I didn’t write this letter to yell at you some more about you leaving. Buffy wants me to keep you posted on how things are going in Sunnydale; she says she thinks it’ll encourage everyone to make healthy choices if they know you know what they’re doing. I can’t say I agree—after all, I am writing the idiot who decided to leave—but I love Buffy a lot, and I want to do my best to respect her wishes.
Business is booming at the Magic Box, particularly thanks to Anya’s many fiscally responsible choices. She made a lot of investments in rare items that are finally starting to pay out, and she’s over the moon about it, especially since you called most of her investments “unreasonable expenditures.” And yes, she did specifically ask me to “rub my success in your stupid husband’s stupid face.” I am more than happy to do so.
Xander is dating around again. No demons this time, thank goodness—his new boyfriend is perfectly nice and perfectly normal, at least as far as we can tell. Anya keeps on asking the poor guy if he has any horns in weird places. Honestly, it’s a marvel that we still manage to keep the Scooby Gang under wraps; secrecy has been all but thrown out the window as of late. I’m pretty sure Dawn went so far as to bring her friend Janice to one of the meetings, but they spent most of it eating all the jelly donuts and gossiping about high school drama.
Willow and Tara broke up. I had to have a very serious chat with Willow about magic,
one that I really fucking wished you were there for, and now Tara’s staying with me. Willow made a few efforts to quit cold turkey before I strong-armed her into getting actual professional help, and now she’s seeing a friend of mine in Los Angeles every Thursday. I don’t know if she’s improving, but it’s better than just leaving her for England and pretending everything’s okay at least a start.
Faith is, I think, more furious at you than I am, which says a whole lot. When I asked her what she wanted me to put into this letter, she said, flatly, “A really, really bad hex,” and went off to help Anya restock the back shelves of the Magic Box. She’s mad on Buffy’s behalf and on mine, and I can’t say I blame her. I don’t think I’ve stopped being mad at you either.
I don’t think I will. Buffy needed you. Needs you.
You didn’t respond to my last letter. Dick move, asshole.
Buffy’s taken up working at the Magic Box for the time being. It was a shaky start, but I thought it would be better than a double shift at the Doublemeat, so now she’s officially in charge of floor arrangement. It’s mostly a thinly veiled excuse for me to support her financially—and yeah, I know you wouldn’t approve. But you’re not here—so.
Willow wants me to write you that I miss you. She says that she’s being honest with her therapist, and Buffy’s being honest with all of us, and even Tara’s learning how to be honest with her, but she doesn’t see me being honest with anyone, and she doesn’t think that’s a good sign.
So, okay. I miss you. I miss the parts of you that made me feel like my honesty wasn’t a weakness. I miss how it felt when you held me; it made me feel like there was one stable thing in this violent, frightening town.
And it was stupid. I want you to know that I think trusting you was stupid. You left abruptly, and without looking back, and that isn’t someone worthy of my trust.
Today I found out that Dawn’s been stealing from the Magic Box. It started out small—the stash in her bedroom included, among other things, one of Tara’s earrings and a tube of lipstick that I think belonged to Anya—but today she went after the money in the till, and Anya caught her. I had to give Anya a furious talking-to about how to handle distressed teenagers, because Anya had been screaming at Dawn for a good few minutes when I arrived. I think she saw it as something of a betrayal.
I took Dawn to the back room and we talked a little about what had happened. I told Dawn that Anya had been completely out of line, which seemed to surprise her.
“I did something bad,” she said. “I deserved to be yelled at.”
I had to consider what I said next. It felt like one of those important moments that you were always so much better at. Do you remember when Willow came out to us and you knew just what to say? You made her a cup of tea and let her cry on our couch and told her about dating Ethan Rayne in the early seventies. You left the room to fix her a snack platter and I stumbled through some awkward coming-out speech of my own, but it didn’t feel quite as authentic as yours. You have that way about you, sometimes—this sincerity—I don’t know how to replicate it with you gone. I feel like sincerity is what these kids need, and I don’t know how much of it I have anymore.
Anyway, I told her that she didn’t deserve any of the dumb stuff that had been happening to her, because I felt like that was something she needed to hear. Then I asked her why she’d been stealing, and she said, clumsily, that she wanted to know how bad it would get before anyone noticed.
“So are you just gonna stop now?” I asked her.
“I don’t know,” she said, and hid her face in my shoulder.
It’s harder to be angry now that it’s been a month with no word from you. I was so furious with you, at first, and a part of me still feels that way, but…I was angry with you because it felt like you didn’t care how much we needed you here. Like it was so much easier for you to leave than to work through the messy, painful reality of people needing you, maybe more than you were ready to handle.
You married me, remember? Shouldn’t you be okay with people needing you?
Enclosed are the remains of that bouquet you sent me for our anniversary a few days ago. I tried to put the flowers through the shredder, as a pointed gesture, but I ended up just breaking the shredder. Faith helped me set the whole thing on fire, and then we swept it all up into a plastic bag.
Fuck you. Fuck you for reading my letters and not sending a single word back, and fuck you for thinking that some shitty English roses are going to make anything better between us.
Anya and I are really drunk tonight and she said I should write you while I’m honest. I’m more honest while I’m drunk
I love you so so much and I miss you even more
and i dont know why was I not enough to stay for
we said we needed you
please, please come back
you said you don’t know how to take care of these kids, but you always knew more than me, and now i feel so fucking adrift
I’m only like thirty percent certain I sent you a letter while totally wasted a few days ago, but on the off chance I did, an advance warning: whatever I wrote in it is probably absolute nonsense. You know how I get when I’m drunk. I feel like I should tell you to throw that letter out, but I don’t think I want you to. You know me better than anyone; you’ll probably be able to piece together whatever the hell drunk-Jenny was trying to tell you. I think it was something important.
Willow isn’t doing all that much better. I honestly thought she was making improvement, but yesterday I caught her sneaking out with Amy Madison to see Rack again. She and Tara were a hair away from a genuine reconciliation, but now all chances of that are gone. Willow’s furious that Tara won’t just forgive her, and Tara’s even angrier that Willow’s been lying to her. Things are getting worse and worse and I’m honestly afraid of what it might take for Willow to genuinely seek out help. Short of one of us dying, I don’t know if anything will.
I’m staying with Buffy and Dawn now, and Faith and Tara came along with me. That, at least, is going pretty well. Dawn in particular seems to be doing so much better now that there’s a whole bunch of people living with her; she’s never lacking in attention and affection, which I think is what she’s really been craving. Faith complains a lot about the cramped quarters, but it’s clear her presence is helping Buffy a whole bunch. That Slayer-connection thing hasn’t faded, and while they’re nowhere near resuming their romantic relationship, she and Buffy do still spend a lot of time together. I think that that’s a good thing.
Tara’s still having trouble with the missing memories. I asked her if she wanted them back, and she says she can’t decide yet. I think she’s a little afraid of finding out exactly how bad the stuff with Willow was, which I can understand. You know, I don’t really remember Eyghon? Not just because it’s been years—I have trouble remembering it outside of nightmares. I think it’s kind of a defense mechanism. It’s not something I want to spend a whole bunch of time thinking about it, anyway, mostly because I feel like it’s probably ten times worse than I let myself remember. So I can definitely get why Tara might not want to pick apart her brain and figure out what was so bad that Willow decided it was worth erasing.
I still don’t know how things are going, but I don’t regret staying. I’m not as angry as I was when we last saw each other. I’m tired, and I miss my husband, and it’s kind of a bummer that he’d rather hide away across the pond than sort through our first big fight as a married couple. Makes me think he’s rethinking the concept of marriage as a whole.
Do you ever think about all the crappy school dances we chaperoned? There was this one song on the radio—I don’t remember the lyrics, but I think it was the song we danced to at the kids’ senior prom. Halfway through the second verse, you kissed me, and then you said you wanted to just never let go of me.
I don’t know why I’m writing this letter sober. Music sometimes gets me like a punch to the solar plexus. I guess I just can’t stop wondering…when did we lose that? The guy who held me so close and got me that red-and-brown corsage would never have left me in Sunnydale to take care of the kids on my own.
I know you’re not going to answer this. I think that makes it a little easier for me to send it off.
Willow backslid hard and I need you
please come home, you always know what to say, what to do
Willow’s staying with me. Just her and me. I left Tara and Faith with Buffy and Dawn, I think Xander’s still with his boyfriend, and Anya’s probably at her lovely little apartment, and Willow is with me at our old place. I don’t know what happened—she won’t tell me—but I think it was bad.
No one’s hurt. I don’t think anyone’s hurt. But it’s terrifying, seeing Willow so undone. She’s crying about how she wants to go back to seeing the magical therapist I had her seeing, and how she doesn’t know who she is without the magics, and how all she wants is to be good enough for Tara again. Nothing I said seemed to calm her down, and she ended up crying herself out and falling asleep on my couch. I’m going to have to look into alternative avenues for magical rehabilitation tonight.
I’m writing you because you have experience with this kind of thing. If you could send me some resources, even just a name to look up or a number to call, that might help Willow in any way, it would mean the world to me. All I want to do is help these kids, and Willow really needs help right now.
There’s a coven in Devon that helps rehabilitate wayward magic users. Put Willow on a plane to me and I’ll see what I can do.
Ever your loving husband,
(unsent; blotted with tears, crumpled up, and thrown into the trash can in Jenny’s study)
Are you fucking serious?
Two sentences. Two sentences, and calling yourself my loving fucking husband. I’ve sent you endless letters—and, okay, some of them were outright hostile, but I was still making an effort to bridge the gap. You only told me we were leaving after you bought the plane tickets, and you left by yourself without any hesitation. I told you I couldn’t possibly leave those children right after Buffy had been ripped out of heaven, and so you went ahead and left me behind, and…
Do you remember that little musical number you did while you were training Buffy? I was by the door. How do you not know that the husband I treasure was always my stalwart, standing fast? Consistency isn’t a luxury I ever had in my life before you. To find you gone so quickly…it was like the rug had been pulled out from under me.
I miss my husband so much it aches. I just don’t know if you’re him anymore.
Not gonna lie, I wrote a much angrier draft before this one.
Talk to me.
All I ever get from you is radio silence. How am I supposed to deal with that?
I write you and I write you and I beg you to come home, and it finally takes Willow falling apart for you to give me anything. Of course I put her on that plane. I know you, and I know you’ll get her to people who can help her better than the both of us. But I also want you to know that all this stuff that went down—maybe it couldn’t have been avoided. Maybe Willow was always going to go off the deep end, and Buffy was always going to start up some weird symbiotic relationship with Spike of all people, and Dawn was always going to be stealing money from the Magic Box till—but you were supposed to be there for it. You have a responsibility to these kids.
I know you can say it’s just Buffy you’re focused on protecting, but the thing is, you married me, and you promised me a thousand times over that you’d be there when I needed you. These children matter to me, and I need you to help me be the person who can help them.
Never have you needed my assistance to help those children. If anything, I think it’s best I stay away.
Ever your loving husband,
Sign off with “ever your loving husband” one more time and I’m hexing the next letter to rip your ever-loving head off.
IF I ASK YOU FOR YOUR HELP, I NEED YOUR HELP.
I cannot abide by the way you describe yourself in these letters. You seem to think that my coming back would fix things, that I somehow bring more to the table than you ever could…I don’t understand why you seem so unable to recognize that it really is the other way around.
I wished to leave because I believed it the right choice for myself. I believed that, if I stayed, I would enable Buffy and the children to rely on me in ways that might put them in danger. I don’t have it in me to draw lines or set limits—all I want to do is keep those children safe. That concept is nothing but selfish on my part.
You have always been able to recognize the difference between people who need help and people who rely too heavily on it. I never have. If Buffy asked me to kill her monsters, I would do it without hesitation—you, at least, would consider whether she needed a reassuring hand or a gentle push into the fray.
I cannot come home to you until I am a stronger husband, and a stronger man.
I love you,
I’m going to fly to England and murder you.
Would it have killed you to tell me that that was why you left? Our argument left me believing that you thought little of me for staying—that you thought you were holding Buffy back, and that she didn’t really need help. You never said you were afraid you couldn’t make that distinction anymore. And—even if you can’t, which I extremely doubt is the case, that’s the whole point of having a partner in this whole thing. You have somebody to talk to. You shouldn’t shut down and shut me out and fly halfway across the world just because you’re afraid of hurting the people you love.
And look, I’m willing to concede that my letters may have been unnecessarily hard on myself. I know I’m awesome, and I know I really have helped those kids just by virtue of being there for them. I think I just wanted you to know that I was scared, because sometimes when I’m scared, you come back and hold me.
You make things better, Rupert. You make me better. Being in a committed relationship for the first time…it’s taught me a lot about myself, and about you, and about what two people can build together. But we’re not doing each other any favors with an ocean between us.
We need to talk. Please come home.
Hi Ms. Calendar!
I’m in Devon with a whole bunch of really nice witches, and also Giles! He’s been kind of fussing over me ever since the plane landed; it’s really sweet. He had so many questions about everyone, and how they’re doing—and he really wants to know how you’re doing, for the record. He tried to play it cool, but…you know Giles. He’s not that good at that kinda stuff.
I think I’m doing better. For-real better, not trying-to-fix-myself-so-I-can-be-with-Tara better. I don’t think directly writing her a letter is the right call, after all the stuff I put her through, but…if you can tell her I’m sorry? That’d mean a whole lot to me.
Thank you for letting me stay on your couch that night, and for all the stuff you’ve done to try and help me with the magic. You’ve always gone above and beyond, taking care of us, and I don’t know where I’d be if you hadn’t stayed in Sunnydale.
I love you, and I am fearful I will hurt you by returning.
If you come home, I’ll at least know you still want to be with me. That’s a better kind of hurt than you staying away.
How could you ever doubt
I miss you so much, so desperately
I always, always want to be with you. Please don’t think that has changed.
Mostly, then, I am concerned about the children, and about the damage I have caused them by staying away. I don’t know how much good I will do them by returning. Willow has emphasized in great detail how much support you have provided for them—I cannot imagine any of them will be pleased to see me, after I so callously left you to pick up the pieces of Buffy’s return. I feel that my leaving has revealed a side of myself that I never wanted
our the children to see.
Of course I’ll tell Tara you’re sorry. She’s angry at you, but it’s only ever because she loves you, and she knows what you’re capable of—good things, just as much as bad.
I am so glad to hear that you’re doing better, and so unbelievably proud of you. Recovery can only really start when you yourself are willing to make the effort, and it sounds like you’ve finally reached that point.
Helping you has been the easiest decision in the world. I love you, and I know you’re going to do great things.
Not gonna lie, I totally did cry a whole bunch when I got your letter. And I made Giles frame it. And then I found out that Giles has been keeping every single one of your letters. Remember all those times you would complain about how he was probably throwing them all out? He keeps them by his bed, and he reads them every night. Even the ones where you tell him how much you hate him for leaving. He says it gives him something to work towards.
For the record, I told him that he’s being a real idiot, staying in England while you’re missing him in Sunnydale. He said he knows, but he doesn’t know how he’s supposed to fix things, and he’s scared he might not be able to, this time around. I told him that that didn’t make him any less of an idiot, and he got this look on his face and said, “When did you get so grown-up, Willow?” And I said it was because you can’t get hooked on magic and ruin your own life and not grow up a little.
Then he kind of started crying and hugged me. I think we both needed that.
You asked me to pass along a message for you. Can you maybe pass one on for me?
Give the enclosed letter to Rupert. In person. I don’t want it coming in the mail—I want to know that someone I trust gave it to him. It’s important that he gets it.
I thought long and hard about what to put in this letter, because I think I’ve been coming about this whole situation the wrong way. It’s justified, completely, for me to be angry at you; it was fucked up of you to leave me. But more and more, I’m beginning to piece together why you decided to go, and I’m beginning to understand that it’s not as clear-cut as you being rigid and inflexible and unwilling to listen to my line of thinking.
Funny, huh? I always seem to be the one to start our arguments, thinking that you’re not listening to me because you don’t think all that much of me. And then you always think that the best thing to do is to shut yourself away from the rest of the world—not to preserve your line of thinking, but to protect others from you. It feels like we’re perpetually living out those pre-Moloch days.
Only it’s a little bit different now.
I know what I’m losing out on if I let you lock yourself inside your head. And I know you think you’ll just make things worse, but…god, Rupert, I don’t think you completely understand how much better you have made the lives of the people around you. Your instincts have always been telling you to stay with your wife and kids, haven’t they? Because you want to help the people you love, and be there for the people who need you? Just go with that and I think you’ll be okay.
You have no idea how much our children love you. Buffy is so happy that you finally checked in with her, and has been talking endlessly about the phone conversation you two had. Xander has a whole list of questions he wants to ask you about being bi and dating other guys. Faith still kinda wants to punch you in the throat, but she does want me to mention in this letter that she’ll hold off on the throat punches if you come back from England with one of those really expensive knives from the Council collection. Willow—of course you know Willow. She’s over there, with you, in England, and I can’t think of a safer place for her to be.
You are so much stronger than you know. And so what if you’re not always able to draw the line when it comes to helping our kids? What do you think I’m here to help you do?
I love you very much. I hope this is one of the letters you read before going to bed—I hope this is the last letter you read before going to bed, now, because I want you to end the night knowing that I love you. If I’m not here to tell you that, and kiss you, know that I want to, and know that I miss you just as much as you miss me.
Postscript: Incidentally, your leaving was definitely one of the bad calls. Just to hammer that point home one more time.
You deserve a love letter of equal caliber, but I am afraid I cannot give you a very good one in return. There is very little time to write, in between packing for Sunnydale and making sure Willow will be all right with the coven.
I love you, I love you, I love you—and I am coming home. I hope this letter reaches you long after I do; I am anxious to see you again.
I had forgotten, I think, that you have always been the more eloquent one of the both of us. Ironic, given that my profession so largely relies on words—but it was you who was always direct, and honest, about the way you felt with me, around me, about me. I should not be so surprised by how prolific and intimate your letter was—and yet I am, which just goes to show that I have been gone for too long.
I think the world of you. Never doubt that. I think that sometimes the truth in your words frightens me. It is quite horribly easy to believe myself inept, my judgment flawed. Hearing you reaffirm that the choices I want to make are the right ones…after so long spent in the Council, being told that leading with one’s heart would destroy the world, it is a hard message to understand.
But I have hurt you by shaking off your faith in me. I will not make that mistake again.
Ever your loving husband (feel free to kill me in person when I get home),
Everybody seems to be writing letters, so I thought I’d join in the fun.
Enclosed are a whole bunch of pictures of Giles and Ms. Calendar crying all over each other at the airport, because it was honestly pretty sweet and I’d hate for you to miss it. Also Xander took a couple pictures of them making out at baggage claim when they thought we had all gone off to get food, because if we have to deal with seeing them sucking face, then so do you. Giles tried to get Xander to destroy the film, but Ms. Calendar said it was important that Willow felt included, and then she kissed Giles some more just to gross us all out. It kinda didn’t work, because none of us have seen Ms. Calendar that happy in months.
They’re doing okay, mostly. Not the greatest, but they’re talking again, which is a total improvement from Giles not answering any of Ms. Calendar’s very angry letters. To be honest, I asked Ms. Calendar to start writing Giles because I thought he would answer a few of her letters, and then maybe they’d actually talk about how dumb their argument was, but Giles was kinda reaching Peak Idiot lately so that didn’t really work.
Somehow they made it work again, though. Which is nice. Spike tried to get me to bet on when they’re going to break up again, and I punched him in the face—but, you know. In a friendly way. Ms. Calendar still has no idea why Spike and I are friends, and I honestly don’t know either.
Faith and I are trying to do the whole dating thing again. I’m pretty sure we were only just edging towards it when you left, so…you know. Kinda wanted to tell you the happy news. We’re still figuring it out, but we’re doing it together, which is I think what counts.
Tara wants you to know that she loves you very much, and she’s really glad to know you’re finally getting the help you need. Honestly, that’s what pretty much everybody’s saying about you at this point, so I think I gotta chime in, here: we all love you so much!!!!
Oh! Ms. Calendar and Giles are probably going to try and teleport out every weekend, just to make sure you’re doing okay! They were initially going to take a plane out, but Giles says he doesn’t want to cut down on any possible time with any of his kids. (I may or may not have started crying about that. Also Giles may or may not have hugged me when he saw I was crying. But you weren’t there, so this is all hypothetical.)
So, like…things are kind of a mess, but they’re less of a mess? I don’t know. It’s hard to end this letter on a happy note when Giles literally just got back; everything feels so scarily up in the air. I don’t think any of us were expecting him to actually come back, and I think I’m a little scared he might change his mind and leave again.
But Ms. Calendar doesn’t think he will. And that’s definitely a good sign.
Love you so much, Will. I’m probably gonna try and tag along with Giles and Ms. Calendar next weekend, ‘cause I have never been to England and I wanna find out if everybody there talks like Giles and wears tweed. Giles says they don’t, but Ms. Calendar says they definitely do.
I’m writing this because…I guess I’ve gotten a little used to being my most honest with you through writing. It always felt like you weren’t listening, and so I could say whatever I wanted—and now here you are, telling me that you read every single one of my angry, bitter letters and loved me all the more for my honesty. It’s overwhelming to know you love me that much.
Right now, you’re making us both some tea. If I finish this letter before you get back, I think I’ll read it to you over the tea tray.
Having you back is hard work. I wasn’t expecting it to be anything else. A lot of things have broken between us over the last few months, and putting them back together is definitely going to be slow going. I still don’t trust you not to leave, and I don’t think you trust that I’ve completely forgiven you, and the worst part is we’ve both got pretty solid reasons to be wary.
But having you here, and holding me? I think I’m more than happy about that.