To Whom

To Whom It May Concern

For the longest time after the end, he ignored the existence of the small packet Spike had delivered to him on his way through Los Angeles. Spike had been unable to meet his eyes when he’d arrived at the Hyperion and Angel had known, just known, that something had shifted in the younger vampire, something that would never be right again.

“Where will you go?” Angel asked him, taking the package, which was really nothing more than something stuffed in a crumpled brown paper bag, the top folded over and sealed with a single strip of tape. He noticed that when Spike held out the bag, his hand shook, like a drunk’s hand reaching for a glass of whiskey.

Spike kept his eyes averted and said, “I dunno, mate.”

Angel nodded although he knew that Spike wasn’t looking at him to see his acknowledgment. He had felt like leaving LA a hundred times since the sun had disappeared. What kept him here, he couldn’t say. Hope, perhaps, even though there was scarce little of that, especially after Fred and Wesley had died. Cordelia was still around and Gunn and Connor drifted in and out of their lives like tumbleweed. Gwen stopped by every so often and Angel led her silently up the stairs to his room, removed her protective gloves and let her jumpstart his heart. He liked the momentary thumping in his chest and the kiss that came afterwards reminded him, however briefly, of what it was like to feel something like alive.

The bag was almost weightless and Angel balanced it on his upturned fingertips. “What is it?”

Spike shifted his eyes up. “Answers. Questions.”

Angel sighed.

“Look, Angel, I only brought it because, well, because she’d want you to have it. And there’s no one else…” Spike paused, “there’s no one left to give it to.”

It was as he’d suspected, of course, and yet hearing the words said out loud, there’s no one left, almost brought him to his knees. “You,” he said bitterly, “you’re alive.”

Spike nodded and met Angel’s eyes for the first time. “Not technically.”

Angel would have punched him, would have sunk his fist as deep into Spike’s face as he could have, but there was no point. In every way that counted, Spike was dead.

***

He was lying with Gwen on his bed when it happened. Cordelia could take a few lessons from Gwen, actually, in the art of being direct. Perhaps it came from having so little contact with other people, from being shunned and isolated, but Gwen called a spade a spade. Angel, for some reason, appreciated this quality in her.

A full five minutes had passed since his heart had stopped beating and they lay, not so much in the afterglow, but in the silence that always followed their union. He lay on his back, shirt parted to expose the clean expanse of muscle and skin; she lay curled on her side, watching him.

“So, Cordelia, then, not the one?”

“What?” Angel asked, striken.

“Come on, Angel. There may have been something between you, but she’s not the one,” Gwen said, sitting up and wrapping her arms around her bare legs. “I spend a lot of time observing people. It’s kinda a habit.”

Angel lifted his hand and pressed a thumb into the corner of his eye.

“Do you want to talk about her?”

“No.”

“Maybe you’d feel better.”

“No, Gwen.”

“I think…”

Angel sat up suddenly and twisted away from her. “Don’t think, please. I don’t want to talk about this, not with you, not with anyone.”

“Fine,” Gwen said, reaching for her shirt. “But you know, it can’t be good to keep it all bottled up inside.”

Angel laughed, a sharp, mirthless bark of sound.

“I’ll see you,” Gwen said and left the room, shutting the door silently behind her.

Angel showered and dressed and sat for a long time in the armchair he’d pulled over to the window. A few lights twinkled in the streets below and he glanced at the clock on the counter: 2:14pm. Dark as death outside.

It had been at least a month since Spike had stopped by. Too much time, too little time. If he opened the package Spike had brought, he’d have to face the fact that she was gone and Angel wasn’t sure he was ready for that.

***

In the end though, he had to know. He walked over to his desk and pulled open the center drawer. The bag was still there and Angel tapped it with one finger.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. He wasn’t supposed to be a vampire. He wasn’t supposed to be sucking face with a girl who could artificially animate him. He was supposed to be with Buffy. That was his destiny. That was what he had seen when he had looked at her for the very first time: his shining, hopeful, perfect, future.

Angel shut the drawer and stood for a moment. He looked back over his shoulder at the dark world left to him and sighed. Then he opened the drawer and took out the package.

***

Letter # 1 Buffy to Dawn

I know you're a construct. Okay, that came out all wrong, but I know you understand what I mean. That my memories of you are fabricated in no way negates their power. You are my sister.

I wish I could tell you that everything will be okay, but I don’t know that for sure. For the first time in my life, Dawnie, I’m afraid. No, actually it’s not the first time in my life I’ve been afraid. I was afraid when Mom got sick and even more afraid when she died and left me all alone. Suddenly I had all the responsibility. Even back before she knew I was the Slayer, she was still there to keep checks and balances in my life. Then, like a blip in the radar: there, not there.

I wish that I’d been able to be more honest with you about my feelings then, but it felt like I just turned off. I know that I shut everyone out, you and Willow and Riley, but I just didn’t know how to deal with the bad stuff anymore, not when the bad stuff hit so close to home.

Anyway, I should have stopped treating you like a kid the very minute Mom died because, let’s face it, after that moment you weren’t a kid anymore. Everything changed, didn’t it, Dawnie?

Do I have advice? Words of wisdom? I can see you rolling your eyes at the very thought of it, but as a matter of fact, I do have some pearls for you.

Look both ways before you cross the road.

Don’t go out in the rain in your socks.

Choose your friends wisely. (I think you already know this one.)

If you have to, go to Los Angeles, Dawnie. Go to Angel. You can’t trust Spike anymore. It’s not his fault, but it’s true. Please be careful.

I’m sorry I had to leave you again.

Letter #2 Xander to Anya

I want to tell the truth. I want to be able to leave knowing that you know. It’s hard for me to commit the words to paper without having them sound trite or facetious. But you should know. I suppose that every day you look at me you thank whichever demon you would thank for this sort of thing, that you are not with me. Or maybe not. Maybe you have regrets, too.

I am sorry that I have to be one of them. I did what I did because I loved you, not because I didn’t. I suppose that seems like a contradiction in terms. We humans are like that, had you stuck around a little longer you might have been more inclined to see things from my point of view.

I suppose, though, that, given your life long (long) profession, it was a miracle that you even fell in love. I believe that you did sincerely love me. I’m not fishing here, either. I’m not all that lovable when it comes right down to it: I’m sneaky and selfish and I’ve done a lot of things I’m ashamed of. You are not one of them.

Letter # 3 Xander to Cordelia

Maybe things are all right in your corner of the world, but things are not good here. When have things ever been good here, though, right?

During the day we stay inside and we stick together. In a way, I guess, it’s not that much different from when we used to hang in the library. The only thing that’s changed is the fact that some of us are gone.

It’s given me the opportunity to reflect. Don’t laugh. I’m all about the “carefully considering my past choices and mistakes” guy now. Okay, laugh, it is kinda funny.

It’s too bad that you don’t have 20/20 vision in high school. It’s too bad that you can’t see into the future and understand how the choices you make will ripple through the rest of your life. You were one of those ripples.

I have a lot of regrets. You are not one of them.

Letter #4 Willow to Giles

Thank you.

Letter #5 Giles to Buffy

If you are reading this then it is because you have survived and I have not. That’s as it should be. I am a dying breed. Not as a man, of course, but as a Watcher. But you knew that long ago, didn’t you?

You worked so hard all the time and I know that no one ever properly thanked you for it. The Watcher’s Council certainly never appreciated your talents. Well, as a group, they’re not very insightful anyway. Small-minded, egocentric ponces. But I digress.

You have conducted yourself most admirably over the years and I am proud of you. I know you shall spend considerable time beating yourself up, as you might say, for things you may feel now were mistakes. Spike comes to mind. Perhaps your inability to avert this latest apocalypse. And Angel, of course. You have nothing to be ashamed of, Buffy.

Perhaps we should have talked more. Perhaps I shouldn’t have left so quickly after your return from…heaven. I’m sorry for that. I felt oddly out of my depth. You and the others have always looked to me to be the voice of reason, the adult. And while I certainly was for a time, the summer after you died changed everyone in ways that you cannot imagine.

Besides, being the grownup doesn’t always provide you with the answers. I totally missed Willow and the magic. I suppose I wasn’t looking for it, but I should have seen it anyway. It’s what I was trained to do.

And here we are, at another juncture in the road and I am unable to predict the future. It looks grim from where I sit, but that doesn’t mean it’s hopeless.

Whilst you are alive, Buffy, there will always be hope. For that, and for many other things, you have my deepest admiration and respect.

That you have my love, too, goes without saying, but that’s the problem with humans isn’t it? We never say the things that need to be said, when they need to be said.

I love you.

Letter #6 Willow to Xander

From the time we were kids, I’ve loved you. Despite your flaws and you have lots. But being less than human isn’t one of them and so I forgive them all. I forgive you Cordelia. I forgive you Buffy. I forgive you for letting Buffy kill Angel when there was no need of it. And I forgive you for keeping secrets from me even though we swore, bleeding thumbs pressed together in solemn oath when we were seven, that we would never keep secrets from each other.

We don’t know how it will go, Xander. If we did I suppose that we might have held onto each other just a little more tightly. We might have said more of the things we thought when we thought them. (In this respect I think Anya was on to something!) We might have held onto the good in each other, rather than opening wide the doors to our hearts and letting in the darkness.

I am the most guilty of that, I know. If it hadn’t been for you this might already be over now, which is sort of ironic, in a way. But then I would have never had the chance to tell you how much your friendship has meant to me and how much I will miss you.

Letter #7 Dawn to Buffy

I should have known that that thing I saw wasn’t Mom. In some ways I guess I am just a gullible kid…except that I’m not. Because she said, the thing pretending to be mom I mean, she said that in the end you wouldn’t choose me. She was wrong, though. In the end you will choose me. In the same way that you chose me the last time.

I should be grateful for that, I know, but I’m not. Because I’ll be all alone, really all alone.

I should have paid more attention to our similarities instead of always thinking about all the ways that we were different. Like, how we both loved those old-fashioned musicals where the women wore those long swirly skirts, and smoked cigarettes from those holders. And like how we loved to cheat Xander at board games, not that we couldn’t have beaten him anyway. He so sucks at board games!

And like how high school was just the most amazingly awful and wonderful experience of our lives.

And how we’re both supernatural.

I don’t know what I am, Buffy, except that I know that I’m your sister. If you’re gone…if you’re gone I won’t even be that anymore and I don’t know if I know how to be anything else.

Letter #8 Buffy to Angel

I’m writing this for you.

The sky is crashing down upon us and so I am writing this to you.

The distance was always between us but I’ve never felt it the way I am feeling it tonight. There have been lots of times when I have felt alone and afraid and isolated, but somehow I always knew that you were out there, somewhere, and that if I really needed you, you would magically appear, like a rabbit from a hat. I don’t feel that way tonight.

Lots of times I’ve had imaginary conversations with you in my head. They go like this:

How are you?

Good. You?

Great.

I still love you.

I still love you.

Cue music.

Okay, maybe the conversations are less clipped than that, but we always seemed to break through the bullshit to get to the very heart of the matter without wasting any more precious time.

Now, it’s too late.

You can’t imagine all my regrets. You just can’t. Even if I commit them to paper here and now, you’ll never understand why I made the choices I’ve made. I don’t even think that I understand them. Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true, but to back up to the day you left and talk about all the days in between would take way more time than I have.

Our time is all used up.

The Hellmouth is chaos. It’s cracked open at the seams and there’s no way that I can fight all the demons spilling from the tear like they were stuffing from a ripped pillow. I patrol all night and try to sleep during the day, but I usually can’t. We’re all here now: Dawn, Xander, Anya, Willow, Giles. The house is about to burst with human sorrow and fear.

Giles does his best to keep us focused. He’s trying to see into the heart of this particular darkness, but his ties to the Watcher’s Council have been, mostly, severed. I, quite frankly, think that as an organization they’ve outlived their usefulness. They were never any good to me. But you know that.

Spike is missing. I’ll assume that you know we were lovers. About that I will say nothing more than this: I did not love him, but I might have if my heart did not already belong to you.

I worry that whatever is behind all this (and for your information, because I suspect that you alone may survive, I believe that we are dealing once more with The First) has taken him and that its intentions are not of the warm and fuzzy variety. He’s feeding again, off humans. I know that you will not be inclined to feel any sympathy for him, but you should know that he has a soul now. You more than anyone else should understand the cross he bears. What you choose to do with that information is up to you.

I’m still strong, but I’m not sure for how much longer.

Anyway, if I was ever strong at all, it was because of you. Because you supported me. Because you believed in me. Because you fought beside me. Because you loved me.

I try to believe that we’re all on this earth for a reason. You taught me that. You proved to me that sometimes the world is not black and white, but a million different colours all bleeding, one into the other.

Night is coming, leaking across the horizon like a bloody wound. For just a moment I’ll sit here, on my bed, and dream that you are at my window, waiting to come in. I used to fantasize about that a lot, but not so much anymore. Your face is as clear to me as always, but I can no longer remember the way you looked at me.

Should I be happy that I had you at all, even though it has come to this? I can barely bring myself to answer that question. It’s like asking myself if I wish I had never been called. I don’t know who I am if I’m not the Slayer. I don’t know who I am if I don’t love you.

I know this though: I would do it all again, in a heartbeat. All of it.

Please be safe, Angel. If I can believe that you are I will survive what is to come.

My heart belongs to you. It always has.

***

It nearly tore his heart out to read the words. Letter after letter, private thoughts and feelings, written on paper and sealed into envelopes and now testimony to lives lived: bravely, hopefully, joyfully.

He had no right to read them. He had no right to be comforted by their words, by her words. Even Xander’s letter to Cordelia had come under his scrutiny, although when he was done, he’d folded the letter carefully and put it back in its envelope, grateful that it hadn’t been sealed.

What had Spike said? There wasn’t time and they all wrote and put the letters together, someplace safe, so that, in the end, whomever…whomever was left could have them and know.

They’re all here then?

Spike smirked, his eyes empty of all feeling.

They’re all there. There wasn’t one for me. He paused. You’re a stupid bugger, aren’t you, Peaches? It was never about me. It was always about you. He shook his head in disgust.

But you loved her? Angel had asked.

Everyone loved her, Spike had replied.

That’s not what I’m asking.

I know it’s not, but I don’t owe you an answer. I don’t owe you a bloody thing.

Turning on his heel, Spike had walked out the front door, into the black day, leaving Angel holding the weight of hundreds of words.

***

When Gwen found him he was sitting in the chair, watching the sky, holding the testimonies of the people he had once considered his friends, and of the woman who had changed his life.

Gwen knelt beside him, and placed a gloved hand on his knee. “What do you need?” she asked, softly.

“I need to be alone,” he replied.

“You’ve been alone, Angel, and I don’t think it’s actually done you much good.”

Angel slanted his eyes toward her. “I can’t…I’m not sure if…” he stumbled to a stop, looking down at the letters in his lap. “These people, Gwen, they were just people. They fought, but they didn’t have to. And now they’re all gone.”

“I’m sorry, Angel,” she said, simply. “But your girl, Buffy, she was the slayer, right?”

Angel nodded, once.

“So, death was always a possibility, right?”

“No.”

“I think, yes.”

“Not for her. She’d defied death before. Not once, but twice.”

“Not just any old Slayer, then, I guess,” Gwen said thoughtfully.

“I want…”

Gwen leaned forward and placed her gloved hand on Angel’s. “Tell me,” she whispered.

Angel lifted the pages he’d read up and let them go, watching their floating descent to the floor. “I want these people back.” He looked at Gwen. “I want Buffy back.”

“I know,” Gwen said sympathetically.

“You don’t know. None of them ever knew, what it was like to love her, to have to leave her,” Angel replied, although not to Gwen.

“No, I guess I don’t,” Gwen acknowledged.

Angel shook his head ruefully. “This is worse. Worse than any curse.”

“But you haven’t even seen her in, like forever,” Gwen said, rocking back on her heels when Angel looked at her sharply. “Cordelia told me. She’s bitter, by the way.”

There was a long pause.

“We’re all bitter,” Angel said quietly.

“I’m not,” Gwen said blithely, starting to peel off her elbow length gloves.

Angel reached out a hand to stop her. “Not today,” he said, softly. “Today, I just want to be as I am.”

“What’s that?” Gwen asked.

Angel smiled, a small tug at the corner of his mouth. “Dead."

The End

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