I (London, 1980)
Ethan stands at Giles' door, looking pale, bony, too worn for his twenty-four years. As heartbreaking as the hollow-eyed waifs who'll pick your pocket on the underground.
Giles lets him in.
"I'm sorry," Ethan says, tongue stumbling like the words are foreign and he doubts his pronunciation. "Forgive me?"
The future transforms with a kiss tasting of ozone, metal, lemon peels, waxy honeycomb with sweetness underneath. A kiss that's all Giles ever had of his own.
It's all well lost--the world, the Watchers, the life he never wanted.
Joy is in his arms, and any price is a bargain.
II (Sunnydale, 1998)
It's a laughable question from Anyanka, meant only to stay his hand. Of course the new world will be better.
Sunnydale's dead are too many to bury, and too dangerous; they're incinerated now. The survivors show only blank resignation, like cattle driven to the abattoir.
His fighters, his child-soldiers with their inexhaustible, unbearable gaiety, are all gone now.
And he's alive still, with Ethan two years in the grave.
I want a better world, he thinks, smashing the jewel.
Fate lurches back to its origin, begins again. Ethan's knock goes unanswered, his kiss untasted.
Every wish must be paid for.