This is fan fiction of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, which were created by Joss Whedon. If you like, you can read my thoughts on the ethics and legality of fan fiction.
The sun was just burning off the morning dew as Willow walked up the steps to the white two-story house.
It was an odd mix of styles. Round tower-like protrusions beside flat-angled corners. Small balconies. Windows of all shapes and sizes. And she knew for a fact that a spiral slide connected the second floor study to the basement.
Certain people had been less than polite in describing it, but Willow thought it was charming.
The same could be said of its builder.
She rang the doorbell. The woman who answered had long, graying brown hair and a ‘Woodstock 1969 – 2019’ T-shirt.
“Hi, Cathy,” said Willow. She hesitated – hug, or not? What was the protocol here?
Cathy Harris blinked, smiled weakly. “Oh. Hi. Were we, um, expecting you?”
No hug, she decided.
“Surprise visit,” said Willow. “I hope that’s okay?”
“Of course. Come in, sit down. I’ll get Xander.”
Willow surveyed the living room. A decorative white pitcher sat on a shelf next to a statue of Spider-Man. A Van Gogh reproduction hung on the wall beside a battle axe.
An eclectic room for an eclectic life.
He ambled into the room, big as life, wearing leather boots and blue jeans and nothing above the waist. Messy dark hair flecked with sawdust. A grin a parsec wide.
“You might not wanna get too close,” said Xander, “I’m still kinda dirty from working on – ”
Her arms were already tight around him, her head on his shoulder. He wrapped her in a bear hug.
“How long’s it been?” he said.
“Since you came to San Jose to show me the new eye.” She glanced at his left eye, which looked identical to his right. Even the same shade of brown. You’d never guess it was artificial. “Is it crazy that I miss the eyepatch a little?”
“Oh, but that’s the beauty,” said Xander. “I still have it. I can put it on when I’m out cruising for babes.” He winked at Cathy. “And take it off when I want depth perception.”
“I can’t believe it’s been two years,” Willow said softly. “I should never have waited this long.”
They looked at each other in silence.
Cathy cleared her throat. “Please, have a seat. Can I get you something? Iced tea, lemonade?”
Willow sat on the couch as husband and wife disappeared. Xander returned first, wearing a T-shirt now, carrying a wooden chair from the dining room. Cathy came back with three glasses of iced tea.
Willow watched as Xander took a drink. Sober for more than a decade, now.
“So,” he said, “what brings the Wicked Witch of the West to our humble home?”
Willow sipped the tea. A little sweet for her taste. “I was in the neighborhood.”
“You were in the neighborhood. Of Redwood Falls, Minnesota?” He smirked. “And pray tell, what brings you to this bustling metropolis of ten thousand? You wanted to shop in our store? Maybe dine in our restaurant?”
“I have a fast broomstick. My neighborhood’s pretty big.”
“Broomstick. So that’s what we’re calling the private jet these days.” He leaned back. “Well, tell me everything. How’s life at Hogwarts? Do they still call you the Crimson Goddess?”
Willow went a little crimson herself. “Not to my face, if they know what’s good for them.” He was laughing at her now. “Hey,” she added, “let’s not forget who has a twenty-foot statue in downtown Rio de Janeiro. What’s the inscription say? Something like ‘Herói do Povo.’ My Portuguese is rusty, but I believe that would be ‘Hero of the People?’”
“Well, that’s, uh. They didn’t tell me they were going to…” Xander cleared his throat. “Listen, my granddaughter turned two last month. Isn’t that crazy? She’s already saying complete sentences. I could barely do that in high school.”
“I watched a video. She’s adorable.” Willow found herself giggling. “Speaking of high school. Remember that time you joined the swim team ‘cause they were all turning into sea monsters, and I told you – ”
“Willow,” Cathy interrupted. Loudly. “Are you here on business or pleasure?”
“Oh.” Willow looked from Cathy to Xander. “A little of both, actually.”
“And what would that business be?”
A strained silence. Xander tried to whisper something to Cathy, but she ignored him and kept watching Willow, with an expression just south of friendly.
“Yes, well,” said Willow. “I suppose I can get right down to it. I’d like to talk to your husband, please.” She set down her glass. “Alone.”
Cathy’s jaw worked side to side. She glanced at Xander, who gave a tiny nod.
“Of course,” she said icily. “I’ll be upstairs in the office.”
Once they were alone, Willow moved to sit closer to Xander. Quietly: “Why do I have the faint suspicion she doesn’t like me very much?”
“Yeah, sorry. It’s not personal. It’s just…” He ran fingers through his hair, spilling more sawdust on the carpet. “Cathy stayed with me through the war, the drinking, the assassination attempts. She’s followed me through hell, Willow. And now we finally have a life here. So when she sees you, she just sees someone from the old days. She’s afraid you’re going to pull me into that world again.”
Willow put her hand out, and he took it. She sighed.
“I’m sorry, I really am. But she’s right. That’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
“Will, what’s going on? You’re getting me worried, here.”
“I have to go back, Xander.”
“I don’t understand. Back where?”
She held his hand tight.
“What?” Xander stared at her. “Sunnydale, as in, the giant hole in the desert? Why?”
“Thirty years ago, when Spike’s amulet destroyed the Hellmouth, that was a pretty big deal. Catastrophic. Violent. And not just physically. It damaged the fabric of reality itself.”
“Oh. Bummer.” Xander thought it over. “Well, that’s okay, right? We can get a full refund on the fabric of reality, as long as…uh-oh. You didn’t save the receipt?”
She wanted to smile along with him, but her lips wouldn’t cooperate. “Xander, there’s a rip in the Empyrean Veil.”
“The Empyrea-who now?”
“The barrier between life and death. It separates this world from the next.” She rubbed her palms on her skirt. “We predict that in about three weeks, the soul of every human being who died in Sunnydale will temporarily manifest.”
“Every human…who died in Sunnydale,” he echoed.
In the silence that followed, Willow heard the ticking of a clock. A dog barking in a nearby yard. The pulsing of her own heart.
They were both looking down.
“Manifest,” Xander said finally. “As in…you can see them.”
Willow nodded. “See. Hear. Touch. Talk.”
“So I could see…” He swallowed. “I could see Anya again.”
“Maybe.” Oh, it was hard, doing this to him. “Maybe not. We don’t know how long they’ll appear. Could be hours, could be just seconds. And besides, every human who died in Sunnydale – we’re talking many thousands of souls. Who knows if you could find her in all that crowd.”
“But it’s possible.”
“And maybe you could see…”
“Wow.” He looked up, ran a hand over his mouth. “Oh, I don’t know, Will. I don’t know. God, it’s been thirty years. It took so long to put all that behind me. And I’m finally happy here. I mean, part of me wants to see her more than anything, but I’m just afraid…you get what I’m saying?”
“Completely,” said Willow. “But, um. This event. It’s a little more than just a reunion.”
“Human souls,” she went on, “are a really valuable commodity. Some demons eat them, or drain their energy. Some just sell them to the highest bidder. But souls like these – pristine, full of heavenly energy, free of their bodies for so long – they’re worth a thousand times more. This event, it’ll be like it’s raining diamonds.”
Xander got up, paced a few steps around. “There’s going to be a battle.”
“Count on it. And if we lose, these people will be dead. Not just their bodies – I mean really dead. Gone for all time.”
He was absently opening and closing his hands. Did he seem a little older than last time she saw him? A few more lines around the eyes?
“I’ll be there,” Willow continued, “with as many witches as I can bring. And Illyria’s coming. But I don’t know if that’ll be enough.”
Xander nodded, sat down again. “I still have some contacts on the Watchers’ Council. I can’t promise anything, but maybe they’ll send you some Slayers.”
She touched his arm. “Thank you.”
He leaned in close and whispered, as if sharing some terrible secret. “What about Buffy?”
“I’m going to talk to her,” Willow said firmly, with more confidence than she felt.
“You sure that’s a good idea? The way she is now…”
“We need her help. And…” More quietly. “In spite of everything, she’s still my friend. She deserves to know.”
“You’re right. You’re right.”
He reached for his glass of iced tea, took a long drink.
“I want to come,” he said. “But you have to understand, I made a promise to Cathy. That the old days were over. No more demons. No more battles or magic. No more nights of her wondering if I would come home.”
Willow nodded, taking his hand gently. “It’s okay. You don’t have to explain. It’s your choice to make. No matter what happens, we’ll always be – ”
“I love her. I made her a promise.” Xander’s voice was unsteady now, his eyes searching, his fingers rough and tight. “Do you think she’ll forgive me, Will?”