May 23, 2001

Captain Riley Finn
Some Place, Jungle Camp
Wherever, Belize

Hey, Riley.

I'm hoping the last of the Initiative guys make sure you get this as soon as possible. I remembered what Buffy said about them keeping tabs on us, so I'm counting on them not being too hard to find and knowing where you are. I have no idea how long this'll take to get to you, but I'm sending it as soon as it's written, so... I wish I'd written sooner than this. I mean, right after you left. That would make this easier.

What I'm really hoping is that you already know why you're getting this letter. I don't want to be the one to tell you, since there's no way I'm not doing it wrong. I hope Graham heard the news, or somebody else who knew you from Sunnydale, and that they broke it to you better than this. But even if you already know, I figure you want the details. Something to make it seem almost real.

If you don't already know, you're probably freaking out by now, so- -- time to quit stalling.

Sit down, man. On the ground. You're not going to want to go anywhere for a while.

Buffy died yesterday morning.

I can't tell you everything about it -- I don't know if the Army checks your mail, or who else might get this in between here and Belize. The details don't matter anyway. She died saving the world and protecting her little sister. The rest is just smoke.

It probably didn't hurt. At least, Anya says it probably didn't. And she wouldn't lie about something like that, not convincingly. Not now. It was fast, fast enough that we couldn't get her to the hospital or do CPR or anything else to save her. By the time we got there it was all over.

I keep thinking this is the nightmare I've had for the last four years, the one where I get to Buffy too late after the Master drained her.... I always loved waking up from that dream. And not just because then it wasn't real, and I got to save her that time, and at least paid her back for one of all the other times she saved me. But because as long as Buffy was alive the world was okay. There were vampires, but there was a Slayer. Things were the way they were supposed to be. The good guys take their hits but win in the end. The fight goes on, we get ice cream and bandages and a break before the next one.

The world's all wrong now. Even though she saved it, it's wrong.

Dawn's pretty much devastated. Coming so soon after her mom's death, this is hurting her so bad that anything will get her crying. Looking at Buffy's stuff, talking about her... looking at any of the rest of us. We don't know what's going to happen to her yet. Her dad's supposed to show up for the funeral on Monday. We're hoping she can stay in Sunnydale, but it's too soon to know.

Giles and Willow are in the same kind of shape. Willow went down to L.A. last night -- she should be back soon, actually -- and told the crew down there. After all the stuff at the hospital was finished, Giles called the Council and filled them in, but ever since then he's been in shock, not saying anything, just looking like his life is over. We all are, I guess. Every time the door to the Magic Shop opens I expect it to be Buffy bouncing in, telling me it was a trick, and it's safe for her to come back now, and did I really think that she'd let one stupid god take her down....

Actually, it wasn't exactly Glory. Buffy got her before that crazed hell-bitch could finish what she was doing, but it didn't stop the spell she started, so.... I'm pretty furious that it's all over, to be honest. I want to kill something, and the person responsible is already dead. I want to smash my fist into walls but Anya won't let me, and I can't upset her now -- she got hurt during the last fight, she's still got a concussion, and she's supposed to be resting. Dawn and Tara got hurt earlier too, but otherwise we're all okay.

I should have done something to stop it. She was my best friend, and the last time she really needed me like this I managed to come through, right? So I should've had another once-in-a-lifetime stroke of brilliance and figured out how to make this come out the way it was supposed to. I go over it and over it, even though it's too late and there's no point. I just can't believe it happened like this.... The others are pretty much in the same place. Except Anya. She doesn't look at things that way, and she's trying not to let me do it, either. If I weren't already crazy about her, the last day and a half would've made me a goner.

If you get this before Monday, you know you're welcome at the funeral. We have to wait for her out-of-state relatives to make travel arrangements. Faith might come (not that any of us actually want to see her right now) and Angel and Wes and Cordy said they're going to as well. Somebody from the Watcher's Council is probably going to come out too, so you're not the only one coming from far away. It's okay if you can't make it -- everybody knows it's not all your decision, that the Army might not give you leave when you're on that kind of assignment. We're hoping you can, though. Dawn would love to see you. We're trying to give her anything she wants right now. Including letting Spike stay at Buffy's place, even though both me and Giles think it's a terrible idea. But Dawn won't let him (or any of us) out of her sight for more than five minutes without starting to panic. She wigged out when she woke up and Willow wasn't here last night. She always liked you, and she missed you when you left in January.

A lot of people did. You know, you could've said good-bye before you split. I know why you left, I get it, and it's not like anyone exactly blames you, but....

See, this is why I should've written sooner. There's all this other stuff left over from you and Buffy's break-up, and if she were alive, I'd be kicking your ass for being so stupid. You should've talked to me, man. I knew you guys were having problems, but I could've told you it wasn't all about you. There was a lot of stuff she wasn't telling the rest of us right then either. She always does... did... keep people out when she was hurting. I told you about her post-traumatic stress weirdness after she got killed by the Master, right? ... Well, maybe not. Doesn't matter. Point is, getting yourself accidentally killed by some vamp ho would've pissed me off, and Willow and Dawn, as well as Buffy. We weren't your best friends, maybe, but you weren't alone. I'm still mad at you for that, and for hurting Buffy that way.

Anya thinks I should tell you the next bit, and I'm going to trust her on this because I can't make up my mind. I don't know if it'll make it worse or not. But she's right, you deserve to know.

The night you left, I talked to Buffy about half an hour before you were supposed to take off. She spilled the whole thing to me, how mad she was at you for getting hooked up with the vamps, how you'd said she was keeping you at arm's length, everything. I had to tell her she was being a moron, that she hadn't been fair to you for a couple months, and you deserved better, even if you _had_ been a jackass. At least a second chance, or an honest let-down. I don't know which she was going to give you, but she ran all the way to the heliport to catch you before your flight left. She said the helicopter was just leaving when she got there, and that she stood there and yelled for you, but you probably couldn't hear her.

She did love you, Riley. She wasn't really good at showing it, maybe... She'd get all focused on the Slaying, or Dawn or her mom, and she'd forget the rest of us existed sometimes, but you shouldn't think that she didn't love you. She wasn't perfect, I mean, she was one of my two best friends for over four years but I could write a really long list of the times she messed up. But she always tried. And she always came through when it really counted. And sometimes when I never expected it, she would say or do the coolest thing to let me know we would always be buds.

And I'm so furious with her I can't see straight. In between missing her so much I can't think and hurting for Dawn and Willow and Giles, I just want to scream at her for dying. She wasn't supposed to do this. It's cheating. She wasn't supposed to die, she's the one that got out of it last time, it wasn't supposed to be a problem ever again, and I want to shake her and ask her what the hell she was thinking of, why she couldn't have waited just a little longer, maybe we could've stopped the spell some other way....

Sorry. I'm a little crazy right now. The world ended, and then another one started. Buffy didn't get back on the ride when it started up again, so it's a whole new world.

Anyway. Hope you can make it to the funeral. It's okay if you can't. We have no idea where Oz is, either, so he'll probably hear about this months from now. Don't feel bad about it. And don't feel bad that you weren't here for this either, okay? I know you're probably going Military-Responsibility-Guy, thinking you could've made a difference, but I swear, man -- there wasn't anything you could've done. You'd have been in the same place as the rest of us, getting there five seconds too late.

If you can, maybe you can make it back in January. Anya and I are thinking of getting married on New Year's Eve. Yeah, we got engaged. Yeah, I know, she's nuts, and I'm nuts.... I'm not losing her, though. I'm not losing anyone else, ever, if I can help it. It'd be cool if you could be here.

I just wish Buffy were going to see it. She'd be giving me such a hard time, teasing me about forgetting the vows or the rings or getting a suit, but she'd probably be keeping me sane while Anya would go crazy with flowers and ribbons and invitations and crap and Willow rolled her eyes....

I'm sorry, Riley. I'm sorry I couldn't save her. I'm sorry I had to be the one to tell you. I'm sorry she never got to tell you what she wanted to say.

Take care, man. Call if you need to, any time. Reverse the charges if you have to.

Your friend,



The title is shamelessly adapted from a fic I read a while ago, "Letter Read Under a Streetlight in the Rain a Hundred Years from Now." Comments wanted.

Feedback: C.L. Kamnikar

The Darkest Dawn  


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