Riley sits in a darkened pub in the middle of nowhere, nursing a third, or perhaps forth, double whisky. He would be completely drunk if he hadn't been here for most of the day. Time and grief do a lot to create sobriety, even when he doesn't want it.
When the stream of bleak winter light across his table is broken, he is surprised. For several hours, or perhaps several days, the only people in the pub have been himself and the bartender. The bartender is a good man, and while Riley drinks, the bartender spends his time wiping down the bar, rinsing and drying glasses, and reading the paper. He does the crossword too, and a few times Riley has heard him muttering about impossible clues and incorrect lengths of words, "too many letters," or "what are they on about?" Then the bartender goes back to his cleaning and ignores the crossword for a while.
The new person is a man, tall and broad, with red hair that Riley thinks might be even brighter than Willow's. Willow was the only true redhead Riley ever knew; not auburn, not carrot, but red. This man's hair is red, too. Riley is too tired, or perhaps too drunk, to feel that his sanctuary has been invaded, and he watches the new customer with interest. His first conclusion is that the man is English, made obvious by the accent. The second conclusion is that the man is not English, as he has trouble tendering the correct payment for his double gin and tonic. The third conclusion Riley comes to is to wonder why the man is taking tonic with his gin, since he so obviously wants to get drunk and forget. Even with the amount of alcohol the man so easily downs, he is sure in his movements, and genial with the bartender, trading quips and smiling.
There is something familiar about how the man holds himself, how he carefully notes entrances and exits and the lack of other patrons; for a moment, Riley imagines that the man spends an extra long moment examining Riley, but then Riley decides he is too drunk to be playing soldier. Maybe they both are. It takes the man two minutes to down his first drink, and another two to down his second, and Riley is surprised that he doesn't choke on the alcohol. But he seems practiced at drinking too much too quickly. Riley prefers drinking too much over a long period, which is why he can't quite remember how long he's been sitting in this pub staring at nothing and thinking about even less.
When the man turns to meet Riley's eyes, Riley recognizes the look in the other man's eyes: he had seen too much, too soon. It is not just the look of new soldiers after their first kill; it's not even the look of soldiers after seeing their friends and brothers fall in battle. That is just death. This is something more insidious. Riley knows evil isn't shooting a dozen of the enemy, or wanting to see the man who killed your best friend die painfully and slowly. Evil is doing things that you grew up believing were impossible for you, for anyone, to do, and then getting up again the next morning as if nothing had happened, and doing them again. Riley learned this in Sunnydale, and has had the lesson repeated for him so many times since that he can't begin to forget it, even when too drunk to stand, in a town he doesn't know the name of, in a country he can't recall arriving in.
Riley doesn't want to speculate about what this man has done, or seen, or become; Riley has his own list of things that are unimaginable. Riley has betrayed those he loves, killed those who trusted him, and now, when he isn't killing innocent people for crimes they haven't committed, he drinks. He drinks a lot, but he kills even more.
The man approaches him; it seems that he has noticed a camaraderie with Riley too. Or perhaps he thinks the only two people in the pub should converse.
"Let me buy you a drink, mate," he says, and puts down two glasses full of vodka, or perhaps gin.
"Sure, why not," Riley replies, even though his latest whisky is still half full.
They down their drinks in one gulp. Riley feels the burn at the back of his throat, and wonders if this is how Maggie Walsh got through her days. Then again, Maggie Walsh was very certain that she was doing the right thing. Riley can't begin to guess what the right thing is anymore, but he knows this isn't it.
The redhead is looking at him contemplatively, and when Riley meets his eyes, the man says, "Do you ever have days when you wished that it would all just stop? Not just you, but everyone. Just for a minute. Stop, and be still for a little while?"
"Most days." Riley might not know what the right thing is, but neither does the other man. Riley wonders about the man's easy extraversion. Riley used to have that, when he was fresh from Iowa. Somewhere along the lines, he changed, or perhaps the rules changed, and someone forgot to tell him. For all that he recognizes a fellow soldier engaging in an unspeakable war, this man is very different from Riley.
"Yeah," the man says.
Then, as Riley watches, puzzled, the man pulls out a long piece of polished wood.
"Sorry, mate," the man says, and then, "Avada Kedavra!"
As green light rushes toward Riley, he wonders if he should feel bad for feeling so relieved to die.