disclaimer in first part
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Olsen:
We apologize for your loss, and we apologize even more deeply that our mistakes have added to your grief. An even more serious mistake occurred than we originally believed, and your daughter was not in fact buried, but cremated…
Late Night Phone Call
"Hello, Mr. Olsen?"
"This is Karl Olsen. Who is this?"
"I’m a friend."
"Whoever you are, this isn’t a very good joke."
"It’s not a joke, I swear. I knew Sung, and I want to help you."
"How can you ‘help’ me?"
"There are some things you deserve to know."
"Bad things happen in Sunnydale. I don’t think I can ever explain that to you—you’ll just have to believe me. Bad things happen in Sunnydale, and there’s people in the town who don’t want anybody to know that. That’s why all of these ‘mistakes’ with Sung’s body happened. One of those bad things happened to her, and the people I mentioned are trying to cover it up."
"Do you have evidence for this? Because if you do, I’m the wrong person to be telling. You should go to the police."
"The police…wouldn’t help. Mr. Olsen, I’m sorry I can’t tell you more, but I want you to understand two very important things: one, Sung did not commit suicide. Two, her death has been avenged. I swear."
"Do you believe me?"
"Yes. I do."
"Does it help?"
Buffy hung up the payphone. That was all she could do. More than she should have done, really. As Willow had said, this wasn’t the kind of helping people she was good at.
The Olsens received an urn of what were purported to be Sung’s ashes. In point of fact, they were: one of the lower-ranking among Sunnydale’s shadow government had simply scooped them off of Darren Edwards’ floor. They also received a seven-digit settlement, and several expendable flunkies lost their jobs.
For all the good that did.
At first, it looked like Darren Edwards might get away with everything after all, confession or no. With no surviving victims, there could be no trial. Fortunately, it turned out that Sung had only vamped Darren’s victims who were still enrolled at UC Sunnydale. Enough had transferred and graduated for him to be brought to trial, and be sent away for a collection of sentences that added up to well over his life expectancy.
The Phi Kappa Sigma house suffered such extensive damage from the attack and subsequent fires that it was condemned. In the end, that didn’t matter, as the UC Sunnydale chapter of Phi Kappa Sigma had its charter revoked when Darren Edwards started to testify about what had gone on within its walls. The few surviving brothers who weren’t charged with any crime transferred out anyway. None of them wanted to set foot on the campus of UC Sunnydale again. Ever.
Lights in the Night
Buffy covered her candle with her hand to protect it with the wind. Take Back The Night had returned to UC Sunnydale, and Willow had dragged her to it (with some help from Tara in the form of gentle nudging). Riley had been unable to come—papers to grade—and Xander had pointed out that if he went, then Anya would come, and bringing Anya risked a berserk rage. She’d been chosen as a demonic avenger of women for a reason.
Buffy marched willingly enough, but she wasn’t singing. She’d never been much for singing. Besides, she was mostly here to protect the marchers from oogety-boogeties. For her, Take Back the Night presented a painful irony. In Sunnydale, the night had never belonged to anything human.
It was just as she was pondering this mournful fact that she bumped into someone. "Oh, I’m s—" She began automatically. Then she looked up and saw a familiar, but unexpected face. "Parker? What are you doing here?"
"Graduate work," he answered, falling into step beside her. "Sunnydale has a great language program. Call me unrealistic, but I dare to dream that I might have a future as a diplomat."
Buffy managed to crush the urge to smile. Even knowing what he was, it was hard not to be taken in by his charm. "No, I mean what are you doing at this rally? It doesn’t seem like your scene."
He chuckled. "It is a dangerous place for me to be. A lot of my old, uh, opponents went kind of militant after meeting me, and a lot them are here. But…" He paused, and the grin faded from his face. "After what happened to Sung, I kind of felt the need to."
Buffy nodded. She hadn’t thought about Sung in a while. She’d had yet another apocalypse to stop—Adam’s, this time—and it had just pushed all non-world-wrecking evil from her mind.
"That changed me a little bit, you know?" Parker said as they kept walking.
"How?" Buffy asked, trying to keep her voice neutral. No need to treat him with suspicion yet.
"I always thought that the girls who were mad at me—like you—were just sore losers. I didn’t see any reason for them to be mad if everybody had a good time. But that’s because I wasn’t there the next morning. That time, with Sung, I was there to see her cry."
"What you did to me and what Darren did to Sung are in different time zones from each other," Buffy pointed out.
"True," Parker agreed. "But I don’t want to make anyone feel even a little like Sung did. So now I make it clear that I’m looking for good time, not long term." He paused. "I don’t get laid as much anymore."
Buffy grinned back. No big surprise. "You know, you could get a girlfriend. You’d probably get sex more regularly, and you wouldn’t have to start the hunt all over each time."
"Get domesticated? Me?" Parker asked, a look of half-serious horror on his face. "I haven’t changed that much." With that, he wandered away, chuckling.
Buffy watched him go with an amused smile. It seemed that he was growing something that vaguely resembled maturity and respect for women. Good for him. She’d heard the old saying about leopards and spots, but then, Parker was human.
She pondered that as she hurried to catch up to Willow and Tara.
Darren Edwards had hurt a lot of women in his time. The injury he had inflicted on her had been more subtle than most, but it had still been terrible. She lived in a world of gods and monsters. She fought them every night, and she’d even died once. What was it all for if the humans she protected were just as bad?
Parker had reminded her that there were more shades of humanity than monsters and victims. People could surprise you—and people could change. Parker had.
Was that enough to fight for?
Maybe not, but as she tried to work her way through the surprisingly dense crowd, she realized something: only a Mayor-esque demon would attack a crowd of humans this large. And even then, Graduation Day had proven that a crowd of humans this large could fight back. Humanity had carved a place for itself in the Sunnydale night with their little candles. Courage and defiance.
Courage, defiance, and, thanks to Parker, a little bit of Hope.
Was that enough to fight for?
It would have to do.