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The Sharp Edges of Night

When I go away from you the world beats dead like a slackened drum.
I call out for you against the jutted stars and shout into the ridges of the wind.

Streets coming fast one after the other wedge you away from me and the lamps of the city prick my eyes so that I can no longer see your face.

Why should I leave you to wound myself on the sharp edges of the night?
    --Amy Lowell  The Taxi

The battle was intense. There were moments when I thought it was all over, that I wouldn't survive, despite my more than two centuries of fighting experience.

But victory was ultimately ours. Thanks to some -- if Xander even had an inkling I thought this -- brilliant strategy, only the Mayor and his minions (and, sadly, a very few of the student body) were lost in the battle.

Now, it's all over. The demon the Mayor ascended into was destroyed in a spectacular explosion that took the high school with him; Faith languishes in a coma with little hope of recovery; and the vampire population of Sunnydale is seriously depleted.

All in all, a good day's work for the Slayer and those she calls friend...and more than friend.

I thought about simply disappearing. I've had a lot of practice over the years. I know Buffy survived the fight, even as I have, but I have to see her for myself, be sure she's well.

Her blood still sings in my veins. It led me to her, unerringly, through all the emergency vehicles, sirens and confusion. I hang back and watch her, my night vision easily picking out the bright blond of her hair and the vivid red of her jacket. A stab of jealousy pierces my heart as I see first Xander -- Xander, who loves Buffy as much as I do -- and then Giles, talk to her, touch her. There's too much noise for even my ears to pick up their conversation, but I guess that's for the best. Her voice would melt my resolve.

Giles walks off, finding something to laugh over even under these hellish circumstances. I suppose he has practice, too. The man has extraordinary resilience. He's an amazing blend of intelligence, strength, loyalty, compassion and a startling ferocity. His generosity of spirit allowed me to be a part of their group after Angelus...even after. I admire the man. I respect him. I know Buffy will be safe in his care.

Buffy stands alone at last, looking lost. Suddenly, as if she feels that connection between us too, she turns in my direction with uncanny accuracy. The smoke is thick but a gust of wind thins it out.

Our eyes meet. With every fiber of my being I want to go to her, crush her in my arms, assure myself she's real and not an apparition built by the swirling smoke and darkness. I want to drown in the scent of her, the soft vanilla mixed with chamomille, the coppery tang of her powerful, healing blood.

This isn't an option for me -- not now, maybe not ever again. Her mother forced me to look rationally at our love. Love. Rational. I want to laugh, but it hurts too much. I understand Joyce's concerns; I don't like them, but I have forever to accept them. So I made the decision to leave; I was the mature one. Maturity is a bitch, you know?

Our eyes are still locked in an unwavering gaze. Firemen, parents, students cross between us, but it's as if we're all alone in the eye of a hurricane. There are only her eyes. Her face fills my vision as I commit her features to memory.

God, how I love her.

I feel my lips part, and I have to swallow to keep the words from escaping. No good-byes, I'd told her. Too much between us, I'd said. I didn't realize how hard a promise it would be to keep.

I force my lips to close, trapping the words inside, but I have to tell her, show her, what I can't say. I hope she sees and understands. I let all the passion, the love, shine through my eyes. The need and desire are mingled in there, too, along with an undeniable pain that grows larger every moment I stand here. The loneliness suffocates me already.

Thank you, I force my eyes to say, thank you for helping me find my humanity. Your trust is my lifeline. Your love sustains me, makes me more than I could manage alone. Even now I wonder if you recognize the enormity of our relationship.

As I watch, her features soften, her lips parting slightly, and like me I think she can't give voice to all the pain. But there's a look in her eyes that I understand because it echoes mine. Sorrow and a touch of despair, a fear of being alone -- but love overwhelms the other emotions and we both cling to it like a life preserver.

I don't know how long I've been standing here, the smoke billowing between us, obscuring her face like the moon behind clouds, but I'd be happy to stand here for an eternity, just drinking in the sight of her. Harsh reality intrudes. I made the decision. I know I have to go.

Taking that first step back is the hardest thing I've had to do -- harder by several orders of magnitude than trusting to a neutral demon when all I wanted to do was brood. Whistler was right, damn his eyes. The more I became a part of this world, Buffy's world, the more I realized I'd never fit in.

With one last look at her face, and a silent good-bye, I spin around and walk quickly into the night, the smoke clinging to me like a shroud. I can yet feel her eyes on my back, and in a moment of weakness I nearly lose my resolve; I let the demon take over and soon I've melted away, one with the darkness.

I don't know where I'm going or what I'll do once I get there, but I do know the night will be darker, with sharper edges that wound, without her.

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