Epilogue
Liquidram - December 01 2001

Nineteen half-smoked butts on the ground. It was kind of artistic, like a small child had been arranging twigs into various shapes. A monkey with one ear until this one and that one, shoved slightly here and there rearranged the picture. He tried to write her name, but that was too complicated, so he tried another.

The twentieth butt hit the ground dotting the "I". This one was smoked to the filter since he realized it was the last smoke of his last pack. Damn. One glance up at the pinking sky and one at the nineteen half-wasted butts and he pushed off from "his" tree. His three girls were home, safe.

He would have to move fast in order to get home in time. Strolling quickly down the awakening street he paused and stared at the flicker of brown sticking out from under the battered metal dumpster. Another quick look at the sky convinced him he had time. He walked into the alley filled with an unfamiliar sense of shame. The feeling intensified when he picked up the brown purse.

It was scuffed, well-loved, yet abandoned in fear. Carrie Greenley. A small bottle of Opium perfume with the gold rubbed off the well-worn cap. An intoxicating fragrance that had crept through her terror. A smell that would forever remind him of Carrie Greenley, that alleyway and what that night would mean to him for as long as he was allowed time on this earth. A purple leather wallet with pictures of two smiling, blond children. A scratched Montblanc pen in an ugly black eelskin pouch and a worn white golf tee with a date inked in next to the words "Dad, Xmas 1995".

Carrie Greenley didnít have much money, but she did have an odd collection of battered coins hidden in the zippered compartment of the wallet. Mementos? Good luck charms? They hadnít worked for her that night. Or maybe they had.

Iím sure youíre not evil.

Was there a Hallmark card for Carrie Greenley that said "I am truly sorry for frightening you. I wouldnít have really bitten you. Well, probably I would have, but I swear I wouldnít have killed you." Maybe a cute blank card with the picture of a puppy or a fluffy kitten on the front. Carrie Greenley would like that, he just knew. And he could write the words that could never take away the horror of the night.. . He threw the bag and its treasures in the mailbox on the corner. At least he could give Carrie Greenley some of her good memories back.

The shadows protected him as he pulled the heavy door shut. He walked around the room noticing the details that had turned this dirty, cold crypt into his home. His first really, if you didnít count before. He moved to the coffee table covered with various magazines and periodicals. Smithsonian, National Geographic and In Style. In Style? He picked up the heavy magazine, its cover graced with a beautiful brunette actress looking unrealistically perfect. He picked up the small card that fluttered to the ground as he flipped through the magazine. Name: Dawn Summers, Address: I Wish. For only $24 a year, she could get 12 issues and her wish? Then her wish was to have her big sister back.

What was it now?

He tossed the magazine back on the low table and crushed the card to his chest. It had turned out all wrong. He hadnít paid enough attention, thinking only of himself and what he wanted. And she had gotten hurt. Again.

Tears flowed easily as they always did when he was alone. He hadnít paid attention and his girls had suffered. Dawn's mother was gone, and her sister may as well and now he had all but deserted her because of his selfish discomfort to be in the house. She had almost suffered his own fate because he hadnít paid attention. He alone had recognized her surrender and desire at the hands of the young vampire. And still he hadnít paid attention. Tonight, he had held her uninjured hand until she slept. And then he had kissed this woman-childís tear-streaked cheek, his un-beating heart overflowing with a parentís love forever denied him.

He walked over to the leaded glass window, careful to avoid the deadly, yet beautiful streaks of light. He reached into the glazed bowl sitting next to the window, pulled outa dried yellow rosebud and brought it to his nose. The fragrance was faint, yet still distinct. This one stands for friendship. The young blond witch had described each blossom and herb as she laid the bowl on his ledge. But he hadnít paid attention and now Tara was gone and Red was lying in her darkened room heartbroken and fighting her demons. Demons that he knew and should have been able to spare her. You hate me too.

No luv, I donít.

He climbed down the ladder, shedding clothing as he moved toward the bed. He laid down, the echoed memory of Dawnís voice resonating in the empty room. I donít want to go back to the house. Why canít I stay here tonight? You donít expect me to sleep on that hard thing do you? Ewww. Why canít you get a bed? Itís not like you donít have the room. And I need a pillow too. And can I bring Mr. Gordo? I miss her so much. Please let me stay here tonight. They wonít care.

The weight of the comforter lay heavily on his bruised body. He traced his fingers along the raised scratches marring his chest and shoulders. He could feel her tears, burning into his furrowed, bloody skin. Buffy had punished him for glorious hours with her mouth, hands and legs. One moment, she pounded him into the ground, driving splinters of wood from the busted beams into his back; with the next spent kissing him tenderly moving her warm lips across his chilled skin. Should one of the slivers have found his heart, he would have ceased to exist in a moment of perfect bliss.

Not love.

He fell asleep, his chest rising and falling in an unpractised cadence. He dreamt of a young woman, holding a small white golf tee while her father explained that it was the best of luck, but it had to be found, not bought and golf courses didnít count.

He dreamt of the young girl, spinning around, her long glossy brown hair flaring around her, laughing as she dizzily fell to the ground daring him to try it and the one who fell down first had to buy the buffalo wings.

He dreamt of the delicate and sweet redhead, vulnerable and frightened, yet strong.

There will be no having of any kind.

And he dreamt of his Slayer. She laid curled in his arms, at peace. Not love.

Not Yet.

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