TITLE: No Postcards From the Edge
CHARACTERS: Riley/Sam
TIMELINE: post-As You Were

Buffy: So, are you and Same headed back to Central America? Or is that classified?
Riley: Nepal.
Buffy: Sounds fun.
Riley: I'll send you a postcard.

----

Riley never sends the promised postcard.

What would he write? That the Nepal mission went south from the word go? That they lost the first squad in Kathmandu, the second en route to the Kali Gandaki River Gorge, and the third in the gorge itself? That after getting pummeled by a magic hailstorm of stones, Sam's chopper crashed into the rock face of the gorge?

No time to grieve. They went in and took out the Dhenuka-demon's nest.

Riley can't remember the firefight or how many demons he killed. But he remembers cleaning up afterwards: stacking up blue skinned bodies to build a pyre. And he remembers the oily stench as demon flesh is consumed by diesel fire.

Back home, they bury empty coffins.

His CO gives him a folded flag, a medal, and light duty, until Riley's "back on his feet". And he tells Riley to see a therapist.

Riley is a good soldier. Does what he's told.

At first he hears it every night: the whup-whup-whup of the rotor blades, just before they slice into the unyielding rock, just before the trundling chopper, and everyone in it, is torn apart.

He hangs in there. Heals.

But he never sleeps in rooms that have ceiling fans.

When Buffy contacts him almost a year later, to enlist his help for her vampire, Riley watches her from the shadows, but he doesn't talk to her.

After all, she might ask why he never sent that postcard. Or whether Nepal was fun.