Epilogue – Saying Goodbye
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…
Author's Note: This brings us to the end of the first installment in my first ever crossover series. I want to thank everyone who took the time to read and especially those who went to the trouble of reviewing. I will freely admit that I am a complete feedback junkie and reviews keep me writing. The beginnings of the sequel will hopefully be posted later this week, provided my beta is up to it. Enjoy!
-== Epilogue – Saying Goodbye ==-
Over the three days leading up to the funeral, Sunnydale was beset with a series of thunderstorms and rain showers. The extremely uncharacteristic weather had attracted the notice of the town and had drawn no end of tension between Giles and Xander over his ability to manipulate the storm. Fortunately, only Giles, Lindsey, and the mayor himself knew that the teenaged Thunder God was to blame for the unseasonably wet climate. The turmoil of his parents’ deaths, his impending exile from Sunnydale, and his guilt over both had resulted in a volatile mental state where his emotions were directly expressed in the weather around Sunnydale. Unsurprisingly, the morning of the funeral had dawned to the sounds of falling rain that only finally tapered off as the group of mourners gathered on the open ground of Kingman’s Bluff, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
The funeral for Anthony and Jessica Harris was a small and somber affair. Few of the Harrises could be bothered to attend after finding out that there was no wake being held and hence, no opportunity to drink heavily at someone else’s expense. And none of the Clarks, his mother’s family, were present because Xander had no means of contacting them. Aside from his Aunt Martha and her family, he only knew that he also had a maternal grandfather that may have still been alive. Unfortunately, he had never actually met the man and was not particularly inclined to search for him.
Xander had made every effort to get in touch with the Kents, but had been sadly unsuccessful. Apparently the Kent family valued their privacy a great deal, as there were no listings of a telephone number or an address in any public directory that he could find. The only thing he had been able to find out for certain was that they did still live in Smallville, as evinced by a recent mention of Jonathan Kent, his uncle, in the Smallville town newspaper’s online edition. Beyond that, he ran into nothing but brick walls and dead ends. It was less than encouraging considering that he was supposed to go and live with them.
By and large, however, the people that Xander most cared about were the ones who were there for him: Jenny and Giles, the Rosenbergs, Buffy and her mom, and Jesse’s parents. The very people he was leaving Sunnydale to protect stood by offering their heartfelt condolences, and worrying about his welfare.
Once they were assembled, a weathered, older man stepped before the group, drawing a strange look from Lindsey McDonald. Even Xander found himself staring at the man for a long moment, feeling an almost overwhelming sense of familiarity. The man was tall, over 6 feet, broad-shouldered and barrel-chested. He wore a tasteful charcoal gray suit and seemed to radiate an amazing feeling of calmness and serenity.
The man, who never introduced himself, began speaking in a deep, baritone voice that seemed terribly familiar to Xander even though he could not quite place it. “We have gathered this day, beneath the eyes of the Gods, to pay our final respects to Jessica and Anthony Harris,” he started without preamble. “The Harrises were many things in their lives, to many different people, but it is not their lives we celebrate now, but rather their deaths.”
“Death comes to every man, woman and child in its own good time. Many faiths teach us not to dwell on our eventual, inevitable deaths. When confronted with the ever present reminders of human mortality,” he paused, his eyes roaming over the small gathering, “they preach comfort and the care of loving Gods. I could stand here and repeat rote words meant to assuage your grief, I could complain about lives ended too soon in a tragic and meaningless event, but I will not.”
He paused again, longer this time, meeting Xander’s gaze with his own. “There can be no comfort without truth, and the truth is that there is no promise of life. Death comes on swift wings and will take each of us in our turn, without warning or remorse. Each of us must live each and every day of our mortal existences as though it were to be our last, because it could well be just that. We must face every challenge, every battle with a smile on our face and a cry of joy on our tongues for each obstacle could be our last.” A strange smile sat on the man’s face as he held Xander’s gaze a moment longer. “Death comes for each of us, as it did for these two and as it has for countless generations before.”
“But Death is not our ending,” he continued after another pause. “Humans are luminescent beings, not the crude matter of our physical forms. The human spirit transcends death to endure in the houses of our Gods forever. This life is but the beginning of our journey, death is but the door to what comes after.”
As the man spoke, the calm that permeated the air around him pressed against Xander’s awareness, penetrating the emotional whirlwind inside of him and stilling its fury. With a deep sigh, Xander began to let go of his anger, his grief, and his pain. As he did, the rain-clouded skies began to clearand the warmth of the early July sunshine pierced the clouds to illuminate the priest as he spoke.
“We are judged in death for our actions in life,” the priest declared, “It is too late to offer prayers and hopes for their lives, but it is not too late for the rest of us. So, how will your lives measure up in their time? Will you be remembered as a hero? A leader? A follower? A victim? Or will you even be remembered at all?”
By the time Xander walked to the edge of the bluff to scatter his parents’ ashes, the sun had come out completely. The dark clouds spawned by Xander’s grief dispelled alongside the sadness he’d permitted to dominate him. A steady breeze picked up, blowing off the bluff and out toward the sea. As he slowly emptied the urns of his parents’ mortal remains, he heard a soft echo of thousands upon thousands of voices chanting. The Viking prayer for the dead… the same prayer he had uttered in Valaskjalf amongst the Einherjar drifted quietly on the breeze, as from a great distance.
He glanced quickly at the priest who had spoken at the ceremony and saw the man smile as his lips moved silently uttering the prayer that Xander could hear on the air. For the briefest of instants, the man vanished and the towering figure of Odin stood in his stead, a strangely comforting smile on his face. As the last of his parents’ ashes were cast adrift on the winds, Xander smiled and the All-father smiled back.
* * * * *
After the funeral, Buffy had gone back to L.A. with her father. The reminder of her own recent brush with eternity provided by his parents’ funeral had simply been too much for the Slayer. She’d barely spoken to Xander beyond saying how sorry she was and that she would miss him. The young Aesir had been able to see the pain in her eyes, the memory of dying in that cave was just too raw. It was a wound that hadn’t even begun to heal yet.
When Xander tried to talk to Giles about it, the Englishman had been less than attentive. Instead of listening to the teen’s words, he’d dismissed them out of hand. “There’s nothing to worry about,” the Watcher explained patiently. “Slayers have such close brushes with Death frequently, Xander. She’ll bounce back quickly enough when she resumes her duties.”
“Giles,” the teen had argued, “she didn’t have a brush with death… she actually died. There’s a big difference there.”
“That’s quite beside the point, Xander,” the older man countered. “Slayers are extremely resilient. You have nothing to worry about from her.”
With a sigh, Xander gave up trying to argue with the Watcher and changed subjects. “Look, at least the mayor won’t be able to come after you as long as I stay out of Sunnydale, so you need to figure out how to keep him from breaking the curse…”
“Why would the mayor come after us?” Giles asked with a confused expression. “And what does he have to do with your leaving Sunnydale?”
“Giles, the mayor was the one who sent the giant that killed my parents, remember?” Xander explained, shocked that the Watcher seemed to have forgotten even that. “He is a big, powerful magician who was cursed by Odin? He actually founded Sunnydale and has been the mayor for almost a century? Any of this ring a bell?”
“So you think that the mayor may be evil?” the Englishman seemed puzzled. “And that he had something to do with your parents’ deaths?”
“Yes. The mayor killed my parents to try and force me to leave Sunnydale. He’s actually the Midgard Serpent cursed by Odin to be trapped in a human form…” Xander repeated.
“Who are you talking about?” Giles asked, looking utterly lost.
“The mayor of Sunnydale…”
“What about the mayor?”
Realizing that it was hopeless, Xander threw up his hands in exasperation. “Never mind, Giles… I should head out and go pack my things. I’ve got an early bus to catch in the morning.”
“Oh yes,” Giles said with a smile, all previous discussion of the mayor instantly forgotten. “I checked out Smallville for you. Aside from a few old Native American legends of visitors from the sky, there’s no indication of any significant demonic population or activity. It would appear to be just another sleepy American town…”
“Thanks,” Xander replied with a grin. “And you’ll let me know if you ever manage to find those prophecies about me?”
“Of course,” he assured the teen with a tense smile. “And while I heartily disagree with your decision to keep your abilities from Buffy and Willow, I will abide by it and keep your secret.”
“It’s for the best, Giles,” Xander said with a sad smile. “I can’t be here to help them so they’re better off not knowing.”
A sympathetic expression settled on the watcher’s face. “I realize it’s difficult, Xander,” he offered. “I want you to know that you will be missed here.”
“Thanks, Giles,” the teen answered. “I appreciate that. Take good care of the girls for me.”
“Of course,” the older man replied.
Xander felt strangely saddened as he left the library after saying his good-bye to Giles. He’d hardly had a chance to really get to know the man, and they had certainly never gotten particularly close, but he would miss the librarian. He could only hope that the man would be up to the task of keeping Buffy safe and guiding her through the troubles to come.
* * * * *
Xander stared for a long moment at the neat piles of clothes, books and other things that he’d laid out on the bed of his hotel room. He was in the process of packing for his move to Smallville. Because his bus left so very early the next morning, he’d made it a point to say all of his good-byes today. After all, no one would want to see him off at the bus station for a bus that left at five a.m. just so he could be out of town before sunrise.
He was meeting Willow for dinner and a final night of hanging out at the Bronze together in about an hour and yet he still hadn’t actually packed yet. Even just thinking about leaving Sunnydale and going to Smallville was enough to scare him. He still hadn’t managed to find the Kents yet, in no small part because he refused to let Lindsey track them down for him. After Giles had warned him about just how evil the law firm Lindsey worked for was, the Aesir had kept his dealings with them to a bare minimum. He wasn’t about to risk owing a group like that anything at all.
As a result, he was taking a bus to Smallville that he had bought for himself with the money his mother had left for him. The decision may have had something to do with the fact that Xander was terrified of triggering a storm while on a plane, but he certainly wouldn’t admit that to anyone…including himself. Besides which, the few days it would take him to reach his destination would be plenty of time to figure out how to find the Kents and what to tell them.
A low rumble of thunder rolled through the afternoon sky, reminding Xander not to let his nervousness get the better of him. With a grunt, he began packing his meager collection of earthly belongings into the over-sized hiking back-pack he’d selected as his only piece of luggage.
* * * * *
There was a definite feeling of melancholy on the air as Xander and Willow walked back to her house from the Bronze. Their night together had been subdued, the looming specter of Xander’s impending departure casting a long shadow over the time they’d spent together.
“You know,” the Aesir said as they turned onto the street where the gas station had exploded. “It’s not like we won’t ever see each other again or won’t be able to talk…”
“I know,” Willow replied. “But I’m really going to miss you. You’ve been my best friend since the first day of kindergarten and now you’re leaving.” Her voice cracked. “It’s not fair, I just wish…”
Before she could finish her statement, Xander gently laid a finger over her lips, stopping her. “No,” he said simply. “No wishing things could be different. No regretting what we can’t change.” A sad smile tugged at the corner of his lips. “You’ll always be my best friend Will, no matter where we are or what happens.”
The red-head smiled, tears glistening in her emerald eyes. “I love you, Xander,” she whispered softly. “Some part of me always thought we’d be together someday, that we were soul-mates. But now…” she trailed off uncertainly.
“I know,” he admitted sadly. “I’ve known for a while now how you felt, Willow. And I’m sorry if I’ve hurt you by not feeling the same. You’re a beautiful young woman and you’re going to make someone amazingly happy someday. I love you like a sister, Willow, and I always will.”
She nodded sadly, tears shimmering down her cheeks as she threw her arms around the young man and hugged him tightly. “Keep in touch, Xander,” she whispered softly. “I’m going to miss you so much…”
“I’m going to miss you too,” he replied, hugging her back as tightly as he dared without risking hurting her. “Now get inside and stay safe,” he admonished gently. “I couldn’t live with myself if something happened to you because I wasn’t here to keep you safe.”
A heavy weight settled in his heart as he watched the girl enter her home and close the door behind her. As he turned to walk back to his hotel, it began to rain again.
* * * * *
The mayor’s office sent a car to take Xander from the hotel to the bus station at four a.m. the next morning. The driver put his bag in the limo’s trunk before opening the door for him. The ease with which the creature had taken and handled the extremely heavy bag made it quite clear that the driver wasn’t actually human. As he climbed into the back of the car, Xander was surprised to find both Lindsey and the mayor sitting there smiling.
Settling down on the seat across from the other passengers, the Aesir locked gazes with the man who had killed his parents. This was the first time they had laid eyes on one another since they had negotiated Xander’s exile at Valaskjalf. “Dick,” he said coldly, intentionally using a name that he knew would irritate the Serpent. “Lindsey. What a surprise, coming to make sure I get on the bus?”
“Mr. Harris,” the mayor replied with a smile that almost reached his eyes. “I do hope you enjoyed your stay at the Grand? I’m sure that Mr. McDonald’s sycophantic attention to detail was more than adequate to take care of your business.”
“You’ve kept your end of the bargain so far,” the teenager said evenly. “If that’s what you’re getting at.” As he spoke, the car pulled out of the hotel parking lot and began its journey to the bus station.
“You know I could still arrange to make sure that the Kents will take you in when you get to Smallville, Xander,” Lindsey offered with a smile.
“That’s quite alright, Mr. McDonald,” the Aesir replied. “I’m not one for forcing people to do things. If they can’t or won’t take me in, I’ll find an alternative. Anything would be preferable to owing your firm a little piece of my soul.”
“Souls are overrated, Alexander,” Jormungandr stated bluntly a moment later, “especially among the Immortals. I’m sure you’ll realize that given time… Oh wait, you don’t have that much time, do you?”
“No amount of time would make me change my mind about that, Dick,” Xander said flatly, “and I’ll be walking this earth still long after you’re dead.”
An icy silence descended on the vehicle in the wake of his proclamation. A few, long minutes later, the limo pulled to a stop and the driver got out. A moment later the door opened. As Xander climbed out of the car, Jormungandr spoke up.
“Sunday, June 4th of the year 2000,” he said cryptically. “It’s the day your little friends Buffy and Willow graduate high school. I’ll see you at graduation that day, Mr. Harris, on the front lawn of Sunnydale High.”
A grim smile settled on Xander’s face, “I look forward to it.”