A New Direction and a New Origin
“A Future Not Like the Past” By Shadow Master aka Ryley Breen
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the copyrighted materials contained herein. They are the rightful property of their creators and associated companies. I make no money off of this whatsoever. I write only for my own enjoyment and for those readers who enjoy my work. Therefore please don’t consider suing me or anything because I can guarantee that the legal costs of such proceedings would vastly exceed anything you could possibly get from me.
A Future Not Like the Past
August 29th, 1980
Outside Sunnydale General Hospital, Evening
“What are we going to do now, Tony?” Jessica asked as they got into their 1980 Honda Accord.
“I don’t know, Jess. We’ll just keep looking and asking around.” He replied comfortingly as he pulled out of the parking spot, “We’ll find something. We just gotta be patient.”
It bothered him to see his wife of three years so upset and it was because of that that he’d done his best to support her in her quest to have a son. It had been something Jessica had always been thinking about since the day he’d gotten down on bended knee and proposed to her. He, on the other hand, hadn’t been all that crazy about having a kid, or at least not until he had a chance to make something of himself on the worksite. Maybe once he was promoted to vice president of the Sunnydale branch of the company he’d be willing to put as much effort into making a kid as Jessica was. After all, by then he’d have enough money to handle raising a kid without having to sacrifice anything else that he might want. At the moment he had just plunked down a sizeable sum of money for his own house and the car they were driving in and he still had payments to make on both. If a kid got dropped in their laps at this point he’d have to stretch each dollar that little bit further and maybe sign on for some overtime when it became available.
Not exactly how he wanted to spend his leisure time.
“I know, Tony. It’s just… it’s just that I want a child of my own so much.” Jessica said, looking like she’d break down into tears eventually if something didn’t turn her mood around.
“Look, how about we try to turn this night into something more positive?” He said, trying to sound sympathetic and caring, “Let’s go to the drive in theater outside of town. It’ll be like old times. What do ya say?”
For a moment he thought she’d be determined to sulk or something but, when he saw that special twinkle in her eye, he knew that he had her hooked on the idea. With that in mind he turned onto the road that would take them out of Sunnydale itself and to the drive in theater that had been there since the sixties. It had been the place where many… pleasurable… memories had been made.
Most of which had involved Jessica. The more recent visits there, anyways.
There had been other women before her, of course, what woman could resist him after all, but in the end he knew that the image of a playboy and skirt chaser wouldn’t be good for his career in the company. So he’d taken a look at his little black book, looked for the ones with the fewest cons and then made a choice he felt he could live with. She had a great body, one that seemed less likely to be ruined by pregnancy every day, she had a sense of humor that could occasionally make him laugh and, best of all, her family was always a soft touch when it came to asking for a loan. They were such ‘good people’ that all he needed to do was tell an appropriately tailored sob story and add the promise that there was a plan in the works to get him and his wife back on their feet. Twice before he’d done it and they hadn’t hesitated one little bit. He knew he’d have to wait awhile before doing it again, didn’t want to tip them off that they were being taken advantage of, but if a miracle happened and Jessica got pregnant then he could look forward to an early Christmas bonus this year.
That had him smiling in a way that might have tipped his wife off to his ‘ambitious nature’.
Not that he couldn’t explain it away if she caught him in the act somehow.
Jessica could be so blind to the truth sometimes.
It was a big place with an abundance of things going this way and that.
For those that dwelt in the solar system of Earth, though, things were more predictable with eight planets, several moons and an asteroid belt. Of the planets, only Earth had signs of intelligent life on the surface and so it had been for the last couple of centuries. The inhabitants of Earth, for most of their history, remained ignorant of what lay beyond their own planet and used mysticism as well as religion to explain what lay in the sky above them. In the last twenty years or so they have begun to take their first steps into the great darkness of space first by escaping Earth’s gravity and then by landing on the moon. Plans upon plans were being conceived by agencies all over the world, by all of the major governments of the world, to expand into outer space so that see all there was to see. At the moment, though, space technology was still in its infancy and, aside from an array of orbital satellites or experimental probes, not much else had been put to practical use… with a few unofficial exceptions, if certain conspiracy newspapers could be believed.
Whatever the truth may have been, it is safe to say that no one could have predicted what was about to happen. Where once there was nothing but an empty vacuum, light collected before exploding outwards to reveal a hole in space wider than most small cities. A collection of blue and white lights surrounded a hole that seemed to lead to a realm that was a kaleidoscope of colors that changed from one nanosecond to the next. However if anyone was watching this event, they would soon have their attention focused on something else as a craft surrounded by planetary debris exited the portal with a brief surge of speed before assuming a more consistent pace. Passing by the Earth’s moon, the craft’s course seemed to change, though whether it was due to gravitational fields or a program on the space fairing vessel was unknown. All that could be said with certainty was that due to this change in course the craft was now heading directly for Earth rather than veering off elsewhere.
In another time, another place, the ship would have continued on its preprogrammed course to land just outside of a small town in the state of Kansas. Indeed that had been the plan of the ship’s creator but even his sizeable scientific acumen could not completely predict how things would develop after his visit there as a young man. While being a citizen of an advanced scientific society, even he could not account for every variable and phenomena with one hundred percent accuracy. Therefore it could be forgiven that he failed to predict a flash of cosmic energy seriously destabilized the craft’s systems, destabilizing its trajectory. As a result it was unable to avoid one of the larger satellites orbiting the planet, resulting in a collision that knocked the spaceship completely off course so that it now flew towards the west coast of the United States of America.
As for the planetary fragments that had once been following the craft like the tail end of a comet with the energy disruption of the craft’s systems, the force that was keeping the masses of rock and crystal in close to the ship was gone. Without it the fragments were dispersed by the collision with the orbiting satellite scattering in all directions to fall to Earth in random locations around the globe. Some would touchdown both in bodies of water while others would make landfall on continents around the world. Some would be found within days of their arrival on Earth while others would remain unreachable due to various natural environmental barriers, such as thousands of feet of solid rock.
As for the ship itself, it entered the atmosphere with the debris that had followed it and was enveloped by fire as the friction began to build.
For those on the ground it would appear to be nothing more than a meteor shower and be dismissed as a pretty light show. Travelling at great speeds it traversed mesosphere in minutes, entering the stratosphere and losing the red glow it once had. Had anyone been tracking the trajectory of the craft they would have been able to calculate its touchdown point to be somewhere within range of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties in the state of California.
However there was one thing unknown to all and that was the fact that there existed a special energy field that surrounded the town that would have been at ground zero of the impact. Thus, instead of landing in the town, it skipped off the field to land outside the town limits.
The town limits of a place known as Sunnydale, California, USA.
A Gas Station Just Outside of the Sunnydale City Limits, Jessica’s P.O.V
~I wish Tony would hurry.~ Jessica thought as she waited in the car for her husband, ~Honestly! How much beer is he planning on getting in there?~
They were about three quarters of the way to the old drive in that held such wonderful memories for them both and then her husband had said he wanted to stop to get some ‘refreshments’. She, of course, had pointed out that there was a concession stand at the theater but Anthony had pointed out that the people there watered down every drink and charged outrageous prices. Thinking back on the previous visits, she had to concede that he might have a point and so she didn’t put up too much of a fuss when he’d pulled into the gas station. Now, though, she was beginning to get a little impatient since they’d miss the movie if he took much longer.
She was about to get out of the car to see what was taking him so long when she heard a muffled sound from inside the car that she imagined had to have been pretty loud for those outside. Curious, her mind deduced that the sound seemed to have been made behind her so, with a little maneuvering in her seat, she turned around to see what was behind the car. It was then, only for a split second, that she saw a dark shape shoot towards the gas stationed from the direction of Sunnydale. Anything else became incomprehensible as the ground shook, the car was thrown into the air and fire seemed to expand in all directions before adopting a more vertical burn behavior. She, of course, was only peripherally aware of all this since being tossed around the interior of her car but, when her mind finally became coherent enough, she wondered if she’d somehow been dropped in a war torn country. Flaming debris lay everywhere and, amidst the crackling of the fires, she could hear cries of both pain as well as panic cutting through the air with all the subtlety of a chainsaw. Realizing that the car was upside down, she painfully began to crawl out of the shattered driver’s side window of the car trying her hardest not to cut up her palms.
Painfully getting to her feet, she was glad that she didn’t seem to have any broken bones but she was pretty sure that when she and Tony got home, she’d be covered with bruises. Looking about, she could see that she was one of the ‘lucky’ ones as there were many more people scattered about, either dead or dying. Some looked as though they were just asleep but the lack of rising and falling told her those people were dead. The others… the others made her throw up everything she had in her stomach.
There was so much blood, such gore, that it took everything she had to bring herself under control. Doing her best to focus on something other than the death, she looked at the surrounding area instead and began to describe it inside her mind. The gas station was completely destroyed, parts of it either aflame or reduced to shattered rubble. The pumps were now columns of fire reaching for the sky and the garage portion was almost completely blown away. There was a chance that there were still people alive in the store portion of the gas station but they’d have to dig themselves out or push aside the debris to step outside. It was difficult to see but she could sort of make out where the destruction began and where it ended. A flash of memory reminded her of the dark shape she’d seen heading in the general direction of the gas station before the car was knocked about with her inside it.
So something had crashed… crashed through the gas station… and set off all this destruction.
She was about to make her way to the store portion of the gas station when a sound reached her ears that froze her in place better than any block of ice could. It was a sound she’d dreamed about ever since Tony had proposed to her and it had only gotten more dominant in her mind as the years had gone by. She’d been discouraged after the first few trips to the doctor made the likelihood of her bearing a child less and less likely. She didn’t understand half of the technical mumbo jumbo that had been rattled off but the basic gist that she got was that she’d been born wrong somehow. She didn’t give up, though! She grabbed onto any experimental treatment that the doctor named, any possible way she could have a child, and Tony had been supportive every step of the way. Today, however… today it was nothing more than her own stubborn will that kept her going because the part of her ruled by reason had pretty much given up. She knew that her husband would keep on trying so long as she made it clear she wanted to keep going but, from the way Doc Reeves was talking earlier, it sounded like almost all of the experimental treatments had been explored. It was because of this that she’d welcomed the distraction of a trip to the drive in because then, for at least a few hours, she could ignore the truth creeping up behind her.
Now, though, the crying of a baby had shattered her forced repression and immediately her only objective became to find the source of those innocent cries. While some might say that amidst the chaos of the scene around her it would be near impossible to track something down by sound alone, she was the exception to that rule. When someone has wanted something for an extended period of time, they become significantly attuned to its characteristics: its sounds, its smells and the form it took. Thus, because of her desire for a child, she had very little difficulty at all tracking the scared crying to the bottom of a trench in the field that existed to the left of the gas station. With her destination clearly pointed out to her, she broke into a run, only stumbling once along the way, quickly arriving at the source of the cries.
The sight she beheld then was enough to make all but the fuzzy feeling disappear as her heart melted.
Wriggling at the bottom of the trench was a lovely, naked baby boy.
“Oh my!” she exclaimed as she dashed to baby’s side scooping him up in her arms in an instant, “You poor baby!”
So great was her focus on the baby that she completely ignored the metal impression it had been lying in or its seemingly artificial nature. Given time she might have taken a closer look and begun to ask questions about what the scorched metal and overall shape meant.
Turning and moving towards where her husband was, she didn’t even think about putting the child back down. Indeed, any thoughts she might have had about where she found it vanished into the ether of her mind, where it would die a slow death over the course of many years.
It didn’t take her long to find her husband, who was taking steps her way to try and find her. It looked like he had injured his right arm but, judging from the lack of blood, it didn’t seem to be too serious. Then again she didn’t have any medical training outside of a few First Aid classes she’d taken back in university, so what did she know? It didn’t take Anthony long to lock eyes with her and then, within the space of fifteen seconds they were embracing each other, glad that the other was still alive. However the hug didn’t last long though as the baby in her arms cried out, getting both her attention as well as the attention of her husband.
“A baby? Where did you find him?” Tony asked obviously confused as to what she’d be doing with an infant.
“Over there in the field. Oh, he was crying! He sounded so afraid!” she exclaimed as her mind began to focus on the precious thing in her arms, “But it’s alright now. Mommy’s here now!”
“Jessica! You can’t just call this boy yours,” Tony said, sounding unsure of how to speak about this subject. “He has to belong to someone here. If we just take him they could charge us with kidnapping or something.”
While the more rational part of her mind acknowledged that it was quite likely the baby’s family was among those people at the gas station, her growing attachment to the infant ruthlessly tried to suppress those facts so that all she cared about was making her dream come true.
“Not if his parents are one of the dead. Tony, I found him in the field without any clothing on or anything to tell us who he belongs to,” she said, trying to come up with reasons why the boy belonged with them. “Besides, what sort of parents leave their child naked and alone! They don’t deserve him!”
Her husband seemed to battle with himself for a time, caught between obeying the law and giving her what she wanted, but it didn’t take him long to reach a decision.
“Alright! We’ll take the child home with us ^BUT^ we’ll also keep an eye on the news broadcasts and the papers,” Tony said with firmness that made it clear he would not be moved on this. “If we read or see so much as a peep about a family missing a baby boy that looks like this one, we’ll turn him over. Okay?”
She wanted to argue further but she knew from looking into Tony’s eyes that if she put up any further fuss he’d abandon his compromise in a heartbeat.
With that in mind there was only answer she could give. “Okay,” she replied with a smile on her face as she looked down at the infant that Fates willing would be hers from this day forward.
One Month Later, Sunnydale, Tony’s P.O.V
~Damn deadbeat parents!!~ Tony thought as he sat on a stool in his favorite bar, enjoying a mug of his favorite brew, ~Dumping their baby out there! Now it’s my problem!~
It had been bearable enough that first week, since Jessica had taken all the responsibility for caring for the baby, but once one week turned into two things began to cost him. Jessica insisted on getting clothes for the child and then real baby food rather than whatever they could find around the house. As the money left his pocket, he’d doubled his viewing of the news broadcasts and reading of newspapers so that if there was a single mention of a missing child he’d spot it. As of last week though he’d lost hope on the media providing him with what he wanted so he bought Stein a round one night and covertly asked if he’d heard anything.
He’d cursed himself all the way home with fifty less dollars in his pocket thanks to that asshole of a beat cop stringing him along.
Now… now it looked like the child Jessica had named Alexander would really be their child from that day forward. Considering the doctors had told him that his arm wouldn’t have full range of motion anymore and that meant he’d have to work twice has hard at work just to stay where he was, it was going to be a drain on his bank account and, while he didn’t think he’d lose the house or the car now, that it was repaired it’d be pretty rare to have a night out with the guys.
Especially since he was going to have to come up with some fake documents in order to make everything legal concerning the brat. They had, after all, had them in their house for a month without telling the police or anyone else so they had probably broken a few laws or something. Therefore to keep away from some prison time, they had to make sure all the paperwork and records supported their claim that the brat was theirs. The problem wasn’t that he didn’t know how to do it but, rather, that he knew the people who could do that sort of work would try to bleed him dry for their trouble. This being the case, he had to wonder if keeping Jessica happy by letting her keep the baby had really been the smartest thing. It’d seemed like a lucky break the failed attempts at getting her knocked up the normal way but now it looked like it was going to cost him more money.
Hearing the tinkling, he turned to the door of the tavern and saw the bar owner’s son, William, entering in looking like he was a little worried. Not surprising considering the kid was in his late teens and, if the clock was anything to go by, was late for his shift at the bar. The kid was a spineless coward who’d probably never amount to anything and might not even be left the bar unless he grew a pair sometime soon. Franklin was an old friend from ‘Nam and couldn’t stand wimps or cowards at all. On the battlefield those kinds of people were shot on sight both by their comrades and by the enemy. They were burdens and liabilities that needed to be cut loose at the first sign of trouble or the whole squad would fall to enemy fire. His buddy said that William was so weak because the old ball and chain babied him too much and always got in the way when he tried to whip the kid into shape. He’d already promised himself in his soul that he wouldn’t let Jessica get in the way of making Alexander into a proper man, no matter how much he might love her. The men of the Harris family had always been fine examples of what it meant to be a guy and he’d kill the brat before he’d let Alexander bring shame to that fine tradition.
“Sorry I’m late, Pops.” William said as he tied on his bar tender’s apron.
“Sorry? SORRY? You’re half an hour late and you think ^sorry^ is going to be enough to get you through everything I’ve had to do to cover for you?!” Franklin asked incredulously before punching his boy in the gut without any warning, “Don’t think for a minute that I’m going to cut you any slack just because you’re my son! The moment you stepped into this place, you became just another hopeless employee I’ve generously decided to let work for me. You got that, runt!?”
“Y-yes… B-Boss!” William replied, scraping himself off the floor and back onto his feet.
“Then get your lazy ass in back and check the stock! I don’t want us running dry anytime soon.” Franklin ordered before giving his son a kick in the ass to get him to hop to it.
He could only shake his head at the weakness the lazy bum had in him and wondered if his buddy would disinherit the trash altogether.
“Fuck but that boy pisses me off! Makes me glad I’ll be getting a windfall soon so I can leave this dirtball of a town,” Franklin said before he went back to cleaning the mugs in front of him.
“Windfall? What windfall?” he asked, wondering what big scam his buddy was talking about.
“Well…” replied Frankie before taking a quick look around, “There’s this guy that goes by the name of ‘Doc’ that works outta the warehouse district. Does all kinda weird word for weird people. Anyways, he’s willing to pay quite a bit of money for people willin’ to do guard duty on a couple of shipments he’s got coming in by boat on the beach.”
“How much they payin’?” he asked, wondering if this might be a chance for him to earn some extra money.
“Ten thousand per night, grand total of forty if you make it through all four nights.” Franklin replied with a smile, “Quickest pile of cash I’ll ever make, that’s for sure. You interested?”
Was he interested? Forty grand would certainly cover the cost of the fake papers he’d need plus leave five for him to spend however he liked. However anything needing guard duty by somebody named ‘Doc’ was bound to be illegal and it could mean that they’d be protecting it from cops or worse. Still, his training was still strong in his mind and he still had most of his gear stored away in the attic, well maintained and ready for use. Assuming that things didn’t get too hairy, he’d be able handle anything short of other trained soldiers.
“Tell me more and maybe I’ll tell ya.” He replied with a smile as he imagined the money that was looking to be more and more in his reach.
One Week Later, Warehouse District, Doc’s Place
“Well, Mr. Harris, I must say that you’ve impressed me. Of the ten men I hired for this job, only you and two others survived,” Doc stated as he finished examining the merchandise. “Also it would seem that my merchandise has arrived in excellent condition. Considering the gunfire I heard that is quite the feat indeed.”
Tony had to smile with a bit of pride at those words but it was tempered by what he had fought that night. They weren’t human and if it hadn’t been for the others being closer he had, no doubt he’d be dead right now.
It bothered him that he’d no longer have his old friend to talk and bitch to over a mug of brew but what was done was done. Still, he felt a certain… obligation… to do one good deed in his friend’s memory. He’d… he’d drop ten Gs in the mailbox of Frankie’s home once he left this place. It wouldn’t be much but it’d at least take some of the burden of the funeral off his wife and kid. Not that they deserved it or anything but he figured there had to be some reason his war buddy had stuck with them for so long.
“Well, here’s your money, Mr. Harris. Forty thousand dollars for four night’s work,” Doc said as he handed over the satchel full of money. “Have a good evening!”
He was just about to leave when he had an idea that could save him both money and hassle.
“Hey Doc? You got many friends in the medical community?” he asked offhand only turning halfway towards the old man, “Are any of them in record keeping or in the maternity ward?”
“Some yes. Why do you ask?” Doc asked sounding quite confused by the questions.
“Do you think they’d be able to slip a record of birth in without anyone being the wiser? Something good enough to stand up to sharp government eyes?” he asked, wanting to know if his hunch was accurate.
“Well, it would be difficult and they’d likely want something in return,” Doc replied, sounding a bit interested in the enterprise. “Perhaps if you told me a bit more I could give you a more definite answer.”
This was the big jump point. If he explained everything and this guy went to the cops, he’d be locked away but, if he clammed up and said nothing, he’d have to go the more expensive route. In the end he chose to take a chance and save some money.
“You might’ve heard about that big accident at the gas station outside of town a little over a month ago. My wife and I were there when it happened,” he explained, looking around to remain as calm as possible. “We found this baby, in the field nearby, and we sort of took him home with us. The kid was completely naked, no sign of parents anywhere, so we figured someone had to take care of him.
“We’ve kept an eye out for any missing baby reports in the news or at the S.P.D ever since but nothing’s popped up,” he continued, feeling a little more at ease since the main secrets were now out. “The thing is, though, it’s only a matter of time before people notice us taking care of a kid. I was wondering if you could use your contacts to slip some files into the right places so that if anyone looks, it’ll all look official.”
“Would they be making it look like your wife had given birth to the baby or would you prefer adoption?” Doc asked, sounding like it might be possible for him to do it.
That would be the question. It’s a tough call since he didn’t know what the brat would look like down the road. If the kid didn’t look a thing like his parents, people might look suspicious. Adoption would probably be the safer route.
“Adoption,” he replied finally.
“A wise choice and definitely the easier to do of the two,” Doc said before scratching his chin in thought. “You’ll need to bring the child here so I can run the necessary tests on him. Forms need to be filled out and the closer to being accurate they are, the better they’ll stand up to official scrutiny.”
“So you’ll do it?” he asked wanting to hear it from the man’s own lips.
“For say… the return of ten thousand dollars of your payment, it’d be a done deal, Mr. Harris.” Doc said with an honest smile.
~A bit expensive but still less than I’d have to pay going to the others.~ He thought before extending his hand and saying, “I’d say we have a deal, Doc Tazu. I’ll bring the kid around tomorrow.”
Years passed in Sunnydale and, despite the shady way in which it was done, no one ever suspected that Alexander LaVelle Harris was anything other than the adopted son of Jessica and Tony Harris. For a long time there was happiness in the Harris household and even Tony was warming to the idea of being a father, although that could be because it had won him the favor of his supervisor. However, at the age of five, this all changed when, during a party involving Tony’s friends and their families, Alex suddenly collapsed to the ground. He was rushed to the hospital and examined by a ‘friend’ of Doc Tazu rather than one of the other doctors on staff. No one knew this, of course, not even Tony, but by the end of the examination it was determined that the boy was showing signs of a rare form of anemia. So rare that only a handful of other cases had been recorded in the entire world. There was a treatment, a pill that Alexander could take anytime he started to feel the symptoms, but it would at most take the edge off of the effects of his condition. The adopted son of the Harris family would be able to do most things without difficulty but serious exertion would have a high probability of causing the symptoms to flare up.
This, of course, did not help Alex, or Xander, as he came to prefer being called since it made things easier for his friend Willow, who couldn’t quite pronounce Alexander quite right. It meant that aside from some basic exercises he couldn’t participate in any team sports, nor could he participate in any other activity that would have had him gasping for air by the end. Naturally this made it difficult for him to make friends outside of Willow and Jesse, since he couldn’t relate to the athletes nor was he smart enough to hang out with the eggheads. The geeks… well, he liked some of the things that they did but he knew how others treated Andrea and Jonathan at school, so he didn’t want to become anything that would make him even more of an outcast.
As the years passed, though, things at home began to circle the proverbial bowl as the pills that youngest resident of the Harris home needed weren’t the cheapest. After all, the type of anemia he had was rare and so not a lot of resources had been devoted to the treatment so developing a cheaper, more affordable version of the pill. Thus, for years, money that Tony Harris had earned was funneled into buying the pills and, as his salary fluctuated with the times, it became harder with every passing year to make ends meet. Now most parents would be concerned, be even a little depressed, but they would never once think it wasn’t worth it to help their child. Tony Harris… well, Tony had only been happy about having a son so long as it didn’t inconvenience him or get in the way of what he wanted. With the drain the medicine was providing, his attitude towards his ‘son’ went from annoyed to frustrated to angry within the space of only three years. Before long a combination of financial distress and his long time alcoholism caused Tony to take out his anger on his family. Never a strong woman to begin with, Jessica easily lost the strength to stand up to her husband and soon fell to the siren call of hard liquor to numb the pain of her life.
Xander, however, proved to be more resilient and, with the support of his friends, he was able to keep his familiar lopsided smile and the humor that made him who he was. Even though he spent as little time at home as he could in order to avoid the abuse of his father. Even though he had to wear used clothes and hand me downs because his parents either couldn’t afford anything new or because they didn’t care. Even though in the entire school, the only two people who treated him nice were his friends with all the others seeing him as either a nobody or a loser.
All this time, though, a part of him wondered why his life had to be so hard. Why his parents had gone from being so nice to being so bad.
He didn’t get anything even remotely resembling an answer until his second year of high school when he bumped into a blonde transfer student from Los Angeles.
It was then that he learned that he had been living on a town that sat on top of a literal mouth to hell or, rather, one of many hell dimensions. He learned that vampires, demons and everything he had been taught was fiction was in fact all too real. He had been stunned by this revelation and wondering if maybe it was the Hellmouth that was responsible for his anemia and, by extension, the downward spiral his familial relationships with his parents. However it wasn’t until first blood was drawn, when Jesse, someone he considered a brother in all but blood, was killed and then turned into a vampire, that things changed forever. He tried so hard to reach the Jesse he knew inside of the walking corpse, clinging to the belief that something of his best friend remained, but in the end it was his wooden stake that turned the blood drinker to dust. It was in those moments of seeing the dust and ash fall to the ground that he committed himself to fighting the supernatural evil alongside the Slayer, Buffy Summers.
In the two years that followed he would be involved in struggles that forced him to be mindful of when he exerted himself because, each time he pushed himself, he had to take one more pill than he usually had to. Sometimes it couldn’t be avoided and this caused his bottle to empty sooner than later, resulting in his father having to pay for a refill more often. Needless to say this only worsened his father’s treatment of him but he didn’t care. He was helping his girls and, through them, the world by taking a stand against the darkness.
However, just as they say that the night is always darkest before the dawn, so too was Xander’s life about to descend into darkness.
Xander’s life and one belonging to another, that is.
October 6th, 1998
Night, The Streets of Sunnydale, Tony’s P.O.V
~That fucker Jenkins! Thinks he can humiliate in front of everyone like that!~ Tony thought with anger as he took another swig of Jack Daniels, ~I’ll show him! I’ll show all of them!~
It had been one of the bi-monthly office parties that had started about three years and, even though he’d rather have been catching the game at home, he knew not showing up would only mean trouble for him in the end. The new number one guy at the company was a big stickler for employee solidarity and tended to examine employees who didn’t attend these get togethers with a very exposing microscope. While he didn’t have much to hide, there were at least two things that would get him fired without a doubt if anyone in management found out. One was his smuggling out a few files to hand over to some business rivals of the company for a significant sum of money plus some stock in that company. The other was accidental death of some street bum who’d wandered into the worksite and gotten himself killed. He’d been the one who was supposed to lock the place up afterwards but forgot due to having just a little too much beer on the job. There’d been investigations for both incidents but, as far as he knew, no one event thought he knew what happened much less was responsible for both. All it would take, though, was just the right level of scrutiny to shine the spotlight on him and then he’d be booted out of the company and into jail. So, despite his displeasure, he had made sure from day one that he and his wife attended every single one of them and looking the best they could while attending.
They’d been mostly boring up until tonight, when Fred Jenkins had started telling water cooler stories and had attracted quite a crowd as the party went on. During the closing hours of the party, Jenkins had begun to mockingly tell a story about him but it was about a screw up of his that, up until that moment, hadn’t been pinned on anyone. It wasn’t a mess that’d get him fired but he knew now that if he’d been under consideration for a promotion prior to the party he was now officially out of the running. The look on Fred’s face after the supervisor had left to investigate matters was all the proof he needed that the bastard had planned everything from start to finish. MOTHERFUCKER!!! He wasn’t above a little stacking of the deck when it was needed but that was going way too far. If you had something on someone at work, you threatened them with it in private. NOT in front of everyone like that!! Now he had to get back home as quickly as he could and destroy everything there that could implicate him. It wasn’t much but if he waited he was sure he’d be found out.
~The files I can burn easy enough~, he thought as he took a turn a little faster than the posted speed limit. ~I’ll have to hide the money stashed in the trunk, though. FUCK! I’m going to kill Fred for this and in this town I can get away with it!! One more corpse wouldn’t raise too much of a commotion.~
“Tony, m-maybe you should slow down a bit!” Jessica said from beside him, strangely not as doped up as she’d been a few moments ago.
“Shut up, bitch, and don’t you tell what the fuck to do! Ya hear!?!” he yelled at before backhanding her in the face.
Didn’t that bitch know what her role in their relationship was! He was the king, the RULER, and his word was law as far as their family was concerned. Her sole purpose was to serve and please him! She was not supposed to get uppity ideas like her opinion being worth more than shit! Dammit! Ever since she convinced him to take that brat in, Jessica had been getting all sorts of weird ideas about what she was entitled to. He’d have to teach her a lesson with his fists after he finished disposing of the evidence back home. As much as he might want to, though, he’d have to leave that face of hers alone. Not that it was much to look at these days but, if she stepped out of the house with bruises and cuts, it’d cause him no end of trouble. He’d make most of them body blows and, if that worthless ‘son’ of his tried to get in the way, he’d give him twice the number of hits his ‘mother’ got. The brat might have learned to take a beating over the years but he could still bring the pain to that back tacking ingrate when it mattered.
Just thinking of that piece of shit reminded him of how much money he was shoveling out just to get that blasted medicine the friggin’ hospital prescribed. The little prick had been downing more of them than usual since he started high school and it bled his bank account dry. He barely had enough money to keep his house livable, never mind keep the fridge stocked with beer. That pissed him off because there were some days a man just wasn’t supposed to face sober and he was starting to need something that gave more of a buzz in a smaller bottle. Maybe he should kill that little bastard along with Fredricks. One body… two bodies, what did it matter. This place was full of graveyards! People died here all the time with no one raising a fuss!
He was just about to begin making plans to kill off his drain of a son and the man who’d humiliated him at the party when he spotted something ahead. It took only a moment for the headlights of the car to illuminate who it was but this caused his mind to freeze up even worse than usual thanks to the booze. It looked like it was a trio of people dressed up like zombies and so without thinking he turned hard on the wheel of his car to the right to avoid them. This, however, turned out to be a bad move since the car was in such a bad state due to him skimping on visits to the garage for maintenance. As such when it hit the curb, numerous things snapped robbing the wheel of the vehicle of the ability to direct its course in any way. It could not be directed away from the house it was barreling towards and crashed through the front of the structure with all the subtlety of a runaway train. So violent was it that his head smacked up against the steering wheel, making the blackness of unconsciousness dance along the edges of his vision.
This was perhaps a mercy granted by God himself because, while both he and his wife were rendered incapable of thinking straight, the gasoline that was escaping from the crack in its tank had finally expanded to the point where the heat and sparks created by the engine could interact with it. Like the cars at the gas station so long ago, it exploded in a torrent of flame.
It didn’t end there, though.
The home that they had crashed into had been undergoing repairs in the kitchen and it had been the intent of the owners to replace the old gas stove for an electric one. However they’d only gotten so far as removing the gas stove so far, which left the pipes that carried the gas still in the walls with very little to protect them from the fire unleashed from the exploding car. With bits of metal flying through the air, the pipes that once carried the gas to the stove were broken open and the residual gas was quick to ignite. It burned a path back to the tank where rest was causing it to ignite as well and all at once the house was shattered in a massive explosion. Fire and debris were strewn everywhere but most terrible of all was that the house was not empty when this happened.
The wife and husband of the smartest girl at Sunnydale High had been in the house at the time as they had returned from their latest tour of seminars.
So it came to pass that both of the parents of Xander Harris and Willow Rosenberg died in fiery destruction.
One Week Later, Summers Home, Xander’s P.O.V
That one phrase had been popping up in his head ever since the police had shown up at his home the morning after Buffy’s welcome back party. He’d returned home that night to a quiet house but simply assumed that his parents had gone straight to bed upon their return from the office party. It hadn’t been until he’d been woken up at eight in the morning by a banging on the front door that he realized something might be wrong. He hadn’t been told what was the matter at first, just been grabbed by Detective Stein before having some handcuffs slapped on him, but when he’d arrived at the police station he learned a somewhat twisted version of the truth.
He was being accused of sabotaging his father’s car resulting in not only Tony’s death but also his mother’s and Willow’s parents.
It had been more the fact that Willow’s parents were dead than his that caused him to sit there stunned while Stein did his posturing and threatening in the hopes of getting a full confession. It hadn’t been until the asshole of a Detective had knocked over his chair sending him to the ground that he’d snapped out of it. He, of course, denied everything. He might not love his parents the way that most children do but he certainly didn’t hate them enough to tamper with the car to make sure they’d crash. He also would never do anything to hurt Willow’s parents because while he didn’t approve of how they left his best friend alone for such long stretches he knew the redhead would be devastated if they died. Add that to the fact that his Uncle Rory had only taught him the basics of cars and he doubted very much that he could have rigged the car to crash on any sort of time delay. It wasn’t until Giles had stormed into the police department and told Stein off that he was finally allowed to leave. The G-Man had made it clear that unless the Sunnydale Police Department had anything other than circumstantial evidence, they had no right to hold him.
Stein didn’t like that but ^DAMN^ if Giles couldn’t be intimidating when he put his British mind to it.
It had been when they’d all gone to Buffy’s place and he saw Willow for the first time since the party last night. It saddened him greatly to see such grief and sorrow on her face and he didn’t hesitate for a moment to take her into his arms and comfort her. The others had the good sense to just let them sit on the couch of the Summers’ home like that until Willow had gotten it all out of her system. After that…well, they did their best to just cope while the funeral preparations were being carried out. Buffy and the rest of the Scoobies did their best to help them get through it all, even Cordy, and it was nice that they all cared so much.
Now, two days after the funerals, he and Willow were left with the question of what they were going to do.
Neither he nor Willow were of age so they couldn’t exactly live on their own and paying the bills was going to be a little hard, even assuming they got any money from the life insurance or whatever. He didn’t pretend to know any of the particulars of the whole last will and testament thing or life insurance but he knew that choices would have to be made soon. Joyce had already volunteered to adopt the two of them in order to keep the gang together and Giles had likewise made the offer if for some reason Joyce was rejected as a possibility. He hoped that everything worked out for the two of them because if the gang got split up because of this Buffy would have only Oz and Cordy to rely on. Oz seemed to be the reliable sort but Cordy, well, he wasn’t sure how long she’d stick with the team if Buffy became more reliant on her for help. His girlfriend was the sort of person who looked after her own safety first and only got involved with the rest of the human population if it was necessary. It’d be nice if she was a little more caring about others but he knew it was mostly due to her parents teaching her how someone ‘of her station’ should act. The Chase family was one of the richest in town and those sort of people were constantly concerned about how others perceived them.
He wondered what sort of person Cordy would be if she didn’t have to worry about status or how other people chose to perceive her.
Hearing a knock at the door, he got up from the couch where he’d been watching a movie with the gang and moved to answer it. Joyce was in the kitchen so she couldn’t do it and the others were getting into the chick flick so he’d do the nice thing and exit the area before it got too sappy. When he opened the door though he saw standing in front of him a forty something man in a business suit with something of a professional look on his face.
“Alexander LaVelle Harris?” the man asked sounding like he needed to get the pole out of his ass.
“Yeah. Who are you?” he asked with a bit of edge to his tone.
“Jason Blackman, California Department of Social Services,” Mr. Blackman replied, showing his ID for a few seconds before putting it back into his jacket pocket. “I’m here to have a word with you and Ms. Willow Ira Rosenberg regarding your status as minors according to state law.”
“Huh? I thought we were supposed to meet next week.” He thought recalling when they were due to meet with the suits.
“That was the case but, due to a more thorough investigation of your respective files, it was decided that a rush would be put on both cases,” Mr. Blackman explained before looking towards the living room. “If I may enter, I can explain it to both you and Ms. Rosenberg.”
Stepping aside and using the non-verbal invitation, he managed to confirm that the man wasn’t a vamp. Some people might have been dismissive of this worry, saying that no vampire would be out during the day, but he knew that there were ways a bloodsucker could get around that. With the right clothes or selective paths that didn’t have direct sunlight as an issue, it was possible for a member of the undead to get around during the day.
The others noticed the sound of unfamiliar footsteps and had stopped the movie before orienting their attention on the entrance to the entrance to the living room. He could tell that most of them were wondering who he’d let in and why but he figured it’d be best if he just let the stiff ahead of him do the talking for now.
“Xander? Who’s this?” Willow asked looking like she already had some ideas.
“This is Mr. Blackman from Social Services. He’s here to see us, Wills,” he said keeping his voice even. “He says something’s raised a few red flags with our files.”
This, of course, put eyes back on the newcomer, who took that as his cue to start explaining.
“Well, as you know, both Mr. Harris and Ms. Rosenberg are currently considered minors by law and, as such, cannot be permitted to live by themselves. Until they are legally of age they must be placed with suitable guardians,” Mr. Blackman explained taking on a more relaxed stance. “We’re well aware that Mrs. Summers and Mr. Giles have both petitioned to be those guardians but I’m afraid that they’ve been rejected.”
“WHAT!?!” exclaimed everyone except the man from Social Services as they couldn’t comprehend how the two adults could have been rejected.
“Explain.” Buffy demanded in a frosty tone of voice.
“Well, in Mrs. Summers’ case, it’s the fact that her sole source of income is the Sunnydale Art Gallery which, at the moment, is just enough to support her and her daughter. The addition of two more people would, according to our records, put her fifteen percent in the red.” Mr. Blackman explained, looking a little intimidated by the petite blonde. “We were also forced to reject Mr. Giles based on his low income as High School librarian and the fact that he has ties to a company overseas, which could lead him to take unexpected leaves of absence. Add to that the fact that he was a suspect in a murder investigation last year and it was determined that he would not be a suitable guardian.”
“He was cleared of those charges!!” Buffy exclaimed, looking like she would soon grab onto the guy and start shaking if he didn’t wise up.
“Nevertheless, even being suspected of a crime is usually enough to make the bigwigs back at the office think twice about approving someone. Add to that the comments we received from the investigating officers were less than flattering and it pretty much put an end to any chances Mr. Giles had.” Mr. Blackman said, trying to muster some control of the situation, “Besides we…um”
The way the man had just suddenly broken off made him think that the guy had just barely managed to catch himself before he said something he shouldn’t. It made him believe that there was more to this than the guy was letting on and he was going to find out the truth of this mess.
“Besides what?” he asked, taking a step into the man’s personal space.
Blackman seemed to consider his options for a moment, mostly between denying everything and telling them everything, before sighing in defeat.
“The truth of the matter is that as soon as we were notified of yours and Ms. Rosenberg’s parents, we automatically did a background check as part of the process. We discovered that there was quite a bit of evidence of parental abuse from the Harris household and proof that the Rosenbergs barely spent any time at home in the last five years alone,” Blackman said, bracing himself for the trouble he’d get into if anyone found out he’d blabbed. “As the facts piled up… well, let’s just say that my supervisor wanted this cleaned up so perfectly that he could see his face in it by the end. That means you two have to be placed with a family with a spotless record and more than enough money to support you. A blood relation would be best but, if none of them take you or exist, we’d find another suitable married couple.”
“So basically Social Services finally realize they dropped the ball with us and now you need a glowing report of how you cleaned it all up to make everything all better. Right?” he asked, getting more than a little ticked at how the organization was only ^now^ getting a clue.
“Basically, yeah. This is a real black eye for my department and since no one on the outside’s caught on yet the supervisor wants everything fixed as soon as possible.” Blackman replied not sounding pleased at how things were unfolding, “As it so happens we managed to find blood relations for the both of you and they both live in the same town so you won’t be split up. Mr. Harris will be sent to his Aunt on his mother’s side. Her name is Martha Kent, married to a Jonathan Kent, and she lives in a small town named Smallville in the state of Kansas. Ms. Rosenberg, on the other hand, will be sent to her Aunt Nell Potter. Both have glowing reviews in their background checks and possess a stable income.”
The name Martha Kent rang some bells for him but only during times when Tony and his Mom experienced money troubles. Sometimes it’d go smoothly and other times Tony would be in a rip roaring fury for the rest of that week before he went down to what could be called his normal level of angry. He’d never actually seen his Aunt Martha but he could vaguely recall seeing a picture of her once when he was younger. A redhead with a kind face was the only thing he could remember. He didn’t know about Willow’s Aunt but the fact that they’d both be going to the same town was a godsend if there ever was one. He still didn’t like the fact that he’d be forced to leave Sunnydale and the fight he’d sworn to share with Buffy but he didn’t see a way around this obstacle. Well… other than making a run for it and living life on the lam until he hit eighteen but he didn’t think he’d like that. In the end he decided that he’d go along with it all. After all, he’d be eighteen soon enough and once that was done he could come right back to Sunnydale without a problem. He was sure that G-Man or Joyce would provide a place for him to stay until he could find a place of his own and afford to pay the rent on it.
“And there’s no way we can convince your boss to let us stay here with Mr. Giles or Mrs. Summers?” he asked, just to make sure there was no way to avoid what seemed to be inevitable.
“Not unless you’re friends with someone above him and have a favor to call in.” Mr. Blackman replied with a shake of his head.
“How soon do we have to go?” he asked, hoping he’d have enough time to prepare.
“By the end of the week, if at all possible. We’d like to try and get you both enrolled in Smallville High School before the end of October.” Jason replied, sounding more relaxed now that the receivers of his information seemed to have accepted their fate.
It only made sense, of course.
It was useless to shoot the messenger once the message has been delivered.
Besides, a change of scenery would do Willow some good and help her get over her grief.
With a little help with the Xan-Man, of course.
The Sunnydale Bus Depot, Morning, One Week Later, Willow’s P.O.V
“So, I guess this is goodbye.” Willow said as both she and Xander watched the bus station employee began loading the luggage.
“Just for a little while. You guys can come back on holidays and everything,” Buffy said, looking like she believed her friends were just leaving for the weekend. “Plus, once you’re old enough, you can go wherever you like. You’ll be all of age and everything.”
“Yeah, and we can send each other emails and letters as often as we like,” she said, doing her best to keep this from being a tear filled parting of friends, “I expect at least one email a week, missy!”
“Sure,” Buffy said before turning to Xander. “Keep in touch, Xander, and look after Willow okay?”
“’Til my dying breath, Buff. Count on it,” Xander promised before wrapping an arm around the redhead’s shoulders.
As the rest of the gang said their goodbyes she had to wonder what it would really mean for them going their separate ways and all. Oz had obligations with the band and finishing his last year of school at Sunnydale High, so he couldn’t exactly drive all the way out to Smallville, Kansas. That wouldn’t stop them, though! He’d promised he’d get a computer with a web-cam and everything so that they could chat whenever they could schedule the time and they’d get together during the holidays. It would be just like Xander said: they’d humor the adults and wait until they hit eighteen and then move back to Sunnydale. Until then she’d do her best to stay satisfied with just emails, letters, chats and the occasional holiday get together. For Xander and Cordy, it’d be a little harder since he didn’t have a computer of his own and Cordy wasn’t very computer savvy. Point the rich girl at clothes and she could probably put most fashion designers to shame but a computer might as well have been a sci-fi- nerd’s box of geek facts. She’d have been lucky to know where to start, never mind actually getting a chat up and running. Maybe if she asked one of her maids or butlers to help her out with it but otherwise not a chance.
“Attention all passengers of bus ten: the bus will depart in five minutes.” Came the announcement over the P.A system, “I repeat: the bus will depart in five minutes.”
“Well, you had best be going. You would not want to miss your bus,” Giles said before taking off his glasses and vigorously cleaning them. “Do try to behave for your temporary guardians. They’ll no doubt find you both as vexing as I do at times but they your relatives and will no doubt treat you well.”
She had to smile at Giles’ discomfort as the British man obviously wasn’t used to mushy goodbyes or stuff like that. Still, it was nice to know that he cared about her and Xander like this and she’d make sure to call his number after calling the others to see how he was doing. He’d been a surrogate father figure to both her and Xander since their birth parents were always either absent or not worthy of the title parents. While she had always been academically inclined, the introduction to the paranormal and all the research that followed had truly broadened her horizons. She still had all the websites that Ms. Calendar had pointed out to her, plus a few copies of some of the more common demonology textbooks. The websites were easy enough to conceal on her laptop but the books would have to wait until she arrived in Smallville so she could secret them away in her room. Giles hadn’t heard of any demonic or supernatural threats in the Smallville area aside from some legends from the local Indian tribe but she felt it’d be better to be safe than sorry.
“See you next holiday, Buff’.” Xander said, hugging the blonde in a sign of true friendship.
Deciding to get in on it, she officially made it a group hug and appreciated it when Giles at least put an arm into the mix. With all the right words spoken and actions taken she picked up the single carry-on bag that she’d be taking to her seat while Xander picked up his backpack which she knew was filled with all the essentials for him: comics, Coca-Cola and, of course, four packages of Twinkies.
I hope not too many people have to use the bathroom along the way. She thought since she didn’t like the image of Xander dancing in front of the door to the bus’ toilet.
The Bus, The Next Day, Leaving the Last Stop Before Smallville, Afternoon, Xander’s P.O.V
“They should just round up all them muties and shoot’em!” said an overweight businessman sitting on the other side of the bus, “They’re freaks and that’s all we need to know about’em.”
~God? I know we aren’t exactly best buddies but ^please^ have this guy stay on the bus when it leaves Smallville.~ Xander thought as he tried not to let the idiot’s ranting ruin his mood, ~‘Cause if that guy’s going to be my neighbor or school principal, I am so going to consider making a run for it.~
The bigot hadn’t been on the bus from the beginning but, even after dealing with the guy for the last four hours, he was about ready to spend the rest of the trip in the bathroom the bus had at the back. It had been ‘muties this’ and ‘freaks that’ when it came to this guy. He was no stranger to the whole mutant issue just because he was in Sunnydale but it’d never really mattered to him. Even before he learned about vampires and demons, he hadn’t really given the whole mutant issue much thought other than to keep an eye out for one of them causing trouble. He guessed it was a part of the whole Sunnydale Denial Syndrome that he’d ignored the strange along with the bizarre. After he’d been enlightened about the supernatural, he’d put blood sucking vamps and world ending demons at the top of his list of worries. After all he lived on a Hellmouth, where it was far more likely for him to run into one of those than a mutant. He’d seen the odd news story on TV but in his opinion the newshounds were blowing things completely out of proportion. Sure, mutants had some pretty weird powers and stuff, but they were still human where it counted. From what he’d heard they were just like anyone else until their abilities clicked on and, if Buffy was any hint, powers didn’t change who a person was all that much. Sure, she wasn’t the blonde version of Cordy back in her old high school any more but she hadn’t gone all psycho like a lot of the bigots claimed mutants did when they got their powers. He pushed such thoughts to the side since he figured if he was thinking this hard about the mutant issue, he was letting the racist across the aisle from him have too much influence.
Looking the other way he could see Willow was still asleep but that wasn’t unexpected considering his best bud had been up most of last night reading up on Smallville. It was just like the redhead to treat something as life affecting as moving to another town like some sort of school project. Still, he supposed that they all had different ways of dealing with change. For him it was pretty much ignoring it until kicked him in the ass but for Willow, it was using her academic aptitude to her advantage and drowning herself in facts. He guessed that keeping her mind too busy to really appreciate what was going on was something Willow did often. He often suspected that that was part of the reason why his childhood friend was so perky and energetic when it came to the Scooby research sessions. Some of the things they had dealt with were pretty damn scary and often knocked them on their butts with how it changed their view of the world. He coped with it all with his prime sense of humor but Willow treated it as just another subject to excel in learning about.
~That’s my Wills for ya!~ He thought with a smile. ~Never met a book she didn’t want to read cover to cover.~
Not wanting to disturb her, he began to root around in his backpack to try and find a comic to help pass the time. He’d read through most of them but he was pretty sure there was at least one issue he hadn’t touched yet. It took a minute but he finally managed to find what he sought and pulled it out in one go. What he got though was something that made all thoughts of reading shimmer away as he found that he’d also taken out a picture of him and Cordy without meaning to. Seeing her face brought back the last moment he’d seen her and, quite frankly, he did not dwell on it too much. It hadn’t been the easiest for him but at the same time he knew it had to be done.
He’d broken up with Cordy.
It has taken most of the week for him to consider it and then to actually go through with it but he’d done it. It’d been something he’d had to think about ever since it’d been pretty much set in stone that he wouldn’t be able to stay in Sunnydale. He fully planned on coming back just as soon as he hit eighteen but that would still be at least a year and he hadn’t been sure if his sorta girlfriend would be able to wait that long. Much like him, she was someone who craved interaction, especially with people she had feelings for. In the end he’d had to ask himself a simple question: did he believe their relationship could last on just holiday fun and the odd phone call?
No, he didn’t.
He knew that her followers, the Cordettes, would get on her case about the low-class boyfriend she never saw anymore and how it was fate that their relationship was failing. Without him to reassure her and give her reasons in person to ignore the comments of her ‘friends’, it’d only be a question of when she’d finally given in. So instead of seeing what they had die off over the course of months, he decided the best course of action would be to just make a clean break of it.
To say she hadn’t taken it well would have been an understatement.
It has pretty much killed his usually good mood until the time had come to head for the bus station and it’d taken every bit of strength he had to put on a cheerful face for the gang. He knew that Willow had seen through it but at least she hadn’t called him on it yet. She probably figured that they’d have enough on their plates with moving to Smallville that’d it’d be better to wait until they finished settling in a bit. As for the others, if they suspected anything they hadn’t said anything during the whole farewell thing, so he suspected that they’d just brushed off his mood as just being related to his departure. Maybe Cordy would clue them in with all the subtlety Queen C was capable of but he’d deal with that if or when it happened.
~Right now I’d better get ready to see what my Aunt Martha and Uncle Jonathan are like.~ He thought as he spotted the sign saying they were twenty miles from Smallville. ~At least since it’s my mother’s side of the family they shouldn’t be hopeless drunks or bullies. Probably just a little oblivious to things they don’t want to see.~
The Road Leading to the Bus Depot, Kent Truck, Ten Minutes Later, Martha Kent’s P.O.V
“I wonder what Alexander is like.” Martha said out loud even though her eyes never left the bus depot coming up in the distance.
It was a question she asked more than once since being contacted by California Social Services about the death of her sister and brother in law almost two weeks ago. On the one hand she hadn’t seen her sister in almost eighteen years, so her memories of the times they’d had together weren’t the freshest. What she could remember, though, was an energetic young woman who almost always had a smile on her face or a joke on her lips to lighten the mood. She’d only gotten phone calls from her sister after she got married to Tony Harris but those two had seemed good, especially once they adopted a baby boy. She’d never heard her sister so happy as she’d been after taking Alexander into her home and that was something of an achievement. The calls had dropped off and then vanished about eleven years ago for some reason but she and Jonathan had kept sending the usual Christmas and Birthday cards nevertheless. They didn’t receive anything in return but she just assumed that they’d been on a tight budget with raising their adopted son. As the years passed she just thought about her sister less and less until she’d become nothing more than a memory or a photo in an album.
Now all that was left of her sister was her only son and she was determined to do her best to take care of the young man that had brought her sister such joy.
“Hard to say, Martha. We haven’t heard anything from your sister since he was six but, assuming he hasn’t changed much since then, he sounds like a good kid.” Jonathan said from his place behind the steering wheel of their pickup truck.
“He’s almost an adult now, Jonathan. I think he’s changed quite a bit from a six year old who got sick eating too many Twinkies.” She pointed out believing that over ten years of growth could change a person.
Taking out the only picture that they’d been given since accepting guardianship of her nephew, she looked it over again just to make sure that she’d be able to spot him the moment he stepped off of the bus from Sunnydale. Dark black hair, brown eyes, a face that looked like it had a smile on it more often than not and a body that looked like fairly fit, even though the clothes were too baggy to be sure of that. It looked like the photo had come from last year’s year book since Alexander didn’t seem to know he was being photographed. On the surface he looked like your average teenage boy who, if she was a betting woman, had probably inherited his adopted mother’s sense of humor somehow. All in all she was looking forward to meeting the newest resident of the Kent Farm.
A few minutes later they pulled into the bus station and, as luck would have it, the very bus carrying Alexander was entering the parking lot as well. She smiled at the good omen this would be since everything seemed to be going so smoothly. Getting out of the truck, it didn’t take them long to reach the area of the building where all the passengers were coming in from but it didn’t look like Alexander had disembarked just yet. Waiting a bit, she looked about the interior of the building and was a little surprised to see Nell Potter waiting as well. The flower shop owner had never exactly been her most favorite person due to how often she tried to tempt Jonathan but, for the sake of the Langs, she’d done her best to get along with the woman. Laura and her family had been good friends for a long time and she wasn’t going to let one relative ruin all of that.
That didn’t mean she had to interact with the woman any more than necessary, though.
“Martha,” Jonathan said while giving her a light tap on the shoulder.
Looking at her husband she watched him point to the door where all of the passengers from the bus were entering the building. Turning her head in that direction, she saw the reason her husband had gotten her attention because, walking into the building next to a pretty redhead, was Alexander. While she was sure that the bus had to have made at least two stops along the way to let the passengers get something to eat, the young man definitely looked like he could use a shower and a warm meal… both of which could be provided back at the farm.
“Alexander! Over here!” she said slightly loudly in order to get the teenager’s attention.
It took him seconds to find her and smiled in recognition. This was a bit surprising considering that it had been over a decade since she’d seen him last but at the same time heartening since it meant that she’d made an impression. She was a bit surprised though when the redhead followed him over in their direction, she hadn’t heard anything about him bringing anyone with her, but the answer she got wasn’t what she expected.
“Willow!” Nell yelled out over the noise of the incoming passengers and the people.
The redhead instantly turned in Ms. Potter’s direction, making it clear that the young woman who was walking behind Alex was the one that Nell had been waiting for. Considering how close the redhead had been walking to Alex and how the young man was now turning in perfect synch with the girl, she got the distinct impression that the two had known each other longer than a single bus ride. She’d even go as far as to say that they’d been friends for years with the way they were acting right now and that meant that she’d probably be bumping into Nell quite often from now on.
Not something she was looking forward to. She’d never let it show on the surface, though.
Seeing Nell walk over, it didn’t take the brunette long to draw the same conclusion and that made her put on that face that the woman always had whenever they interacted.
“Martha! Looks like we’re here for the same reason.” Nell said, sounding all polite and friendly.
“Looks like,” she replied keeping things short and to the point.
By this time both of the newly arrived teenagers had gotten to where they were and the awkward silence manifested itself. It was the sort of silence that she recalled the few times she’d spoken to her father about Jessica, although that was mostly because her dad didn’t approve of Tony Harris as a son-in-law. She decided to break the silence quickly and try to build some positive momentum for the day.
“Did you have a good trip, Alexander?” she asked the tall young man in front of her.
“Well, it wasn’t too bad but there was this loud moron across the aisle from me going on and on about mutants.” Alexander replied, sounding like he was glad to be away from the man, “I had to plug my ears after a while.”
“Well that’s over with now. You probably won’t have listen to him ever again, Alex.” Martha said before glancing at the redhead, “Who’s your friend?”
“This is Willow, my best bud since preschool, and all around brainiac.” Alex replied with a smile as he wrapped an arm around his shorter friend before looking at Nell, “I take it you’re her Aunt Nell?”
“That I am. Pleased to meet you, Alexander.” Nell said extending a hand out of politeness.
“Call me Xander. Willow does.” Xander said, his face not losing its smile as he shook her hand, “Back when we were in preschool she had such a tough time saying Alexander that she shortened to Xander. Been that ever since.”
She had to smile at that and was ever more certain that the two teenagers in front of her had a strong friendship years in the making. With this in mind she promised herself she wouldn’t do anything to hurt their friendship, even if it meant being enduring some of Nell’s more annoying habits. She just hoped that Nell would likewise mind herself and not do anything to make things harder for the two young people.
“Sounds like you too have quite a history with each other.” Nell said as she withdrew her hand from the shaking, “I look forward to hearing all about it.”
Nell was interested.
“Yes, well, I’m sure both of you would like to get settled and maybe get a bite to eat,” she said before looking Xander in the eye. “Shall we go Xander?”
“Uh…sure. Call you later, Wills!” Xander replied as he turned towards the exit.
“Sure!” Willow said with a smile.
~I think things are going to work out just fine with these two.~ She thought each of them went in their desired direction.