Avox in Arcadia (perpetual) wrote,
Avox in Arcadia

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Smoke Damage (Part 2 of2)

Title: Smoke Damage
Author: Kairos
Rating: PG-13
Wordcount: This part, 7039
Disclaimer: You-know-who owns you-know-what.
Notes: Read the first part first.

Unlike the impersonal lobby and neglected office before it, the room that Kate entered now was well-used and homey. Books cluttered the walls, weapons were hung on pegs and stands, and most of the furniture looked both comfortable and functional-—mostly wooden desks and tables surrounded by chairs. The only occupant, sitting behind the largest desk and thumbing through a stack of folders, was the girl from Angel’s diary, the one he would never forget. Kate tried to imagine the life of power and excitement that must surround her now, and still couldn’t feel anything but sympathy and heartache.

Buffy looked up with a smile when Kate walked in (followed by Xander, who had given her a look that was half “don’t mind me” and half “I go where I want”), but her cheerful greeting trailed off as they made eye contact.

Kate’s first thought was that she had been recognized, but Buffy’s sudden dismay quickly turned into a look of weary reproach cast at Xander, and then she addressed Kate again in a friendly, slightly patronizing tone. “I’m sorry. I know the information out there hasn’t been that clear, but the spell only affected women who were already Potentials, and Potentials are never older than—-well, basically the oldest a Slayer can be is me-aged. And you look really good for your age, which is not to say it’s an old age, of course, but it looks like probably you’re not—“

“I’m not a Slayer,” said Kate, putting an end to the ramble and the awkward territory for which it was headed. “I’m just here to talk. I was a friend of Angel.”

“Oh,” said Xander from behind her, distracting Kate from the girl whose reaction was the one she really wanted to see. “Well, in that case make yourself at home. In your home. Not here.”

Taken aback by his sudden glower and crossed arms, Kate started to ask what he meant and had her attention diverted again when Buffy spoke: “No you weren’t.”

All friendliness in her manner was gone, replaced by something that Kate quickly identified as recognition. The girl who hadn’t let an annoyance like the police get in the way of her argument with Angel was back. “You weren’t his friend. You wanted him dead. Is that what you’re here for? Still hoping to get him into a nice eastern-exposure cell?” She stood up, her hands on the desk between them. “You’re not going to find him. Ever. Get out of here and do it quick, because if I decide to throw you out I won’t need to wait for security.”

“You don’t understand—“ started Kate at the same moment that Xander gave her a lopsided smile and asked “A jail cell? Seriously?”

“Get out,” Buffy repeated, and Kate began to wonder if the threat to throw her out was real—-and literal, which could be almost as painful as it would be humiliating. As quickly as possible, she reached into her handbag and pulled out Angel’s diary.

“I came to give you this,” she said, capitalizing on the few seconds she had while Buffy and Xander stared at the book in confusion. “I thought he would have wanted you to have it.”

Buffy’s hesitation betrayed some inner doubt. “What is that?”

“Take it. It’s not going to explode.”

Kate bid a silent goodbye to the journal, and the spirit of Angel that she had begun to imagine it holding, as Buffy tentatively took it out of her hand and examined the cover. Without waiting to see if she would open it, Kate turned around and left the office, feeling almost as defeated as if she actually had been physically thrown out.

She had just begun to descend the stairs when the Slayers’ Council door opened again. “Wait,” said Xander, closing the door again behind himself. “Don’t take it personally. She’s had a rough week. Year. Decade, give or take.”

“I don’t doubt that. But I did what I came here to do and I’m leaving now, so I hope you weren’t hoping to stand here having a chat about it.”

He walked over and sat down on the top stair, putting himself at about her eye level. “Mostly I was hoping to hear more about Angel going to jail. Did you slap him in cuffs, too?”

Kate had planned nothing for this trip beyond what had just transpired, but just then she wanted nothing more than to get away from this place. Buffy had been a disappointment, and Xander’s youth struck her as an insurmountable obstacle. The memories of Angel which had flared so vividly in her mind for the last few days seemed to have stayed behind with his journal, making his demise all that much more real. “He was my friend,” she said. “Whatever your boss thinks of me, I cared about Angel. And if you’ve never lost anyone you cared about, I’ll leave you with a word of advice: don’t speak ill of the dead.”

The look on his face was enough to show that he had indeed lost someone, but Kate didn’t want to empathize. Maybe she could salvage this fool’s errand by searching the New York occult dealers’ network for useful tools. Maybe she had enough savings for one more trip to LA. She could find someone there who didn’t judge her entirely on five minutes of interaction that took place four years ago.

“Thanks for the tip,” Xander replied dryly. “Not sure it’s fair, though. The dead speak ill of me all the time.”

Kate turned her back on him and continued down the stairs. He didn’t stop her until her foot had touched the first landing, and then it was at an increased volume in a voice of pure exasperation. “Are you even going to try to put two and two together here? Angel’s alive.”


Dear Buffy,

Penn is dead. I wasn’t sure how I would feel. It’s alright.

...It’s really alright. The initial impact was more physical than anything, and even that only lasted a few minutes. When Darla died it took days for the pain to fade out. The Master’s death was only an echo of that, but the disorientation following it was hard to shake—I wonder if you noticed it in me at all.

But it seems the sire’s connection is in some ways limited, for here I am just hours from Penn’s death, and left with nothing but memories and relief. Even if I had never regained my soul I think I may have eventually grown bored with that boy and had him destroyed.

I’ve lost Kate’s trust. I understood on some level that it would happen eventually, but the end of a friendship is never easy. And of course now I can’t stop thinking about what happened when you found out about me. Not our first kiss, but our second: you under the lights of the Bronze, fiery cross around your neck, kissing me. Kissing a vampire.

You watched me kill my sire to protect you, and it was enough. I let Kate kill my child to protect her, and it wasn’t. But what was I expecting? That I could go out and make another human friend, and she would prove to be another you? There is no other you. There are only those who fear the darkness, and those who don’t know that it’s there.

And even you don’t know the whole of it. Penn would have come for you if he had known about you. He wouldn’t have stood a chance, but there are things he could have told you before he met the end of your stake. I’m grateful that it won’t happen now.

I love you. I miss you more than ever.


He was telling the truth; she had spent enough time in the interrogation room to know the face of a liar when she saw it. She asked anyway: “Are you serious?”

Xander nodded, still sitting at his ease on the top step. “Dead serious, is an apt way to put it. Saw him with my own eye.”

“You’re not going to tell me where he is, are you?” Kate tried to focus on gaining whatever information she could. It was better than trying to cope with the implications of Angel being alive.

“I might, if I knew.” Xander shrugged. “Probably with his new girlfriend.”

Kate gripped the rail and shook her head in disbelief. She didn’t think he was kidding about this, either, but it didn’t make any sense. Had Angel really changed so much? Why was Buffy so protective over him, if so?

“Look,” said Xander, “I can’t talk right now. She’ll probably just sit there staring at that book all day if someone doesn’t make the timely suggestion that she should either read it or give it back to him or exceed all my hopes and toss it in the trash. It is a diary, isn’t it?”

Kate nodded, still in the process of deciding whether she wanted this conversation to continue.

“Did you read it?”

She fixed him with a stony glare, but of course in this case there could be no clearer affirmative answer.

“Hey,” said Xander, “who wouldn’t? Anyway, there’s this demon bar a couple blocks over. If you meet me there tonight we can fill each other in.”

The offer wasn’t unexpected. Over the past few years, Kate had noticed a tendency for the supernaturally-informed to want to extend their conversations, even when there was no business deal in the works. She supposed it was natural—-keeping secrets from the general populace could get tiring, and it was nice to find another human in the same position. There was also always the chance that something extremely interesting would come up, and Xander, who seemed quite acclimated to this life, was likely prone to working that angle.

Still, learning something extremely interesting wasn’t always worth it. Her ego didn’t have the girth to insist that Angel wanted her to find him, if he didn’t even want to see the legendary Buffy, so really she was done here. New York wasn’t her territory. “Is Buffy invited?” she asked.

“Sweet tap-dancing hellspawn, no! First law of Slayerland citizenship is that you do not invite Buffy to conversations about Angel. I don’t even take up topics that could lead to Angel.” He pointed a finger at Kate, his accusatory voice at odds with the mischievous grin on his face. “You are in big trouble for bringing her a whole book about him. What else have you got in that bag? A rabid raccoon and a live grenade?”

Suddenly, staying angry at him seemed like too much work. Kate shook her head, chuckling. “How does nine o’clock sound?”


My dear one,

Your suffering has always hurt me more than my own, but somehow, today when you asked the question, I thought first of myself. Yes, I know what Faith did to you—-near enough, anyway. I know where your anger comes from, and I even understand it. Jealousy I can always understand.

But what I wondered then and I wonder now is if you remember what she did to me.
Necator mortuorum is a painful poison; it’s meant to be. I spent that night concentrating on keeping enough of my sanity to bid you goodbye, and I never even imagined that things could descend from there. I now live hounded perpetually by the memory of the deed that you brought us to commit, which you may not realize is the absolute worst in my collection of bad memories. And I blame myself for that. And I blame Faith. And I blame you.

You destroyed me that night. You took down this temple and rebuilt it in three minutes. You changed everything.

When you and I have such sins between us, how can it matter to me that Faith is a killer? If I can forgive you for giving your body to another man, why should you seek vengeance on her for giving the same body to the same man?

It’s harder to see this time but I think I’ve been destroyed again tonight. I’ve spent the past year imagining that some part of you would always be mine. I’ve spent the past few hours imagining you in bed with your new boyfriend. This is the true
necator mortuorum, these pictures of a faceless young male with his arms around you and his cock inside you. I want you to be happy, but there’s only so much I can take.

I love you, Buffy. I never want to see you again. I’m coming to Sunnydale tomorrow.


The demon bar had an inconspicuous entrance and a bouncer who appeared fully human, but inside, there was no disguise on anyone’s true nature. “Don’t worry,” said Xander as he saw her eyeing a pair of demons with glowing red eyes and claws like velociraptors. “There’s a ward against all violence set up here. We’re safe, and it’s the best place to talk about wacky stuff.”

He took his turn to talk about ‘wacky stuff’ first, seeming utterly at ease with his surroundings and more than adept at keeping her attention. Instead of describing his own history with Buffy and how they both knew Angel, he skipped right to the battle in Los Angeles: it seemed that Kate’s visit there had actually overlapped that of the army of Slayers who had showed up for damage control, led by Buffy and accompanied by Xander.

“We missed the prime action,” he griped. “The mastermind didn’t even send us a memo. Would that have been so hard? ‘Hey, former friends, I’m about to attack the root of all evil, could use some help’?”
Kate took a sip of her beer, contemplating the story and how it might be skewed by Xander’s perspective. He had made no secret of his dislike for Angel, but it didn’t seem to have the same roots as Kate’s former feelings. She wondered if there was an unrequited love between Xander and Buffy; that would explain a lot. “But the job got done?” she asked. “He managed it without the Slayers?”

“Sure,” said Xander, tapping his fingers restively on the bar. “If a gutted metropolis is what you call getting the job done.” He saw the look she was giving him and threw a hand up. “What? Aren’t you a little bit ticked off? Where does it say that this is the best possible outcome?”

“The world didn’t end,” Kate said calmly. She had put more thought into this already than Xander probably guessed.

He studied her silently before answering. “Every moment that the world doesn’t end is the only sure sign we ever have that we’re doing something right. Excuse me if I need a little more than that.”

Kate hadn’t expected the conversation to turn this way, especially so soon after it had begun, and she wasn’t happy with it. Despite Xander’s bitterness, she found she liked him. She wanted to trust him and his friends, and after all, wasn’t that why she was here? She switched into a milder tone. “I take it saving the world is starting to get to you?”

“Yeah.” He made a sound between a sigh and a scoff. “You see why Buffy’s wound up so tight? You flew here from Phoenix to drop off that book, and hey, that’s big of you, but she flew halfway around the world, fought her way into the city of ugly doom, and saved the ingrate’s life by feeding him on her own damned blood.” He looked disgusted, and this time Kate couldn’t blame him. Even after surviving Angel’s bite once, she wasn’t sure she would have the nerve to go through it again voluntarily.

“Buffy needs a break, and there’s not a one of us who can convince her to take one.”

“Who’s ‘us’?” Kate asked. “I assume you’re not all Slayers, unless you’re one hell of an exception to the rules.”

His mouth quirked in a grin. “Exceptional is exactly the thing that I’m not. Buffy’s had people for a lot longer than she’s had fellow Slayers.” The grin dropped again. “But the rest of us aren’t in terrific shape right now either. Our Master Splinter guy got called back to England, Buffy’s sister got fed up with all the relocating and won’t budge from Cleveland, and our other friend, she’s all over the place...”

Kate’s memory was suddenly drawn back to Angel’s diary, and especially one entry that he’d made at the end, in which he spoke of his friends Wesley and Cordelia and compared them to Buffy’s friends, whom he left unnamed. Clearly, she was speaking to one of them now, and the thought made her feel strangely wistful. There had been no such loyalty in her own life—not from her friends, her father, or any of the lovers that had already seemed temporary as soon as they entered the scene. Buffy and Angel, for all their tragedies, were luckier than they knew.

On the other hand, she knew how to handle solitude, and that might be one thing she had over the heroes.

“Sounds like you need your own jet,” she said, to distract herself from her own thoughts.

“We need a fleet,” Xander complained. Then he brightened. “Hey, maybe soon we can get one.”

It was the second reference he had made to some great sum of money coming to his team in the near future, and she wondered if she wanted to inquire further. Before she could, though, she took a look at him and saw that his eye had turned unfocused, almost glazed over, and he flapped a hand at her to silence what she had been about to say.

She waited. Finally he turned to her and said, “Sorry. Willow has this telepathy thing that she likes to spring on us every once in a while. I was just telling her where I was, and, well, do you mind if she joins us here?”

“No...” Kate’s brow furrowed. “Why, where is she?”

“Doesn’t matter,” he said with a flippant smile. “Another benefit to demon bars: you can get away with astral projection.”

Astral projection was a new one for Kate, but the appearance of a smiling red-headed woman on the empty stool next to Xander was only momentarily disconcerting. Xander greeted her with a high five that passed right through her upraised hand, and she giggled and swatted at his face, which had the same effect. Their easy manner with each other was a clear sign that Willow was more to Buffy’s team than just another Slayer, even if her use of magic hadn’t already revealed that.

“Kate, this is Willow, one bitchin’ apparition. Willow, this is Kate, Dead Boy’s old frenemy. I guess I don’t need to tell you to not bother with a handshake.”

“Nice to meet you!” said Willow, then leaned over the bar—partially falling through it—to signal the bartender. “Glass of white, please.”

Kate couldn’t help it; she had to ask. “How are you going to drink that?”

“Oh, I’m not. It’s just impolite to take up space without buying anything. Xander’s gonna pay for it.”

“Charmed, I’m sure.” Xander ordered himself another beer, then turned back to Kate as the bartender nodded and departed. “So, now that Will’s here, it’s your turn to spin us a story.”


Dearest Buffy,

Today I talked to Faith in prison for the first time. It’s amazing how much she’s already changed, though I hope to someday hear her sounding less defeated. It may never happen, I know, but I think that accepting incarceration as her punishment will bring her some peace.

What surprised me most was that she wanted to talk about what happened with you in Sunnydale. One of the first things she said to me was, “You know, that Riley that B’s got isn’t such a bad guy.”

I told her I didn’t want to hear about it.

She persisted. “You should know this, Angel. I know you don’t wanna see her with anyone but you, but if she’s gonna date, better he’s not some loser, right?”

I told her I didn’t want to hear about it.

“Look, I don’t really know what decent law-abiding girls look for in their men, but I figure that sticking around when the shit hits the fan is a pretty big part of it, yo? He stuck around.”

I didn’t have to tell her a third time; by then she could certainly see it in my eyes. Usually I can tell when someone is being deliberately cruel. This time I’m still not sure.

The subject was dropped, and I never told her the rest of the story. It might have helped her understand if she knew that I had already met Riley Finn and thus have a personal basis for forming an opinion about him, but what happened that night isn’t for Faith. It’s yours, even the part you didn’t see. Even the bruises on your boyfriend’s body.

I won’t apologize for that, by the way, even here. If he can’t take a beating or handle a visit from a jealous ex, he’s not worthy of you. I know you’d say it’s not my place to test him. You’d be right. Well, I did it anyway.

I don’t like him. But Faith knows more than she thinks she does about what decent girls want in a man, and Riley did stick around.


Kate started at what she thought was the beginning: getting to know Angel under the belief that he was a private investigator, and then her fear and denial when she discovered his true nature. She kept it general, but there was very little she deliberately left out, even when it became personal. It was all so far behind her that even her father’s death and her own attempted suicide no longer felt like they needed to stay hidden.

Willow and Xander listened in attentive sympathy, which Kate found oddly touching. There was even a bit of a lull when she reached the end of her tale, and she had to think hard about how to bring it up to the present. “I tried to tell him I was leaving the state,” she said at last. “The hotel was completely empty when I went to see him, and after that, Wesley kept telling me he was unavailable. Finally I just left without saying goodbye.”

“That was in 2001?” asked Willow after exchanging a glance and nod with Xander. “Around the summertime?”


“Buffy died.” The witch stated it as an unfortunate fact. “Angel had to take off for a while, spend some time dealing with it.”

Kate couldn’t find an answer. Every time she thought she knew what was and wasn’t impossible...

“It’s true,” confirmed Xander. “You’d be surprised how often that happens to the champion-types.”

“Angel had a summer of dead-being, too, you know,” added Willow.

She did know. His diary had contained more than one mention of Hell—-or Acathla. He seemed to use the two words interchangeably, though Kate didn’t know of any meaning behind that. She shuddered. “And now they’re both alive,” she said. “What’s going on? Why doesn’t he just go back to her?”

Xander shrugged. “He got tired of ruining her life?”

For such a sweet, pretty girl, Kate thought, Willow had one killer of a dirty look. She was casting it on Xander now as she rebuked him with, “It’s the curse. He knows he could still lose his soul with her.”

“That’s what I said.”

“If I had a little more corporeality right now I’d be stuffing your mouth with a sock or two, mister.”
Kate cleared her throat. “What curse?”

Three eyes locked onto her, full of surprise. “His book of dirty deeds didn’t tell you?” asked Xander. “Hoo boy. So, there was this one time...”

This story was a lot more cut and dry than any of the others they had shared so far, and it went by more quickly, though not quickly enough to prevent it from being interrupted by a demon with dark fur and sabre teeth, who inquired in a Scottish accent if any of them had seen another of his kind in the bar that evening. Kate said no, impatient to dismiss him so she could hear the rest of the story, and wondered as he walked away where her sense of awe had gone. Demons had never seemed so mundane before.

“So, ever since then, they’re not much with the touching,” finished Willow. “Or seeing or talking, for that matter. The plan was for Buffy to find someone else and do the normal life thing, and you can’t really figure a hopeless eternal forbidden love into that.”

Kate nodded. A lot of what she hadn’t understood in the diary was much clearer now. She had thought that Angel had left Buffy due to his guilt at having drained her blood, but it seemed that incident barely scratched the surface of the issues between them. She sighed. “I shouldn’t have given her that diary.”

“I think it was nice,” said Willow. “You didn’t know.”

All that she had learned that day began to close in on Kate, refusing to let her ignore the enormity of it any longer. When she had woken up that morning, she had believed that she was here to bring closure to her dead friend’s lover. How things had changed since then. “Is he alright?” she asked, making sure to direct the question specifically at Willow. “He really made it out of LA after that battle?”

“Buffy saved him,” Xander interjected sharply, but Willow nodded at Kate and talked right over her friend.

“He’s not in New York, but...well, if you wanted to see him, we could probably arrange something.”

Of course he wasn’t in New York, thought Kate. That would have been too easy. She grimaced. “I’m not sure he would want to see me.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Willow encouragingly. “If you promise you’re done playing the Javert to his Valjean, it might give him a much-needed pick-me-up.”

“Hey, Wills,” said Xander. “I get that you want everyone to get along and play nice and be pals, but Kate’s done all she can. And if you try setting something up, you’re gonna have to go behind Buffy’s back. There was some ‘Get out’ and ‘You won’t find him’ earlier that you missed.”

Willow looked annoyed again. “Kate can decide who she wants to talk to,” she insisted, ironically cutting Kate off as she was about to speak for herself.

“I know,” Xander replied earnestly, not paying any more attention to her than Willow was. “I just don’t want this to turn into the Parent Trap. Buffy and Angel can’t be an item. Grudge-free assessment.”

Willow stood up, or rather, changed position so she appeared to be standing on the floor rather than sitting on the barstool. In fact, part of her skirt was going through the stool’s legs. “I have to use the ladies’ room,” she said. “Kate, do you want to come with?”

Kate and Xander both stared at her for a few seconds before Xander answered, “That is the worst excuse for leaving me out of the conversation that I have ever heard from someone insubstantial.”

“Deal! I don’t need physical substance to be a girl.”

Thankfully, Xander didn’t try to keep them at the bar by turning that remark into a debate about gender. Kate followed Willow down a flight of stairs that she hadn’t know was in the next room, and they stopped at the bottom in front of a pair of doors upon which the familiar “Men” and “Women” symbols were surrounded with bizarre words and shapes that must have been for the sake of non-English speaking demons. Kate was glad that she didn’t actually have to use the bathroom.

Nobody else was downstairs, though, and the relative stillness was a relief, which must have been part of Willow’s intentions. “I don’t want to make a thing out of this,” said the redhead. “Xander’s kinda right. We can’t play Parent Trap.”

“Wasn’t planning on it,” said Kate. It was the bare truth. She was no romantic-—love was what you made of it, nothing more, nothing less—-and she had already meddled too far into something that hadn’t been any of her business in the first place. With the threat of Angel’s undoubtedly terrifying alter-ego thrown into the mix, she had as much reason as anyone to want to keep the star-crossed lovers star-crossed.

Willow nodded sadly. “Here’s the thing, though. Buffy hasn’t been the same since LA. She’ll never say so, but Angel really hurt her. Running off so soon like that—-and telling her he’s involved with someone? Huh!” she snorted indignantly before returning to her normal tone. “I talked to him a little, too. Says he’s fine and he just doesn’t want to complicate anything, but honestly, I think he’s even worse than she is. He’s like a zombie. A vampire zombie. Does that not freak you out?”

It might have, actually, if Kate had thought too hard about the concept. She exhaled. “What do you want me to do about it?”

“Just say hi to him. Maybe tell him what you did. Tell him Buffy has his diary. Actually, that would be awesome! He could come and try to get it back, and she’d be sitting there holding it when he saw her, and their eyes would lock and he would have to wonder if she had read everything in it and how they were going to go on living as if—- this is not as awesome as I thought it was going to be before I said it.”

“Exactly. No matter what we do, we can’t fix things for them.”

Willow’s whole form shimmered for a few seconds, and Kate was taken aback. It was the first time that the astral projection had broken from its crystal-clear image. “I can’t stay,” she said. “If I don’t check on my body soon my girlfriend will get bored and decide to...um, anyway. You’re right. We can’t fix things for Buffy and Angel. But we don’t need to. They’ve known for a long time that this is the way they have to live, and it’s enough. Believe me, it’s enough.”

“What is?” asked Kate, wishing she could figure it out on her own, but at the same time feeling in a rush to finish talking before Willow vanished into thin air.

“Just loving each other,” said the apparition. “Just knowing.”

It was useless to ask her to wait, Kate could see that from the second shimmer that enveloped the shape of her body. “Why should I be the one to tell him that?” she snapped in frustration. “Why would he listen to me if he didn’t listen to you?”

“Because you have absolutely no reason to care if Buffy loves him or not,” said Willow. “Just a hunch. It was really nice meeting you, Kate.”

Kate was suddenly alone. She stood there stupidly for a moment, and the sabre-toothed demon from earlier came down the stairs and gave her a confused look before entering the men’s room. She sighed and shook her head, trying to clear it of the weariness it had been accumulating for the last few hours.

If Angel found out that his lost journal had been placed in Buffy’s hands, he would be righteously livid, and that was just the tip of the iceberg. There would also be old shame between them, and she would have to return to the part of her life she had worked so hard to leave behind, and for that matter, she really didn’t think she wanted to know what a vampire zombie acted like.

And for what? Willow was right—-she had no reason to care if Buffy still loved Angel. Xander was right—-she had done all she could. Master Song was right—-the battle was over, and it was time to shut down.

Stay down or they’ll kill you.

...Where had that come from? She hadn’t even been thinking of that night, yet suddenly, there it was, as clearly as if the words were being whispered into her ear again instead of simply remembered. Her hand flew up to her neck, as it had when she read the diary. There was no scar there, no sign that the skin had ever been broken by a pair of inhumanly sharp canines, but she couldn’t forget that Angel had once tasted her blood. It was by far the most intimate moment she had ever shared with him...possibly with anyone. Did he remember it too? Had he started a new journal after losing his old one, and filled it with new declarations of guilt and hunger?

Slowly Kate made her way back up the stairs and through the bar, finding Xander sitting right where she had left him. She took her place on her stool and peered into Willow’s untouched glass of wine as he watched her with a half-smile on her face, waiting for her to speak.

“So,” she said at last. “If I were to ask you for Angel’s contact information...”

He chuckled wryly, as if they were sharing an inside joke. “You’d find yourself in possession of a non-refundable can of worms. Ask away.”


Dear Buffy,

There has been so little time to write, and so much I want to say to you. Though I know you’ll never hear it, whether or not it reaches these pages, that doesn’t matter like it once did. Cutting myself away from you has been excruciating, but I’ve done it and found myself still in existence. I’ve been reflecting on everything that’s happened this year—Doyle’s death, Faith’s epiphany, the day that you were my horizon instead of my sun. As the pain piled up I asked myself, over and over, if I were meant for anything else, if I deserved anything else.

Some questions never get answered. And Buffy, I live each day knowing I may never see you again. And that’s okay. You live on, you live right, and you find your happiness where you can, and I’ve finally learned to take joy in that without letting my own woes taint its purity. I will not think of you as what could have been, but what was, what is, and what will be.

Nor are you the only joy that this world has to offer. There are many people in this city that I’ve saved, now, and many that I couldn’t, but the truly extraordinary thing is that there are so many worth saving. Cordelia and Wesley have astonished me and shaped me. It is no small thing that a man raised to hate vampires should call me friend, or that a reluctant visionary should trust me to help her change the world. I see now that I never fully understood the friendships that you held so dear, and which are undoubtedly supporting you even now.

I miss you, Buffy, every day, and I’ll always love you. If you can someday realize that you are the one who made me into what I am, and feel proud of it, there is nothing better that I could ask of you.


She knocked once, waited, held up her fist to knock again, decided against it, and waited longer. The door opened.

He hadn’t changed in any discernable way. He was dressed in the same style she had always seen him in before: dark and classy. It wasn’t enough to see if he was still in his zombie state. “Kate,” he said.
The surprise on his face didn’t change into a smile, but it was still the first time she had truly realized that she was completely and honestly happy that he was alive, and she smiled for both of them. “Hello, Angel.”


She didn’t need the question to be completed. She’d known far in advance what she wanted to say to him. “I had an epiphany.”

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