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“Hey.” I almost whispered, my voice cracking, betraying me by showing emotion.

She turned and looked up at me, half smiling. I froze there, staring down at her. She was blanketed by rays of sunlight, the glow back lighting her and causing her hair to showcase it's raven highlights. I shook my head to clear my brain fog.

“We gotta quit meeting like this.” She drawled.

It was my turn to smile as I moved in closer and sat next to her. I bumped her shoulder with mine and we sat there quietly.

She sighed and broke the silence. “Joyce is something else?”

I looked at her, nodding. “Yeah, she is... I wish that mom could've seen her, ya know?”

She nodded. “Pretty sure she never actually left you guys. She was the best mom I'd ever known, well her and....” Her voice trailed off.

I nodded, I understood. I reached over and gently touched her arm. “I'm sorry about Jo and Ben... I....”

She reached up and ran her hand through her hair. “Me too.” She offered, voice tinged with emotional overload. She nodded her head no and I got it. She didn't want to talk about it, not here, not now... maybe not ever.

“Sorry.” I muttered.

She breathed heavily and looked down at the grass. “It's not that I don't want to talk about them... I can talk about them.... course I cry, ball and blow snot... but I can do it. It's been well over a year since they died... I have to somehow go on living and living means living without them.” She reached over and patted my leg, comforting me. “It's all about living.” She whispered. “You know at first, when I finally managed to pick myself up off their graves.... well at first, I couldn't stand to hear anyone say their names. It was like being shot through the heart... and I know I pushed everyone away.... they all wanted to... to comfort me... but there's nothing comfortable about losing your wife and child... I did what I do best and lashed out.”

Her voice faded and we just sat their, still, quiet. I was too afraid to speak, much less move.... I mean this was the most open I'd ever heard her be, well not since that night on Dawn's roof, all those years ago, where she asked me to choose her and I didn't and she walked away to find her own happiness.

She steadied herself, found composure and fidgeted a bit. “It was after... after the screaming and yelling and blaming... and way after the begging for them to be brought back and me taken in their place... it was when I was lying broken on the floor. It was like she was whispering in my ear...”

She wiped a stray tear. “She told me to get my stupid ass up. That just cause they left this world... that didn't mean I'd lost them. As long as I lived, they'd be a part of me and that I was making them sad. That I should live for them and allow them to live on through me.”

I reached over and entwined my fingers with hers, squeezing. I started to pull my hand back and she squeezed it just a bit tighter, hanging onto me. “I picked myself up and carried on.” She sniffled. “Wasn't easy. They were all around me and instead of letting it kill me, I decided to let it comfort me.”

“Not saying I didn't get lost a few times, cause I did.” She wiped at her eyes. “Some random person, bottom of a few bottles, maybe a few other stronger things but I'm still here, battle worn and bleary eyed.... but I'm still here and.... and...”

I spoke up. “And you're heart's still not whole.” She looked up at me.

I sighed. “I was like that when mom died... granted I didn't lose a child but when she died, I was a wreck... just a kid myself with a kid to somehow raise, and I couldn't even raise myself.” I felt her looking at me. “Just we all react differently to loss and for what it's worth... I think you've not done too badly.”

“Yeah....” She whispered, her voice rough.

We shared that companionable silence again. When did we get so good that we didn't have to talk, just exist and it be so... comforting?

“I came after you you know?” I asked. She looked over at me. “After you left that last time. I kept thinking about what you said and to be honest, it haunted me so friggin bad.” I laughed. “I was so mad at you.” I laughed again. “You turned my world upside down... again.”

Her brow furrowed and I looked at the grass between us. “When I finally worked up the nerve to go after you... when I found you... well you were just starting up with Jo and I just backed off in the shadows and watched.”

She pulled in a deep breath. I raised a hand to placate her. “I know... it was kind of stalkerish, but... well... I was a little too late and I was brooding but happy for you at the same time... so I went back with my tail between my legs and settled into my life again, with Spike... and you were right. I knew you were right back then but like you said it was just so damned easy when you didn't have to work or worry about anything.”

“Why didn't you say something, when you found me?” She asked.

I scoffed. “Faith, you'd just found something, someone. And I could tell by the way she looked at you... She loved you.... and you deserved to have that; to be loved by someone fully and with no baggage or drama.” It was my time to wipe my eyes. “I didn't think you'd ever had that before and I wanted you to have it, granted I wanted to be the one to give that to you, but I wasn't the one.”

“You were so happy.” I whispered.

She wiped at the tears now streaming over her face and I wiped at mine.

“When I got the call from Kennedy.... about Jo and Ben, my heart broke for you.... and all I wanted to do was run to you and pick up the pieces and glue you back together... but I knew that I'd ruined the right to swoop in... I knew you had to grieve and find a way back to life.” I scooted closer to her, our shoulder's now touching.

I sighed, closing my eyes, fear growing. “I've been waiting... waiting for the appropriate time....” I scooted just a bit closer to her, my heart starting to beat faster, my nerves kicking up several notches. “I've been watching you from afar, protecting you as best I could.” She looked at me, her eyes questioning.

I looked down at the ground, thinking before looking back into her eyes. “I was afraid for you... the loss... it was just so big and you were drowning at first... I just didn't want anything to happen to you.”

“I cried with you so many times... and all I wanted was to wrap you up and hold you close...” I wiped at my eyes.

“Waiting was the hardest thing I've ever had to do...” My voice trailed off.

She looked at me. “Waiting on what?” She asked lowly.

My eyes got lost in hers. I hesitantly reached out and palmed her cheek. “This.” I whispered, leaning in slowly, my breath held as my lips softly touched against hers.

I sighed against her lips, groaning as my tongue made contact with hers. My mind lost itself in the feelings of her; wet, hot, silky. I pulled back slowly, my body wanting and needing more contact. I rubbed my thumb over her cheek where my hand was still palming her face.

I moved my hand and ran my thumb over her bottom lip. I felt like I could faint, my mind swirling, my breaths quick and shallow.

I smiled, watching as her face colored, flushed. “I want you... and this time...I'm asking you to choose me.” I hesitated. “I'm not trying to take their place, I never could... I'm just asking you to share their memory with me... to allow me in.” I reached for her hand as she withdrew.

I grasped her hand, holding her tight. “There's no rush....I'm not going anywhere.” I leaned back just a bit, giving her some space. “I'm just gonna go inside, let you think.” I slowly eased my hand off of her and got up. I gave her a half smile and turned to go inside.

“Buffy.” She whispered. I turned and looked at her, my eyes widening as I waited.

She pushed herself up and eased over towards me. She stared quietly into my eyes before the emotional overload got to her and she closed her eyes. I held my breath, trying to not to push and God knows... I really wanted to push.

I felt her hands as they encased mine and I closed my eyes as the adrenaline surge washed over me. I opened them and found myself falling. “Stay?” She asked.

I nodded, smiling as our fingers laced together. “You know I'm gonna choose you right? I just don't want to jump into anything.... I need to take things slow.” She stated, adding. “I'm just scared... I mean you've never chosen me before... I don't want to end up more hurt than I already am...” Her voice trailed off. “It's...” She hesitated. “It's just... well... I'm...” Her words faltered.

I took a deep breath. It was now or never and whatever I said, well this would be the be all or end all. I had the key to happiness before me and I couldn't choke, not when it was this important.

“I think a nice slow build up would be best for both of us.” I smiled at her, squeezing her hands. “Remember when you said, that you had to decide to live, to keep living, to choose life because in doing so, they'd live on with you and through you?” I could feel my level of anxiety picking up pace, my heart starting to thump inside my head.

I breathed in and let it out slow. “In a way, that's what I'm doing... choosing life, living and I'm choosing the only living thing that's ever affected me.... you.”

“I might not have realized it before and certainly not when I should have but I get it now...”

“It's always been you.” I smiled up at her. “And I'm ready and willing to go as slow as you need... like I said, there's no rush, I'm not going anywhere.”

She half smiled, her body relaxing. She embraced me and I smiled against her shoulder, my tears building up again. I relaxed and gave into her pull, relishing her body warmth. I pulled back and looked into her eyes, a few tears escaping.

She wiped my tears away. “It's you.” I whispered as she leaned in and kissed me softly, chastely, a promise of things to come.

“Just you.”