Prologue: The Day After
I don't own these characters because I'm poor, lazy, and because I didn't come up with them in the first place. But you already knew thatAuthor's note:
If this is your first time reading this story, please be aware that Chapters are often followed by Interludes, but that this is not always the case. If a chapter is not followed by an Interlude, don't worry, that's intended as part of the story.
This story, by the way, is probably the greatest experience I ever had when writing fanfiction. I hope that those of you who haven't read it elsewhere enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
I'll try to post 3-5 parts a day until I have the whole thing up, but I warn you that my laziness knows no bounds, so I make no promises.
On with the show:
Prologue: The Day After
Jessica "Jessie" Harris flexed her fingers nervously as she stared through the observation window to where her father sat in silence. He was older in appearance than almost anyone she knew. Nano fibers could erase wrinkles, strengthen bones, and otherwise make one appear more youthful, but there was no technology she knew of that could roll back years of pain and suffering. Her father had been aged more than just physically over the years.
"I never understood why he refused the ocular repair," a man in a white lab coat said from beside her. He was young; probably born post-revelation. "You need any advantage you can get, him especially."
She sighed. This was part of the trouble with having a famous father. Everyone thought she had all the answers about his various eccentricities. Her father shifted slightly behind the window, and scratched just beneath his eye patch.
Jessie knew why he'd never gotten the eye repaired. A lifetime of watching those around him give their lives for the fight? Giving his eye was the least he could do. To him, it was a constant reminder of the people who were no longer with him.
She felt a pang in her stomach, and thought of the most important of those people. That's why they were there.
Famous father, famous mother. It wasn't enough for them to destroy her mother in life; they were going to do it in death too.
Well, they were going to try. She knew her father, and knew that he'd never let that happen.
But why did her family always have to die too soon? Was she afflicted with the same curse as her father? Was she destined to see family and friends die violently? She could hardly understand how her father was still sane. Almost anyone he had ever loved had been killed in the battle against the dark. Only Willow had survived.
In body. In his darkest moments her father would sometimes speak of Willow as if she were dead as well. The most powerful witch in existence had cut off almost all ties with humanity, even as she acted as their protector. Aside from her father, Willow never interacted with anyone, except for emergency purposes.
And if there was an emergency that meant calling Willow in, it was one hell of an emergency. Literally.
Luckily this emergency was not one of those. No, this was one of those emergencies that was just devastating to her personally.
Her mother had died during the Revelation. Died to save her infant daughter and her beloved husband. Died to save the world and give humanity a fighting chance. She had already been a legend before, and afterwards she had been elevated to near saint-hood. There were even some rumblings in the Church about canonizing her. She wondered if her father had heard yet.
"Can I see him?" she asked.
"In a few minutes," the technician said. "The radiation bombardment is almost finished, then it'll be safe for you to go in. We're working with a small window of opportunity, though, so you'll only have a few minutes."
A few minutes to say goodbye to the most important person in her life.
Jessie knew she shouldn't be so sad. She knew without a doubt that there was an afterlife. That knowledge was a comforting rationality, but the part of her that was still a little girl who wanted her daddy to stay with her just didn't care. It was only fifty years ago that a man his age would have been considered elderly. The advent of nanotechnology had changed that, and now Jessie couldn't imagine her father not living to know his great-grandchildren.
She took a deep breath. She could be stronger than this. She was Jessica Harris. She was a Slayer, the daughter of two of the Protectors, and a Harris besides. Her father had witnessed almost everyone he ever cared about die before the age of forty. She would be strong as she watched him go.
Her mother's soul was in jeopardy. A protector was needed, a guardian to keep her safe throughout eternity. Her soul was one of those given in selfless sacrifice to help protect the world during the Revelation. That meant that certain powerful forces could attempt to rip her from the peace she now knew, and cast her into torment forever.
Why did this kind of thing always have to happen to them?
A dim red light blinked on, followed bit a soft chiming sound.
"It's done," the technician said. "You can go in."
She nodded and stood in front of the door. She stared at the logo of the International Organization of Technological and Mystical Cooperation. Science and magic working hand in hand in the post-Revelation era. The door hissed softly as it opened. She stepped inside and sat in a simple plastic chair across from her father.
He was breathing slowly. His white hair was cropped short, and several runes had been painted onto his arms. A ceremonial knife lay on the metal table. His eye opened slowly, and he smiled.
They sat in silence for a moment. Her father slid his hand across the table. She automatically put her smaller hand in his, and he squeezed her gently. She closed her eyes, imagining that she was a young girl again, and that her father was holding her hand to keep her from being afraid in the dark. She bit her lip, but couldn't keep the tear from rolling down her cheek.
He stood up pulled her into a hug. She pressed tightly against him. He was still so much bigger than she was, with a bulk of muscle that had been built carefully and naturally. Most people never believed that her father only used nano fibers for basic reconstruction purposes, and not for enhancement. He was powerfully built, and he had done it all through training and dedication, a concept that was quickly disappearing in the Post-Revelation world.
"I'm so sorry, Jess," he whispered into her ear. She clutched him tighter. "Ack! Slayer Strength!"
She couldn't help but smile. Her father always made that joke, despite her careful efforts to regulate her unnatural strength. He'd done it with Momma as well, and it never failed to get her to smile.
"I hate this," she said in a small voice. "This isn't fair."
"I know, baby," he said comfortingly. "I know."
He held her for a while, and she allowed herself to simply be his little girl, and be comforted by her daddy one last time.
"You tell them I love them, okay?" she said finally, wiping a tear from her cheek.
"They know," her father assured her. "But I'll tell them anyway."
A red light blinked on.
"No!" she cried, unable to contain her panic. "Not yet!"
"I'm sorry, Jessie. You know I have to."
She hugged him again, and this time her tears were flowing freely. She wept against his chest and held him so tightly that she knew her Slayer strength must really have been an issue. He said nothing.
The light blinked again, and Xander Harris slowly removed his daughter's arms from around his chest.
"You take care of my grandkids," he said with a smile. "And...Try and talk to Willow sometimes."
Jessie sniffled and nodded, but she knew Willow would never see her. Once her father was gone, she wasn't sure Willow would ever care about anything but her studies ever again.
"I'm going to miss you, Daddy."
"I'll be with you all the time, baby. We all will. I promise."
He paused for a moment, and flashed her that silly grin that had always sent her giggling when she was a kid. "Except bathroom times. Then you're on your own."
She laughed despite herself, but they quickly turned to half-sobs. He kissed her on the forehead.
"You're the best thing I ever did," Xander said softly.
"You're the best daddy ever," Jessica replied.
"Oh, so I'm forgiven for not getting the Barbie Hawaiian Dream Mansion when you were nine?"
She grinned and stood on her tiptoes to kiss him on the cheek. "I love you."
"I love you too."
He sighed and looked at the light. It was now blinking constantly. A muffled voice yelled incoherently behind the glass, which thumped as someone behind it hit it angrily.
"I think that's the cue that we're running out of time. You have to go."
She wanted to fight him, wanted to scream that he couldn't go, that he couldn't leave her here alone. She had lost her mother to the fight, and now she would lose him too. Instead, she nodded silently.
Her father was a true hero. She could put on a brave face for him in the minutes before his death, and carry on in his place.
"We're going to win, Daddy. I promise."
He grinned at her, "I know it. You're too much like your mother to ever let the fuckers win."
"Daddy," she sighed, rolling her eyes at his language.
"Oh, sorry, baby. Just getting prepared for conversation with your mom."
She smiled tearfully.
"Okay, now you really have to go. And, Jess?"
"I don't want you to watch."
She almost opened her mouth to argue, but in truth she was relieved that he was making the decision for her. She nodded. He gave her one last hug, and a kiss on the cheek. She didn't want to leave, but she knew their time was limited.
The door hissed open for her, and Jessica Harris gave her father one last tearful look before the door shut.
Xander stood in the silent room, the red light blinking silently. He took a moment to take a deep breath, and then nodded to the mirror. The red light turned on steadily. It was time.
He picked up the knife, and closed his eye. He softly chanted the words of the spell that would empower his soul as protector of his wife's.
Powerful hands drove the knife through his chest, plunging it deep into his heart. He whispered the final words of the spell, and collapsed to his knees. Soon his soul would be released to watch over his love for all time.
"For Faith," he added almost silently. His vision began to blur, and the room grew cold. "For Faith...And for Buffy."
He hoped they were getting along in the afterlife.