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Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its colors.
  --W.S. Merwin Separation

The fighting was intense. It was probably the hardest battle I've ever fought. I can't remember much of it, really, just little moments, like a strobe light in my mind: Xander deploying his "troops;" the snake demon that used to be Mayor Wilkins; Principal Snyder being eaten; Angel leading an attack.

No, I can't think about Angel. Not yet.

I remember running for all I'm worth, the demon right behind me, chasing Faith's knife more than me. I had one thought in my head: the library. I plunged through the stacks and out the back window. The glass exploded outward, some of it clinging to me. I'll be picking glass out of my clothes for a week, I'm sure. And then, there was Giles and an explosion and a big burning hole where the school used to be. Exit one demon.

All in all, not a bad day's work for a Slayer and her gang.

It's all over now, even the shouting. What exactly does that mean, anyway? And suddenly, here I am, standing alone. I still can't believe we made it through. Well, most of us did. I wish I could have saved them all.

Xander is coming towards me. He looks older. I guess we all have to deal with that particular trauma. I'm glad he's OK, but I need to see Angel. Xander gets it. He's telling me that Angel made it through the fighting, and I manage to smile and nod. I'm really dying inside.

It's Giles' turn next, but I'm having trouble staying focused. He's talking to me and I'm trying to listen, but the words make no sense. It's like that teacher from Peanuts. All I can hear is a steady hum. Giles won't give up, though. I've noticed that about him. He's always there for me, comforting me. I see him more than my mother, much, much more than my dad. I know I give him a hard time, but he means a lot to me. And I know he feels the same way.

He's pulling something out of his pocket. My diploma is in his hand. You know, I think I get this whole graduation thing now. I could've done without the demon and the explosion, though. You can never really get that stink out of your hair.

The hum is back again, but Giles is walking away, towards an ambulance. I make out the word Wesley but little else. And here I am, alone again. I guess I'm gonna have to get used to it.

There are a lot of people around and lights are flashing. It's hard to see with all the smoke but I'm looking anyway. I need to see him. I know Xander wouldn't lie to me, but still...

My Slayer sense begins to tingle. It's a strange feeling, like an ice cube down my spine. The hairs on the back of my neck are standing up. For just a second, my heart stops beating and there's a spooky stillness inside of me. This is too weird. I turn to my right and there he is. We're connected now. I wonder if Angel can feel it, too.

I feel like roots have come out of my feet. I can't move. I can't breathe. We just stand here. I want to go to him, but it's an unspoken promise between the two of us. No good-byes, he said, but it looks like he's having doubts. His lips part, and for just a moment I can breathe again. I start to say something, but I stop myself, afraid to scare him away.

People pass between us and there are smoky clouds and fire engines and shouting, but it's as if we're all alone on the face of the moon. I can see only his eyes, his face. They are so clear.

I understand what his eyes are showing me, telling me. There's love there, from a heart I should never have doubted. There's a ton of sadness, too. I want to say, It's okay, but I let my eyes do the talking, the same as his. I try to show him that I understand, that I accept the fact he has to leave. I hate it, though. I hate growing up. Maturity bites, you know?

God, I love him so much, and I'll never stop. I won't. I can't.

I have to let him go. I can feel my head nod just the tiniest bit, but it's enough. He understands, too. I don't think he likes this adult stuff any more than me. There's not a lot of comfort in that, but it's the best we can do, I guess.

That first step away from me is pulling a piece of my heart with him, like a needle through cloth. I want to pull it back but it's far too late. His coat flares around him as he turns, and the smoke is clinging to him, taking away the last sight of him until only my mind's eye can still see him.

But I'll hold him my heart.


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