Summary: Almost a century after the destruction of Sunnydale, Xander, the last of the Scoobies, must come to terms with his own place in the world, while helping to solve a mystery whose consequences could have apocalyptic proportions.
Disclaimer: I claim no rights to copyrighted material. All things Buffy or Angel or Highlander are not mine.
Warnings: Violence, possibly graphic. References to love-making and such, thought I doubt there'll be anything explicit. Character death - the overall tone of this fanfic will be happy, happy, and uplifting, though, so don't give up on me. :)
Buffy was the first to die. Not the first Slayer, or even the first founding member of the new-and-improved Watcher's Council, because Wood had kicked the bucket a couple years before that in an otherwise relatively minor apocalypse, and Slayers died, if not all the time, then often enough, both those who we couldn't reach in time, their lives a sacrifice to a cause they didn't even know they were a part of, and those already within our ranks. - and the deaths always hurt. But Buffy was the first member of the core Scooby Gang to die post-Sunnydale... though technically I guess Cordelia was first, but the news of her death came so soon after the shock of the battle with the First that it's hard not to lump her loss into that conflict...
Anyway, it was only a few years after Sunnydale became a huge hole in the ground – it hadn't even started to fill up with water yet; we buried Buffy's body right at the bottom – and we were still setting up the new council in Cleveland, still trying to get funding, working out all the kinks in the system and all that. It wasn't very efficient, and a lot of our time was spent just wandering around the globe trying to round up all the new slayers before they got themselves eaten or went on Faith-like killing sprees.
Then someone – Willow, I think, but it might have been Dawn – found another apocalyptic-type prophecy, so we all left our respective continents (I was in Africa at the time, and dragged two Slayers back with me, Buffy was touring Europe, and Giles was, predictably, in the land of tweed, trying to dig up old watcher recruitment contacts) and flew in to Cleveland for a good old-fashioned research party, complete with donuts. The prophecy itself was your typical ancient doom-and-gloom deal, specific on the timing and the gruesome details, but vague on pretty much everything else. For a while it looked like it was going to be a bust. The Cleveland Hellmouth wasn't particularly active, and the couple dozen slayers always on hand kept it that way. Nothing out of the ordinary seemed to be happening.
So it came as a surprise when Buffy didn't come home one night - when the junior Slayer she had been patrolling with came back all bloodied and bruised and Buffyless. It shouldn't have – we shouldn't have been so complacent – but we were and it did. Anyway, they hadn't killed her on the spot, and we found her, eventually, after a lot of frantic searching and a bit of mojo. I won't bore you with the details. A demon cult had her: butt-ugly things with fangs way past their chins and extra appendages in funny places - I don't think we ever figured out the exact species. It didn't really matter, though. We descended upon them with the full might of our slayer army, and slaughtered the bastards. Unfortunately, they'd already had Buffy's chest cut open by the time we got there, an offering to whatever big evil thing the evil things worshiped. We never even found our if they'd targeted Buffy specifically, or if any old slayer would have done just as well... but then I don't suppose that matters much either.
I remember being assaulted with the unmistakable stench of human blood the moment we got to the warehouse (because it had to be a warehouse, didn't it?) and it seemed to predominate no matter how many of the things we hacked apart and how much putrid green demon blood we spilled. I remember seeing her lying naked on that altar with blood spilling all down her torso and down her neck and pooling all around her sides and dripping to the floor. Her chest was one big wound, cut open with surgical precision, like something you might see on the discovery channel, except there were no green sheets or beeping machines or doctors in the funny while masks. Just Buffy, bleeding on that big stone block. And her heart was exposed and it was still beating; and then it stopped and she was dead.
I'm just glad Dawn wasn't there to see it. Andrew managed to keep her back – I have no idea how, but I'm glad that he did. I still have nightmares about it sometimes.
I remember watching Giles rushing up and stroking her hair and breaking down over her corpse. Then I guess one of the demons must have sneaked up on me from behind because I remember the feel of it's claws as they ripped through my back and into my ribs.
Buffy was the first of us to die, but I was the second, and that should have been the end of it.
It wasn't, though, and I can't help appreciating the irony of the whole thing. Buffy was the longest-living Slayer at the time, the original Slayer, twice dead and twice resurrected, and while we all knew that Slayers died young, on some level I think we all believed Buffy would be the exception, that she would live forever. I, on the other hand, was the normal one of the group. The weakest link, if you will. It was a miracle that I'd managed to live as long as I had, and when I died you'd have expected it to stick.
Nobody was more surprised than I was when it didn't.
It was good timing, in a way. My resurrection distracted people from Buffy's death, and Buffy's death distracted people – most specifically me - from my resurrection. Dawn threw herself into the research, and Giles wasn't far behind. They didn't find much, though. Since I came to in direct sunlight, and didn't immediately turn to dust, the obvious vampire theory was quickly discarded. My disinclination to eating raw flesh and lack of homicidal tendencies (once it had been determined I had none) put a dent in most of the zombie theories. The subject of Buffy's ex-boyfriend 'The Immortal' also came up, but he'd traded his soul for his immortality, and I was pretty sure I'd remember doing something like that. Or I hoped I would, anyway.
And then Giles remembered hearing about a different sort of Watcher's Council, and of a different race of beings who also called themselves Immortals...