Epilogue

Amar and Anna

Days later, weeks later, the vampire and the police officer stood in an office. Anna was leaned back against her desk, facing the door, and Amar stood in front of the wall, opposite of her. They were watching each other, but not in a way that indicated hostility or discomfort. They were as at ease with each other as two such opposites could be. Anna was even smiling a bit, regarding the vampire and his bright red shirt.

"What will you do now?" she asked, tilting her head to the side as she watched him. "Keep running the vampires in your brother's place? I'll still be your contact, if you need it."

It was Amar's turn to smile, but his was faint and slightly strained. "No. I'm no leader. I'll provide incentives, I guess, to stop from killing humans." He shrugged. "Not that it should be hard. You police people are getting better. I doubt we could keep the deaths up anyways. So I'll…keep up the building. Encourage doing the right thing. But lead them?" He shook his head, folded his arms over his chest, and leaned back. "No. I can't."

"All right." She regarded him for a time, then straightened. "Makes sense, I guess. We'll keep our eye out. But in any case, it's not your problem now. And I…" Her smile reappeared, brighter now that she no longer seemed so tired. "I have a gift for you."

"Oh?" His brows rose and he watched her turn around to flip through the folders on her desk. He seemed surprised as she turned around and held out a folder to him.

"Judging by all the facts you gave me," she said as he took it, "I looked up possibilities for who you could have been before you were…" She waved her hand. "Changed, I guess. You said it was in the seventies or sixties, right?" As he nodded, she smiled again. "Well, I looked up records for missing persons. You were Michael Wizel, banker. You were married. Had a kid—Christopher." He was flipping through it now, not seeming to listen to her at all, so she added quietly, "The picture still looks like you."

His gaze flickered up to her, and he shut the folder with shaking hands and tucked it under his elbow.

She shrugged. "You weren't a criminal, Amar. You seemed to be a pretty good man. Paid your taxes, volunteered for Vietnam…don't know if that's any consolation, but I thought you deserved to know something."

There was silence for a time, then he wetted his lips and whispered, "Thank you."

She smiled.

"You're welcome."


C and Eva

"Does it feel weird, not to be a slayer anymore? Not to have to think about it?"

Eva and C were seated on the railing in the older part of town, by the river and by the train tracks. It had been Eva's choice. She'd wanted someplace different, she'd said. Someplace that didn't have any memories attached to it, and someplace where she could feel free. C hadn't argued. So they'd walked along the old boardwalks, with the western-style buildings and the creaking wood under their feet, until, at last, they'd reached the river's edge. There they settled, C managing to eat his ice cream in spite of his difficulties with perspective, and Eva just popping chips into her mouth from time to time. She'd changed a bit. C, in his new glasses—a gift from a rather wry Anna—could see the change in her. Her hair, long and shiny and black, fell down instead of being pinned back into a proper bun, and her lips were twisted into a slight smile. At C's address, she twisted her head to look back at him.

"I don't know," she admitted, turning on the railing so she was facing him, legs swinging. "I was always so afraid of being one that I never stopped to consider what would happen if I wasn't one. I was…I was too busy trying to avoid the fact that I knew I was one. That it was a fate I couldn't escape. Now…" her brows drew together. "It just feels strange. Is that wrong?"

C shrugged. "I wouldn't know."

"I don't believe that," she said. "I think you do know. And if you don't, then I think you're learning. What about that situation with your siblings? The twins? You can't tell me you didn't learn from that."

C glanced over at her, then shrugged, finished his ice cream, and tossed the cup into the trash, watching glumly as it missed. New glasses. Not all they were cracked up to be.

"I don't know," he said, without turning his attention back to her. He was still staring at the cup on the ground. "I still have to think about it. I've just…" He turned his head to him. "I've spent so much time being…" His lips twisted, and he looked away again. "I wish I knew."

The two stayed in silence for a time, then Eva rose and moved to his side, placing her hand, gently, on his shoulder.

"You'll figure it out, C. And in the meantime…" She smiled. "You've got a good accountant on your side. And we really need to talk about your finances."

Isabelle and Amar

"Just because you killed him doesn't mean I forgive you."

Two unlikely figures: a werewolf and a vampire, standing over a grave at night. It sounded like a damned bad joke. It had been awkward to have Alastar buried. A man who didn't exist was difficult to name as dead. But the brothers had collected a lot of money over the years. They could manage. So he'd bribed an office and had listened, grimacing, to the ceremony, and then had snuck away until his brother was buried. He'd killed the man, yeah. He didn't know if he regretted it or not. Standing next to Isabelle made him wonder if it had been enough. Being alone made him think that it had been too much. It was something he'd learn to live with. Just like everything else.

"I didn't expect you to," he told the werewolf, staring down at the nearly unadorned tombstone. He hadn't known what to put on it. "Brother" didn't really seem sufficient. "Friend" was laughable. So he'd stuck with "colorful." He guessed it fit as well as anything else, and had ignored the incredulous expression on the man's face at his order. It was his choice, right? They were, after all, the only relatives the other had.

"Then why are you here?" Isabelle still didn't look up at him. Her brown hair was as untamed as ever, flying over her shoulder in what could only be described as a mane.

"I could ask you the same thing," he pointed out. "Notice that I'm not."

"He killed my daughter," she pointed out. Now she did look up at him, and her lips twisted up into a wry smile. "Her tomb's over there. Maybe I just came to spit on his."

"I wouldn't stop you if you wanted to," he replied. Why bother protesting? He'd wanted to as well. But in the end, killing Alastar had been enough. He'd felt hate before. Hate, disgust, fear. Now all he was left with was…numbness. Isabelle felt the same way, he could tell. She was a proud being, but there it was: lingering in that clenched jaw, and around those bright eyes. He reached down to the flowers that had been left on the grave and plucked a few, then straightened and offered them to her silently. She met his gaze, then took them.

"It's a start, vampire. Now, help me with this." She pulled some posters from her purse and showed them to him. "It's C's request. I think we can at least help him, huh?"


Claire and Clark

It had been three weeks. C had a job. It worked weird hours. He was a technical consultant for some database or another, which always had problems with their servers. They called him at midnight babbling about it crashing, and he'd patiently talk them through it. That was why he was up now. It was only eight at night, sure, but when you'd been woken up at five in the morning with a call, eight at night seems like quite late at night. He was finishing up this project, instructing the others on what code to use, when the door buzzed. He blinked muzzily and, after pushing up his glasses to rub his eyes, settled them back down on his beak of nose and peered at the clock. Who could it be? He didn't think he'd set a date with Anna, and no one else came to bother him much these days…

The door buzzed again. Well, he might as well see who it was. He shut his laptop and slipped out of the seat, then went to the door and tugged it open.

In front of him stood a man. Not really a man, actually. More like a boy. He had wide, brown eyes and a face that hadn't fully lost its baby fat, and so still was quite rounded. There was a bit of a beard there, but more stubble than a full growth. He had a poster in his hand. C recognized that poster.

It had been a whim. Sort of…a last gesture to say goodbye to obsessions. Or perhaps, to continue them. Posters, all around, with pictures of the car accidents, and Claire and Clarke as well, saying simply, "If you know anything about these two and the accident, visit Cornelius at this address." And then he had given his apartment address. The man's hand holding the poster was shaking. Without a word, C stepped back to let him in.

"I'm sorry," was the first thing that came out of the boy's mouth. And then the rest came, like a flood. He hadn't meant to. He was a student at Sac State, a freshman. He'd had one too many drinks, had been going too fast. They'd come up, and he'd hit them when trying to pass. He'd been too terrified to stay, and so had hidden out, shaking when he'd heard the news of the accident, the two young teens killed, the whole mess. He hadn't wanted to go to jail. He hadn't wanted to leave school. He hadn't wanted any of it. But try as he might to put it out of his head, try as he might to forget what had happened, he couldn't. It still lingered there, until, at last, it had all come to a head when he'd seen the posters. He'd been terrified, but at the same time, had resolved to do the right thing.

"I was tired of the nightmares. Tired of living a lie that I didn't have a right to live, not when they were dead.

And all the while, C sank into the couch and leaned back to listen to him, his face resting against his hand. The boy didn't plead. He didn't' beg. His body shook, but his voice was steady. And when he was done, he sank into the seat across from C and stared at him, imploringly.

"I know…I know what you're supposed to do," he whispered. "And I know what the prison time is for manslaughter and hit and runs. It's…not good. I'm sorry. I don't…I don't want to have to go through that. But I think I have to, you see. I don't want to go to prison. But for what I did…"

C still didn't speak. The boy watched him, agitated, then leapt to his feet.

"Damn it! What do you want from me?"

C tilted his head back to stare at him. It was sad, wasn't it? The thing he'd thought of as some great conspiracy theory was really just…pathetic. That which he'd fought for so long wasn't anything at all. Just some little stupid college boy's mistake.

Just a mistake. It wasn't freeing. It was bitter and mystifying and frustrating. But he now had a face to go with the crime, and he didn't know how he felt about it. Was he angry? Was he furious? His hand moved to the phone in his pocket, then stilled. The man's eyes had closed, but he hadn't run. He hadn't pleaded, he hadn't cried. He'd just stated. And C believed him. God help him, but he did. Was it worthy it? They were dead. Their deaths would haunt this man far longer than they would haunt C.

"Their names were Clarissa and Clark," he said, a bit unsteadily. The boy's eyes opened.

"What?"

C took in a breath. It hurt, but not as much as he thought it would. "Their names—"

"I know what you said!" The boy hesitated, then shook his head. "I'm sorry. I…I read up on them. They weren't just faces. I couldn't let them be."

C said nothing.

"If they were just faces, then what I did wouldn't matter," the boy said unsteadily. "And it does matter."

"I know," C said. The boy jerked his chin up.

"So? What will you do? I'll…I'll take it."

"I know that, too." C watched him for a moment longer, then took the poster out of the boy's unresisting hands, rolled it up, and stood with it in his hands.

"It was stupid." His voice was quiet. "It was reckless, and it cost lives."

The boy nodded.

"But I don't want it to cost yours as well." He held out the poster to them. Mesmerized, the boy took it back.

"Remember them," C said. "Remember what you did. Remember every moment. And make something of yourself, for them." His lips twisted upwards. "I'll be watching."

The boy seemed hypnotized. Slowly, he nodded.

"Yes, sir."

He walked to the door and shut it behind him, and when he was gone, C sank back down on his couch, wrapped his arms around his knees, and sobbed. He finally knew what had happened, and what did he feel? Empty. And yet…not. He eventually managed to pick himself up, made it to the kitchen, and found himself a bottle of whiskey. Carefully, he poured himself a glass, then held it up to the ceiling.

"To you," he whispered, then took a drink. He poured another, held it out to the door mockingly, and smiled. "And to you as well." Another drink. Then, carefully, he set the glass down, put the whiskey away and sat back at his desk. He picked up the headset, turned it over in his hands, then put it on and dialed a number. He waited one minute, then another, before the receiver picked up.

"Hello. Anna? I was wondering…. If you might be interested in dinner."