So you find yourself once more standing outside a window in the dark looking in. Nothing unusual there, mate, you've spent most of your existence looking into one window or another.

Just lately, mind you, just lately, it's not you lookin' in decidin' the best way to get inside to get a square meal with your best girl at your side.

Because your best girl dumped you for some demon what gums up everything he touches, and if you try to feed on what lives behind windows your head'll drop you to your knees. So you look into other people's windows just to keep your hand in, in case something changes.

"Don't want to get rusty now, do we?"

If people didn't want you lookin' in, they'd close the bloody curtains, wouldn't they?

"Don't these people have homes?"

Xander's in the living room sorting through a stack of videos he brought over. Some home he has, like monkey boy's parents even noticed that you, a dead body animated by a demon, were living in their basement, much the less that their only son was a-bumpin' uglies with an ex-demon down there, or that the place was once trashed by a middle-aged librarian temporarily gone all demony. Too busy shouting at each other over who drank all the bourbon to notice that you were the one what came upstairs and swiped it while they were arguing because you needed it even more than they did.

Or Red, she's bringing in a Monopoly game and setting it up on the kitchen table - tons a brains there, right? And magic, right? If it weren't for the bloody chip in your head, you'd have recruited her a long time ago as your left hand consort to Dru after you killed the Slayer like you should have - her cow of a mum doesn't even know she's alive half the time. You were looking in her window the night she brought Tara home and came out to them. What an amazin' row that caused! For liberals, they sure kicked up a fuss when the pink triangle turned out to be living at their address. Now she's just "Gay Willow" to them, like it's something political. Can you blame those two for all but movin' into Joyce's living room? Not that Tara's folks are any prize - you met 'em, bloody rednecks!

Dawnie's complaining about her homework. The Niblet always complains about her homework. You don't blame her, she showed it to you once while she was hiding from her big sis in your crypt; you didn't understand any of it and you with two years at Cambridge under your belt! Sweet kid, would have drained her a long time ago if the chip'd let you. Instead it forced you to get to know her.

And...wish...sometimes...that she was...your sister.

(You pull another smoke out of the pack and light it up from the one already in your mouth and pause, still watching.)

Joyce is telling her to finish up her algebra and stop grizzling as she sits there with Anya drinking coffee and working on the books for the gallery.

It's not doing so well. The gallery. One night for lack of anything better to do you jimmied the lock on the back door and wandered around surrounded by art glass and modern paintings that looked like Dru got into the fingerpaints again. You sat down at her desk in her office and read the accounts out of boredom, leaving a small pile of butts in the little Chinese dish that she uses to keep paperclips just to let her know that you still existed. Seriously? Nobody wants to buy art when the stock market's dropping faster than a whore's knickers when you show her the right amount of dead presidents, and her ex, well, he ain't exactly puttin' out lately, is he?

(You grind the last bit of your old cigarette out under your heel and puff on the new one, 's better than telly, it is. Particularly since Buffy lobbed yours at your head last week and it blew up against the wall because you ducked not fancyin' a face full of broken glass and wires.)

Windows, with you always on the wrong side, particularly since the Slayer revoked your privileges and warned everybody never to let you in after you stupidly told her you loved her last week.

Why? Why you?

She's gladly let far worse into her house than you.

It was just like that when you were alive - it didn't take long for you realize that though you lived in a posh home in St. John's Wood that you and your mother weren't welcome in some places, like fr' instance, your father's house.

His wife wouldn't have stood for it had she known that you existed.

Get real mate, she did! Only she was too smart to create a scandal over something that everyone already knew. So you never met your brothers and sisters - you know, the ones that he'd take out in the carriage 'round the park on a Sunday afternoon when the weather was fine.

Such pretty children, all in their Sunday best with golden brown curls and big blue eyes just like yours

Walking alongside your mother, you'd see them on your way back from the little Methodist chapel she attended. You knew who they were without anyone ever telling you because your generally lively little mum would suddenly stand up straight with your wee hand crushed tight in her gloved one and a prayer book in the other as the carriage rolled past, eyes dead ahead, back stiff as a poker.

You wanted the carriage to stop so that you could stare at them.

No, you wanted to climb into the carriage with them, to go home with them, to see where they lived. But even at the age of eight you knew somehow that you were invisible, and that invisible people are unwelcome people.

Once, your oldest half-brother, the visible one, was enrolled at the same school you were boarded at. They took you out of the school and sent you to another once someone found out the two of you were inseparable.

Mustn't do that, mustn't get the visible boy dirty, never mind that the invisible boy was crushed to lose the first real friend he'd ever had. A friend who let him step a few feet inside the window, just enough to learn his sister's names, and that the oldest one was learning the piano and that the youngest one could draw very well and liked candied violets and barley sugar with her afternoon tea.

When you were both older you accidentally met him as he was getting out of a cab with his mates in front of a fine house all brightly lit for a party while you were out walking, enjoying a fine spring evening after a long wet spell indoors.

Your big brother and his friends looked right through you.

When your father died, you and your mother wore black and there was a funeral wreath on your door. The two of you attended the service, sitting quietly in the back of the church before following the procession at a distance in a horse drawn cab. You sat next to your mother holding her hand even though you were now a big lad of 16, still in the cab which was now parked at a safe distance away from the graveside - close enough to see the people in their funeral best clustered around the hole, but decently far enough away not to hear the minister's final words as they lowered a stranger into the ground.

Your mother ordered the driver to move on after the first shovelful of earth was tossed into the grave.

Giles comes into the room, a stack of books under one arm. Anya gets up and starts rummaging in the refrigerator as Joyce moves the big calculator over so that he can sit down next to her. Niblet gets him a cuppa.

"Earl Gray. It's always Earl Gray."

He starts trying to lecture Buffy who is fiddling with the popcorn popper, and as usual she's not listening. It's movie night and she's more interested in preparing for that than in some rare point on demon anatomy.

After the funeral, you and your mother moved to a smaller, more comfortable house in the same neighborhood. You liked the garden behind it - you spent hours in it reading and trying to write poetry that always came out bad. You learned how to roll and smoke cigarettes from the gardener, a cockney with a limp. Your mother begged you to stop because it was vulgar, why couldn't you smoke something respectable like a pipe or a cigar and not those nasty French cigarettes? But you liked smoking cigarettes too much to stop, no matter that you loved her dearly and obeyed her in most other things. Sitting, smoking, like you are now, writing bad poetry and listening to the world going about its business on the other side of the ornate iron fence that surrounded your mother's garden; that was how you liked it.

Every morning you scanned the society columns, hungry for news of your other family, the visible ones, remember? Through the window of the newspaper you followed their lives, births, deaths, christenings, funerals, weddings, debuts ...anything. You were proud of them though they ignored you, which was only proper. (Do you sometimes even now wonder if they ever noticed the quiet, respectably dressed young man with their face and hair, standing meekly at the back of the church, watching the bride or the coffin march past?) Back then you didn't want to embarrass them.


That's a different story mate, to be ignored, to have someone turn their back on you now only pisses you off and you let them know it!

Laura, the sister who was learning the piano married into the peerage and died in childbirth. She was nineteen.

Jane, the sweets loving artist married a captain in the British army and followed him to India. She gave you five nieces and nephews that you never met.

Charles, the baby of the family went to Cambridge and matriculated with honors. He died in a hunting accident in Ireland a month later when his horse stumbled and fell on him, breaking his neck and killing him instantly.

Robert, the oldest, who looked through you, went on to a distinguished career in the House of Commons and eventually married the daughter of an American industrialist.

At the risk of embarassing your visible siblings horribly should they ever find out who sent them, you sent small, anonymous bouquets that got lost in among the larger ones.

They never knew who sent them. If they did, they never contacted you.

You watched them through the newspaper even after you went to Cambridge.

Cambridge was a good time - you finally met people who loved words as much as you did and were just as bad at poetry. Nobody knew that you were the invisible boy because your half-brothers were long gone. Anybody who remembered them assumed that you must be some sort of cousin because there was a family resemblance and let it rest at that.

Cambridge was where you learned how to row.

You ended up on the school team; you even won trophies, but your favorite time was just at dawn when in your shirtsleeves and a pair of old trousers, you had the river to yourself, feeling the newly discovered muscles in your arms, shoulders and back working rhythmically against the slow current, smoking as you skimmed the little craft across the water, the swans and ducks for company.

Rowing surprised you, you didn't know that you, the one always picked last for games, could be that agile, that strong. You even had to get the shoulders and arms of all your suits let out to make room for your new body with its now sun bleached hair which always surprised you in the mirror when you got dressed every morning. Some afternoons you'd go out on the water with a lunch and books full of your your favorite poets, your idols: Shelley, Keats, Byron, and some strange, delicate woman from America by the name of Dickenson. There was a hidden place along the bank where you liked to read and smoke with your shoes off, under the concealing willows out of the heat of the day.

Years later you took Dru out onto the river while the moon rose overhead and you rowed her to that sacred place. You made love to her on the same spot that you'd once read, "Because I could not stop for Death, he kindly..."

It's now paved over and a storm drain has replaced the willows.

What's disturbing is that Buffy's face has begun to replace Dru's, and it's the sun and not the moon on the water in those memories.

(You start a new pack of Marlboroughs.)

Tara and Willow are now trying to get the Niblet to play Monopoly with them, but she'd rather brush her big sister's hair. Big sis is trying to get everyone to come into the living room for the movie and really doesn't want her hair brushed. She gives in eventually as everyone settles down around her and the movie starts. The game and the books sit forgotten on the kitchen table.

Cambridge only lasted two years before your mother's steadily worsening tuberculosis called you home and you found yourself sitting idly about when you weren't going to parties where your invisible status didn't matter.

No, it did matter. You were just the third wheel, the extra hand at whist, a spare dance partner when someone else couldn't make it.

You know, someone visible.

You had money; your father had seen to that, but it wasn't enough.Who wants an invisible husband and the genteel scandal of his birth that goes with him? Public life was out too, you'd been discouraged from that early because invisible you were born, invisible you would stay. So you sat scribbling futile poetry to girls who were so far out of your reach behind the glass that you had to try for them anyway when you should have courted girls from families that would have considered you a splendid catch and eagerly welcomed you with open arms.

Dru didn't care if you were invisible or not. To someone who regularly saw flowers dance and words get up off the page and bite her, your invisibility was nothing.

She liked your poetry. That's why she chose you over all others that night and saved you from yourself because lately that rope and that high wooden beam up in the attic over your room in your mother's house were beginning to look awfully inviting.

(You're now looking into the living room window.)

Buffy's now on the couch next to her mother, she's fallen asleep with her head on Joyce's shoulder, sandwiched down beside Giles. Tara and Willow sit on the floor leaning against the couch. Willow's arm is around Tara's waist. Dawnie's head is on Tara's lap and Tara's braiding her hair in the blue glow of the telly. Engrossed in the movie, Anya's feeds Xander popcorn one slow piece at a time. They look like a family, but they're not.

Dru opened a window for you and let you in. Which was why you were willing to tolerate Angelus and Darla - Dru was why they grudgingly tolerated, but never really accepted you. They needed a minder for Dru because they were tired of running after her on her good days and taking care of her on the days when she'd stay in the bed you now shared with her either crying inconsolably or staring fixedly at the ceiling like Miss Edith, her favorite doll . In between those times, the two of you peered in through windows and schemed at how best to get at the tasty meals on the other side.

Even after Dru betrayed you, (Nothing new there mate, you betrayed her countless times in return because that's the nature of both your beasts!) you were still "inside" without her.

The chip changed that, so, once more, you're looking in.

The movie's over. It's still early for a school night so Tara, Willow, Buffy and the Niblet are now playing poker on the carpet with matchsticks for points. Anya's asleep, mouth open, leaning against Xander who's playing with a GameBoy. Giles and Joyce are back in the kitchen eating leftovers from dinner.

You hate them.

So why do you wish that one of them would come to the window, open it, and say, "Hey, where've you been? Get your pale skinny self in here! Too bad, you missed the movie, but it was a bad one, so, no big there!"

Or just for soddin' once, just once, when you knocked on the door you'd get, "Come in, sit down, glad to see you!" instead of, "Oh. It's you. Again."

What would it be like to be plopped down on the couch like any other part of the family because that's what they are, a family, feet up, boots off, with a bottle of something in one hand with Niblet's dozing head against your knee and Buffy's or Joyce's feet on your lap while you all watched telly?

Be a cold day in Hell before ever happens mate! You try to gain their trust, you try to play their game by their rules and not yours, but all you get is their fear and their insults because you know and they know that the moment you get this soddin' chip out of your head, you'll go through them like a scythe through grass laughing the whole time, so why bother to get to know you like they did Angel?

Maybe it's just as well.

(You step back onto the sidewalk, heading home, leaving behind a small pile of butts on Joyce's lawn.)

You never liked popcorn all that much anyway, did you Spike?