Timeline note: Post-Series

Dearest Madeleine,

Received your email this morning, and was delighted to hear that you and the children are settling in okay after the move. I had been anxious when I heard the weather reports---it must have been treacherous driving in snow again, and with children, too. It took even me some time to get my bearings back when I returned home, and I only had myself to worry about. Are the boys enjoying the countryside? I hope they don't find your little town too sleepy, but I am certain there are perhaps a few children equally as high-spirited, even in your tiny village!

Just remember, dear heart, that London is not so far away as America was, and that my business, while perhaps at times more pressing than most other men could claim, is still only business. And I have myself an army now---there is no apocalypse so big that I can't hand it off to someone if my baby sister needs me. It's only been six months since Roger died, and before you get histrionic about ME again, I'll tell you that I've already had half a dozen shamans in to check my security protocols. They assure me that even the devil himself could not break into our new headquarters, which is good to know as he will certainly one day try. So be at peace, Madeleine. I shan't leave my fatherless nephews without their uncle too.

And before Mother starts in on you again about it, you can tell her that I am not entirely sure I plan to stay with this council thing forever. Yes, I know, there is still quite a bit of work to be done. Slayers to find, slayers to train…I certainly cannot abandon the world to its fate just because I'm feeling a tiny bit of middle-age ennui. All the same---it IS the 21st century, and they do have ways to automate these things. And unlike the old days, I have an executive I can trust this time. Some of them have gone a little wanderlust-crazy now that they aren't tied to the hellmouth anymore, but I'm seeing signs they're settling--Buffy is still cavorting about in Rome, but she's enrolled Dawn in school. And while Kennedy could probably go on forever tearing a drunken swath through the night clubs of Rio, I am not entirely certain Willow could. She's due back here next month for a check-up with the coven---that was one of the conditions they set when they agreed to help her. She's already excitedly chattering about "quality time" with me, which, although possibly involving more ice cream than I'd prefer, is actually sounding rather nice.

I know, I know, they sound exotic enough to you already without you picturing them mucking about all over Europe, Africa and Central America. But there are slayers in all of those places now, slayers everywhere. Be glad you have boys, Madeleine. Perhaps I'll have washed my hands of the whole thing by the time they'd be old enough to get ensnared. On the other hand, I do have mixed feelings about that approach too. I did warn you I've been melancholy of late. Is it better to keep them innocent? Or is it better to tell them look, there really ARE monsters, and they can hurt you, but that you just might be strong enough to defend yourself? There is a danger now of becoming complacent. The council and their slayer army will take care of that. Surely with all the slayers running about out there, we'll never be TOO far away from one. Well, Madeleine, let me tell you that even a force of denial as powerful as Mother cannot make that true. There are still black holes. There are still villains and there are still heroes, and there are still ordinary people with greatness in themselves they have not yet tested. It is not all about magic and power and destiny, it never was.

Did I ever tell you about Andrew? He's done some unfortunate things, more from foolishness and lack of spine than anything. I did not tolerate him well for quite some time. Then all the others left, and there he was, still there, still trying to prove that he could be the hero, that he was sorry, that he was trying to atone. He'd spent the night in my guest room a few times, same as the others had, when there was business to attend to and he was an able body with half a brain. One night, I caught him mucking around with Xander's dvd collection, replaying over and over again the climactic scene in that war film Spielberg did---the dying hero, clutching the arm of the one he saved, urging "Earn this, earn this" with his last breath. I think he hears Anya's voice when he watches that. I think she haunts him. I think she forgives him, too, for whatever his sins must be, but I would never tell him that. He has a higher purpose this way, doesn't he?

I know, I know, that didn't get ME very far, did it? If it's so wonderful to have a higher purpose, why have I been so gloomy of late? Well, Madeleine, I've been thinking about that. And I'm not entirely sure. I am a good man. I am an honest man. I never strayed far from my principles. But perhaps I strayed a little TOO far from my joys? At what point does the one the hero saves stop "earning" it? At what point can he say this, I do for me and not for you? Is every good that Andrew achieves on Anya's karmic tally and not his own? Is every good that I achieve on you, on Roger, on the boys?

The lonely bachelor. The favored uncle. Did you ever think I would be those things? Perhaps Father was right and a man can never be a man when he spends his time dwelling on girls half his age. But then, he never had an active slayer, did he? He never experienced the connection, the toll, the grief…he WAS right after all, but for all the wrong reasons. In the end, it wasn't the girl, or the girls who did me in. It was the evil. It was the demons. It was the realization that even with power, even with greatness, even with magic, you'll still sometimes hurt, still sometimes lose. And that is entirely a different sort of emasculation, isn't it?

I think, being away so long (and don't tell me America was just a phone call away, you know it wasn't the same) I did lose my grounding some, and it will take me time to get it back again. I could never talk with anyone the way I talk with you, Madeleine. I've missed having that, and I'm glad you'll be so close by again. Once the roads are cleared, perhaps I'll take a weekend and drive up to see you and the boys. You can make me a pot of strong tea and a mincemeat pie and some pudding, and remind me that there are still women I love who are not dead or magic or predestined, and that there are boys still young and innocent and worth saving the world for. You can remind me that sentiment is not a bad thing and that destiny took away some people I cared for, but gave me you.

You mustn't fret about me, dear heart. Just focus on yourself and on the children, and I'll be up there as soon as I am able, to check on you. And when you speak to Mother again, tell her it was good of her to ask of me.

With love,

Rupert