Somewhere In Between
AN: Forty-two is split into two parts because 1.) it'd be long, and
2.) the moods didn't mesh right. And the second half of this chapter is
the "appointment" Xander had that gave the SGC the three week deadline
with him, so many chapters ago. Just FYI.
So... there's part B of this chapter (likely out in the next week), and
then the epilogue. And that's it.
And I AM doing author comments right now.
I have a livejournal. It had updates of pretty much anything I do in any
fandom (fanart, non-crossover, whatever). Lurk, friend, your choice:
********************** Chapter Forty-Two Part A **********************
Lindsay mock glared as Monique chased Valerie around the living room with a
spider, with Dillan and Emily the younger in gales of laughter as Valerie
screamed and tried to bat Monique away, her bucket hat getting thrown off
in the process. Apocalypses and the forces of darkness were nothing in the
face of eight legs and beady little bug eyes apparently. “If you two break
the TV again it’s coming out of your allowances!”
“Yes, Lindsay!” the two chorused in unison even as they continued the chase
upstairs. They squeezed by Lana who was coming downstairs, arms full of
laundry, and Lindsay unsuccessfully held in the smile that threatened when
the more serious girl loudly muttered a word that would have gotten her
weed pulling duty in the overgrown mess that was their supposed garden if
Xander had heard her. Although garden was assuming there were actually
vegetables in there, and there weren’t.
“Language, Lana.” The slim, long-faced girl only snorted but her eyes
twinkled with a light that had been absent for far too long in the House of
Janey and Maggie came bolting in from the backyard and stopped long enough
to grab pieces of slightly too ripe fruit from the battered bowl on the
dining room table that had seen better days. Especially before the time that
Frish demon had snuck in on Angelique’s sweater and Paula had used to bowl
to parry the poison darts it had tried to use on them during last year’s
“Where are you two off to?” she shouted at their retreating backs as they
banged their way out the front door as quickly as they had come. There
was a muttered reply which involved the word “library” and Lindsay barely
had enough time to shout out, “Dinner is at seven, Maggie has patrol at
eight!” before the front door slammed and locked behind them.
Dawn laughed at Lindsay’s exasperation as she followed Janey and Maggie in
from backyard at a more leisurely pace. She had been working out with them
in the backyard apparently because, while Janey and Maggie hadn’t been winded
in the slightest, Dawn was obviously sweaty and tired, though she looked
pleased. The fact that she was standing and not yet black and blue was good,
it meant she hadn’t gotten too out of shape in Seattle, which, considering
how often Buffy’s sister STILL got kidnapped, for a variety of reasons, being
in shape was definitely of the good.
“And you wonder why Xander is crazy half the time. Keeping track of you lot
is hard work.”
Lindsay sighed theatrically as a grin threatened to break through, ruining her
dramatic effect. “Yeah, well, Xander IS crazy so usually that works out.”
Lindsay trailed back into the kitchen after Dawn who opened the fridge and
wrinkled her nose. “Geeze, Xander’s only been gone two days and already you
guys are out of food that isn’t old enough to sit up and talk back if you try
to eat it.” The older girl paused for a minute before she brightened. “Ohh,
cheese. Wait, this is cheese, right? It looks vaguely cheese like. It’s
Lindsay’s attention had wandered though. Dawn quieted and stepped beside her,
green vaguely cheese like food in one hand, a bottle of mustard in the other,
as she watched the younger girl with quiet intentness as Lindsay stared at
the back door.
“They came through, right there. Knocked you out and shot Ashley where she
The bloodstains were gone and, while they couldn’t afford a new backdoor, Xander
had carefully replaced the lock and the cracked counter where Dawn had fallen.
The only sign that what little brittle peace and harmony of their chaotic lives
had been sullied was the shine on the new lock and the gleam of brightly
“Yeah,” Dawn replied quietly, “they did.”
Lindsay swallowed. “I miss her.” Both Ashley herself, and what she had
Dawn carefully put the mustard down on the counter so that she could rest a
tentative hand on the other girl’s shoulder. “It’s okay to miss her.”
The younger girl looked at Dawn. “Yeah?”
Dawn smiled tremulously. “Yeah. You wanna go watch a movie?”
Lindsay shook herself and managed a smile of her own. “Sure. Ghostbusters?”
“Mel Gibson. Butt.”
“Oh. Right. Braveheart, definitely. Race you upstairs!”
Dawn screeched in outrage as Lindsay took off with a laugh. The older girl
grabbed the mustard and, cheese in hand, tore up the stairs after her.
He always thought it would look different than he remembered. Every year when
he. Buffy, and Willow made their pilgrimage, it was a surprise. It had only
been four years, but for people fighting against the Forces of Darkness,
four years was a helluva long time to have survived. The Earth didn’t move
on quite that fast of a time scale though, so it’d probably be a couple
thousand of years before the Sunnydale crater looked any different than it
had the day they had crawled down into the Hellmouth and sunk the town for
Xander knelt close to the chain link fence that surrounded the perimeter and
stared down into the crater that had claimed so much of his life. His hopes,
his dreams, friends and lovers. One eye. The bitterness was tempered by
the peace he had found in the last four years- training his girls, honoring
the friends that remained.
Teaching Emily to laugh.
Showing Lindsay how to lead.
Making sure Buffy ate enough- she was almost as bad as Ashley.
Trying to keep Willow’s students from accidentally blowing her up.
His throat closed up suddenly as he rested his forehead against the chain
links and remembered Anya suddenly. Radiant and his in so many ways.
He didn’t think of her often, not as much as he used to. It hurt worse that
way sometimes because the grief would be that much more of a surprise, when
it hit him. Xander could go weeks, sometimes months, without walking down
the street and wanting to call out her name to a stranger who had her hair,
or her smile. Now, it was a punch to the gut to have that moment of wild hope.
To see her eyes in someone else’s face and realize that his Heaven was so
very far away.
She’d be waiting for him there though, Xander had no doubt of that. He had
seen how much Buffy longed for it still, when she would go quiet for a few
moments, and shadows would darken her eyes. She lived her life waiting for the
moment she’d be granted that reprieve that they had taken away from her.
But she did live. Lived and loved and had grown past that dark time when all
she longed for was death.
Heaven would always be a part of her though.
Xander's Heaven, well, if Ashley had gotten SPIKE into Heaven, if Heaven was all it
was cracked up to be, then Xander’s Heaven would have Anya Jenkins in it.
Buffy put a comforting hand on his shoulder and Xander leaned in for a hug.
They didn’t talk much, when they came. Their past, their pain, was too close
to the surface here. Just because they’d survived didn’t mean they hadn’t made
mistakes along with the way. Both friends looked over to Willow. She stood
several hundred feet away, arms wrapped around her middle, head bowed so that
her face was obscured by a waterfall of red.
He and Buffy were luckier than Wills- they mostly had ghosts to deal with,
Willow had her demons as well.
Maybe in a couple of years Xander would drag Dawnie along too. If he managed
not to get kidnapped by the military again. Willow never spoke of Tara, not on
her own violation, but she allowed herself to mourn for her dead lover when she
came back, once a year, on the anniversary of Sunnyhell’s ultimate demise.
It’d be good for Dawn to get the same chance. One day. When Willow’s grief
wasn’t quite so raw still.
Giles never came back. Xander doubted the older man ever would. He’d said
goodbye to Jenny long ago and the memories he carried with him seemed to be
enough for the Watcher. But then Sunnydale had always been what it was for him.
Maybe he hadn’t been ready for it, but he had walked into the library that first
day knowing what he should be ready for. No one who grew up in SunnyD ever
really had that luxury. Just the innate knowledge that walking alone after
dark was a bad idea.
They weren’t the only ones who came back. There were fewer and fewer every
year, that was a change Xander could mark with the passing years, but the fence
and memorial around the crater was never bare. There were always flowers and
tokens from people who had made it out, either in the evacuation or from years
before, who wanted to mark the passing of their own childhoods, and the people
they had lost.
His hand curled around Buffy’s as they rose and walked to the two plaques that
commemorated the loss of Sunnyhell. The first, and significantly larger one,
listed the names of everyone who was reported missing and assumed dead in the
aftermath. Xander watched quietly as Buffy traced the names of those she knew
with tentative fingers.
The list was shorter than one might have expected, and no few of the names were
people who had been turned, but he wasn’t about to try to ease Buffy’s guilt
over those that hadn’t gotten out quite fast enough. He had enough of his own.
Xander swallowed as Buffy’s fingers paused over the two Harris names.
The second, smaller plaque, was the first official purchase of the newly reformed
Council. It wasn’t much, but to three of them, it was the world.
“Life's not a song
Life isn't bliss
Life is just this
The hardest thing in this world is to live in it.”
Willow, red-eyed, rose and joined them, linking her arm with Buffy’s behind
Xander’s back as she rested her head on his shoulder. They stood there for a
long moment, lost in thought, Buffy and Willow on either side of him.
“Hey, Wills,” Buffy finally broke in, “you okay?”
There was a long pause before, “Yeah, I’m okay.”
Xander raised a single brow. “Okay okay, or okay fine?”
Willow snorted through her remaining tears and smacked him hard on the other
“Ow!” he yelped and jumped as Buffy laughed. Xander buried his face in
Willow’s hair, breathing in the familiar scent of sandalwood as Buffy hugged
Somewhere in between then. That sounded about right.