For a cityboy, born and bred, it is sometimes
difficult to accept that there are places on the earth
where civilization disappears and all that is left is
the wild. On some level, the belief is held that a
community must lie just over the next mountain,
complete with convenience stores and cable television.
Despite missions that have taken him to the most
remote regions on the globe, Graham feels the pull of
human development even still. It tugs at him like a
sort of electromagnetic attraction, an internal
compass seeking out blacktop roadways and powerlines.
With a sigh, he shifts to his side on his bed of
vegetation. These jungle missions always feel a
little surreal to him. A little like being trapped in
a wildlife park. This is a vast terrain of tangled
underbrush, insects and things even less human that
leaves him feeling melancholy and alone. By what
little starlight that manages to filter through the
thick canopy above, he can barely make out the forms
of his comrades in their bedrolls, each one faintly
outlined by a blue line. Craning his neck slightly, he
can see Riley against a tree, keeping watch with his
gun resting in the crook of his arm.
He has spent considerable time studying Riley's arms
and the patterns of scarring across his wrists and in
the bends of his elbows. In the Initiative, he saw
enough vampire attacks that he recognizes them for
what they are. He simply doesn't understand what they
represent. For close to a year now, Graham has been
trying to understand how Riley has changed so much.
Graham has lived a lifetime saying little and
observing as much as he can. Riley has never been
hard to understand, not for Graham. He thought he had
Riley all figured out: decent, dependable, corn-fed
boy from Iowa. A strong leader. Someone who
understood the mission and would stay true to it,
simply because the idea of deviation would never occur
to him. Riley used to be all these things, but he's
changed. His scarred forearms are testament to that.
Before Sunnydale and Buffy Summers, before Maggie
Walsh and Adam, back when the Initiative was at its
height, they were part of a cohesive unit, a family.
There was never any doubt that they were fighting ,
and winning, the good fight. Now the few remaining
Sunnydalers have only memories. The ties that bound
them together are fading away, leaving only a thin
residue of purpose and trust that feels more like
force of habit than truth. Still, they are able to
look at each other and say, silently, "Yes, we were
brothers. We fought the Initiative's Last Battle
together. We were strong. We were noble. We were
part of something larger than life. Together, we
crushed mythologies under our feet. Yes, I know you,
and I've got your back."
They all have that. Except Riley, who exists in
Graham thinks that he knows why Riley wanted to leave
Sunnydale. He is afraid of himself. Better to go to
far off lands where the only friends you have are your
fellow soldiers. In far off lands, there are no
Slayers, no demons with names and personalities, and
no easy-to-find dives full of vampires eager to open
your veins. Riley is running, and he has been since
the fall of the Initiative.
In the quiet moments before battle, he has watched the
way Riley's fingers absently trace his own scars,
gently rubbing back and forth, harder in the bends of
the elbows where the scarring is thickest. While on
watch, he has seen the way Riley mutters and thrashes
in his sleep, clutching a red-patterned kerchief. He
has schooled himself to watch for the look of
almost-envy that flashes across Riley's face after a
clean kill. Most painful to see is the barely
concealed hunger that comes over him on the rare
occasions when they encounter a group of vampires out
here in the jungle.
Graham feels that he is the sole witness to the
gradual demise of Riley Finn.
Riley used to be the most cautious of soldiers. Never
cowardly, just measured and methodical. Completing
the mission and protecting the safety of his men was
paramount. Now he sees the eager way Riley throws
himself, and everyone else, into the most dangerous
situations. Sooner or later, Riley will get what he
It is inevitable that a demon will one day catch them
unprepared. Riley will be just a fraction too slow in
dodging or hesitate at a crucial moment. Or perhaps
Riley will get what he's really been looking for, and
he will show up in camp one night, yellow eyes glowing
and fangs shining in the filtered starlight. Graham
knows it will fall to him to face his former friend
and then pack up his belongings for Special Forces to
deliver to an Iowa family in place of their son's
He thinks that he should take that red-patterned
kerchief back to Sunnydale, and bury it on campus,
over the old complex. He should bring Riley's
touchstone full-circle to where it all fell apart.
Then he looks at Riley again in the starlight and asks
himself why he should even bother.
With another sigh, he rolls over and tries to sleep.
Graham. Bed. Melancholy.