Near You Always
Tegami
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Prologue

“I suppose we should have seen it coming,” Giles sighed sadly, looking at Buffy’s face. It was alive for the first time in years, since her husband had fallen ill. Her mentor had come to admit it was nice to see, but it didn’t stop his worry. “You were so proud of yourself when you learned Japanese, we should have known eventually you’d want to use it and not be contented taunting the Council.”

 

“And you already put a down payment on the house?” Faith asked as she bounced her young daughter on her knee.

 

“I had to,” Buffy nodded. “It’s perfect. If the other bidder got it, I would be crushed.”

 

“But B,” Faith whispered sadly, “Japan’s so far away.”

 

“Yeah, but it’s not the moon,” Buffy smiled at her friend. Things with Willow had become nearly unbearable over the years. They’d kept so much from each other that awkward silences prevented both from confiding in one another. Faith had become Buffy’s closest friend. If it hadn’t been for her, Robin and the kids Buffy likely would have found herself sharing her husband’s grave very shortly after his death. “As soon as Casey’s big enough I’ll fly you all over to visit me, and until then I’ll just have to visit you every few months. And we can write letters; I always wanted to send people letters, like the eighteen hundreds or something.”

 

“When do you plan to leave?” Giles cleaned his glasses as he asked, and Buffy smiled wistfully. She’d missed the Giles that cleaned his glasses and coughed and said ‘yes, well’ when things got too emotional for his stuffy tweedish sensibilities.

 

“A month from Sunday,” she answered. “I’m going to tour the house and stay nearby and tour the area until it’s free, so I can adjust.”

 

“What about the children?” Giles questioned. “You can’t fight a custody battle from Japan.”

 

“I don’t plan to fight a custody battle,” Buffy sighed. When Lance’s first wife Melissa had taken the children back, Lance had been on his death bed; the home was unfit for a six year old and an eight year old. When he’d died, Buffy was too distraught to care for them. It was only recently that Buffy’d even considered questioning Melissa’s rights to her children. “They’re her children. They should be with her. If she doesn’t let me contact them, I’ll fight it, but otherwise…”

 

“Buffy, they’re your kids!” Faith cried indignantly. “You raised them the last four years and where was Melissa then? She doesn’t deserve them.”

 

“They should be with their mother,” Buffy answered firmly, although she didn’t meet Faith’s eyes. “I won’t take them away from their last living parent.”

 

“It’s your decision Buffy,” the tone of Giles’ voice announced his disapproval, but Buffy knew he wouldn’t press. She wasn’t ready to involve the kids in a court battle, anymore than she was ready to be a sole guardian again. She loved Jessica and Patty, but she wasn’t stable enough to raise them. Melissa had a steady job, a wealthy husband, and a kid safe home in a good neighborhood. Buffy’d been bouncing around from friend’s home to apartment to hotel room for the past year and a half, and now she was taking an isolated home in a foreign country, never mind what she did for a living, or the month she spent in a mental hospital for suicidal behaviors.

 

“C’mon guys!” Buffy through up her hands as yet another doubtful look was cast her way. “This is not the Armageddon. Be happy for me!”

 

“I want to B., it’s just… I’m worried, I guess,” Faith looked at her the way her mother used to when she thought Buffy was being impulsive. Buffy was being impulsive. “I know you’ve been out of the hospital for a year, but… you’ve been with family and friends all that time. I don’t think you’re ready too…”

 

“I know I crashed when Lance died,” Buffy admitted tiredly. She was sick of rehashing the last year, and her breakdown. “He was my husband, cut me some slack okay? I won’t be gone forever, but… I just need to have control of over? myself for awhile and I can’t do that here. I can’t live in your basement forever, and Giles, before you even offer, no. I have to live alone. I’ve never done that before. It’s time.”

 

“Just… do call often,” Giles requested as he moved to hug her. Tears fell lightly from Buffy’s eyes, and soon all three were crying and Faith’s daughter was squashed in their tight embrace.

 

~*~*~*~

 

“What are you wearing?” Nina’s voice purred into the receiver.

 

“Not now.”

 

Perhaps his voice was too gruff, but his girlfriend has chosen the worst possible time to attempt to be sexy. Normally, Angel found her less inhibited side wildly attractive. She was a free spirit, a welcome distraction from his intense work load. It just wasn’t the time.

 

“Okay, but I’ll expect you to make up for it tonight,” when her playful response didn’t get an answer, Nina’s voice turned concerned. “Are you alright?”

 

“I’m fine,” Angel coughed. “I uh, thought you had to watch Amanda tonight.”

“So did I, but my sister’s date wants to meet Mandy, so I’m off the hook,” she explained, clearly believing Angel. He was grateful. Cordelia would have pushed him until he spilled all the details he wasn’t ready to spill. “I’m thinking I’ll make dinner, we’ll watch old movies, and I’ll take advantage of the situation.”

 

“Don’t worry about dinner,” Angel sighed. Nina was an awful cook. She always burnt all of his pans and his kitchen was always a mess when she was done.

 

“You’re the best,” Nina cooed. “See you tonight? Around seven?”

 

“Seven’s fine,” he agreed, turning back to his writing. Three drafts, all two to four pages, sat crumpled in his waste basket and the fourth had yet to be written. “I’ll see you tonight.”

 

Hanging up, he picked up his pen.

 

Dear Buffy…

 

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