'Italicized words with single quotation marks indicate thoughts.'
Chapter 2: Lost Friends
Giles couldn’t believe what just happened. Two of his children were gone and in their place was a pile of ash. He felt tears welling in his eyes as he scans the area. There was absolutely nothing left of them, no evidence of the bright, cheerful and loving young woman and man he had come to know as his children. He choked down a sob as he bends down on his good knee in front of the crater settling his hand into the soft white ash that was oddly cool to the touch. He wanted just one moment to be near them again, just a moment of closeness before the reality of it sinks in. For he knew he would never see them again.
The sweet shy girl and the goofy boy with all his humor and bravado, that seemed to radiate innocence and purity, kept the darkness at bay and gave light to this hellhole they called their home. It was rather ironic that the darkest evilest place in the world, a Hellmouth, would be home to the brightest souls he had ever seen in all his travels as a watcher. He did not yet know what they had lost, but had a feeling it was more than they could ever imagine.
As a watcher he should have been prepared. But nothing could have prepared him for this. He had resigned himself to fact that they may lose Buffy or Dawn in the fight, for they were the slayer and the key. Their lives were centered around the Hellmouth and the supernatural forces which drive it. It was their destiny to fight these forces, and yes, eventually be consumed by them. That was their fate and as a watcher he knew this. He had come to grips with it long ago, the Slayer just didn’t enjoy a long lifespan this was a fact, a truth that he accepted the day he became a watcher. However, this was unexpected, never in his wildest dreams had he thought he would lose Willow or Xander, it just was not in the equation.
Giles gave a sad soft chuckle. He could imagine Xander laughing at him with a bright smile reminding him since when was the Hellmouth anything near predictable and Willow would give him a small smile and sympathetic pat on the shoulder as if saying everything will be okay. Oh God he was going to miss them so much.
But he had to pull himself together. For now he had to find out what Willow did and what she might have awakened when she tapped into the Hellmouth’s energy, and then maybe he could begin to grieve. He had to find out what the sound was that they heard just before everything went to hell.
“Is everyone alright?” Giles asked as he heaved himself up from his stooped position.
He stood and scanned his surroundings. Spike was helping Buffy and a bleeding Dawn down from the tower, Anya was crying and Tara lay on the ground confused and in shock. Giles had to focus on the matter at hand, he had to get everyone to a safe place and contemplate everything that just happened.
“Where’s Willow? Where’s Xander?” exclaimed Buffy as she held a crying Dawn in her arms. She craned her neck over Dawn’s shoulders trying to find her missing friends.
Anya began crying harder as she let her body collapse into ground mourning the loss of the only man that she had ever loved.
They all arrived back at Magic Box slightly bruised and beaten. Buffy was bandaging Dawn’s wounds while Anya and Tara sat huddled together in the corner softly reassuring each other. Giles with his brow creased was heavily concentrating on his books looking for answers. He had sent Spike out hours ago to patrol and look for any evidence of Glory, the portal or any new threat. Buffy had called Angel asking for his help. He and his LA team were on their way. She didn’t have the heart to tell them that Willow and Xander were dead. She just told them that something horrible had happened and they needed their help right away.
Buffy just didn’t know what to say. She just couldn’t say it out loud, because if she did, it would make it real. Her best friends were gone. They were always there, almost since the beginning. She remembers the day they found out she was the slayer and ever since she couldn’t seem to get rid of them. It was comforting to know no matter what, they would stick by her and watch her back. It was nice to have someone to talk to about her problems that were not centered around patrolling and training.
She could remember that night when meek little Willow stood up for her when she went to the frat party, which turned out to be a demon cult. She remembers clearly hearing about how she shouted and stared down both Angel and her watcher with righteous exasperation. She could also remember how over protective Xander acted towards her. He fought for her honor, despite the fact that she was the slayer and was capable of taking care of herself. They were always there for her and now they were gone.
Buffy was completely confused and lost. She was supposed to keep them safe and she failed. They died protecting her and Dawn. Since when did the universe become so screwed up? Since when does the Slayer need protecting? It was suppose to be her not them. What the HELL were they thinking? It was always like that Willow and Xander always trying to protect her, they just didn’t seem to understand that the Slayer gig was a solo one.
She remembered the day that they declared themselves the Scooby gang and announced themselves as her self proclaimed sidekicks and how they thought of her as a superhero. Xander would always look at her with those puppy dog eyes and call her his hero, but oh no not this time. This time they were the heroes. Tears gathered in Buffy’s eyes and a small smile appeared on her face. No today they were her heroes. “You saved the day guys, you did something the slayer couldn’t do, you rewrote the ending”, whispered the Slayer. And she meant it, today the slayer wasn’t the hero it was the sidekicks that saved the world and made it safer for her.
When Angel arrived at the magic box a few moments later, he couldn’t understand what was going on. Sure the scene seemed grim. The air was thick with sadness and despair and even though everyone seemed hurt, there were no serious injuries. There was no sense of urgency or panic, so why was it so important for him to get here so quickly? Everyone was so unnaturally quiet it just didn’t seem right, even in the most dire of circumstances the group was never this quiet. He entered the shop and held the door open for Cordelia and Wesley then closed it gently as they filed into the room.
“What’s happened?” Angel ask in a low voice that seemed to boom in the stillness of the shop.
Buffy approached them with a grim face and bright hazel eyes shimmering with unshed tears. “Their gone Angel, their dead,” choked the slayer as she ran into his arms.‘What, who died?’
thought Angel as he comforted the crying woman. Then it hit him what seemed to be so wrong with this whole picture, why it seemed so unusually quiet. Willow and Xander were no where to be seen.
Giles looked up from his book and to Angel he seemed much older than he’d ever been. He didn’t even flinch when Buffy broke down in his arms. Giles saw his questioning face and spoke in a low haunting voice.
“Willow and Xander died tonight in the fight when Glory opened the portal. They died while closing it.”
“What?!” gasped Cordelia and she covered her mouth with her hand, her face frozen in utter disbelief.
Giles went on to explain exactly what happened earlier that night and why they were needed. Apparently Willow had somehow tapped into the Hellmouth’s power in order to close the portal and Xander died while trying to save her. Angel and his team were needed to help research the unforeseen consequences that might arise from Willow’s actions and possibly avert another threat from the Hellmouth.
Angel couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He didn’t even know it was possible to directly drain power of that magnitude from the Hellmouth. He didn’t think Willow was anywhere near being that powerful. He knew she was strong, but not that strong, at least not when he left after graduation. They were just humans from the outside there didn’t seem to be anything special about them. But they were truly the noble ones. This wasn’t their fight, but they fought it anyway right beside them and in his case sometimes even against him to make the world a little bit safer. They were unique in the fact that they were not chosen or called to fight the evil in the world like Giles and Buffy. They were not fighting for redemption like him. No they fought because they chose to. They fought just as hard and just as long as any of them, holding nothing of themselves back. They fought like they loved, with a certainty and fierceness that would rival any vampire or demon.
Sometimes they were so close to the battle the darkness threatened to swallow them whole, but somehow out of all of them they were able to keep it at bay with firm clarity. Now that Angel thought about it, he was amazed by some of the stunts they were able to pull off. They were truly a beacon of light in the darkness, a ray of hope in the despair. They weren’t strong or had any preordained purpose, but they fought with pure determination or sometimes, in Xander’s case, with pure stupidity.
They came of their own choice and tonight despite their tragic loss they proved how formidable they truly were. Willow fought for what was good and Xander fought for what was right. Willow even fought for him and his soul when everyone else, including Buffy, had given up on him just because she considered him to be her friend. And Xander, well he fought to keep them all safe from Angelus. He would be eternally grateful to both of them for very different reasons. While Xander stubbornly never wavered on keeping the demon in him in check, Willow was always so caring, understanding and forgiving, everything that the soul needed to heal. Yes, he would miss his friends and today two of the most formidable warriors for good were lost and their loss would be forever felt by the most powerful champions of the Powers That Be, and who were honored to call themselves as their friends.
They were all ready to settle into research mode when Spike burst in with his classic gusto. As soon as he entered the room Giles asked, “Did you find anything?”
Spike gave him a bewildered look and shook his head. “Watcher, it’s the weirdest thing, there is nothing out there, yeah there are a few vampires mulling around but they almost seemed docile and I didn’t see even one demon and they’re usually hyped up after a night like this. And the air seemed off.”
“What do you mean by off,” asked Giles with a sense of trepidation. A quiet night often was a prelude to something even more dangerous over the horizon.
“I don’t know it seems some how cleaner, lighter, not as heavy or murky as it usually is. Peaches, can you sense it too?”
“Well now that you mention it, it does seem a bit different than I remember it, not as pressing on my demon, I almost didn’t notice it when I arrived” answered Angel.
“Giles, what does this all mean?” asked Buffy.
“I have no ideal but the answer must be some where in these books” said Giles as he shook his head in bewilderment.
Several hours later sometime around four in the morning they found their answer. “Excuse me Mr. Giles, I think I found something. Did you say that you heard and felt a rumbling sound followed by an earth quake as if the ground was being lifted under your feet,” questioned Wesley.
“Yes that was exactly what occurred, actually it happened twice, if I’m not mistaken,” answered Giles as he cleaned his glasses.
“You say it happen twice, was there any elemental flames, storms or violent tremors afterwards,” asked Wesley with a shaky voice.
“No, to be honest it was quite quiet, almost still, not even a breeze,” said Giles as he peered over Wesley’s shoulder to look into the ancient tome he had cradled in his hands.
“Well thank God for that if there was I would have thought the Hellmouth was opening. According to this text, the events that you have described refer to what the elders call Nex Conicio something that seem just as significant as the Hellmouth opening, however they do not say what that means,” cried Wesley in an exasperated voice.
“What, there is something just as bad as or even worse than the Hellmouth opening?!” cried Cordelia.
“Hmm, why does that sound so familiar?” questioned Giles and he left Wesley to look up something in the older section of his collection of books.
“Ah ha, here it is” exclaimed Giles as he pulled out an ancient looking scroll from the back of the shop and he settled down on the table near the back and began to read silently.
A few minutes later Giles exclaimed “DEAR LORD!” Everyone turned to look at Giles with wide eyes full of trepidation.
“Oh oh, that’s never a good sign,” grimaced Buffy
“Merciful heaven how can this be!” cried Giles
“Hey Giles you’re scaring us here, what is it?” cried Buffy
Giles’s hands were shaking and tears filled his eyes as he lifted his head to face them all.
Suddenly a bright wide smile covered his face as he looked upon Buffy’s face.
“They closed it! Good God they closed the Hellmouth permanently!” exclaimed Giles in exaltation as his smile broaden.
“Bloody Hell!” shouted Spike in awe.