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All The Rage

Rain. Like so many things in life, it's much more complicated than we to think. Just water from the clouds, simple. But it's always different. Sometimes it's like a gentle caress, so light it comes as a surprise when you see that you're wet. Sometimes it stings and sends you running for any shelter you can find. It can freeze you to the bone or it can make the air so hot and muggy that you're damp as much from your sweat as anything else. It reminds me of love. It reminds me of Buffy.

So what doesn't remind me of Buffy now? She's never been too far away in my mind, but since Giles found me I haven't been able to think of anything else. She's dead, he told me. I looked in his eyes and realized he was dead too, he just didn't know it yet. I've seen that kind of death before, in the eyes of some of my men before they wander into the jungle and never return. I made sure I got Giles out of here safely, but who knows what's going to happen to him now? What'll happen to me? What'll happen to the world now that she's dead?

Giles told me there was nothing I could have done. Hard to believe. He talked about Dawn; I don't really understand that stuff about a Key. She's just a kid...Buffy's kid sister. The kid she'd died to protect.

I couldn't have saved her, he said. But I could have made her last days happier. Joyce was dead and I was gone and she was miserable. He said I should have been there. It felt like he'd punched me in the gut. Worse. But can't change that now. Can't go back, only onward. In the rain.

I'm crouching here surrounded by the stench of death, the death of my men, cradling a nearly empty gun, and all I can think about is Buffy. The way she looked the first time I saw her. I didn't get how special she was then, just a pretty face, not as bright as her friend. I thought she wasn't bright. I was so stupid. Willow is scary-smart, but Buffy...Buffy is so brilliant. She glows. She shines.

Was brilliant, glowed, shined, shone, whatever. Don't want to think about it. Can't afford to think about it, because there's something out here with me. Something deadly. It's killed everyone else. I'm the only one left. Have to keep my wits about me. If I want to live. If.

My fault they're dead. I should have guessed this demon would chow down on the local guerillas; it took their weapons as well as their livers. Only one demon, but it's smart and it's old and it's...savvy. Smarter than us. Way smarter than me. Buffy‘s smarter, but Buffy's dead.

What do they call this? Future shock, or something. Or maybe just getting old. I think that this game has passed me by. Can't think of HSTs as animals when they're this clever. Buffy tried to tell me that, I think. Did I listen? Did I ever?

Buffy was so alive the last time I saw her. She was angry with me, and I was absolutely furious with her. I don't think she really knew that, though. Anger with me has always been cold and hard and quiet. Hard rain. Buffy was explosive in everything she did. Monsoon. I think it was one of the reasons we might have fit, if things had been different. If she'd seen the monster in me, what I've become...of course, I'm just kidding myself. What we had wasn't meant to be a forever thing. I knew it, I felt it all along, but she was shining.

I must have drifted off. Things look different. That's bad. Can't afford to sleep. Sun's going down. I'm in trouble. I can hear the thing. It's coming, getting closer, and I'm running out of places to hide. No more room to run. I don't want to run anymore. All I want to do is kill this thing that killed my team. It's all I have left to do, so if I die doing that, well, so much the better. Demons that turn our weapons against us...this I never wanted to see.

Everyone I know and love is dead. Death is very in right now. Buffy, always the trendsetter. And me, always behind the times. I want to scream. I've always hated being left out of things. So I'm arriving a bit late to the party...I'm sure I'm on the guest list. I'm just not finished. Got unfinished business. Gotta kill for them. For her.

Of course, I'm on the run for my life with no ammo, not the easiest time to plan a killing. But I've got a plan...not the invasion of Normandy, but there's method to my madness, you might say. The thought makes me want to giggle, and I clamp my hand over my mouth. Jungle madness to my method. Or maybe just madness. Don't want to think about being mad. So trap. Been luring the demon into its own trap. It'll blow the goddammed son of a whore sky high. I'm gonna get him, Buffy. Soon as he steps on the trip wire...

Trip wire. Should have seen the trip wire. Baker had time to cry out, he was the only one. The rest were blown to pieces before they even could scream. Except for me. Somehow thrown clear. Wish I could feel good about that, but it's just wrong. So mad. Buffy died. I lived. I don't shine like Buffy, I never could.

It's closer. Rain's harder. The air is thick with it. Hard to see. But I can feel it. Something's coming. Closer to the wire. Holding my breath Can hardly breath in this anyway. Closer. Almost to the wire. Almost...

Almost to me. Something's wrong. It couldn't have gotten by the trap, couldn't have gotten to me this fast...

Running through the jungle now. Scared. Didn't know I could be this it's ahead of me. How could that be? There's no way out, no escape. The rain feels like needles on my arms...vampire teeth...I've let her down I've let her down I've let her down Oh God I've let her down again...


Buffy's here. Shimmering, everything's shimmering.

"Buffy, I'm so sorry." She puts her hand on my shoulder. The sun's coming out. Confusing.

"Stop, Riley. It's okay. I've come to tell you that it's okay, and you can stop." I pull away from her. Oh God, it's like ripping out a part of me, it hurts so much...but I'm angry, so angry. I'm not finished.

"No, still have a mission. I need to destroy the hostile, it got my men..." She shook her head, giving me that look that tells me I'm being a dense farm boy again.

"It's dead, Riley. You killed it...days ago." She can't be right, I don't remember, I don't...

"I don't's been chasing me." Her hands are on my shoulders again. The anger pours out of me, dissolves in the rain. Can't feel the rain anymore.

"You've been running from me." The anger's gone, and all I feel is remorse, so much worse. Like my soul's on fire.

"No, no...oh, God, Buffy. I should have been there when you..." I can't say it. Can't even look at her until she grabs my head and forces me to. It's like looking directly into the sun. Her eyes are ablaze. I've never seen anything so magnificent.

"I died. There's nothing you could have done, Riley. I did what I had to do. I always do."

"God, you're so beautiful," I whispered. She's shining. I finally get it. I get it all. "I'm dead, aren't I?"

"Yes. It's okay." Buffy's nodding. I think I'm smiling. I might be crying. It's hard to tell anymore.

"Yes. It's okay," I repeat her words. I feel formless, colorless. Buffy fills my head and everything around me...for a moment I'm terrified.

"Just let go," Buffy whispers. Buffy's got me, that's all I know. All I need to know. I'm following her voice. Letting go.

"Sorry I've given you so much trouble," I say. She smiles. I think I would die if I weren‘t dead.

"S'okay. I had fun. Enjoyed the exercise."

Yes. It's okay.

Riley. Future Shock. Rain.

Man! challenge in a can Man!