He needs to see her. He saw her buried, dirt clods thumping on a wooden coffin while crimson sunset faded into serene twilight. He saw the stone with her name on it and a date receding into the past. He saw the lines in the sod disappear. He left flowers, more than once. And now she's back. Death couldn't hold her, death couldn't mar her, but he needs to see her. Touch her. Listen to her heart beating and her lungs moving air in and out. He needs to knows that she's alive.
She needs to see him. His voice on the phone cut through the apathy. Her heart leapt, a little leap, nothing like the leaps it used to take, but right now any reaction above flat-line is something to bring out and pore over on a rainy day. Even the sunny days seem gray now, but her memory of him stays bright. She needs to see him; she needs to know that she's alive.
They fall into each other's arms like old lovers. Familiar strangers. He thinks she's thinner. She thinks he's fatter. His arms are still as strong as she remembers. Her heartbeats are as lively as they always were. They say things, important things, but neither of them remember a word of it five minutes later. Once, she smiles.
They hardly know how it happens, but they kiss. After all, it's a special occasion. They do it again, and again. Her heart beats faster. He buries his hands in her long blond hair and tries to remember why this is a bad idea, but all he can think about is how different she is from Darla. How different love is from despair.
More memories for a rainy everyday, she thinks, and slips her hand somewhere it shouldn't go.
They know what they're risking. They both mean to stop before it goes too far. Neither of them has decided exactly where too far lies. Somewhere just past where they are.
"We need to stop," he says. His hands on her body say the opposite.
"Mmmmm," she agrees. No words, her tongue is engaged elsewhere.
They both mean to stop. But they don't.
She leaps up, away from him, a naked Valkyrie with eyes searching wildly for something to break a stake from.
"It's okay," he says. "I'm ... still me."
She eyes him suspiciously. "Prove it."
He shakes his head, and after a full minute she decides she's going to have to trust him some time. He's lying on her panties. She sits down next to him, runs her finger along his chest. "It wasn't perfect?" She's not surprised, but something inside of her aches. She's not perfect anymore.
"Buffy... I'm sorry, I should never... We should never..."
"The fairy tale is over," she says. "The curse-"
"We got lucky. This can't happen again."
"I know." She starts to laugh. It grows like their passion, and the hysterical note in her laughter just makes her laugh harder. She can barely force the words out. "We used to be high tragedy, but now it's just..."
"Low tragedy?" he suggests. He's resigned, but there's amusement there if you know how to listen for it. She still does.
"Very low," she agrees. "But I'm glad we... I shouldn't be, but I am. It was...nice."
"Me too," he says softly.
They lean toward each other again, they can't help it, and for a second they both consider tempting fate. They both weigh the chances. They got away with it once, no perfect happiness. Maybe you can't get there from here. Not any more.
But neither of them wants to believe that. She wants her heart to leap and the world to dazzle her again, everything new because of him. And he wants that amazing certainty that with her, he's making a difference. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but they have to believe that someday they might manage to reach tragedy again if they go down that path. So this time he intercepts her lips with an impeding finger, and they stop before they get started. They get dressed, and spend some more time saying things they won't remember when she goes back to her bills and he goes back to his responsibilities. But they enjoy saying them.
It's not perfect happiness by a long shot, but he feels more at peace than he's felt for a long time.
And she's smiling.