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(Before Angel gets the first letter from Buffy)

Angel looked up as Cordelia opened the door to her apartment.  She had just been released from the hospital.  He hadn’t been able to bring her home himself because it was the middle of the day, so he'd left money for a taxi.  He smiled – broadly for him.  “Welcome home!”

“God, I’m glad to be out of there!  The food was beyond belief and the clothes totally sucked!  Have you ever worn one of those hospital gowns?  They give new meaning to the word ‘skimpy’.  They could have let me go yesterday, but no!  ‘We need more tests!’  I hope they’re happy now!”

“Well, you know that what happened to you was pretty strange from their viewpoint.  Not many explanations for it.”

“I guess.”  Cordelia came over and sat down at the table across from Angel.  “Where’s Wesley?”

“He’s at his apartment resting.  He said he’d come over later this afternoon.”  Angel looked at Cordelia appraisingly.  “We didn’t have much of a chance to talk after you – came back to yourself.  Can you tell me what happened?”

“I honestly don’t know.  I had gone to the street market and had just bought some stuff at one of the stalls.  Then I had a vision.  But this one went on and on and on.  And it kept changing!  More and more people in terrible trouble!  You know how painful they are.  This was worse!!  I guess I really lost it, but I don’t remember anything but the visions and the terrible pain.  I was even beyond worrying about the drool factor!” 

“Did you notice anyone in particular around the area before the visions started?”

“No.  The only person I really noticed was the woman I bought the stuff from.” Cordelia broke off and looked at Angel guiltily.

“What?”

“I guess it’s gone now.  I’ll go back this weekend and see if the stall lady picked up the bags and saved them for me, but probably not.  I’ll bet someone helped themselves.”

“Was it important?”

“Well – it was for you.”

“Me?  What would you be getting for me?”

“Wesley and I were worried about you.  You know, after he told you about the Shanshu prophecy?  That you’re going to die?  You just didn’t react at all.  I thought maybe if you had a hobby to take your mind off things you’d get more interested in life around you.  So I got you some art stuff.  You know – drawing and painting.”

“I’m interested,” Angel protested.  He was touched that she had thought of something like that.  A familiar feeling of guilt swept over him.  He tried to suppress it by rationalizing that Vocah would have found Cordelia wherever she was.  But she had been doing something for him, Angel, when she found herself in terrible danger.  Because of him, as usuaal.

“Maybe,” she said doubtfully, “but you’re also pretty removed from it all.  You react – but you don’t seem to be involved.  Do you know what I mean?”

“No, not really.  I’m involved!  I do things!”

Cordelia sighed.  “I’m not explaining it very well, I know.  Wesley says you don’t grow, you don’t change, that you’re set apart, that you don’t want anything.  And that’s why you weren’t upset about dying.”

Angel stood up and paced around the room.  “I think I’ve changed quite a bit.  I’m certainly not the same – being – that I was five years ago.  You think I’m uninvolved now – you should have seen me then.  And I’m learning about relating to people!  Slowly, maybe, but I am learning.  Cordelia,” he paused for a moment, “I don’t want to die, believe me!  But it might be better if I do.  The world will probably be a better place when I’m gone.  I only seem to bring pain and suffering to people around me, regardless of how much I try!  Not to mention maybe turning evil again.”  He looked down, and then up at her with an anguished expression.

“Oh, Angel!  That’s not true!  The world is a better place because you’re here – fighting the good fight.  Helping the hopeless and the weak, and all that stuff!  Look at all the people you’ve helped since you came to L.A.”

 “You know that I want to make amends.  I want to find redemption.  I want to help people.”

“Well, in the cosmic scheme of things, Angel, that’s pretty – cosmic!  Don’t you want anything a little more down-to-earth?  A little more -- human?”

Angel stared at the floor.  “Of course,” he almost whispered.  “You know what I want.  But I can’t have it!  Maybe that’s why I seem ‘removed’.  Everything else seems pretty removed compared to knowing that I can never have the things I want the most.”

“Buffy,” Cordelia stated flatly.

“Buffy,” Angel agreed sadly.  “And being human – having a normal life.  But those are things I can never have.  Not now.  I forfeited the right to those things long ago.”

Cordelia looked at him with pity.  “Angel, you do a lot of good in the world now.  You’re making up for what you did in the past.  You’ll earn your redemption – one of these days.”

“But not soon enough,” he whispered.  “Not soon enough to have what I want most!  It will take an eternity to make up for the things I’ve done – if I have an eternity to do it in.”

 

(After Angel gets Buffy’s letter)

Angel finished reading aloud his carefully-edited rendition of Buffy’s letter and looked up expectantly at Cordelia and Wesley.

“Well, that’s certainly something,” Cordelia commented.  “Just another run-of-the-mill end-of-the-world scenario for Buffy, huh?”

Wesley eyed his boss carefully.  “Do you think it’s wise for you and Buffy to correspond?  You didn’t seem to be getting along too well when she came to L.A. last.”

“Well, she seems to have forgiven me for beating up her boyfriend, anyway,” Angel commented wryly.  “She’s right, though.  We did part on better terms when I went to apologize to her.”

“I bet she didn’t apologize, though,” Cordelia said bitterly.  “From what Wesley told me, she was more in the wrong than you!”

“Faith makes her crazy,” Angel commented briefly.  “And she did kind of walk in on us in a compromising position – even though nothing was happening.  She’s always been very insecure about Faith…” he stopped, remembering the attempt Buffy had made to read his mind when she had gotten the aspect of the demon.  He had tried his best to make her understand that Faith meant nothing more to him than a troubled human being whom he might help, but he knew that deep down, Buffy was still paranoid about Faith.  And then, of course, the body-switch had made a bad situation much, much worse.  “She had her reasons for blowing up like that,” he finished mildly.

Cordelia eyed him, but said nothing further, just sighed loudly.

“Are you going to answer her letter?” Wesley asked.

“Yes,” Angel replied briefly.

Wesley and Cordelia glanced at each other dubiously.  Neither was very hopeful that this would lead to anything good.

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(A week later – just after Buffy reads Angel’s letter)

Buffy rang Giles’ doorbell and then opened the door without waiting for a response.  He was expecting her.

“Hey, Giles.  Any Hellmouth news this morning?”

“No, things seem to be relatively quiet for the moment.  The summer lull does seem to have commenced.”

“That’s good.  I could use a little lull after the whole Adam thing.”

“You said you had something to show me?”

Buffy held out Angel’s letter and braced herself.  She had no idea how Giles would react to this.  Probably he wouldn’t think it was a good idea that she had written, but she didn’t care.  If it was up to her, she wouldn’t have shown the letter to him, but Angel had specifically asked her to, so here she was.

“Uh, before you look at this I guess I had better explain,” she started.  “After the fight with Adam, I decided to write a letter to Angel and tell him about it.  The thing with Faith in L.A. kind of convinced me that maybe he and I needed to start sharing information about the bad things happening in our lives – that it might be helpful at some point.  It would have helped if he had known about Faith, for example.”

“Well, that’s probably true,” Giles agreed, “but are you sure about this, Buffy?  Do you think it's wise?”

“Look, Giles, Angel and I have separate lives now.  I’ve moved on.  He knows that.  I think we can be friends – friends that are in the same business, more or less.  This will work,” Buffy said firmly.

Giles looked at her doubtfully for a moment, but said nothing further.  He knew that when Buffy made up her mind about something, it was useless to argue.  Stubborn was the Slayer’s middle name, he thought at times.  He hoped she was not opening herself up to further pain, however.  And he very much wondered what Riley would have to say about it.  Not that Riley would be able to change Buffy’s mind anymore than he himself could.  But Riley might not know that.

“Angel asked me to show you his letter,” Buffy explained as she handed the envelope to Giles.  “He wants your opinion about some of the things that are happening there.  They’ve been having a pretty exciting time, too.”

“Yes, Wesley called me, but I’m interested to see what Angel has to say about it,” was Giles’ only comment.  He wondered if Angel had told her about the prophecy.  If not, he wasn’t about to “spill the beans,” as Americans said.  He pulled out the pages of the letter and began to read.

“It’s incredible that he found the Scroll of Aberjian,” he commented after he finished.  “Those prophecies have been believed to be lost for hundreds of years.  It will be very interesting to see what comes out of the translation.”  He breathed a mental sigh of relief that Angel had not mentioned the Shanshu prophecy.  He didn’t want Buffy subjected to more pain and uncertainty.  Neither did Angel, apparently.  But he should have expected that – Angel always did what he thought was best for Buffy.

“What about the box?”  Buffy asked.

“I don’t know.  I’ll have to do some research, but offhand I’d say that whatever was raised in the box has something to do with a vampire, since vampires were sacrificed in the ritual.  Like calls to like.  But the possibilities are endless.  And how can a vampire who has been destroyed and turned to dust be resurrected?”

“Maybe one like the Master?” Buffy asked.  “Another one who didn’t totally turn to dust?”

“That’s a possibility.  I think I know some books that might have some answers.  There’s Schulberg’s Ceremonies and Rites – I believe it deals with raising ceremonies….and then ….” He trailed off muttering to himself.

“Why am I not surprised?” muttered Buffy sarcastically.  “What shall I tell Angel?”

“I’ll call Angel when I have something to tell him.  I want to talk to Wesley again, too.  If you are going to answer the letter, you might alert Angel that I’ll be in touch.”  He handed the letter back to her.

“Okay.  I’ll be writing in a day or two.  Right now I have a lunch date with Riley.  I have to tell him about this too.  It’s not fair not to.”  Buffy didn’t look overjoyed at the prospect.

“Good luck, then,” Giles said.  “Are you patrolling tonight?”

“As usual.  I’ll talk to you in the morning, okay?  Bye,” Buffy breezed out.  Giles stared at the door for a moment, then turned to his bookshelves with a sigh.  He also had a bad feeling about what was going on in Los Angeles.  And he didn’t know if he could come up with any answers either.

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“You seem to have something on your mind,” Riley said as he watched Buffy stare off into space.  She had been quieter than usual over lunch.  He could tell that she was worried.

“Yes, I have something to tell you,” Buffy bit the bullet.

“So, tell me,” Riley invited.

“I wanted you to know that I wrote a letter to Angel asking him to exchange information about what’s going on “professionally” in our lives.  He’s answered and agreed that it’s a good idea.  But I don’t want you to think that I’m doing this behind your back, or that there’s anything more to it than that.”

Riley stared at her.  He couldn’t believe it!  She had told him that Angel was totally of the past.  And now she was writing to him?  He forced himself to count to ten before he said anything, however.  Military discipline was useful at times. 

“I can’t say that I’m overjoyed to hear that.  How do you know that he won’t take advantage of this to try to work his way back into your life?”

“Remember that he left me.  He wanted me to have the things that he couldn’t give me.  I doubt he’s going to change his mind about that now,” Buffy replied.

“Are you sure that subconsciously you don’t want to work your way back into his life?”  Riley asked painfully.

“Ever the psychology T.A.,” Buffy quipped.  “No, I don’t want to be back in his life.  We have separate lives now.  Both of us know that.  You’re the man in my life and that’s the way I want it.”

“Then why did you decide to do this now?”

“First it was the Faith episode,” Buffy explained.  “If Angel had known about Faith coming out of the coma, it would have been better for all concerned.  Then the deal with Adam and Spike made me more aware of the importance of holding on to my friends.  Riley, “ she looked him square in the eye, “Angel is a friend.  I hope you can accept that.  Because that’s all he is.”

“If you’re sure,” Riley stared back.  He was not at all sure, himself.

“Would you like to read his letter?  It might make you feel better,” Buffy offered.

“Sure, if you’re willing to share.”  Buffy handed him the envelope.  ‘Maybe this is going to be okay after all,’ they both thought simultaneously.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

“Guess what!”  Willow told Tara.

“What?”

“Buffy and Angel are writing letters.  Buffy let me read the letter he wrote her and he said I helped to save some children’s lives by helping them decrypt those computer disks!”  Willow announced.  She wore a broad grin.  It felt really good to know that she had actually made a difference and saved some lives.  Not that she hadn’t done that before.  But children!

“That’s great!  But I thought Angel and Buffy didn’t have anything to do with each other.  Didn’t they have a big fight when Buffy went to L.A.?”  Tara asked.

“I guess, but he came and apologized to her.  Not that I think the blame was all on his side, knowing Buffy.  Faith really makes her crazy.  But the fight with Adam and the stuff Spike tried on us made her think about things differently.  She decided that they needed to be exchanging information about the Hellmouth and demons and stuff,” Willow explained.

“Do you think that’s all it is?” Tara inquired.

“I don’t know,” Willow answered thoughtfully.  “I don’t think Buffy will ever be completely over Angel.  She may think she is – but there’s still a spark there.”

“That’s not good, is it?” Tara asked.  She had never met Angel, but she had certainly heard enough about him.

“I don’t know,” Willow repeated.  “Buffy and Angel are a powerful force when they’re together.  Sometimes I think that they’re destined for each other and that they’re soulmates.  Other times I’m sure it’ll never happen.  Realistically I don’t see how it can.  They’ve hurt each other so much!  And it’s so hard for them to be together, because of the things that they can’t have.  And she and Riley seem happy with each other – for now, at least.”  Willow knew from her own experience that such happiness might not last.  But she also knew now that new happiness could come to take its place.

“Well, if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen when it’s time,” Tara replied calmly.  “Two opposites brought together can indeed be a very powerful force.  And the Powers sometimes work in mysterious ways.  This time apart could be intended to strengthen them for the future.”

“True,” Willow stared into space.  Then she shook herself mentally, and picked up Miss Kitty.  “Angel found this old scroll that has some important prophecies, too.”

“What about?” Tara asked with interest.

“I don’t know – he didn’t say.  In fact,” Willow said thoughtfully, “he didn’t say much about it other than that the scroll contained some prophecies.  It’s like he didn’t want to say any more.  He did say the prophecies weren’t about the Slayer, though.”

“Maybe they’re about him,” Tara commented. “and he doesn’t want Buffy to know.”

“Could be, but we may never know either,” Willow said.  She petted the kitten and changed the subject.  “We’ve still got to come up with a name for her.  Any new ideas?”  And the two girls turned their attention to other matters.