The rain drowned out the sound of Xander's tears. He was barely aware of
spike's arms around him. At some point between Willow falling and now, he'd
stumbled over to her body. And now he was on his knees in the mud, cradling
her lifeless form to his chest.
An endless stream of their lives together ran through his mind. A
childhood where the friendship of this person was the only thing good. An
adolescence where the only sure thing was their ties to one another. The
pain of distance oozing between them. The misery of broken trust. And now,
this final misery.
He knew the woman he had killed was as far from his Willow as the sea
from the land. But just like they met at the shore, the connection between
this creature and his Willow was inescapable. It was his friend he knelt in
the mud and mourned. The big-eyed child that put Superman band-aids on his
forehead when his father busted his head open. His Willow.
"I'm sorry kitten. I'm sorry you had to do it."
"Of course I had to...had to be me, no one else."
Oz and Wes were there now. Their arms joined Spike's, and he was
surrounded by warmth. Willow's body was growing cold from the rain; there
was no life to heat it. The storm raged on. Thunder crashing against the
x-ray flashes of lightening in and endless loop. And Xander stayed on the
ground. Covered in mud, cradling the body of his lost childhood, held by the
arms of his future.
Giles' scream reached them the same time Buffy did. They turned their
heads as one. They were too tangled together. There was no way any of them
could stop her fast enough. The stake was already piercing Spike's back.
The hands came from nowhere. One crossing over her chest to grip her
shoulder, the other grabbing her face, covering her mouth and damaged nose.
The thunder swallowed the noise, but the lightening gave a perfect view of
those hands twisting the Slayer's neck too far in one direction. Gone as
fast as they appeared, they left Buffy's body crumpled in the mud. And Angel
staring down at her.
Morning crept around the mud soaked courtyard of the mansion. The shades
of every room were pulled tight against it. Barred from entering the old
house, it settled for drying out the soaked earth.
Cordelia sat on the couch next to Tara. They were holding hands and
staring off into space. Occasionally, Tara would take a sip from the long
since cold mug of tea she held in her other hand. Giles was tidying up the
room. Moving from one thing to another, he efficiently packed books and
carried out dishes. Wes and Oz were tangled together on the blanket they had
spread in front of the fireplace. They watched the flames as though they
expected them to stroll out of the hearth and join them at any moment. Riley
sat cross-legged in front of the fire. Every once in a while he leaned
forward and shifted a log with the poker. Doyle was in the chair, staring at
nothing. Angel was on the floor, his back leaning against Doyle's leg. He'd
been the last to sample the shower's icy offerings and was still towel
drying his hair. Xander leaned further into Spike's arms. They were sitting
on the floor in front of the couch. No one spoke. No one had spoken since
The rain stopped not long after Willow's heart did. Standing up and
leaving her body in the mud was horrible. With the fight over, everyone
seemed lost. Spike went to get the others from inside the house. Giles sent
Oz to look for a shovel.
Tara sobbed into Cordy's shoulder. Riley stood next to Angel and stared
at Buffy's still form. It wasn't until he heard Spike and Giles trying to
decide where to bury the bodies that Xander's mind caught up with the world.
"There's no need for that. I'll take care of it."
The smoke came first, then the actual flames. In moments the smell of
charring flesh filled the courtyard. Xander heard Wes chant the words for an
olfactory illusion that would hide the odor. Later, he would be grateful to
his friend for his forethought.
Now, he watched the bodies burn until only the bones remained. Then he
watched them char and turn to gritty ash. The last of the storm winds swept
They'd all filed inside the house and began methodically taking care of
their needs. Showers were taking, food was made and eaten, wounds were
cleaned and bandaged. All in silence. It was Riley who finally broke its
choking hold on them.
"Xander?" The sorcerer looked up to find the soldier's eyes on him.
"When do we leave?" It was Spike that answered.
"Now. Car in ten. Wes first shift driving, Oz find the tarp and help
me to the boot."
They were on their feet and gathering their belongings before he
finished speaking. They had no further business in this place. It was time
to go home.
"I'd better head home and get backing. My passport's current. All I'
ll need is a plane ticket." Giles was packing his things as he talked. Cordy
stood and began the packing for the L.A. bunch.
"Tara? You shouldn't stay here. Come with us?" Angel's voice was
gentle, but it was Doyle's gentle tugging of the witch that got her on her
Xander was already helping Riley load bags into the trunk when Oz and a
tarp covered Spike dashed out. The blonde vampire slammed the trunk lid down
behind him. Climbing into the backseat next to Riley, Xander was aware of
all the others getting into their own cars. It wouldn't occur to him until
he was back in New Orleans, but not one of them had so much as looked back.
They were all through with the Hellmouth.