Chapter Thirteen – Picking up the Pieces
Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Smallville, or any of the Norse Mythology that I am about to mangle to suit my own twisted purposes. Frankly, if you recognize, I don’t own it. This work may not be sold or used for profit in any way shape or form for that very reason. Please don’t sue me because I don’t have anything worth taking…
-== Chapter Thirteen – Picking up the Pieces ==-
Xander was uncertain how long he had lingered in Valaskjalf, listening to the tales of the other Aesir, feasting and drinking among the honored dead within Odin’s hall at the All-father’s behest. To his great amazement, it eased the hurt in his heart to hear the dead regaling each other with the tales of their lives and their loved ones, until finally he joined in. He told the tales of his lost loved ones: stories of Jesse’s life and his death, of his time spent with Valkyrie Yve and how she fell in glorious battle against the fire giant, and of the noble heart and spirit of his mother. Every word he spoke, every toast they raised, every cheer that rose lifted a bit of the weight from his shoulders.
After a time, when he had told the last of his tales, Odin clapped his hand on the young man’s shoulder. “It is time, Xander. You must return to Midgard,” he declared with a smile. He raised up a tankard in his other hand and called out, “A toast to the Thunder god! May your hammer strike ever true and your enemies tremble at the mention of your name!”
“Hail Xander, God of Thunder!” the assembly answered raising their tankards once more as Xander stood.
Odin guided him toward the clearing at the front of the hall where he had arrived before speaking gently to him. “The life of a warrior is a life struck through with the pain of loss, Xander,” he said with a sad smile. “To dwell on such pain dishonors the lives of those who have passed before us. Instead, think on their lives with fondness and know that they await you in the houses of the dead, such partings as these are but temporary.”
Xander nodded, a sad smile slowly spreading over his face as he finally understood the revelry within Odin’s hall. “Thank you, All-father,” he said solemnly, “for everything.”
“You are ever welcome here, Thunderer,” the All-father answered, “though, you must first learn to find your own way here and back. I will await your return with great anticipation.”
With a brilliant flash of light and a clap of thunder, Xander was once more overcome by a sense of dizzy disorientation and a feel of rushing wind in his ears. A moment later he felt his feet sinking slightly into the soft mud of what used to be his yard and was pelted by the cool rain that still fell in Sunnydale. He opened his eyes and was immediately confronted with the fact that the fire, police and rescue teams had finally reached the still smoldering remains of his house. Just beyond the array of vehicles working to put out the last of the fires and recover the bodies of his parents, a shiny black limousine sat waiting.
As he strode away from where he’d slain the giant, he headed toward the fire and rescue workers, pointedly ignoring the limo for the moment. “Mr. Harris?” the fire chief called out as the teen approached, somehow ignoring the fact that Xander was shirtless and his pants were torn, scorched, and tattered, not to mention the fact that he had appeared from nowhere in the middle of a disaster scene.
“I’m Xander Harris, what’s happened here?” he asked, playing along with whatever delusional story would be spun to explain away the fire and his parents’ death. After all, it would benefit no one to make things more difficult than they had to be.
“A piece of the flaming debris from the gas station that exploded hit your home,” the chief explained sympathetically. “The resulting fire spread too quickly and your parents were trapped inside, I’m sorry son, your parents are dead…”
Xander merely nodded and turned to look toward the limo, he was simply too emotionally drained from the events of the day to do more than that now. “I see,” he said numbly.
“The mayor’s office sent a car for you, Mr. Harris,” one of the police officers said as he approached Xander.
Xander nodded again and walked off toward the waiting limo, less than anxious to face Jormungandr again. As he passed by, one of the paramedics spoke up, “Mr. Harris, you should let us check you over and make sure you’re all right…”
“I’m fine,” he lied automatically, not even slowing down as he walked past. “I was no where near here when it happened, there’s no need to waste your time on me.”
With a shrug, the paramedic let him pass. As he approached the limo, the door opened and a man he didn’t recognize, wearing an expensive Italian suit, got out holding an umbrella. “Mr. Harris?” the man inquired politely. When Xander nodded, the man offered his free hand to the teenager, “My name is Lindsey McDonald, I’m a lawyer with Wolfram and Hart. Our client, Richard Wilkins, called us in to assist you through this difficult time.” The attorney turned and gestured for Xander to get in.
“Great,” he muttered as he climbed into the vehicle, “I traded dealing with one snake for dealing with another.”
Pretending not to hear him, Lindsey climbed in and sat across from the bedraggled young man. He knocked on the glass partition separating the passenger compartment from the driver. When it opened, he ordered curtly, “Sunnydale Grand Hotel.”
“Yes sir, Mr. McDonald,” the driver responded before closing the glass.
Xander raised an eyebrow but didn’t speak, contenting himself to lean back against the soft leather seats and let out a deep sigh. He was finding it increasingly amusing that no one seemed to be paying the least bit of attention to the fact that he was half-naked and what clothing he was wearing looked like it had been on the wrong end of a barbecue accident.
“I realize that you’re going through a tough time, Mr. Harris,” Lindsey finally began only to be cut off by the younger man.
“Mr. Harris died tonight, Mr. McDonald, as did Mrs. Harris. You can call me Xander, if only so that you’ll stop unintentionally reminding me of that fact,” he interjected in a weary voice.
“Okay then, Xander,” Lindsey said with a half-smile. “I know you’re tired and that things seem pretty bleak right now. And I know that the last thing you want to do is worry about what’s going to happen next. I’m here to help you through this. Now, I realize this is probably the last thing you want to discuss right now, but the sooner we start working out the details, the smoother this will go for everyone.”
Xander just nodded, staring at him tiredly.
“I’ve been fully briefed on the situation by Mayor Wilkins and instructed to do whatever is necessary to help you keep your end of the agreement you entered into. As such, the mayor’s arranged for you to stay in the presidential suite at the Sunnydale Grand Hotel for the remainder of your time in town, at his expense.”
Xander nodded again. It was a hell of a lot more than he’d expected Jormungandr to do, but he wasn’t exactly feeling particularly grateful toward the bastard that was responsible for this situation in the first place. “I’m gonna need some clothes too,” he said simply. “Everything I had got destroyed in the fire, what I’m wearing is all I have now.”
“That’s been taken care of as well,” the lawyer said with a smile. “You’ll find a few outfits waiting on you in your room. Additionally, he will be paying the funeral costs for your parents. I’ll be making the arrangements on your behalf since you’re a minor, do you have any preferences?”
“In a perfect world, I’d ask for a proper funeral pyre,” he said blandly. “I’ll settle for cremation and a small ceremony to scatter their ashes into the sea… Kingman’s Bluff would be a good spot.”
“I’ll start making the arrangements first thing in the morning,” he said with a nod. “I assume you want a proper Norse funeral pyre?”
“You could really make that happen?” he asked, surprised by the lawyers response.
“Of course,” Lindsey answered. “I wouldn’t be much of a lawyer if I couldn’t take care of a relatively simple request.”
Xander stared at him for a long moment, considering the man setting across from him. “You know Wilkins is evil, right? That he’s not even remotely just the dirty politician you probably think he is?”
“That’s hardly a revelation or an issue, Xander,” he replied coolly.
“Then the cremation and ceremony on the bluff will be just fine then Mr. McDonald, not to mention easier to explain to my friends,” the Aesir replied evenly.
“Alright,” the older man said with a smile. “I’ll ensure that the insurance settlements from the fire are rushed through and in your hands before your fortnight is out. Now, as to the matter of your guardianship, is there a particular way you want that handled?”
The teen closed his eyes and took a deep breath before speaking. “I have an Aunt and Uncle, the Kents. They have a farm out in Smallville, in Kansas. My mother wanted me to go to them if anything happened, but I’m not entirely sure if they’ll take me in.”
“I’ll make sure that you have all the proper papers to that effect within a day or two, they’ll just need your Aunt and Uncle’s signatures to legally take custody of you.” the lawyer said with a nod. “I could also arrange to make certain they took you in if you’d like. I’m sure that there’s something I could use to leverage the decision…”
“No,” the young man replied forcefully. “This is my problem and I won’t force it on anyone else. They’ll take me in or not as they see fit and if they refuse, I’ll figure something else out.”
“If you’re sure,” Lindsey said. When the teen nodded he continued, “I’ll also arrange transportation to Smallville for you then. I assume you'll want to stay in Sunnydale as long as possible?”
“Yeah,” Xander answered as the limo pulled up in front of the hotel.
Lindsey opened his briefcase and pulled out a large envelope which he handed to Xander, “That should be everything you need for right now, all of your identifying documents, including a new state photo ID since you aren’t old enough to drive yet. There’s a credit card with a $5000 limit for you to use on whatever you need, courtesy of Mayor Wilkins, and a checkbook and debit card for your account at Sunnydale National Bank. I took the liberty of having all of your parents’ deposits consolidated into your account. The current balance is in the register.”
“Thanks,” Xander said softly, slightly overwhelmed at all the information.
“It’s my pleasure, Xander,” Lindsey grinned slightly, “after all, it’s not everyday I get to meet a genuine God, even at Wolfram and Hart. We’re already working on claims on your father’s life insurance and the home-owner’s policy for the fire. I’ll keep you posted and I’ll call with the funerary arrangements as soon they’re settled.”
The driver came around and opened the door at that point, and Xander stepped out holding the last pieces of his life in Sunnydale in a single envelope. At least it had finally stopped raining.