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Harsh Lessons

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Angel frowned in concentration at the letter he was writing.  Across the table, Cordelia stared at him furtively from beneath her lashes as she pretended to work on paying the bills.  Suddenly his gaze snapped up from the paper to her face.  Busted!  She sighed.

“What’s wrong, Cordelia?”

She sighed again.  Tact was coming a little more easily for her these days, but she got more answers with blunt honesty.  She decided on blunt honesty.  “I thought the whole Buffy-brood cloud would descend again after you got that letter, but it hasn’t.  And I have to say that curiosity is killing me.  What was in that letter?”

Angel’s mouth twitched slightly, but he just looked at her.

A third sigh.  “I know it isn’t any of my business!  But I’m still curious.”

“Actually, she was sharing some information.  And when Wesley gets here, I’ll read it to both of you.” ‘At least, most of it,’ he amended silently. “There are things you’ll be interested in.”

A snort.  “I just bet!”

“Well, you asked.”

Silence descended and he bent back to the letter…a letter that had to be worded just so.

“So, are you going to tell her about the prophecy?”

Startled, Angel looked back up.  “No…..not yet,” he said reluctantly.  He wanted to!  Oh, how he wanted to!

“Why not?”

Angel shrugged.  “I keep thinking about what I said to Lindsey after I cut off his hand.  You know….don’t believe everything you’re foretold.  The shoe’s on the other foot now, and not all prophecies come true. We kept one they were counting on from coming true ourselves. And even if this one does…who knows how long it will be?  I can’t do that to her.”  He could have gone on to explain that Buffy had moved on, that she had another man in her life, and that she was apparently perfectly pleased with the situation, but he didn’t want to depress himself by saying the words out loud.

Cordelia sighed yet again.  She was certainly not Buffy’s biggest fan, but even she thought that the Slayer had every right to be angry about the way Angel kept taking away her decisions and choices.  Tact made a belated appearance however, and she decided not to tell Angel what she thought.  For once.

Angel concentrated again on his letter and silence reigned once more.


Buffy pulled the letter out of her mailbox and stared at it.  She had hoped, but had been afraid that he would not respond, that he would think that it was better if they didn’t have any kind of contact.  She couldn’t help the silly grin that spread across her face.  ‘Stop it!’ she scolded herself.  ‘He’s just a friend, now.  That’s all.’  She didn’t let herself examine her feelings any more closely than that.  Instead, she turned her attention back to the letter.  Angel’s beautiful handwriting adorned the envelope and she enjoyed looking at it for a moment.  Then she noticed that the return address was not the one for Angel Investigations.  What was going on?  ‘You’ll  probably find out if you open the letter, silly,’ she told herself.  But she waited until she had gotten to her room and locked the door.  Willow was at Tara’s, and Buffy was pretty sure she would not be back until the next morning.  And she certainly didn’t want Riley walking in on her.  She fully intended to tell him that she and Angel were corresponding, but right now was not the moment for that.  Right now was for reading the letter in complete solitude.


Dear Buffy:


It was a pleasant surprise to get your letter.  I’m relieved that everyone came through the Adam/Initiative debacle as well as they did.  If past patterns are any indication, you should have a lull in demonic activity over the summer that will be welcome, I’m sure.


//Buffy frowned.  It sounded like he was writing to a stranger.  Actually, he sounded like Giles in full Brit-mode.  She knew his writing style tended toward the formal – he was a product of the time and method of his education.  But this was a little much.  Maybe he was leading up to telling her that he didn’t think this was a good idea.//


I think it’s an excellent idea to share information about our various opponents and their strategies.  We seem to have a situation here in LA that is getting worse, or at least more complicated, and I don’t know where it will end.  I would be very glad to have some other opinions about it.


//Buffy relaxed a little.  This was more like it.//


Before I start telling you about it, I have to say that I think it is ironic that both you and I were being given such harsh lessons about the value of our friends.  The circumstances were different, of course.  While Spike was attempting to separate you from your friends and support group through lies, innuendo, and dissension, I was being separated from my people through physical and magical attacks.  It certainly was a lesson that I don’t want to ever have again, and it sounds like you feel the same.  In addition, my opponents were also attempting to separate me from all my access to the Powers That Be – the Oracles and Cordelia.  You’ll understand what I mean when I tell you the whole story.


//Buffy shivered.  ‘Ironic, indeed,’ she thought.  But it had been a valuable lesson.  And it had led her to take the step of writing to Angel to tell him about it, feeling that friendship of any kind was too precious not to nurture as best she could.//


Since the time that I arrived in L.A., I have, from time to time, been opposed by various employees of a law firm called Wolfram and Hart (or W&H for short).  The employees whom I have actually seen are relatively junior in the organization.  I have no idea who – or what – the senior partners are.  I do know that W&H is connected in some way to a large part of the supernatural (and not so supernatural) evil activity in the L.A. area.

Recently, one of the junior lawyers, Lindsey, apparently found a line that he did not care to cross and came to me for help.  He had discovered that his client had been hired to kill some children, but he didn’t know the details.  With Gunn (I’ll tell you about him later) creating a diversion, he was able to get me into the storage vault of the firm, where I stole the computer disks that Willow helped us decrypt.  I was also strongly drawn to a scroll that appeared to be ancient and valuable, and I took that also.  To this day I don’t know whether I’m glad or sorry that I took that scroll!  We were able to stop the assassin – she was supposed to kill some children who have psychic powers and are being trained as seers.  I had hopes that Lindsey would leave W&H and turn over a new leaf, but we read in the paper a few days later that he had actually been promoted.  I’m afraid there’s little hope for him now, but then everyone would have said the same about me at one time.


//Buffy continued to read, enthralled by Angel’s account of becoming acquainted with Gunn (who sounded really cool), the story of the mysterious demon magician Vocah, the magical attack on Cordelia, the bombing of the office building and Wesley’s injuries, the death of the Oracles, and the raising ceremony that Angel had attempted to disrupt.  The words were drily matter-of-fact, but Buffy could detect the pain and guilt that Angel was feeling between the lines.  As if he were in front of her saying the words aloud, she could hear him thinking that it was all his fault, and that anyone who befriended him was bound to encounter pain and suffering because of it.  She was sure that he had been tempted to leave friends that he held dear so that they would no longer be endangered by being near to him.  The fact that he apparently had not was definitely a step in the right direction, as far as she was concerned.//


It was, of course, all tied in with the scroll.  I had to maim Lindsey badly to get it back, but I had to have it to cure Cordelia.  I don’t think Lindsey will be thinking too kindly of me anytime soon, especially since he’s missing his right hand now, thanks to me. Since then, Wesley has been able to translate part of the scroll, which apparently is ‘The Scroll of Aberjian’ and it seems to contain a number of important prophecies.  You can relax – I haven’t seen any that mention the Slayer.  (I know how you feel about prophecies.)  However, Wesley has been unable to determine who, or what, was raised in the box, and I have a bad feeling that this is far from over.


//Important prophecies, huh?  Buffy had a feeling that there was a great deal being left out here.  If the prophecies weren't about the Slayer, then who were they about?  Maybe a vampire with a soul?  Angel obviously didn’t choose to tell her – yet – but she bet herself that she’d find out eventually.//


I would appreciate it if you would share this letter with Giles.  I would very much like to have any insights he might bring to bear on the situation and the prophecies themselves.  Wesley is doing what he can to find out more, but Giles always seems to have some unique contributions to make.


Tell Willow ‘hey’ for me.  I’m glad that she seems to be recovering from losing Oz and that she has found someone else.  Her help with the computer disks was invaluable and enabled us to save those children’s lives.  Cordelia’s computer skills have improved greatly, and I even use one myself occasionally for research, but neither of us is anywhere close to Willow’s expertise, of course.  I have found computers to be valuable assets, but I’m still not too adept at using some other modern devices, such as cell phones.  I’m trying, though.


//’Angel knows how to use a computer?  And a cell phone?  Wonders never cease,’ Buffy thought in amazement.


It sounds like Riley was a real asset to you during the fight against Adam.  I’m glad you have someone to physically back you up again.  I hope he’s not in too much trouble with the military over the whole Initiative situation.


//Buffy’s mouth quirked.  She could guess the effort it had cost Angel to write those semi-gracious words.//


Cordelia and Wesley seem to have come through their ordeals relatively unscathed.  I still shudder when I think about how close I came to losing them both.  Cordelia has definitely changed.  Oh, she can still be as blunt and self-centered as ever at times, but she knows what the stakes are now and she’s really committed.  She even occasionally acts that way.  To be truthful, though, she had started changing even before this latest event.


We are looking for a new office and apartment for me, but in the meantime, you can reach me at Cordelia’s.  It takes time to find a place that meets my rather unique requirements, as you know, but we have a couple of possibilities. Cordelia has been very gracious about allowing us to work out of her apartment and giving me a place to stay.  But I hope to be back in my own place soon – life with Cordelia and a ghost can be wearing at times!


//Ghost?  What ghost?  Buffy didn’t know about any ghosts!  ‘Cordelia has a ghost living with her?’  Buffy snickered.  ‘I bet that’s an interesting situation!  I’ll ask Angel about it next time I write him.’  She couldn’t help the feeling of relief that she felt at Angel’s caustic comment about living with Cordelia.  Or the twinge of jealousy.  Unbidden, a vision of Angel, shirtless and lounging on a couch reading a book, rose before her.  She shook her head to drive it away.  Shirtless Riley was delectable enough for anybody.  She should be appreciating the good thing she had, not lusting after something she couldn’t have.


I must close now.  I do think the proposal that you made is certainly a workable one, and I look forward to getting any information you care to pass on.  I will certainly do the same.

Take care,



//Buffy gazed at the characteristic squiggle beneath Angel’s signature with a faint sense of disappointment.  He could have been a little more enthusiastic than that!  She moved the page to the back of the sheaf and paused in surprise at the sight of another page.//


P.S.  I know you probably think this letter is very stiff and formal.  I do want you to share it with Giles and I didn’t want there to be anything in it to embarrass you in any way.  You may even feel you need to show it to Riley.  So, you can throw this page away and no one will be the wiser. 

Please let me know what Giles says.  Wesley may have talked to him, but, in case he hasn’t, I want Giles to know about this.  Like I said, I have a bad feeling.  Maybe he has some ideas about that box!

I am, of course, delighted to correspond with you.  However if, at any time, you feel that this was a mistake or it creates problems for you, please don’t hesitate to say so.  You know how I feel – how I will always feel about you.  But I know you’ve moved on (just as I said you should) and I respect that.

Remember when we first met?  You knocked me on my ass and told me that maybe you didn’t want me as a friend.  And I answered, “I didn’t say I was yours.”  But now I’m saying that I am your friend – first and foremost, now and always, regardless of anything or anybody that might come between us or whether we ever even see each other again.  I think we’ve both learned a little more recently about the value of friendship.  And, like you, I intend to cherish it as much as possible.




Buffy blinked her eyes rapidly.  She was not crying!  She had thought she’d reached the stage of moving on where she could do this.  Maybe she had been wrong.  Then she shook her head in determination.  This would work – she would make it work.  She could have Angel as a friend but Riley was the man in her life now…the man that she loved!  But she stared at the last page through her tears for a long time, memorizing the words, before she slowly tore it into tiny bits.  Unlocking the door, she walked to the bathroom and flushed the pieces, then returned to the room to repair her makeup and call Giles.  She had a letter to show him.