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Chp 1


He was awake! One minute asleep, the next lying face down on the crypt floor, looking close up at the dirt and dried blood that had gathered in the
cracks between the big flat stones that covered the ground.

As he watched, an ant scurried past his nose; busy, busy, busy, intent on going somewhere very important, very fast, unaware that death was so close.

He watched it out of sight but didn’t move. There was no point. It meant
making his arms and legs work and he’d drunk so much Scotch the day before that he didn’t even know if that was an option any more.

Another day gone by. Finally he rolled over, sat up and reached out slowly to scratch his nail down the wall next to him, adding another mark to the ones already there He wasn’t quite sure why he was keeping count. It didn’t
achieve anything, didn’t make him feel any sodding better, but for some reason he felt it was important to keep a tally.

Bloody odd - he’d been dreaming. That was the first time since - well, the
first time in a long time. He grasped desperately at the tail ends of the
pictures that sped through his weary brain, but with a disdainful flicker,
they’d gone.

But he knew she’d been there, inside his head, and she’d been happy,
laughing. Which was weird, even by his standards. Buffy hadn’t often laughed. Or at least, not while he was around. She’d smiled quite a lot. Frowned even more. But laughed? Not so much. It would be nice to think that wherever she was laughing, happy.

He stretched out his legs and an empty bottle rolled noisily away across the crypt floor. He hadn’t meant to get drunk. He’d been hanging on by will power all these weeks since she’d gone. For Dawn’s sake. Because he’d promised to take care of her. And he always kept his word – ha, bloody ha!

And being pissed out of your brains wasn’t a help in the protection game. Not that there was much protecting he could do any more. He dropped in, most every evening, checked up on Niblet, went out patrolling with the gang and the Bot, sometimes said he was hungry when he wasn’t, just so Dawn would order up pizza and he could make sure she ate some.

But he was rarely allowed to be alone with her. The rest of the Scoobies were always there; Xander and Anya hanging out, helping. Red and Tara had moved in; the washing got done more often, Dawn had clean clothes, did her homework, had even started going out with her mates again.

Recently the other four seemed to be very hugger-mugger, whispering in corners, talking in code, shutting him out. Seemed like they’d had enough of sharing their lives with the evil undead.

So, was his job with Dawn over now? Last night he’d decided it might be, hence the whisky which had seemed like a welcoming release. For the first time he’d allowed himself to grieve, for losing both the Summers sisters. But it wouldn’t be the last time. He knew with a dread certainty that the grieving would never end.

He idly counted the marks on the stone wall. One hundred and forty eight little lines, some scored so deeply that it hurt to look at them, some straight, some wavy with pain. Everyone a memory of a day without her.

And tonight would be no different. He sighed and pushed all the despair and grief to the back of his mind. He still had a job to do this evening. There was no point in sitting around feeling sorry for himself. That wasn’t going to bring Buffy back. Nothing was going to do that.

It was difficult to think of the future without her. Tomorrow – it was a blank, empty space. A hollow pit of nothing. He just didn’t know how he was going to face tomorrow.