Thanks again to HSK and dhark_charlotte for betaing this story, it would have been barely legible without their help. As usual I own none of these characters.
AN: Last chapter certainly seemed to 'polarise' the readers. Reviews ranged from '1/10 is too high a score for this ending', to '10/10 is too low' I figure it sort of averages out to a 6:)
After the inferno that Xander's death released on the revenants, Anita ran. Not in the way a wolf Runs; but the way a fugitive runs. As word spread through the world about what she had done, she became a pariah. Hell, even certain animals hated her now. She quickly lost track of the number of packs of wild dogs that had attacked her on sight as she made her way across the nearly deserted central United States.
Eventually she arrived on the outskirts of what had once been St. Louis. Despite the nuclear 'cleansing' initiated by the US government St. Louis was the one place in the world where revenants were still alive. Every single living animal in the area had been killed by the starving monsters. This was the one place in the world where Anita felt truly useful.
The Slayer spent her days sleeping and scrounging for food at the many abandoned grocery stores. By night she hunted... and hunted, and hunted. It was nearly two years after she had killed Xander that she received a visitor.
Anita had been making a cup of afternoon coffee when she heard a knock at the door of her small cabin. Her first reaction was to pick up her gun loaded with incendiary rounds and cautiously approach door. Taking a breath she opened the door and leveled the gun at her guest. Two years alone had made the Slayer extremely paranoid, and not without good reason.
Nevertheless Anita's jaw dropped when she saw who was standing on her stoop. While she had never met the woman in person, she did recognize her. Though in one vision the woman had been older, and in the other she had been much younger, there was no doubt about who she was. Anita even remembered the name used in her vision, “Willow.”
Anita kept her gun on the redhead, but the strange girl showed no fear of it. Instead the 'young' widow let her eyes travel up the Slayer's body until their eyes met. A cruel, all too familiar smirk spread across her face. “Xander...” Anita whispered.
“Why don't we have a seat?” the Xander possessed girl spoke, inclining her/his head towards the small table in the center of room.
Anita kept her gun on the new, shorter Xander, “I'm not playing any more of your games.”
Anita struggled with the command but couldn't keep herself from walking over to the table, sitting down, putting her gun down on the table, and finally placing her hands delicately in her lap.
Xander entered the house, and Anita noticed that he held a couple of bottles of beer in his right hand. Putting one on the table in front of Anita he pushed the clothes off the only other chair in the room and sat down in a very masculine sprawl.
Anita managed to ask, “How are you alive?”
Taking a mouthful of beer and swallowing he said, “I'm not alive Anita, you made sure of that.” There was a pause as he took another mouthful. “I'm nothing more than a shadow now... A memory in the mind of my wife.”
For a split second Anita saw real grief shadow the redhead's face, but it was hidden quickly. “You know you did the right thing, don't you Anita?” Anita nodded and Xander continued, “As the Slayer you did what needed to be done, and saved many many lives by doing it.”
Anita was surprised, “You forgive me?”
Xander met her eyes, “I am not a good person Anita, and you have hurt my family.”
A surge of fear-based adrenaline was enough for Anita to free herself from Xander's control and go for her gun.
When he was done he left the hut, wiping the half dried blood off Willow's hands and onto one of Anita's dish towels. “It's done.”
“I should have been there to help.”
Xander shook his head, “This was my mess Silas, and I needed to clean it up.”
Silas looked up at the cabin and shrugged, “It is my problem as well.”
Xander looked up the nearly two feet required to make eye contact with his now much taller younger brother, “Take care of her for me Silas, she is going to need you.”
The massive man nodded gravely and the two clasped each other's forearms. Even before they broke contact Willow's grip relaxed and her hand fell limply to her side. Deadened eyes looked back up to her brother's, “Hi Silas.” Her tone was flat and empty.
“Hello Willow,” The slightly younger immortal looked genuinely concerned, but didn't say anything more, he was a man of few words.
He turned to go back to vehicle they had come in. He was half way there before he looked over his shoulder and saw his sister standing where he had left her. Walking back to her, he gently took her hand and helped her to the car.
They still had one last stop to make before they left this world.
Despite the urgent need to rebuild, and a massive lack of manpower, somehow the survivors of Berkeley along with the help of an endless supply of pilgrims had managed to build a massive cathedral in honor of their new messiah. Already the Church of The Early Dawn had become a major world religion with Berkeley as its own personal Meca.
In the center of the building, just below the pulpit, was the burnt out crater left by Xander's death. Or as the new religion explained; the place where he had Ascended to heaven in order to act as the general of God's holy army.
Josh rarely came in here anymore. The whole religion sickened him. Xander had once told him that this is what the masses always did after near apocalyptic events. It didn't mean that Josh had to enjoy his friend's new status as the second coming.
He wasn't even sure what had brought him here today. It was 11:30 AM and the pews were about half full of pious parishioners. He suddenly stiffened, smelling blood on the air, familiar blood. A shifter rarely forgot a smell and tonight he smelt his sister's blood. Turning to the main entrance he saw a massive man enter holding the hand of a much younger woman.
Sniffing deeply he was surprised to find that the smell of blood was coming from the girl and not the man. He watched as the two made their way down the isle towards circle of Xander's remains. The two were in front of the three foot tall wrought iron fence that kept people from touching the bones before an usher stopped them. The large man began to look aggravated, but the redhead just stared at Xander's skull.
Sensing a rather violent situation coming on Josh hurried forward. The grace he gained from his lycanthropy making it look like he wasn't actually hurrying. “Max.”
The young usher turned and saw the Ulfric/mayor of Berkeley/personal friend of his messiah standing next to the two humans who had been about to desecrate said messiah's remains. “Sir?”
“I think you should leave these two in my custody.”
Any response was cut off by a soft muttering coming from other side of the iron barrier. Josh and Max spun to see the redhead kneeling next to Xander's body. The Ulfric was extremely disturbed that she had moved without him being aware of it.
He was also curious about what she was saying as she knelt in the ashes and stroked the side of the petrified skull. While Josh could not understand the words the girl was speaking he realized that he did recognize a smell that stuck in the back of his throat, it was like the air just before a lightning storm. The only other person who smelt like this was Xander. Josh put a hand on Max's shoulder silencing the man's objection.
The three watched the young woman's bizarre grief ritual silently until she stopped talking and just sat there silently for what seemed like hours. By this time the two immortals had acquired quite an audience.
Eventually Willow dropped her hand to the ground, touched the ash softly, and then stood. Walking back to Silas, she moved so silently that even Josh couldn't hear her steps. Much later Josh would notice that her feet hadn't left a trace in the ash.
When she was back on the tourist side of the fence she took Silas' hand again. It looked like the two were about to leave, but a moment before doing so she turned to Josh and muttered softly, “He was right, you do look a lot like Jesse.”
For a brief moment her stare focused enough to make eye contact before she made to leave. Silas looked back at the remains of his oldest brother and placed his free hand on the fence. His goodbye was considerably shorter, but just as heartfelt, “I will take care of her.”
With that the two left, the silent crowd parting like the red sea, no one really understanding what they had just seen.
Josh would never know that his decision to visit Xander's remains that day saved what was left of the human population. While Willow was not in a very cogent state, she had still managed to force her body synthesize a very nasty virus. Some twisted little part of her mind had wanted to make Anita's worst nightmare come true and wipe out this god forsaken little world. Pestilence had been a hair's breadth from being released, but Josh's presence stayed Willow's hand. Xander had really cared for the boy, Willow would not betray what little was left of her husband in that way.
Well that story turned out to be a bit more twisted than I had originally anticipated, but I figure it's the twists that make life interesting.
There are now only two more parts left in this series, one that deals with Willow reuniting with Dawn. The other will focus on Silas's attempts to help Willow recover from Xander's death, as well as raise the child one of his avatars fathered before kicking the bucket.(I'm not sure when I'm going to start posting, I want to have a fairly clear plot outline before diving into either story)