Two Characters in Search of an Ending

It was over when she went to Los Angeles for the summer. That's what Buffy told herself, and she meant it. She'd had enough of vampires when she felt her life slip away – the life that Xander, not Angel, gave back to her. Because Angel was one of them– evil, bloodsucking fiends. Even if he did have a soul. Even if he'd killed Darla for her.

Even if she loved him.

Which she didn't. Not anymore.

In Los Angeles, she shed the Slayer and all the baggage – the undead baggage… the dead and then not dead anymore baggage – that went with it. She was Buffy Summers, normal teenager. Buffy Summers, full of thoughtless, vibrant, cheerful, single-as-they-come life. She was just a girl – a girl who shopped, who went to the beach, who looked up old friends… who went out on dates with boys she used to know.

Hands. Not Angel's hands. She lets them caress her breasts, tells herself she doesn't feel guilty. She's not cheating.

She says no when those hands move to the waistband of her jeans, but that has nothing to do with Angel. Nothing at all.

Then the summer was over and there she was – in Sunnydale again. Not right away, but soon, so soon, she ended up right back where she was before. Because she was Angel's girl.

She couldn't not be Angel's girl.

She loved him.

She never stopped. She never will stop.

It was over when he left town. It should have been over before. The truth was that they never should have been together in the first place. If ever there was a case of loving not wisely, but too well… Hindsight was always twenty-twenty, especially when you were a vampire, it seemed, since he had so very much on which to look back. Seemed pretty worthless, though, since it hadn't seemed to improve his foresight at all.

Loving Buffy had cost him his soul, cost so many people – Jenny Calendar – their lives. It had taken Willow's magic to end his reign of terror… to save the world… to give him back his soul.

Not in time, though, to keep Buffy from having to send him to Hell.

Close your eyes.

It should have ended then, drifted into ashes, been carried off by the wind as he descended to depths of endless pain and torment.

But no, not even the piercing of his flesh by a sword she wielded, not even centuries in Hell could rid his heart of that deadly passion.

Maybe he was crazy, crazier even than Drusilla. He didn't know. What Angel did know? He had to leave. Leave before his love destroyed Buffy's chance at a normal life. Leave before the lust that comingled with that love made him foolish enough to imperil the world again.

Leave before he didn't care.

So he left her. Walked away. Came here, to Los Angeles.

He left her.

The love, though? That was a whole different story.

She was his girl. She would always be his girl.

It was over when she met Riley. He was the one who made her see, who gave her what she had always wanted: a life where she could be the Slayer… and be just plain Buffy. He was good and kind and decent. It didn't hurt that he was also great-looking and could keep up with her in bed.

Over and over and over again. They can't get enough of each other. They just keep fucking and they don't stop.

Would it have been like this with Angel if she hadn't been a virgin? Would it have been better?

Okay, when there were no poltergeists involved, Riley wasn't quite as frisky, but still… good. Really, really good. Also – normal. That was a plus. That was so a plus. Because he was exactly what she had asked for, wasn't he? A nice, normal, human guy who could also deal with her whole "Chosen One" gig. It was as if he'd been created just for her. Or maybe grown. Yeah, he was from Iowa, so definitely grown.

He was perfect, perfect for her and… perfect.

He was.

But…

He wasn't Angel. He would never be Angel.

That was the point, though, right? Because hey – not like she and Angel had been such a big success, what with the soul loss and the having-to-send-him-to-Hell and the being abandoned and the walking in on him groping Faith and… everything. So it really was a great thing, Riley not being anything like Angel.

Right?

Right?

It was over when he saw her with Riley. It should have been over when he gave up humanity to keep her safe, when the memory of that one perfect day was left to him alone – to burn him and scald him with its 'what might have been'. He'd told himself it was over when he hit her.

Guess it really had been over for her. The way she spoke to him that last time… by turns angry and cool, annoyed and self-possessed. Even though she called him out for treating her like an ex, it was clear… it was clear that if she wasn't, he was. Maybe she wanted it both ways, but she was clearly not sharing his celibate life.

"You actually sleep with this guy?"

She does. It's clear by the way she only steps in when *he* hits Riley back.

They patch things up in some feeble simulacrum of maturity, but he barely listens to his own words, let alone hers. All he can think about is: what is it like for her – being with him? Is it like it was the day he was human? Is it better? Does she wish she'd waited and let Riley be her first?

Does she love him more?

He still wondered about that sometimes.

Daily.

Hourly.

Right now.

But he needed to get over it, because she'd moved on, and even if he couldn't move on the same way, he had to move on somehow. Hey, he had his redemption to think about and that was enough around which to build his life, right?

Right?

It was over when she died.

It was over when she fucked Spike for the first time. The second time. The tenth time.

It was over when he had Connor… and when he lost him.

It was over when she told him she wasn't finished baking.

It was over…

She's lying in bed next to a man whose name she doesn't know. Does he even have a name? And really, he's immortal and has had tons of time. You'd think he'd spend a few minutes coming up with a name. Because 'The Immortal'? It's not very name-y. But she fucked him anyway, thinking this would be that time…

And it is, only it's a very different 'that time.' It's that time when she finally realizes that for her, she and Angel will never be over. No matter who she fucks, who she lies and says she loves, what kind of fantasy world she constructs, the truth is that, in her heart, she's Angel's girl.

Always.

She gets up quietly and gets dressed, leaving before she starts to cry. These are Angel's tears and she won't share them with anyone; she wishes she could share them with him.

But she can't, can she? Because it's over for him and there's nothing she can do about it.

She's halfway back to her apartment when she sits down on a bench and begins to sob.

It isn't over, but it's over, isn't it?

He's standing in a filthy, rain-soaked, gore-filled alley, surrounded by Spike, Illyria, the bodies of demons whose species he'll never know, and one rapidly disintegrating dragon. Gunn is dead. Wesley. Connor is gone. And Nina… He'll miss her, he supposes. She was pleasant enough and lied with sufficient skill to make him believe she was content with her role as fluffy mattress toy, but…

She's not Buffy. She could never be Buffy. Neither was Cordelia. Or Darla. It finally hits him, this truth he really doesn't need right now, but he can't escape it no matter what. In his heart, it's not over, him and Buffy. For Angel, it will never be over.

She's his girl.

Always.

He turns away from the others. No way is he going to let Spike see the emotion on his face; give him a chance to guess that Angel is mourning more than just his fallen comrades; give him ammunition to inflict more wounds, to regale him with tales of just how many more times and in how many more ways he had the only woman in the world Angel carries in his soul. Oh how Angel would kill to have Spike's freedom.

But he doesn't. And even if he did, it wouldn't matter. Because it's over for her – she's got baking to do, an Immortal on her arm… in her bed – and there's nothing he can do about it.

He leans his head against a wet, oily wall and sighs, wondering if it really matters that the world's still here after all – at least for him.

It isn't over, but it's over, isn't it?

The End.