Title: Dear Departed

Author: Night Owl

Rating: PG-13

Feedback: Absolutely thrilled to have it.

Disclaimer: I wish the characters were mine, but they're not. They belong to Mutant Enemy, et. al. I've merely borrowed them for a short time.

Distribution: Don't have a website. If you're interested in archiving, please ask. I'd be more than flattered.

Spoilers: minor spoilers for Ats season 5, The Girl in Question; very vague spoilers for BtVS seasons 6 and 7.

Summary: Buffy's not the only one with issues. Sometimes closure comes in unexpected ways.

Content: little angst, little humor, little closure. Spike & Dawn, B/S implied.

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Dear Departed Dickhead,

I could have written poop head or stupid head or lying, cheating, pretending-to-care-about-people-when-you-really-don't head, but I spent my last year in Sunnydale learning about alliteration in Mrs. Murphy's English class (along with a bunch of other lame things), so I might as well get some use out of it at least once.

Andrew says I have issues. Unresolved issues, on account of how things ended between us. Or, maybe not so much ended as slipped away, like it never really existed to begin with. Sort of like me and those fake memories the monks created. Except I'm still here, and you're…not.

Anyway, he said it might help if I wrote some things down, like in a letter. Things I might have said to you if we'd ever really talked after you showed up in Sunnydale again. Which we didn't, of course, what with you being crazy and all and me not caring very much.

We both know why. That's not something I have to talk about here, right?

This is stupid. I don't really know why Andrew thinks it will help to put all this stuff down on paper. He said when I'm done that he'll get rid of it for me so I never have to see it again. And it's not like you're ever going to read it. It's only going to wind up in a sealed envelope headed for the nearest land fill. Burned and buried. Like you.

Whatever.

This all came up because of something that happened the other day. Or, more precisely (Notice how I'm channeling Giles here?), it's because of something that happened the other night when I was coming home late from a study date. I saw someone. He looked like you. Bleached hair, black leather – that's about all I saw before he disappeared inside a taxi waiting in front of our apartment building.

Guess it was enough.

I didn't realize it was bothering me so much until Buffy came home. I saw her with "him" and it seemed so weird. Everyone thinks he's the greatest thing since the Internet. Everyone but me. And Andrew. Don't get me wrong, he's okay, but he's not right for Buffy. Andrew says he's what she needs right now, even though I know he doesn't like him all that much either. But I think he's wrong. About that, anyway.

Then I got to thinking, what do I know? I used to think you were pretty great, that maybe you'd be good for Buffy if she could just get beyond that whole "evil past" thing. And look how that turned out. Not that I knew you two guys were actually doing it every night when she was out "patrolling" instead of spending time at home. If I had…well, I would have been okay with it because I thought you loved her. I thought you loved me, too.

What a load of crap, right?

Anyway, I started thinking about how everybody approves of him and nobody approved of you, and I felt all funny inside after seeing the guy who looked like you but wasn't, and later, when Buffy and I were alone, I blurted it all out.

I wish I hadn't done that. Buffy was all happy and relaxed when she came in. It's something new for her, and it took her a long time to get there. Some people think it's because of him, but it's not. He's just along for the ride, the Buffy Express, departing Regret City and heading for I'm Okay, with plenty of stops in between.

All right, so it's a lame analogy. But you know what I'm saying here. He's not the long-haul guy. He takes her mind off other things and he's good to her and it doesn't seem to bother him that it's not meant to last.

But still, she was happy. And then I told her about the guy in the taxi, and she got this look in her eyes, like she does sometimes. Not as much as she used to, but it still happens. She got real quiet and told me that sometimes we see things because we want to see them, or need to see them. And that she understood that because she gets glimpses of you, too. On a passing bus, or a crowded dance floor. In a dark alley, or a sun-drenched piazza.

We were still talking when Andrew walked in, home from his hot date. When he heard us, he squeaked…actually squeaked like a mouse…and started talking really fast, babbling on about promises and secrets and other stuff that didn't make any sense. And the more Buffy looked at him, the more rattled he got.

I guess he still misses you, too. Like Buffy, I mean. I certainly don't miss you, no matter what Andrew thinks.

I couldn't. If I did, what kind of person would that make me? That I could miss someone who tried to do what you did? To my own sister?

It's okay for Buffy to miss you, I understand that now. She's the one you hurt, and from some things she said when we were talking, I guess she sort of hurt you, too. She said there were things I didn't know about – things that she couldn't tell me, even now – but that what happened between you was as much her fault as yours. Maybe more.

I'm still not sure I believe that, but Buffy does. So it's okay if she forgives you. If she misses you.

Maybe I could have, too, if you'd given me the chance. If you'd ever said, "I'm sorry for pretending to care about you, Bit. I'm sorry for giving you pet names and talking to you like you were a real person and making you believe I'd always be there for you, no matter what. I'm sorry that the only reason I did those things was because I loved your sister, not you. And I'm sorry I hurt her, when all I ever wanted to do was make her happy, even if I didn't know how."

Maybe I would have forgiven you then. Maybe.

Andrew thinks you never said you were sorry because you didn't want to be forgiven. That maybe you figured it was your punishment, to be cut off from someone you cared about. Andrew says a lot of things, most of them eye-roll worthy, but I wonder if he could be right about this. If he is…

Andrew said even when people forgive you and try to move on, it doesn't always help. Because you can't forgive yourself. You just have to find a way to live with it – to get up every day and know that you've done something unspeakably wrong but that you have to try to make up for it, even though you know you never can.

I don't think you were the only one he was talking about.

Then again, I didn't tell him the main thing you did. Or tried to do. I didn't have the heart. And what good is it, anyway, stirring things up all over again?

I wonder what he'd think if he knew. If it would change his opinion of you. Which is pretty nauseatingly close to god-like worship, if you ask me, but it makes him happy to think of you that way. So I won't mess it up for him.

Not like I messed it up for Buffy. She tries to pretend it's okay, but these last few days, that look is back. And she hasn't been seeing "him" like she was. She's even started ducking his phone calls. I almost feel sorry for him, but mostly I'm mad at myself.

No, mostly I'm mad at you. For doing this to us. For not being here. For dying before I could say these things to your face.

For making me miss you, too.

Stupid vampire.

Yours never,

Niblet

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Author's Note: This "letter" was originally intended to be part of another, slightly longer story, but I think (hope) that it stands better on its own. I've just started working on the other story and plan to post it as a S/B companion piece called "Unfinished Business," so if you're interested, keep an eye out for it. Though I'm generally a slowish writer, this is one of those all-too-rare stories that seems to be writing itself, so ETA is hopefully in about a week, if not sooner.

Thanks so much for reading.

Owl