It is not even the least bit happy or fluffy. Be warned.
Come Crashing Down
The day that Buffy died, that was a bad day.
They lost nine civilians and an entire truck of supermarket supplies. And then they realised that the Parlccon was still on their trail, and Buffy turned to him, bleak bitter eyes watching his, and said “I’ll kill him, and catch up with you.”
They waited under the bridge for six hours before Xander realised she wasn’t coming. And he almost snuck back to find her body – but if she was dead, the Parlccon wasn’t, and he still had four people to get back to the Zone. So he swallowed hard, and then stood up and said “Time to move.” and they left.
Ten months and eight days, and she gets killed by a fucking scavenger demon. At least now she’d be able to get some sleep. Bye, Buff.
After that it got better, for a while. No more holding back, no-one to keep safe, no-one to keep sane, just him, the world, and all the rest of it. He cut loose, took his own patrols, saved the humans, well some of them anyway, and those he didn’t save could take a hike ’cause he was sick of trying.
Then one day Cordelia walked up to him and said he was off active duty until further notice. “You’re getting reckless. And you’re going to get killed.”
He laughed. “Wow, really? You mean Buffy, Giles, Anya, Wesley – that wasn’t all coincidence? And here I was thinking I’d live forever.”
“This is different. You’re stood down. Officially.”
“You’re not in charge of everything, Cordy. You can’t just tell everyone what to–”
“Visions, Bucko. Live with it.”
And that was how he ended up babysitting Fred. The two straightjacket candidates: him, and the girl who talked to walls.
She wasn’t too bad, actually. She asked him if he had family (“because I have family, two parents, same as everyone, or at least I think I… do you have a girlfriend? two parents, one and then two, unless that was a dream, but I don’t even… do you like tacos?”) and for a minute he was flooded with memories of home, Mom and Dad, Anya, Willow the way she was, before, Buffy… and was stiff and still, thinking, horribly thinking, not able to say – but after a few minutes she’d moved on and he realised Fred’s mind was like a rollercoaster, with no way to get off or slow down, and the question wouldn’t come again. She never noticed he didn’t answer.
Instead, she painted the walls in mud, writing, drawing, asking Xander for input on equations he’d never understand even if they didn’t veer off into crazy-making badness in the middle. He’d just nod and say “Have you considered the ninth dimension?” and she’d be onto another equation before he could blink.
They talked, after a while.
He told her about Sunnydale, and high school, and college, and Glory, and Dawn–
“You knew her? The Destroyer of– of– the one who–” Fred couldn’t say it, he knew. Mentioning the world torn to shreds was too much for her mind, and if she went too close she’d veer off and start discussing pop music or horses, instead. She just waved a hand vaguely, and he nodded.
“The Key? Yeah. I knew her. When she was a girl.”
“I’ve got a theorem on that,” Fred muttered, reaching across her mattress to the box of crumpled papers and random objects, trying to sort through for a specific piece of paper. “If a particular nucleus was to be placed at the centre of a vortex – but a Ribonean vortex, not Sidelman’s – I shouldn’t drive to that lecture, there’s much better… don’t you think? but I hoped it would be helpful, and if she’s human, then that makes it blood. So much, too much blood. So very red, so red–” Fred was growing frantic, shuffling the pages round faster and faster, babbling. Xander just watched. Suddenly she went still, looked at him, frowning, and asked “Did you see the skies open? And her – did she die in colours? How did it look? I did some equations.”
What was he supposed to say? “No, she just stood there crying, like a kid, and then my girlfriend stabbed her, and my friend killed her, and it was too late anyway, because there were too many demons”? He could still picture it, every time he closed his eyes. But he couldn’t say it yet.
Tara came to see him. “Did you talk to Spike?” No introduction, no good to see you, just straight into it.
“Was it you who told him?”
“I can’t even get past the end of Taylor Street, thanks to Cordelia. You think I’d be able to get outside?” He frowned. “What’s up?”
“Spike’s disappeared. We think someone told him about Buffy.” Tara dropped down onto the steps, and looked at him ruefully. “Sorry. I didn’t really think… But if he knows, he’s going to–”
“–kill everyone? Gotcha.”
And then they were silent. Neither of them wanted to do it again. But she was looking worn out, and he was going crazy spending every day with Fred – so he volunteered. “I’ll talk to Willow.”
The weirdest part was the sky. It just shouldn’t be scungy green.
Every time he was outside he took a moment to drink in the perfect blue – but that was even worse, because sooner or later there’d be wings on the horizon, and he’d remember.
You were scum. That was the thing. Willow would look through you like you were too insignificant, too dirty, to speak to. Or maybe she was looking at you – he’d never figured it out. With her eyes entirely black it could have been either, but it always felt like she was looking through his head and out the other side.
“Sluggoth demons are nesting in Boston. And Austria is overrun with Polgaras.”
“That’s great, Will. Do you know where Spike is?”
“We need to kill more of them.”
“Yes, but Spike. Is he still outside the Zone?”
She turned towards him, and he flinced inwardly. He still couldn’t get used to it, no matter how long it had been. No wonder Tara stayed away.
Willow’s face was expressionless, empty. “No demon can enter the Safety Zone. Ever. I will not let them.”
Which was absolute proof, really. Nothing could get past Willow anymore. Esther had said she wasn’t even sleeping (“Not for weeks now. I don’t think she needs to.”) – and she didn’t seem to do anything that wasn’t this.
He tried again. “So, do you know where he is? Spike?”
“South of the Zone,” she said. “Near the river.”
“Does he know that Buffy’s dead?”
“Does it matter?”
Probably not. “Thanks.” And it was stupid, but he said it anyway, as always. “We love you, Willow.”
She blinked – the sky blinking with her, green to blue to green, and Esther stepped forward, concerned – and for a moment she almost looked like her. “How is Tara?”
“She’s fine. She–” but Willow was gone again, back to wherever her mind lived these days.
“Time is running out. We need more people,” she said. He nodded, and left.
Angel was as unhelpful as ever – not caring that Xander had spent an hour sweet-talking Cordelia and then five hours outside trying to find him.
“We got the love of his life killed. You think a headache’s going to stop him?”
“So take care of it. You lot are good at dealing with demons, aren’t you?”
That again. Ever since they’d killed the green demon, Angel had had a grudge. He just didn’t get where they were coming from.
Xander gritted his teeth, and reminded himself to be nice. “Spike isn’t just any vampire, Angel. And we’re running out of super-powered people. We need you for this.”
“I have other people who need me more.”
“Yeah – and Spike’s going to kill them, too. He was only on our side because of Buffy. He has no problem working against us.”
“Well, good for Spike.” Angel glanced at him and said grudgingly “I’ll be back in two weeks. I’ll help you fight him then.”
Too late. But he just said “Thanks.”
The day that Xander died, that was a good day.
Seven civilians saved, and only four casualties – and they found an entire truck of WalMart supplies to bring back with them. And then they realised Spike was following them, and Xander turned to Tara, serious and calm, and said “I’ll slow him down. You take them – and run.”
He managed to buy them fifteen minutes – ducking and weaving – but even though Spike was clearly high on pain-suppressants, he was still fast enough to block Xander’s stake.
It was inevitable, really. But then, he knew that going in.
He said “It wasn’t our fault, you know. We didn’t kill her.”
And Spike said “No, monkey. You just let her die for you.”
Then came pain. And lots of it. But at least he knew it wouldn’t last forever.