Always See Your Face
by Criss Moody

Angel often forgets why he loved Buffy, but he's never forgotten how. His love filled him up and hurt so badly he wasn't sure if leaving or staying would hurt more. She smiled and he died a little bit inside. Sunny and beautiful, she belonged to picnics in the daytime. If she'd stayed the untouchable savior he'd first loved, maybe they'd have both been better off.

He laughs now, at how much he built her up inside his mind. Yes, she was lovely. Yes, she was the catalyst that dragged him from shadows to salvation. She had guts, but she was vulnerable. She needed him.

He never saw her selfishness, her disregard for anything but her own course of action. Buffy was vain, petty, and cruel at her very worst. Yet he loved her. Had loved her. Would always have a love for her.

When she shone, she truly glittered. Buffy was, is, the Slayer, heroic, but just a woman. No deity to live in eternal perfection. Mud and cruel words stuck to her like any other being. She had the courage to admit her faults, sometimes. But if she'd seen them all, she could never have been the Slayer she had to be. The girl who saved the world. And Angel.

Angel'd wanted her to be his sole reason for salvation so badly he never saw her for who she was. He'd like to tell her he's sorry for that. She was never appreciated for all that she was. Naked honest truth -- Buffy is not and never was a very nice person. But she loved him, in all the ways a 16 year old should love their first real boyfriend and he loved her in all the ways the 20 year old human he'd been should have felt for his first real girlfriend.

They have traveled through a lot of life together. Relatively speaking, it's a small section of his own existence but really, it's what made him who he is now. It's a good memory to hold close. Her hair, her skin, her smile, her courage. Not the only thing that built the vampire that walks through L.A. helping where he can, but a part that he respects and appreciates.

Even inside his head, he sounds stupid. He gets that. He spent some time last year trying to depossess a woman who gave self-motivation seminars. In between keeping her from popping her head off her body and separting the possessing demon from her soul, Angel listened to what the woman said.

Own your own actions.

Accept and respect the people who have put you where you are now.

Dismiss the people who have put you where you are now.

Leave the past where it belongs -- in the past.

That woman had a point. There are no more pictures of Buffy in books. She does not appear in his dreams. His Claddagh ring sits in the ocean somewhere.

It took three years, but Angel's finally said goodbye.


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