by James A. F. Christie
Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 Complete
Summary: Perhaps they were all just parts of a tale in a small California town, and once the tale was told, where could they go from there? What really happened to Xander, Drusilla and the Scooby Gang after the Fall of Sunnydale?
Disclaimer: The characters lovingly depicted in the following story are not my property and I derive no profit from them. They are, in perpetuity, the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy and Warner Bothers. In the case of Drusilla's Roses, I also acknowledge references to and inspiration derived from the works of Robert A. Heinlein, Harper Lee, Jack London and John Steinbeck.
A/N: This story is dedicated to Juliet Landau, with love.
—East of Eden
So what do you do once you've saved the world? Xander Harris thought to himself. What follows the end of days, except more and more empty days, all winding along a slow, sad road towards oblivion. All observed in flat monochrome by the one-eyed man.
An eye, a girl he should have married, a hometown and a happy old Hellmouth. All gone in the final fight with the First, leaving naught but a yellow school bus loaded with the Scooby gang and a ragged assortment of slayers.
There had been a bit of dust in the wake of Sunnydale's collapse into a crater, a calm beneath the high, clear sky, a collective shrug of the shoulders as they all looked at the plain of stones which had once been home. Then Buffy turned back to the bus, the question of what they would do now fading behind her.
They had taken the bus down to Los Angeles, met with Angel at Wolfram & Hart and rented a two-storey house in the San Fernando Valley. Giles had contacted the remnants of the Council for funding and all the newly-activated slayers were slowly being located as they began to rebuild the organisation, making sure they didn't accidentally create another tight-arsed bureaucracy full of poncy watchers, as Spike might have said.
Xander even found himself missing Spike a bit, imagining the sarcastic Sid Vicious look-alike winding Giles up with comments like that. How strange to have to admit to himself that William the Bloody had ended up dying (choke on the thought, Xan!) a hero.
There were still vampires and demons to be staked on Cleveland's Hellmouth, so Faith and Kennedy had gone there with Robin Wood and Andrew. That left Buffy, Giles, Dawn, Willow and himself supposedly enjoying a bit of rest and relaxation in San Fernando.
Giles had insisted they all take some time off. They had just been through a war, and they were as susceptible to post traumatic stress disorder as the next man, so it was no surprise to find that instead of winding down gently they were all walking aimlessly around a house not unlike 1630 Revello Drive. Each of them trying to come to terms with memories of horror and loss, each of them in a vale of silence no other could reach.
Even him. Even big, funny Xander. He was finding the empty silence particularly hard, because his friends were his only family. His actual parents were drunk in San Francisco right now, which was par for the course. His father had been drunk and abusive for Xander's entire life, his mother had just been drunk, and Xander didn't really want to see either of them again. Nor did he ever want to think about how abusive his father had been. Not ever.
His friends knew he used humour as a defense mechanism. He had never told them how often he'd had to defend himself at home.
The collapse of Sunnydale, the collapse of the Hellmouth and the collapse of his eye (ably assisted by Caleb's thumb) had, in truth, destroyed his identity. With no family life of his own, the town of Sunnydale had itself become his home. The high school library (and later the Magic Box) had been his living room, and the Scoobies his substitute family. Killing the demons and vampires clustering on the Hellmouth had provided him with purpose and challenges. Fighting alongside his schoolfriends against them had forged the kind of bond between them all usually seen amongst war veterans, and he had nearly married Anya, an ex-vengeance demon, into the bargain.
But he had left her at the altar, and she had died in the fall of Sunnydale.
He would regret what he had done for the rest of his life. But, he had to admit to himself, had Anya actually been his soulmate? There had been tensions between them. She'd been a little needy, a little clingy. So if she wasn't the one, who was?
He didn't know. Better to just go on brooding for the moment.
Jesse, Anya, Cordelia, the Espresso Pump and Revello Drive. He ran the names through his head, savouring the memories, reminding himself again that most of the people and places he knew were either dead or gone, leaving only a sombre man, too sad-faced for sure, sitting late at night in the window-seat of a Starbucks on the fringes of L.A.
So many friends and enemies he would never see again. In a strange, really perverse way, he missed them all. Good and bad alike. A face swam before his eyes for a moment. He wished—.
Hold that thought, Harris, he said to himself. Anya told you how easily demons could take advantage of a wish. And she knew what she was talking about. After I jilted her, she nearly got Buffy to wish my penis would explode.
He looked around, but saw no sign of demon, ghost or vampire. No, the night was quiet, the traffic light. The coffee shop's interior was a soothing blend of purple and mocha furnished with tall pine chairs and dark stone counters, all gently illuminated in faded yellow by hanging teardrop lights. The sandwich selection sat on display behind clear Perspex, the bored barista stood on tired, heavy feet by the espresso machine and the only question waiting to be asked was whether his next mocha would be grande or venti.
Xander scanned the street again. Nothing, just shuttered storefronts, drifts of litter and the occasional 7-11 sign. Just that good-looking brunette in the long white dress floating languidly past.
She who walks in beauty by the night, he found himself thinking. She who looks…
Xander froze, snapped out of his reverie by the clear and present realisation that Spike's ex-girlfriend, one of the former scourges of Europe and an insane killer who would have made Jack the Ripper wet his pants in sheer terror, had come to an abrupt halt and was—right now—standing less than ten feet away from him.
Smiling at him.
Like Jack the Ripper before him, Xander nearly wet his pants. He sat there, all thoughts of his next café mocha grande banished, wondering what was going to happen next.
Her eyes widened in recognition, and for a moment her game face appeared as her emotions burst to the surface. Then her human face returned, wiping all trace of the demon away except for a lingering golden sparkle in her eyes.
Xander had to admit to himself she looked damned pretty, and if these were to be his last moments alive he might as well acknowledge the fact she was one hot vampire. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
She could read minds, too, he remembered. See the future. Hypnotise victims with the cold eyes of a cobra.
He was looking into those eyes now, which was probably an exceptionally bad idea. She didn't seem to be trying to hypnotize him, though, but he found he didn't really want to look away anyway.
Had she "heard" him call her hot? Probably. Now she knew he would hesitate to stake her. Great. How to throw away all your (few) tactical advantages in one easy lesson. He could just imagine a class of rookie slayers laughing their heads off at him if he ever mentioned this incident in Vampire Combat 101.
He wasn't dead yet, though, and the Scoobies did always keep their cellphones switched on and near at hand. However, Drusilla could reach him, kill him and probably drain a pint of blood from him before he could move a muscle. Even for a vampire, she was fast.
So the next move was hers.
He saw a smile tease her lips as she came to a decision.
Okay, Xander, he said to himself. To paraphrase the old Klingon saying, today may not be a good day to die, but it looks like you're going to.
He closed his eye and opened it to see her standing next to him, making no move to attack. Xander's mouth dropped open. He willed himself to say the right thing and, as usual, failed.
"Hey, Dru. Out on the town for a bite to eat?"
Still she looked at him, like a large, uncertain child frightened by the outside world, then she said the last words he ever expected to hear.
"May I have a cup of coffee, please?"