Stories often end with partings, as characters who were drawn together for a temporary adventure return to their old lives, or as relationships break under pressure. A parting between friends, lovers, or family members in the finale can make for heartwrenching drama. However, it isn't over until it's over: many works that separate characters in the last act then skip over weeks, months, or years to show that the separation was temporary and the characters meet again in the future. This can be done through a Distant Finale or Where Are They Now? moment.
If the separated characters were romantically involved or had Unresolved Sexual Tension, this trope can be used to create either a Last Minute Hookup or a Maybe Ever After ending. However, this trope is not limited to romantic pairings.
This trope is only for when the parting occurs near the end of the work. If the character left a series or work much earlier, you're probably looking at Back for the Finale. The reunion here is always brief, as well: the missing character shows up only in the final scene of the work. For other tropes involving returned characters that typically don't take place after a Time Skip, see The Bus Came Back, Commuting on a Bus, and Back for the Dead.
This is an ending trope. Beware of spoilers!
- Speedgrapher ends with Kagura and Saiga reunited after a separation of five years. He seems to have been expecting her, though she comes unannounced.
- Kids on the Slope: The anime ends with a reunion between three friends who've not seen each other since they graduated/left high school eight years ago.
- Bakuman。 is all about this. Mashiro and his love interest, Azuki go separate ways until them both can accomplish their dreams. In the last chapter they reunite and kiss after ten years, having achieved their goals However, it was obvious they would do that.
- GUN×SWORD has Van and Wendy reuniting purely by coincidence/fate an unspecified number of years after they parted. It's clear from what she tells the reporter that she's been waiting for him to show up; his reaction to the meeting is less clear.
- In Hellsing's Distant Finale (thirty years later!) Alucard returns to Integra.
- Toradora! has a particularly cute one reuniting Ryuji and Taiga.
- In the last chapter of Haru and Midori, Haru moves out of Midori's place, while Midori also decides to move and switch jobs. The Distant Finale, which takes place after Haru gets into college, has Haru ask to live with Midori again.
- The final installment of The Bojeffries Saga reveals that the family haven't spoken to each other for twenty years, and then brings them back together.
- Pixar's Monsters, Inc. ends this way as part of its Distant Finale. It's unclear exactly how much time has passed, but it's long enough for the company to have completely converted from scream collection to laugh collection, and for Mike to have put Boo's door back together so Sully can see her again.
- Both endings of Great Expectations show Pip and Estella meeting again after several years of separation. The nature of the meeting is very different depending on which ending you read. In one, Estella is happily married to someone else. In the other, she's still available and it's implied that they may have a future together.
- The last chapter of the Coldfire Trilogy, where Damien Vryce recognizes Gerald Tarrant's newest reincarnation. They very indirectly discuss how he was able to come back, and then they part ways.
- Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence subverts this after giving every appearance of intending to play it straight. The (kind of) love affair of Newland and Ellen that forms the main story ends in separation when he decides to go through with marrying his fiancee, and she leaves the country for good. In an epilogue set 26 years later, Newland has travelled to Paris with his son. It's noted that the former's wife has since died. Then Newland finds out that Ellen is in town as well and his son persuades Newland to come with him and see Ellen. Newland does - almost. He stops at the door, and in the end decides not to reunite with his one-time love, preferring to preserve his image of what might have been.
- Call Me by Your Name: Oliver leaves at the end of the summer. The book then skips about two decades, ending with Elio meeting him again in America and contemplating on their time together.
- The last episode of Dawson's Creek takes place 5 years after the penultimate episode, where they all reunite.
- The last episode of Star Trek: Voyager starts with the surviving crew members celebrating the tenth anniversary of their return to the Alpha Quadrant.
- The first episode of the last season of The West Wing opens with the now former President reuniting with some of the staff for the opening of his Presidential Library.
- Silicon Valley has a documentary about the failure of Pied Piper as its Framing Device; the cast reunites for a scene in the old incubator (which is now simply a residence).
- Lufia & The Fortress of Doom Time Skips one year later in the epilogue, when the Hero reunites with Lufia, now a separate being from the Sinistral of Death following her apparent death on Doom Island.
- The Stinger of the ending of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers has the hero and their partner reunite after an unspecified, but implied to be lengthy period of time; the former being willed back into being by Dialga after having been erased from existence.
- Persona 4 Golden has a newly added epilogue for the True Ending where Yu returns to visit Inaba several months after he leaves town.
- The epilogue of Penny and Aggie has most of the cast, and the eponymous duo, reuniting at the high school reunion, and teases a renewed relationship for the more mature duo.
- Regular Show has this in the last parts of the final episode. Pops sacrificed himself to stop Anti-Pops and the crew returns to Earth, three years after they left. Some time after, they all parted ways, though Benson and Skips remained in the park. Mordecai became a successful artist and family man after meeting his wife, a fellow artist, at an exhibition. Rigby and Eileen became happily married and started their own family. Starla and Muscle-Man just kept living happily with MM reuniting with her and their three year old daughter, whom has become a mom in her own right by the time see them again. High-Five Ghost and Celia become a DJ duo before eventually settling down and having a son. Benson remains with Pam and raises animals with her. The whole gang reunite for a 25-year anniversary of catching up and such. The older kids are now young adults with MM now a grandfather. Pops is even there, watching the whole thing from heaven on VHS. Jolly good show indeed.