Where to Begin and End?
Part 3 of 3
WickedFox


Session III...

Well...here we are once more; another expedition into the mystery that is my unorthodox psyche.

I have been informed this session will be a bit longer than originally anticipated. It has been brought to my attention that the board deems me... um, uncooperative in these therapy sessions. Though particulars weren't provided, I assume this opinion stems from the fact I'm unwilling to provide an admission of guilt. True, I was found guilty...but that is neither here nor there. The fact of the matter is I am innocent and will continue to plea so until...well, we shall see.

Onward then...

Buffy's freshman year at college was a rebirth for me. I crawled out from the ashes and rubble of my previous life as Watcher and librarian and promptly dove head first into a whiskey bottle.

What are you to do you when you've lost everything you've come to believe makes you who you are?

I was no longer a Watcher and my place of business was left in ruins. The curious pack of students that I'd come to believe were my friends moved on to college. And though I was so proud and confident in them, I missed them...terribly. Most importantly, I missed Buffy and ventured to express that loneliness in a most useless fashion; drinking my evenings away until it I was pleasantly numb.

During daylight hours, I would endeavor to redeem myself with feeble declarations of self-discovery and personal enlightenment. But it was a hollow effort. For me... rediscovery was just a catch-phrase excuse to deny who I was. So I re-established myself as a folk singing, playboy slacker and played the part to it's fullest. But I couldn't refuse my duty...Buffy was always with me.

School had always been difficult for Buffy and college proved no different. The whole group was beginning a new adventure, starting new lives. When Buffy struggled to find her niche in conventional collegiate life and found her friends functioning quite well, she tried to seek help in adjusting. She immediately felt like an outcast and after finding no aid from her busy friends, she defaulted to me.

Buffy came to me for help, for guidance and in its place received the traditional parental brush-off speech of self-reliance and responsibility. She went away disillusioned and alone to fight her battle as I concentrated on self-indulgence. True, I did attempt to remedy my actions by showing up with full weaponry, ready and able to assist her but found that she'd already succeeded in solving her dilemma.

Unfortunately, my momentary inaction had set the trend for my involvement that year.

I became a passive resource rather than a soldier, a very lonesome man of leisure.

Until...

A week after Buffy started school I had a visitor. A faint knock at my door caught my attention as I scanned the morning paper. When I opened the door, the shy smile and hopeful eyes of Dawn greeted me. Seems Summers had left on an overnight business trip, leaving Dawn alone for the very first time. She was understandably nervous, bored, and didn't know who to turn to. It was obvious to me she was desperate for company; she actually spent the afternoon helping me get my personal library in order, not an easy task to accomplish. But she was brilliant, she was bracing, and she was invigorating.

So I found a companion in the unlikely form of Buffy's younger sister. Dawn felt abandoned, left to face an uncertain future under the habitually absent guardianship of an unresponsive father. Since I'd lost Buffy, I latched onto Dawn to fill that void.

No... I know what your thinking; not in the same way. Dawn was like a daughter to me and I think she needed a parental figure so she was more than willing to come to me for what she was lacking at home.

We grew very close, I'd even suspect closer than Buffy and I. We spent the afternoons at various parks, taking walks and discussing topics Dawn needed to discuss. It was a wonderful chance to get into the mind of a teenage girl. No subject was barred in our conversations; school, home, fashion, even boys though I did warn her it had been quite some time since I could relate more directly to that mindset.

These visits soon became the daily routine. We mutually benefited from the time together, learning from each other as we reconstructed the friendship that had paled with the interference of Hank Summers.

As was the usual case, Summers spent most of the holiday season away from his daughters. Dawn suggested we spend the Thanksgiving holiday together, make it a family affair with Buffy and the old gang. I wasn't particularly encouraged at the thought of my flat full of college students rambling on and on about frat parties so I amended the request to a more intimate dinner between Dawn, Buffy and I. She agreed quite enthusiastically. I was certain she had some ulterior motive behind the dinner but was happy to please her.

Dawn arrived early, preparing the table setting and attempting to bake a pumpkin pie. When the pie ended up as a casualty of an inexperience chef, I blamed my unreliable oven to spare her from the embarrassment of a teasing sister.

When Buffy arrived, there was an awkward instance of reuniting. But soon we fell into the same old witty banter and tempo of our previous relationship. Dawn was pleased. I helped with the preparations of the meal. Buffy was in charge of stuffing and the turkey. I was heading off the side dish assault and condiments provisions. The battled was waged and the day was won. The evening went off without a hitch.

Dawn mysteriously disappeared as Buffy and I cleared the table. As we attempted to tidy up in my very small kitchen, we discussed the recent happenings at the college. Seems she had found her place, found her passion in the study of psychology. Buffy was enjoying her new experience, and I wasn't a part of it. The repeatedly referenced teachers assistant took my notice and I knew subconsciously, Buffy was smitten. I was happy for her but still...

The evening ended with a polite but honest hug. Dawn was disappointed; it was hard not to notice the surprised expression that donned her face as I said my good evenings to Buffy. Obviously the younger Summers girl had hoped for more. I couldn't oblige her, the wounds of my last revelation to Buffy still somewhat fresh in my memory.

But I was resolved my shyness towards Buffy wouldn't prevent my close relationship with Dawn from furthering on its course.

Unfortunately Hank Summers saw this as another chance to strike out at me. It seems he had influential friends in Sunnydale, powerful associations with judges and city council members. It was only a matter of time that I was fodder for the court system. And with a prior arrest, regardless of the outcome, I was a ripe target.

The arrest was quite disappointing, far from anything dramatized in film. An alarming knock at my door, a flash of an illegible warrant, the authorities witnessing Dawn sleeping soundly on my couch, and the damning scene was set.

The police disregarded Dawn's defense of my morality. She fought bravely but in vain to stop the officers. She kicked and punched, bit and screamed as the officers tried cautiously to handle the frantic young girl. Fearing for her safety, I pleaded with the officers to allow me a moment with her before detaining me. They handcuffed me and backed off, keeping a watchful eye on me as I tried to calm Dawn.

I instructed her to call Buffy and have her arrange for a temporary stay at the dorm. The poor girl cried and I could do nothing, couldn't offer any real comfort. My hands were bound behind my back so all I could do was knelt before her and reassured her that everything would be all right. The officers stepped forward to take me into custody and in a final futile effort to prevent the inevitable, Dawn wrapped her arms around my neck, refusing to let me go.

It broke my heart to watch her hysterical face as they tore her from me. I knew how she felt; she was loosing her supplemental father figure. I was loosing a daughter and the last fragile link I'd had with my sense of duty. With that, I lost my motivation.

Buffy, Willow and Xander came to visit me at the detention center. Dawn was being kept from me on suspicions I would try to sway her story. My disheartened young friends asked what they could do and for once, I was at a loss for guiding them. We had no money, no allies to speak of, and my spirit...my spirit was weak. Their faces bore the worn out expressions of their untold hectic lives. I'd have sworn that they'd aged since I'd seen them last.

With a heavy heart and as much sincerity as I could gather... I did the only thing I felt I could do.

I told Willow how proud I was of her and how she would make an incredible practitioner of majicks one day.

I told Xander how skilled and brave he was, and how I'd been honored to call him son.

I told Buffy she'd exceeded my every expectation; reaching above and beyond anything I could ever have wanted in a Slayer or a friend.

I told her to take care of Dawn, to seek out the Council and accept Wesley as her new Watcher.

I told them we'd made an extraordinary team and how I loved each and every one of them dearly.

And I told them to go...

...to forget me and to go on with their lives.

They didn't like hearing that, I can't tell you the harsh words that followed my instructions but I knew it was for the best. And as they yelled their refusal to surrender through the plexi-glass barrier separating us, I purposefully stood up, turned my back to them and walked away.

They would never know how it pained me to take such a callous action but I had to for their sake. Being acquainted with a branded sexual deviant was a burden I couldn't allow for my unlikely champions, my friends. I reluctantly requested no visitations and that was that.

I was in a stupor for most of the trial. It was nothing more than a blur, a windfall of legal juggling. From what little I can recall... the charges began as aggravated rape, downgraded to child molestation, plea-bargained down to sexual misconduct with a minor. No evidence of course, but an army of prosecutors and witnesses to smear the facts and mold the story.

Hmmm...

Pardon me but I see you're dissatisfied in my insistence of my innocence.

I *am* innocent of these charges and will continue to deny them even if my pleas fall on deaf ears. I would never hurt Dawn. Those so-called displays of abuse, those bruises and scratches she brandished were marks of the trade; every one of us in Buffy's circle of friends wore them with pride. But...as with many things, evidence can be skewed to fit the needs of the prosecution. As expected, the entertained and engrossed audience of twelve presumed me guilty.

I shed the last remaining fibers of my humanity to become prisoner number RG466158, cellblock H11... dubbed affectionately as "Hell".

Thus began my new life as a waste of space and taxes.

I settled into my new circumstances, ready to assume higher levels of solitude when the letters began.

Willow was the first of course. She'd always had a gift for the written word. Many times I'd had the privilege to review her research papers and she never let me down, breathing new life into exhausted subjects I'd suffered through in my own studies.

The others followed her lead and soon enough I'd found myself buried under pink and lavender tinted stationary ornamented with the names of those friends I missed and loved. Affectionate muses of everyday life on the Hellmouth. Heartfelt accounts of relationships gone sour, of friendships challenged, of enemies flourishing into unexpected allies. It was as though my life could continue through the stories passed on to me.

I received entertaining letters, lively correspondence of the ongoing battles being waged by my former band of rogues. They told me of a mysterious paramilitary group residing below the grounds of the college, fighting a private war against demons of all shapes. Exciting tales of a modern-day Frankenstein type monster and visits from an infamous Prince of Darkness helped waste away my endless time in "Hell".

I became accustomed to my new home and the letters that I looked forward to every week. But soon, the spread of time between the letters lengthened and the weekly letters came only every other week, then monthly, then every other month. After a while, I began to worry that I'd been forgotten... that my friends had finally done what I asked of them and they'd moved on.


Then... I received that fateful letter...and understood the silence...

I keep it with me at all times...

...never letting it stray from my possession. Though the paper is wearing thin in the folds and creases and the ink is faded from my touch and my tears, it acts as an everlasting reminder to me...

...a remembrance of my failure and my insignificance... a commemoration to her.

It is a letter written by my beloved, my Buffy. It is the farewell message of an inspirational hero who sacrificed herself to save the world. And it is my undoing.

I won't bore you with the details; I don't wish to share her precious final words with an unsympathetic and unworthy stranger such as yourself. But I will tell you this...

In her final moments, she knew of my love for her... and in the end, she returned that love with the gift of her life.

She's gone...

I miss her so much it... aches.

It's still so difficult...

This scrap of... of paper is the only thing I have left of her. Even the memories of her face are fading with the passing of time, gradually seeping away with every excruciating minute. And I am left to wallow in self-hatred and ...

Well, that's why they sent me to you right?

It's been a few months since I'd received the letter. And in that time, I've gone from a solitary and peaceful inmate to a rather boastful and restless prisoner. It's true; I have started brawls and confrontations. But haven't yet received satisfaction from my efforts, haven't achieved the outcome I've been thriving for.

I want an end to it.

A finale.

I can't do it myself. When I try to strike out, try to...

... you know, end it. I-I see her. But not as I wish to...no.
I see her falling, sailing towards death on the winds of a storm caused by my absence.

Forgive me... I do rattle on.

Since I'm unable to accomplish the deed myself, I antagonize others in hopes of finding the right beast to bring me down... to give me peace. But it never happens... rest is always just out of my reach.

She is always just out of my reach.

So I focus on blame.

Whose to blame damn it? I tried blaming myself, but I feel that's putting to much importance on myself. There's a greater purpose in her death...

But in the end, Buffy is dead...my Slayer is still dead. I wasn't there for her. I was trapped here in this void and detached cage...ripped from the side of the woman I vowed to protect cause Hank Summers saw it fit to place me behind bars.

So yes...in answer to your question, I do despise him. Well...did despise him, he's no longer any of my concern. He got what was coming to him, didn't he?

Hmmm...

I feel I've offered too much information. But then again...it doesn't matter in here does it? As long as I don't grow agitated...violent, you'll just keep administering sedatives until I admit that everything I've said here is a disillusion or until I descend into a self-induced coma.

Well, I suppose this facility is the suitable place to hold someone of my ill health. I suppose I am crazy...after all, I truly love... l-loved her.

Buffy...

Um...I think I'm done for the afternoon. I have a bit of a headache. If you don't mind, I think I'll retire early today.


Alone...

As the intrusive light finally dims, the stale air suspended throughout my cell is my companion... that and my uninvited thoughts.

The young doctor fears the worst for me and I can't say I blame him. He hasn't any appreciation of the reality of the situation. How I envy him.

As I examine the frail corners of Buffy's letter, I smile at the pale image that visits my mind. She is fading from me but I won't permit her to go without a proper fight. I struggle for every recollection, concentrate on envisioning her features...her hair, her smile, her eyes. Though she is farther from me now, I'm unwilling to let her go.

Perhaps tomorrow will present another opportunity for release. The neo-nazi skinhead gang has been following my movements, there's a chance to exploit their idiocy.

As my eyes stare at the shadows cast from my small window, I notice movement outside. It isn't unusual for such an occurrence, the changing of the guard and prisoner deliveries often happen in the late hours of the evening.

There is a disturbance. I sense it. The nervous churning of my stomach puts me on edge and I sit up on my bed, waiting for my anxiety to clarify itself.

The ground rumbles, the cement walls tremble and I know this isn't a geological act. I've felt earthquakes and this wasn't of that nature. Cracks appear in the cell wall and soon large chunks of brick blow outward into the night. More tremors cause the floor to fracture and I stand to face the unknown, caressing the fibers of Buffy's note in my fingers.

Sirens sound and rushing footsteps echo throughout the facility as the other inmates stir to life at the unnerving commotion.

A deafening bang crumbles the cell wall to rubble and I finally see the cause of its collapse. A black-eyed red-head stands before me with quivering hands. After a moment of mystification, her eyes return to the compassionate tone I remember and Willow steps forward with a satisfied grin.

I'm speechless as she calmly approaches me and gently takes my hand in hers. She notices the fragile letter poised in my grip and pulls it from my fingers. I watch in horror as she crumples it up and says only two words.

"She's back."

My mind shuts down and my heart beats for what feels like the first time since Buffy's death. Without further discussion, I escape into the shadows with Willow, letting her take me away from what I believed was the end. But in truth... it is a new beginning.

End.