She stood on the bridge in a little town called Hartfield, in East Sussex. They’d arrived in England earlier that day, and found comfortable lodgings in this cosy little town, at an ancient inn. She’d tried to have a nap after the long journey, but she wasn’t tired, so here she was, in the moonlight, watching the ripples of the shallow water, as it gurgled underneath this elderly bridge. The willow that overhung the river - river, it was hardly worthy of that name - had fallen twigs all around it. She stooped to pick some up, and dropped them onto the water. There, they tossed and turned in the silver stream, and were carried off into the darkness.
Just like her life, she thought. She’d been tossed around on the ripples of fate, and just when she thought she might have things back under control, when she thought she could float ashore and maybe put down some roots, she had been carried off into darkness.
They had already gathered up all the potential slayers that they knew of, and had been making a final sweep through eastern Russia, when Wesley had contacted them. Angel had been missing for two weeks. If Buffy didn’t know where he was, Wesley feared the worst. After speaking to him, so did she. This wasn’t just a ripple, this was a tidal wave, washing her away. She had somehow thought that Angel would always be there, whenever she felt ready. Now, she felt ready, ready to find a cure for the curse, ready to put down roots with him, and he was gone.
You can never cross the same river twice.
You could say that again, she thought morosely. The ripples of fate had brought them together, and then had separated them again, just like the handful of twigs that she’d thrown onto the water. They were on their way back to LA now, flying from Heathrow tomorrow, but how would she know where to look? And what if he was dust? Would she ever know? That might be the worst.
She threw some more sticks into the current and watched them bob away, on their own separate journeys. She’d seen something at the inn, something about this bridge and a game called Pooh-sticks. You and a friend threw sticks off the bridge to see which came out the other side first. She was on the wrong side, looking the wrong way. Story of her life. She emptied the remaining sticks from her hand. Another one joined them, but this one had something attached to it. She looked more closely. It was a yellow ribbon. Another one followed it, bobbing along from underneath the bridge. And then there was someone behind her.
A pair of familiar arms wrapped around her, before she had chance to turn. Warm arms.
A pair of lips pressed against her neck. Warm lips.
Warm breath on her cheek, and the single word, rippling down her spine and through her future.
THE END 11 April 2004
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