They any good," she asked.

"Eh," he said. "I kind of think this thing is going to end soon. I mean, obviously, the cast is incredibly talented and handsome," Xander said, raising his voice at the end and glancing at Cordelia, who rolled her eyes at him but gave him a little smile. "However, once plotlines start to involve praying mantises, I think it means things start to go downhill."

"How long has Zeppo been running again?" Buffy asked.

Xander frowned a little. "Man, I think five years. That's so weird. Only yesterday I was a young and inexperienced child, beginning my journey-"

Cordelia snorted. "You're still a child," she said, tossing her long hair.

"And now I'm a man," Xander continued, "nearing the end of his first journey…."

Cordelia set her magazine aside, and sat up straighter.

"You could totally leave that show, it hasn't been funny in ages," she said.

"Thanks Cordy," Xander said. "I can always count on you to boost my ego." The look in his eyes was offended.

"Not like that loser," she said, "I just mean you could do so much better. Like, I know that you could totally do a different show that, you know, sucked less."

The two of the continued their affectionate bickering. Buffy smiled a little to see the two of them, but drifted to the kitchen, where Giles was strumming his guitar, an absent look in his eyes.

"Ah, Buffy," he said.

"Hi Giles," she smiled at him. "I think I'm gonna bake something," she said.

He raised his eyebrows. Buffy was not known for her skill in the kitchen.

"Just cookies," she assured him. "I can do that."

He smiled and settled his glasses more firmly on his nose. "I have every faith in you," he said quietly.

Buffy set about pulling out ingredients. She had always baked chocolate chip cookies with her mother when she was younger. It was one of the only things she knew how to do, but they always reminded her of home and Mom and of happier times.

She glanced at the oven. It was in Celsius.

"Uh, Giles?" she asked.

He laughed and helped her convert and preheat the oven, and then she continued with her mixing and measuring and he with his strumming and thoughtful face.

Buffy was in the middle of stirring when her phone rang. She jumped a little.

She rushed to the tap to give her hands a quick rinse, and wiped them rapidly on a hand towel before fishing her mobile out of her pocket.

She grinned as she saw 'Liam Roarke' spelled out in little white letters.

"Hi," she said into the phone. Did she sound breathless?

"Buffy?" came his voice out of the speaker, "is that you?"

"Yes," she replied, catching the tinny sound of distortion.

"I'm at the airport," he said, with a nervous sounding laugh.

"Oh," she replied.

"What are you doing?" he asked. She could picture him sitting in one of those silver painted metal and black chairs that came in omnipresent rows in every airport in the world. He probably made them look good.

"I'm, um, trying to bake cookies," Buffy said.

"Oh," he replied. "Ah, what kind?"

"Um, chocolate chip," she said. She felt so incredibly anxious and nervous and delighted. He called her. He called her. What did it mean though? They had sort of had a date and now he called her.

And she sounded like an inarticulate idiot.

"Well, let me know how they are," he said, hesitancy in his voice.

"I will," she said, desperately trying to think of something to fill the silence. In person, things were a lot easier.

"Have a good time in…where was it you said you were going again?" she inquired, her voice stronger.

"New York," he replied, "And I should only be there for a few days this time. I'm not too thrilled about being called away from my home when I arranged to have this time off ages in advance."

"Mmm," she murmurs vaguely.

His voice takes on a husky, teasing note as he asks her for any suggestions of things to do in the city. She replies tartly, remarking that if he's in the city so often, he must already know where the best things are. As he responds with another clever comment in that voice that feels like slipping into the ocean, like falling into forever, some resistance inside her loosens. Rationality is hard enough to maintain with the memory of him. Reality is too intoxicating to resist. I'm so screwed, she thinks, and her heat sinks and sings.

Still, when he presses her, she gives him the name of her favorite café, the bench she always thinks of as hers in Central Park, and he promises to go there and think of her.

If I had you here, I'd clip your wings

Snap you up and leave you sprawling on my pin

There is an ocean between them. Buffy dreams. The future is a nebulous, hazy thing and she does not find it hard to place him in it, but cannot see how he might arrive there. There doesn't seem space for him in her life, with the shape it has, and nor, from what she knows of him, does there seem to be room for her in his. And yet.

And yet. It may already be too late. He holds space in her foolish heart now, occupying new territories daily and is always, always, always on her mind, or in it, shrouded in fog in the background, waiting for her. She wants him more than she's ever wanted any boy in her life. Yes, she thinks, stomach sinking and soaring, it is far too late.