I own none of these characters, franchises, etc... if I did, I'd be making movies out of my stories instead of fanfiction.....
I blame the big, bad plot bunny over there. ~points to the ferocious, ten foot sabertooth bunny~ so...um, yeah.
Giles finally found Willow after searching for her for nearly four hours. She had been so distraught after the funeral a few days ago that he was sure if it wasn't for Jesse, Willow would have allowed herself to have a nervous breakdown. Giles has searched everywhere in Cleveland for her, but should have known better that she would have come here. Her body laid across the settling grave, Willow laid there sobbing and crying. Mud covered her red hair, clothes, and body while rain gently fell upon her. If the slightly cold rain and mud was a problem, she didn't seem to show it or care.
"Willow," Giles called out softly as placed a hand on her shoulder. Giles could see the black and white streaks in Willow's red hair phasing in and out, like some psychedelic painting. Willow's magic these days primarily focused on white magic, or otherwise known as earth magic. Giles knew that Willow had a great bit of control not to use the darker sides of magic, but after Jesse's kidnapping and disappearance earlier that day he could understand her strained control. "Willow, " Giles called out again and gave Willow a little firmer shake, "it's raining, dear. You need to get out of this dreadful weather."
"It's all my fault, " mumbled Willow as she didn't move from her spot. She gripped the tombstone with one of hands and sobbed into her cold, wet arms. Willow sat up and looked at Giles with tired, red eyes, her hands balled into a fists from frustration and heartache. "He trusted me to take care of her, if anything happened to him. They both did! I couldn't stop them, Giles! They came in and took her away from me right in front of my eyes! I couldn't stop them and I can't find her now! I can't even find her with a location spell. I've tried everything and I can't find her. I couldn't protect her, Giles, and she's the only thing I have to remember him by!" Willow exclaimed as she pointed toward the tombstone behind her, then she started to look a little woozy.
"Breath, Willow, breath, " Giles softly commanded as he held Willow while softly rubbing circles into her back. Willow took a deep breath and tears mixed with the falling rain down her pale face. "It'll be alright, Willow. We'll find Jesse. It wasn't your fault, you did everything in your power to stop those demons from taking her. I'm sure Xander and Faith would understand, " replied Giles as he looked over at the tombstone. It read Xander Harris. Giles had to control his own tears this time as gazed upon it. Beside Xander's tombstone was Xander's wife. Two of the children he had known, fought against the darkness with, and come to care for laid six feet in the ground underneath their feet. It was their daughter that was entrusted to Willow to take care of, whom had become almost a surrogate mother to Jessica
"Jesse" Harris after her mother's death.
"I didn't know what to do, " sobbed Willow as she held onto Giles as if her life depended on it. "I couldn't stay there and do nothing. I had to do something, but somehow I ended up here. I miss him so much, Giles, and even Faith, too. I needed to tell them I was sorry I couldn't stop Jesse from being kidnapped, " Willow stated as her sobbing quieted down to hiccups. Giles gently took Willow by the shoulders and looked into her face.
"Willow, there was nothing you could. The force that came in had a very rare demon with, a Vanleran demon. They feed off magic and, unfortunately for us, the side effect is they nullify the caster's ability to use it. If it was for Buffy and Vi showing up, you would have surely been killed," Giles tried to explain. The group that came and took Jesse had planned out the kidnapping and assassination attempt very well. They had effectively nullified Willow's abilities as well as using Fyarl demons to keep the Junior Slayers away enough to escape. If it wasn't for Buffy and Vi's return appearance from the store, it would have been far worse than it was as it appeared Willow was the assassination target.
"Let's get you home and warmed up. You'll be of no use in finding Jesse if you are sick and unable to help, " stated Giles as he helped Willow up to her feet. Willow nodded and walked with Giles away from the graves toward his Citroen. A black-featherd shape passed them and landed on Xander's tombstone.
"K-kaw," squawked a pitch black crow. "K-kaw. Kaw," it squawked again as it pecked at the tombstone. Tink. Tink. Tink.
"Hey! " Willow shouted as she started to turn around back to the grave in an attempt to shoo the bird away.
"It's okay, willow, " said Giles as he gently pulled her back and away from the bird.
"It's on Xander's tombstone. It shouldn't be bothering it, " Willow said tiredly as she was led to the car, turning her head back to look at the bird as they walked away.
"You know in some cultures, it was once believed that a crow carried the person's soul to the land of the dead to rest. They are not necessarily a bad omen, " Giles said trying to calm Willow as he grabbed a blanket from the backseat and wrapped it around her. He helped her into the passenger's side seat before getting into the driver's side. Willow glanced back at the bird for a moment and then turned her head back as Giles started to drive away.
"It better take care of Xander's soul..." whispered Willow as the trauma and stress of the last few days finally took their toll and Willow fell asleep from exhaustion.
'Wake up, Van Winkle. Your need to wake up.'
'Yeah yeah. Just a few more minutes, Mom.' Xander thought as he attempted to roll over. He bumped into the side of the wall or something, which caused him to wake up and open his eyes. Yet, even with his eyes opened all he saw was darkness.
'Where am I?!' thought Xander as he tried to move. It felt like his arms and legs were weak and felt like jello, like he had been working out with the Junior Slayers all day. Unknown to Xander, the muscles in his arms and legs, as well as organs throughout his body were quickly regenerating. Slowly, certain senses started to return as organs and nerve clusters continued to regrow.
'It's cold in here, ' Xander thought as he started to shiver in reflex. 'What's that smell? It smells like formaldehyde' Xander slowly reached up and felt in front him, arms taking their time to respond to his request. He felt a wooden surface. He then felt to the side of him. It was covered in cloth and felt some padding material. Recognition suddenly set it. Xander tried to scream, but his decomposed vocal cords were still not fully healed and only a raspy, gurgling noise came out. Xander pushed out with his arms and legs, hoping beyond reason that he get out the coffin he was currently in.
Muscle fibers finally finished regenerating and Xander pushed with all of his might. The freshly dug dirt above his casket started to shift. To any spectators walking by, it would have appeared as if the ground was breathing. The soil moved up and down as if taking deep breathes, the ground coming apart and then coming back together like a zig-zagged smile, until finally Xander came out of it. The rain fell and started to wash away some of the soil on Xander's face and off of Xander's eye patch. In other places, the rain collected on Xander's black suit that he was buried in. Xander fell to onto his side and screamed into the dark, morning air.
'HEY! Be quiet! You want to wake up the dead' a voice popped into Xander's head with a hint of mirth behind it. It did the job as Xander instantly closed his mouth, shivered, and looked around. He didn't see anyone, but at the top of a tombstone was a big, black crow.
"I must be losing my mind. First, I wake up in a casket. Second, I'm hearing voices. I must have really lost it!" croaked Xander as curled up into a ball.
'Oh boy. This might be a little tougher than I thought,' came the voice again. 'Over here, on your tombstone. I'm the big black bird on top of it,' said the voice and Xander sat up and stared at the crow.
"No, you can't be talking to me. You're a bird. Birds can talk, that's just crazy. Like me, I must be crazy. I mean, a talking bird?" Xander said as he looked increduously at the crow. The crow just shook his hand and looked at Xander with its black orbs for eyes.
'Kid, you're not crazy. You're dead. I'm here to be your guide during you resurrection,' replied the crow through Xander's head. Xander just stared at the bird.
"I was dead? That would explain the casked and being buried thing, " Xander sighed taking things a little better now. He had lived his entire life on the Hellmouth, he was used to the crazy and supernatural things associated with it. But this was a little harder to handle, especially since it was HIS death and HIS grave he just dug out of.
'Yes, you were dead and still are, ' replied the crow.
"What? Like 'grrrr arrrrr' and having a sudden craving for brains? Cause that would be of the bad, " asked Xander which the crow just looked as him. The crow sighed and shook it's head again.
'No, you are not a zombie. Have you ever heard of the myth that crows carry the souls of the departed to the land of the dead?' asked the crow.
"Um, vaguely. I heard Giles and I think maybe one of the witches at a coven say that. Why?" asked Xander, truly curious.
'Well, it's partially true. There are differnt carriers for the souls. Some are angels, sometimes it's Charon and his boat across the river Styx, the carriers come in all shapes and sizes according to what is needed and their viewpoints in life. For you, it would have been a friend that you have been missing for a long time, ' replied the crow with a bit of sympathy in its voice.
"Jesse..." Xander whisphered. His friend from childhood and whom he had staked all those years ago when he was turned. He never forgot, even convinced his wife to name her after him.
"If you said he was supposed to, then why are you here?" asked Xander. The crow sighed once again and with a sorrow in his eyes looked directly into Xander's eyes.
'Do you remember how you died?' asked the crow. It hadn't occurred to Xander to even think about it. Now, he thought back to the last thing her remembered. He remembered treating his daughter, Jesse, to their weekly ice cream indulgence.
"You ready for ice cream, short stuff?" asked Xander as he walked hand-in-hand with his daughter.
"Yep, ready for that icey creamy stuff!" replied the overexuberant six year old, "and I'm not THAT short!" Xander just laughed as they made their way to the ice cream shop. It was Thursday and their weekly ice cream trip to satisfy their mutual ice cream indulgance. Usually, Willow would come with them, but today she had to work her mojo for a couple of projects at Slayer Central.
"Don't forget to remind to pick up some ice cream for Willow since she couldn't make it. Okay, Jess?" asked Xander as he opened the door to the ice parlor.
"Okay!" answered Jesse as she ran up to the counter.
"Heya, you two. What it'll be today?" asked Roger, the store owner. He was familiar with the duo's weekly habit and come quite fond of Jesse. She was just like Xander in so many ways, like being friendly and outgoing. Xander always said she was more like her mother than him, but Roger knew better.
"I want Wocky Woad, " answered Jesse, her R's coming out as W's due to her two front teeth had falling out recently. Roger just chuckled and nodded, scooped out a generous helping of Rocky Road and gave it to Jesse in a bowl.
"I'll take double chocolate," said Xander when it came to his turn.
"Wimp," remarked Jesse, with an innocent look upon her face. Xander looked at his daughter and his mouth dropped opened.
"Hey!" Xander exclaimed in mocked indignation. "What? You don't think I can handle Rocky Road?" asked Xander, to which his daughter's reply was simple. She shook her head and stuck out her tongue. "Fine, make mine a Rocky Road, too!" Roger just shook his at the father/daughter antics and served Xander some Rocky Road, too. Xander paid for the ice cream and the two sat down to enjoy their sugary delights.tackled the demon to the ground.
"Hey, Xander, think you can watch the store for a second. I have to go take this garbage out back and need to get a couple of gallons out of the freezer, " asked Roger as he bagged up some trash into the garbage bag, before tying it.
"Yeah, no problem, Roger. I can cover for your for a few minutes, " answered Xander while scooping another bite of ice cream and eating.
"Thanks, " said Roger as he headed out back. It was a little slow today, which was fine for Roger. It usually got busy after five o'clock, as everyone got off work then and brought their kids there.
Xander and Jesse enjoyed their ice cream, talking and enjoying their time together. A loud crash came from the back that made Jesse jump. Xander put his ice cream down and got up slowly.
"Roger, you okay back there?" asked Xander. A muffled groan was his response. "Stay here, Jess. I'll be right back," ordered Xander as made his way near the back of the shop. "Roger, you okay? Come on, don't tell me you dropped some of the ice cream on your head or something, did you?" joked Xander. Just as he was about open the door to the back room, he caught site of Roger, through the window in the door, laying on the ground. Then he was slammed by something big and fast. Xander flew about seven or eight feet backwards and landed beside Jesse's chair. The thing that hit Xander was a big, grey-plated demon with huge, long spikes on its head that grabbed quickly grabbed Jesse. It took a couple of steps before Xander jumped and grabbed it's leg, causing the demon to crash to the ground. Xander jumped on its back, took out his spare stake he always carried, and tried to stick it between one of the demons plates on the back of its neck. That didn't work so well and the demon wouldn't let go of Jesse, so Xander took his bowl of ice cream and shoved it into the demon's eyes. Luckily, this particular breed of demon were allergic to dairy.
The demon cried out in pain and dropped its hold on Jesse. Jesse ran behind the counter as Xander got his knife he had strapped to his ankle. The demon stood up and shook its head to dislodge some of the ice cream. It cried out and charged at Xander, whom jumped to side and tripped the demon. It landed on its face. Xander jumped and tried to stab through its plated skin. No such luck again. Xander knew he had only one course to
hopefully stop the plated demon. He flipped the demon over and thrusted his knife into the demon's eye. Xander pushed harder and harder, while the screams of the demon got louder and more wilder. Finally, the knife made contact into its brain. The demon convulsed and its remaining eye glazed over. Xander pulled the knife back out and took a deep breath.
"Good riddance, " remarked Xander as got off the demon and sat on the floor. Jesse ran over to him and he hugged his daughter with all might thanking whatever higher power that he was able to protect his little girl.
"Daddy!" cried Jesse as she hugged Xander as fiercely as she could. "I was so scared," Jesse said as she looked over the demon.
"Shhhhh. It's okay, you're fine now," said Xander as he rocked his daughter back and forth, "It's over now. You're a strong girl, so no more crying, okay?" asked Xander.
"Okay, Daddy, " replied Jesse as she gave a couple of final hiccups. She got out from under Xander's hug and walked over to the demon and kicked it, definitely showing her mother's side. "Bad monster, " she said as if scolding a naught puppy. The demon convulsed once and one the spikes from its head shot into the far wall.
"WATCH OUT!" yelled Xander as grabbed his daughter and shielded her with his body. The other spikes on the demons head shot out in different directions. Finally, after the last spike had disappeared through the ceiling and was quiet for about minute, Xander let go of his daughter. He grabbed his cellphone and hit the speed dial. "I need an emergency response team at ice cream shop at Fifth and Jenkins now. Code blue! And I need to be patched through to Willow immediately," Xander ordered as he grabbed his daughter in one arm moved toward the entrance of the shop and out of line-of-sight of the demon should anything else
come shooting out of its body. Xander gave Jesse a tired, lopsided grin. "It'll be okay, honey."
"Hello?! Xander, ohmygoddesswhathappened?Areyouokay?" asked Willow, her words traveling faster than most could think.
"Willow. WILLOW!" shouted Xander to get his best friend to stop babbling. "I need you to grab somebody that can do the healing mojo and teleport over here, if you don't mind, "
"Who's hurt? Is Jesse hurt?" Willow asked. Xander could almost see the fear and worry in her voice.
"No, Jesse's fine," replied Xander and Willow released the tension she had. "Some big armored demon tried to grab her, but I stopped it before it could get away, " Xander said as he collapsed to his knees. It was then that Jesse noticed the spike sticking out of her father's back, blood dripping slowly to the ground. Behind them was a trail of blood droplets leading back to where they were sitting just prior moments before.
"D-daddy?" Jesse asked with concern as only a scared six year old could accomplish. Xander looked into Jesse's beautiful chocolate eyes, they were just like his. He caressed her little face, as he watched her dark, black curls bounce as she moved. 'So much like her mother, ' he thought.
"I love you, Jessica," whispered Xander into her ear.
"Willow, I need you here as soon as possible, but promise me something will you?" asked Xander as the color started to drain out of his face.
"W-what? Sure, anything, " replied Willow over the cellphone. Xander could hear her yelling to one of the slayers to get Jean in the Healing ward and to hurry the heck up for emergency teleport.
"Promise you'll take care of Jesse if I don't make it?" Xander asked as he collapsed to the floor and onto his side. Slowly a puddle of blood started to form beneath him.
"W-what?! XANDER!" Willow yelled through the phone, her previous fear and worry returning full force as she realized it was Xander who was hurt. Willow could hear Jesse scream 'Daddy' through the phone.
Xander snapped out of his daze. He remembered off and on Jean trying to stabilize him, but it was no use. The spikes had been poisoned and he was beyond the point of no return. Then he remembered nothing after that.
"I died after protecting my daughter from that demon, " Xander said in a small voice.
'Yes, you did,' answered the crow. 'Now, to make clear why you are here let me tell you the other half of the crow myth that many aren't aware. Not only can we take a soul to the Land of the Dead, but some of us can bring one back to make the wrong things right. You have been given that chance.' Xander lifted his head and gave the crow a puzzled look.
"What does that mean? What wrong do I have to right?" asked Xander, knowing he wasn't going to like the answer.
'The party responsible for trying to kidnap your daughter succeeded three days ago, ' answered the crow. Xander's one good eye widened in shock, before it narrowed into a cold, deadly gaze.
"They have my daughter?" snarled Xander, which the crow nodded in response. "Who has her?"
'There are several individuals responsible. Your daughter is part of a dark prophecy. I am here to guide you to make the wrong things right, to stop them from unleashing something terrible, but for also vengeance ' the crow replied while standing up a bit straighter on the tombstone. Xander understood what his role was to be now. He was to be the hand of justice, but something seemed out of place.
"There's something else you haven't told me yet, isn't there? What vengeance are you speaking of? I have complete faith that the Scoobies can get her back, so why am I here? What are you holding back?" Xander asked as he stood up and the cold rain dropped around them.
'Yes,' replied the crow. 'You were not only brought back to stop the prophecy and save your daughter, but for another reason. For the ones who seek to kill your daughter are the ones who also killed your wife. It is vengeance for her, Jesse's mother, for...'
Xander looked at the crow, hands clenched into a white-knuckled grip shaking from rage, completed the sentence for the bird.