Rating: PG-13 to R
Pairing: S/X, references X/Anya.
Warnings: Character death, though not the boys.
Summary: After ‘The Gift.’ Post apocalyptic struggles.
Notes: This fic came about because I was craving some apocalypse stuff, and I had this vision of what would happen in times of crisis. I wanted this chapter to be the backstory, and it's also sort of an end to the immidiate aftermath of events. Hopefully this will sort of signal the end of a certain point in the story. Thanks to my beta, lunabee34! Feedback is love.
Part 1 is here, part 2 is here.
Ashes to ashes.
“Xander, you have to get to Dawn!” Anya pushed him away, back toward the tower.
“What? Anya! What’s going on?” Xander raised his hands, reaching for her. He was back in the industrial district in Sunnydale. Glory’s tower loomed above them threateningly.
“XanAnder!” Her voice echoed in an oddly dreamy way. “You have to get to Dawn! The Cheese will save her, but you’ve got to get to Dawn!” Anya patted her carefully coifed hair and slung her large purple handbag onto her arm. “I can’t be here. I’m late for a gathering!” With that she ran off, skipping away awkwardly in her dark plum-colored pumps.
Xander turned around, facing the tower, and as his eyes traced its height, it seemed to go on for miles. He got a sense of vertigo and stumbled at the sudden dizziness.
Suddenly there was a crunch beside him, and the large wrecking ball he had maneuvered in real life came crashing down beside him. Xander wasn’t surprised for some reason. He looked over to see who was controlling the wrecking ball only to see himself.
The Other Xander scrambled out of the control car and down to the ground, then ran across the empty construction site. As the Real Xander realized where the Other Xander was going, he tried to cry out, but his mouth filled with sand. The Real Xander coughed and spit the sand out, watching as it fell and slowly drifted to settle at his feet.
Dust to dust.
When Xander looked up again, the Other Xander was approaching the tower. The closer the Other Xander got to the tower, the quieter it got. With each footstep, the sounds around him disappeared until all he could hear was his own heartbeat.
And then the Other Xander was at the tower. The group of crazies swarmed the stairs, and the Real Xander watched as the other him tried to get through to the stairs. The Other Xander pushed a few crazies out of the way, but they started to swarm him, and the Real Xander could only watch what happened, his heartbeat ringing around him.
The Other Xander started to fight them, but two of the crazies got the upper hand, and one held him down while the other began to punch him. The Other Xander opened his mouth in a gasp and struggled away. He punched one of the crazies in the mouth, and the rest descended on him like a swarm of bees.
The Real Xander seemed to slip away, and then he was in the Other Xander’s body, doing all the horrible things over again. His hands were around a crazy man’s neck, and the man slowly collapsed, the life dying out of him. Another crazy pulled him away, and they were all punching him. The Real Xander knew he was yelling, but he didn’t hear anything at all. He grasped one crazy’s collar, pulling him down, trying to punch him. The Real Xander knocked the crazy guy’s head against the cement, and then he was doing it over and over. Soon the crazy man was dead.
Xander was alone now. The strangled crazy man lay in a heap off to one side, and the other dead crazy man was beneath him. Xander’s hands were still wrapped in the man’s collar, and as he let go, the dead man hit the ground with a hollow thud. Xander stood up and backed away in horror. What had he done?!
Then the body changed; it morphed into Tara, her dead body crumpled, a pool of blood slowly spreading beneath her.
The body changed again, and the flash turned into Giles. Xander thought he cried out, but he couldn’t hear anything again.
Flash. Buffy. Tears filled Xander’s eyes, and he turned to look at the other dead man. It was Ben, bloody and limp. Flash. It wasn’t a man anymore, it was Anya; her eyes were wide and dead, looking up at him, empty and gone.
Dirt to dirt.
Xander began to cough silently, and he wiped his mouth only to see blood. He coughed, and blood slipped out of his mouth., he watched it splash on the ground below as he turned his teary eyes back to Buffy’s corpse.
It wasn’t Buffy anymore.
Willow’s eyes stared at him in horror, her red hair curled back into her own blood.
Xander woke up with a gasp. His heart raced, and his eyes strained in the dark.
His face felt wet, and he realized he had been crying in his sleep. Xander took a few deep shuddering breaths, trying to calm his breathing. The dark hotel room was silent and black; the only light came from a strip of light that peeked through the edge of the curtain. The familiar orange glow of street lights was a strange comfort, but Xander couldn’t seem to get his breath.
He heard a small rustling sound as he gasped, he was almost sobbing or hyperventilating. Dawn shifted in the other bed. She turned over, and Xander decided not to wake her. He threw the covers off, and his heart pounded as he wiped the tears from his face. He stumbled to the door, his bare feet catching on the loose shag carpet, and he quickly undid the locks.
When Xander threw himself out into the night air, quickly closing the door behind him, he was surprised to find Spike. He hadn’t thought of the vampire as he stumbled to the door, but he was glad when he saw him perched on the walkway rail. Spike stared at him dumbly as Xander walked forward and rested his hands on the rail, both hands pressed together nervously. Spike watched as Xander caught his breath, the cigarette pursed between his lips. Xander frowned at the parking lot; the warm city breeze smelled of night and pollution, a hint of Spike’s cigarette smoke mixing with it. He felt suddenly cold, and a bitter acid taste came to his mouth, how could everything have gone so horribly?
Xander stood there in silence, Spike smoking quietly next to him.
Xander started thinking about everything, his thoughts catching up to him, and he bent awkwardly, laying his forehead against his clenched hands. Tears came to his eyes, and he began to cry, shoulders shaking and body shuddering. Spike made an odd sound in the back of his throat, and Xander was surprised at how awkward he didn’t feel. He honestly didn’t care that Spike was seeing him cry. He didn’t care what Spike thought, they had already lost so much, who cared about tears when people were dead?
Xander’s tears tasted like salt, and he gripped the rail as he trembled, sobbing almost noiselessly.
Spike shook the rail as he jumped down. He stomped, putting the cigarette butt out beneath his foot and turned toward the parking lot. After a few seconds, Xander felt a tentative touch on his shoulder, Spike’s hand coming to rest gently. He patted his hand once and then just let it rest, letting Xander know he was there.
Xander was struck by how wrong the situation was. None of this should have happened. He should have been at home, celebrating his engagement to Anya, but he was just empty and alone. A grieving teenager and a chipped vampire were hardly his choice of companions, he hated everything about where he was and who he was with. He was so angry and scared, and all his feelings sort of ran together into one blaringly corrosive emotion that made him weep and want to yell and hide and many other things, all at the same time.
It shouldn’t have happened like this. It shouldn’t have come to this.
It was a Tuesday when everything had happened. Glory had found Dawn and had stolen her. Spike had kept proclaiming that Ben was Glory, and Xander didn’t understand how he’d come to that conclusion, but he hadn’t argued.
He and Anya had met for a quickie in the Magic Box basement, and he’d proposed. Anya, strangely enough, had said no. He understood why, and they had decided that, yes, false happiness was stupid, and if they were going to be together forever, they wanted to know it was real and not end-of-the-world real. Now, though, Xander wished Anya had said yes. They could have envisioned a wonderfully happy future together, if only for a few hours.
They’d all walked to the industrial district, seen Glory’s tower a few blocks off, and Xander remembered how determined Willow had looked. He had had one arm around Anya, and an axe in his other hand, but he’d caught Willow’s eye. She’d seemed angry and vulnerable, something in her look screaming sadness and fear, but he had seen the warm core in her, the powerful, wonderful person she was. He remembered that he had smiled at her and she had returned one of her own.
When the group had arrived at the tower, and they all dispersed. The Buffy-bot had whipped Glory’s ass before Buffy had taken charge. Xander had kissed Anya on the cheek and run off to the next-door construction site. He’d set up the wrecking ball and smashed the crap out of Glory; Buffy had left her then.
Spike was already up on the tower, and Xander had heard Dawn scream as he scrambled from the driver’s seat. Willow had cleared the way for Buffy who raced to the top of the tower. Xander speculated that that was about the time Glory had found Willow. Willow had probably given a good fight, sticking her hand in Glory’s head, her other in Tara’s, as she tried to reverse the insanity. Later, though, after the fight, when Xander found her crumpled form, thrown back, next to Tara, her fingers had been black, and Tara had died of a head wound.
Spike had dropped off the tower in a heap, landing on a pile of bricks. Xander had passed him on his way to Anya but he hadn’t stopped; he knew Spike wasn’t dead because he wasn’t dust. He called Anya’s name, but she never responded.
When Xander found her, Anya had a large two by four sticking through her stomach. She and Giles had been trying a spell to reverse Glory back into Ben, and the spell supplies were spread out between them like a game of jacks. Giles was lying across from Anya, and his throat was cut. His eyes were closed, and Xander knew, in that cold hollow instant when he saw him that he was dead.
Xander had thought that Anya was also dead, but she coughed, and Xander rushed to her side. She blinked slowly at him before realizing who he was. Her eyes focused on him and she smiled slowly.
Xander was already crying when she spoke. “Hi …Xander.” Her voice was weak, and she was in and out of it, her breathing raspy.
Xander smiled slightly, tears falling onto her shirt, mixing with the blood stains. “Hi Ahn.”
“Xa-“ She was cut off by a cough, and blood trickled from the corner of her mouth.
Xander shook his head and quieted her, telling her to be quiet and that he would get her to the hospital.
Anya shook her head. “I kn…know I’m dying… Xander. I’ve seen… lot’s of dead…” She trailed off, and her eyes fluttered closed.
Xander let out something like a sob, and then Anya’s eyes shot open. “Xander!” She coughed, and her lips were red with blood. “You, you have… to get to ….Dawn.” She smiled slowly, almost dreamily. “Buff-Buffy will save her, but you have… have to get to her.”
Anya’s eyes drifted closed as she murmured, “…save the …world xander…” It was slow, like she was just falling asleep after an exhausting day, but her eyes had closed and then she had died.
Xander had blacked out for the next 10 minutes.
Later on he remembered everything he had done, those men he had killed, the crazy men, the crazy people he had punched and injured, trying to get to Dawn. He remembered Ben, seeing this strange weak human bloodied and weary, lying 20 feet away from Anya and Giles. Their spell had worked, and this innocent poor human had killed them all.
Xander had pressed a hand to Ben’s mouth and he’d watched, a sick happiness curling in his stomach, as Ben died.
Xander found Dawn half-way up the tower. She was crying and bleeding; her dress and stomach had been cut shallowly, and there was a scratch on her cheek. He ushered her down the tower and away from the slowly expanding portal.
He felt sick when he saw Buffy’s dead body. His hero, the strongest person he’d ever known was a limp, dead, corpse. Buffy had failed.
Xander and Dawn must have stumbled into an alley because the next thing he knew, he was throwing up next to a dumpster. He thinks that as they stumbled away from Buffy they must have seen Willow and Tara, but it all gets kind of hazy.
Xander’d finished throwing up and stood up to face Dawn. Tears poured out of her eyes, and he couldn’t think of anything to say to her. Most of the time he felt like her big brother, like someone older and wiser and more experienced, but in that moment he’d felt just as alone as she did. They both had nothing and no one.
They’d scrambled away from the tower site, ditching demons and running as quickly as possible. Dawn was grabbed at one point, nearly eaten by some giant demon. She had only managed to wriggle free when another, larger, demon had attacked and eaten the first one.
They made it to Revello drive, but not before another demon cornered them. It chased them toward the house, and they’d scrambled inside and into the closet, praying that they wouldn’t be found.
Xander’s life had been shattered, and he couldn’t begin to explain the hollow void that was his sadness. He cried and cried and cried some more. Nothing would ever be the same. Ever. Tara would never smile shyly at him when she said ‘Hi.’ Giles would never give him those affectionate Xander-specific looks of annoyance. He would never hug Buffy, the smell of her shampoo so very comforting. Anya would never again talk loudly about orgasms, or whisper how much she loved him. And Willow; Willow would never again share with him that secret smile, the one that said just how much they loved each other. He would never again know his best friend.
Spike’s hand rested on Xander’s back as he cried, and it would never ever be able to fill the void of losses and regrets. Spike didn’t need to speak as he stood next to Xander. He didn’t need to say anything supportive or comforting, because just being there, keeping him safe, was enough for the time being.
Xander could never imagine being happy again, but he was not so alone, and that had to count for something.