I was sitting in the living room Saturday night and I could hear and occasionally see the fireworks being set off all over the city, so it probably isn't all that surprising that I was inspired to write a fic like this. Enjoy and review!

Setting: July 4th, 1999 (i.e., the summer after season three), on the outskirts of Sunnydale.

Disclaimer: I'm only borrowing them; they're not mine.

"I don't quite understand why I have to be here," said Giles.

"When in America…," said Willow brightly, handing him a sparkler.

"Yes, but you are celebrating the day your country declared its independence from mine. You'll understand therefore if, despite your efforts to include me, I feel that my presence is, at best, ironic."

"Come on, Giles, we need you here as a reminder of what our forefathers rebelled against!" said Xander, grinning.

"Well, in that case, I'm sorry I left my red coat, bearskin, and musket at my flat."

"That's too bad. I don't know how we'll manage to muster the right patriotic spirit now," said Oz, crouching down to arrange his armful of Roman candles next to Xander's bottle rockets. They had selected a wide patch of dirt off the highway just outside of town as their launch site.

Buffy was having difficulty following what the others were talking about. Her eyes were fixed on the shower of colorful sparks produced by the sparkler in her hand in a very unfocused way. She could imagine what tonight might have been like if Angel hadn't left. Even though he was no more American than Giles, Fourth of July celebrations were something his sunlight allergy wouldn't interfere with. They could have had a picnic and watched the city's fireworks together. How beautiful would they have been if she could have watched them while encircled by the arms of the man she loved? With him gone, it was as if light and color had vanished from the holiday, just as they seemed to have vanished from her life. Was it the same for him, wherever he had gone? Was he okay? Did he miss her as terribly as she missed him?

"Buffy?" Willow's tentative voice seemed to be coming from a long way away. "Your sparkler went out."


"Do you want another one? You didn't try to write your name or draw pictures in the air with the first one."

"Okay," she said. She made a valiant effort to appear cheered by the second sparkler, and she must have succeeded to some extent, because Willow looked happier and went back to writing in the air with her own sparkler.

"So, are you guys ready for the finest pyrotechnics display Sunnydale law and fifty bucks can provide?" said Xander loudly and excitedly once everything was set up.

"I'm ready," said Oz, and the two of them knocked fists. Giles didn't look altogether comfortable with the fact that Xander clearly intended to be the one to light the fireworks, but a halfhearted Buffy and a giddy Willow chorused their willingness to begin, so Xander struck the first match.

"Slayer!" a voice bellowed from the darkness behind them, making them jump and causing Xander to drop the match. They all spun around, Buffy deeply regretting that she hadn't brought any weapons with her. At least, until she recognized the approaching vampire. Then she felt annoyed.

"You?" she said.

"That's right," said Lyle Gorch. He pointed a finger at her menacingly. "You're gonna pay for what you did to Tector and Candy."

"Yeah! Because the best time to make her pay is when she's in the middle of setting off minor explosives with all of her friends," said Xander.

"You waited more than half a year. You couldn't have waited long enough to ambush me on my patrol later tonight?" said Buffy in mild exasperation. She might not be having much fun with the fireworks herself, but that didn't mean she wanted some vampire to ruin it for her friends.

"This ends tonight, darlin'. Right now." He threw himself at her. Buffy dodged and grabbed his arm to send him crashing into a heap on the ground a few feet away. She went after him. He kicked out at her foot, trying to knock her down, but she jumped and avoided it. Even so, he succeeded in getting up, and then she was blocking his punches and throwing her own.

"Buffy!" cried Giles and Willow together when one of Lyle's punches connected, but she had already recovered and elbowed him hard in the face. Lyle briefly succeeded in getting her in a headlock, but before he could move in for the bite, she threw him over her shoulder with all her strength. He landed hard in a nearby ditch and they heard him swear loudly.

"Guys, I could really use a weapon right about now!" said Buffy.

Oz's and Xander's eyes met. The former smirked, the latter grinned, and they both knew they were thinking the same thing. Oz seized the biggest Roman candle; Xander struck a match and lit the fuse.

"Buffy!" said Oz.

Buffy turned around just in time to catch the live candle Oz had thrown to her. She stared incredulously at it for a second, then shrugged, rounded on Lyle again, and aimed it at him. "Happy Fourth of July," she said.

The first star, a blue one, shot out of the tube. Lyle was on his feet and moving towards her when it struck him in the middle of the chest. His plaid cotton shirt caught fire where it hit, but he kept going. The next star, a red one, hit him on the shoulder. He came to a halt and attempted to beat out the existing flames with his hands while frantically dodging the rest of the stars, but even though his little dance was rather entertaining, it had no effect on Buffy's aim, and all ten of them hit their mark. Lyle yelled as the fire spread more and more rapidly, now beyond his capacity to put them out, and he finally burst into flames himself and burned to ash.

Buffy turned to face Giles and her friends again, her face alight with the first genuine smile she had worn in over a month. Lyle Gorch's continued existence may not have been high on her list of concerns, but the closure granted by slaying him still felt good. "I don't know about you guys," she said, "but I'm definitely in the mood for some fireworks now."

Originally, all I wanted from this fic was to have Buffy slay a vampire by shooting it with a Roman candle. But then it grew into something more substantial and emotionally significant. Also, this is the second fic in which I've killed Lyle Gorch, but unlike the first one, this one is a canon insert, which means that I can pretend it actually happened and not worry about him anymore. The closure is just as much for me as it is for Buffy.