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I don’t know why I’m writing this. It’s not like there’s any mailboxes out here — and even if there were, we’re not allowed to write to anyone. Yet, before every mission, I sit down and write a letter. Then I burn it when I come back. It’s a ritual, I guess — or a superstition. We’re very big on ritual and superstition around here. Graham puts his socks on inside out, because the one time he did it by accident we had no casualties, and now he’s decided it’s good luck.

He’s watching me from the other side of the tent right now, looking all disapproving. But I know that if I don’t come back, he’ll make sure this gets mailed — one way or another. Not that we ever spoke about it or anything, I just know — this is how it is.

This is my fourth letter. The first three were all addressed to Buffy, but tonight as I sat down to write, I started thinking — would she read it if she got it? Or would she take one look, recognize my handwriting and toss it in the trash? Not that I’d blame her. Not that it wouldn’t make a fitting coda to my life… to have my final words unread and thrown out with the garbage. But somehow, I just can’t seem to resign myself to that — not even for the sake of dramatic irony. So, I’m writing to you instead.

Looking back with my perfect hindsight, I know I should’ve talked to you. You were ready to listen, and you’d made that clear enough. I actually started once; I remember that day when we were moving your stuff out of the basement. But then, Buffy came in, and the moment passed — and somehow I could never bring myself to try again.

I thought about it. I’d see you watching me sometimes — with sympathy but without pity — and I’d say to myself, “Talk to Xander. He’ll get it. He wants to help.” But I never said a word.

I guess, when it comes right down to it, I didn’t want to be helped. I wanted to wallow, to see how low I could sink… to destroy every part of me I ever took pride in until that moment came when the damage was too deep to fix. Then, I could see myself turn to Buffy and say, “Here — is this what you’re looking for? Is this dark enough for you?”

However — well, that was nonsense, of course. Buffy didn’t love me, but it wasn’t because I wasn’t dark enough, or strong enough, or useful enough, or bumpy in the forehead enough. She just didn’t. Sometimes it just happens that way. It’s not like unrequited love is a rare and special phenomenon — restricted only to Vampire Slayers and their disgraced ex-military loser boyfriends. It happens to everybody. You probably would’ve told me that… which is why I avoided talking to you.

If I hadn’t been so busy trying to make my banal little problems into something deep and tragic, I might’ve gone to Buffy and told her how I felt. We could’ve parted on civil terms, with a handshake and a kiss on the cheek and a “let’s always be friends” speech. She would’ve gone on painlessly with her life, and I would’ve… well, to be honest, I would’ve probably gone and done exactly what I’m doing now. But at least I wouldn’t have felt like such a loser about it.

When I look back at the past year, it seems that all I can think of is stuff I should’ve said, but never did — to Buffy, to you, and mostly to myself.

Maybe that’s why I’m writing this now. Maybe I’m trying to make up for lost time… and for all the important words left unspoken. Yeah, I know — too little, too late, and all that. But I’m having this bad feeling about tonight’s drop. I don’t know why; the briefing was no different from all the others. But I have this prickly feeling on the back of my neck, everything looks too bright and sharp and Mason told me I looked “fey” (whatever that means).

If you get this letter, you’ll know I’m dead. I trust you to find the right way to tell Buffy. Tell her I’m sorry, and it wasn’t her fault either (despite what she might think). Tell her that no matter how badly it ended, I wouldn’t have traded my time with her for anything in the world. Tell her…

Tell her all the things I’ve left unspoken.