Lantern's Light

He lay in the sleeping bag they'd given him -- one more handout that he pretended not to notice was given with lots of huffing and eye rolling and can't we just throw him outside to be eaten? The girls were still chattering upstairs; he could hear their voices drifting down even to the basement, where the light of a coleman lamp gave Andrew a small feeling of security -- or normalcy.

It reminded him of Mexico, when the music and lights from the cantinas would be playing and shining until long after he'd fallen asleep. This wasn't music, though; the girls were too scared and too hyper and there were too many of them squashed in together to be music. Normally he liked the sound of girls' voices. They were nice, and pretty, and they reminded him of beauty in the world.

Everyone was too scared to be musical, though, and the voices snapped at each other as the night grew late. He scrunched himself down into his sleeping bag and tried to think about his collection of Green Lantern comics. They were in storage with all his other comics and action figures and trading cards, and sometimes he thought about getting them out. He could go get just one box, or one bag -- a handful of graphic novels, even -- and set himself up in a corner to read.

Something normal, something that would make him remember that sometimes stories are OK. Something that would make him feel like maybe he hadn't done the wrong thing.

Something that would make him forget that his life was a series of wrong things, and that no amount of tears would ever change that.

Andrew closed his eyes and tried to let himself fall asleep to the memory of the Green Lantern/Green Arrow crossover, the one with Alien X and the old and new Lanterns and Arrows. Andrew had always liked Hal, except when he went evil he'd got kind of scary. But Hal had redeemed himself, hadn't he? He'd needed help to do it, the new kid on the block had had to force Hal to see what was going on and remember why he'd cared. But in the end, Hal gave his life to save the sun and the world.

Andrew knew he'd almost done the same thing. If Buffy hadn't turned out to be lying, if she'd really needed to kill him and use his blood, he would have given his life to save the world just like Green Lantern. Only Hal hadn't been Green Lantern at the time, but, really, that was how everyone remembered him.

And Andrew hadn't really been willing to sacrifice himself. He'd just been unable to stop her, and... unwilling to try, there at the end. If she'd stabbed him, he would have been crying and thinking of Jonathan and how he'd done something that they never talked about in comic books. How it feels to be just an ordinary person, and do something that should never happen outside of stories.

He wished he could have the chance to say something. Maybe he would write a letter to the editor of DC Comics and tell them that... what? That when evil comes, it doesn't feel nearly as scary as realising that you helped? That three guys trying to take over the town isn't at all like feeling your best friend's body fall onto the ground and --

Maybe he should think about Adam Strange comics. Maybe he should think about what Buffy said about life not being a story. Maybe he should count clones until he fell asleep.

Maybe he should find where they'd buried Jonathan, and go tell him he was sorry.

Andrew rolled over onto his back and kept his eyes closed. The light of the lantern shone through his eyelids, and he knew he should turn it off and go to sleep. He probably wouldn't dream about anything, anyway. The First wouldn't bother with him anymore, now that he'd closed the seal.

What if Warren came? What if Jonathan did? What if--

Footsteps on the stairs make him jump, and he screamed, but only a little. Clutching the sleeping bag around him, he looked up and saw Xander coming down the stairs.

"Sorry. Didn't mean to scare you." Xander sounded like he would have been whispering if the girls' shouts over who stole somebody's toothbrush hadn't made whispering pointless.

"It's ok," Andrew assured him. It wasn't like he hadn't spent the entire last year being scared. He waited until Xander walked past, then he lay back down. Andrew knew he should just go to sleep.

Xander was settling himself on the daybed, and he didn't look like he was any more ready to fall asleep than Andrew was. Andrew watched him settle down, then he reached over and turned off the lantern.

The basement wasn't pitch black, but the change in light made it seem so. Andrew closed his eyes and resigned himself to lying awake. He missed Mexico. He missed the evil lair.

He missed having friends. But that was his fault, so he didn't expect he should mention it.

He lay there for a while before he heard Xander say, "Do you think the JSA could beat the JLA?"

Andrew smiled.