A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fanfic
Disclaimer: The characters herein are all the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy, and no copyright infringement is intended by their usage herein.
He's fairly sure it was the projection unit that did it.
Up until that point he could pretend to himself, delude himself (oh hell, admit it), _lie_ to himself that this was all just a fancy game. A way to keep his mind off things and keep his skills sharp.
But once he's installed the projection unit, he's forced to accept the fact that he intends to live in this house.
He never meant to.
It was because of the time. For a long time (ha!), he'd had none, what with various Apocalypses (Apocali?) keeping them busy. And then it looked as though they were never going to have any left at all. And then there was the franticness and the coping and the rushing, and then the leaving.
And then there was time. Great huge empty stretches of time, with nothing to fill it except himself. Way too much time for one person.
It's been six months since the town of Sunnydale vanished into a very large hole in the ground. He was surprised to find that he missed it. Oh sure, he'd almost been killed at least once in every single back street and alley, but he'd been born there. He'd grown up there.
He'd lost friends there.
Six months since they faced off against the First Evil and averted the Apocalypse (again). Six months since Anya died. And not just Anya, he reminds himself, they lost a lot of people to that battle. Chloe. Amanda. Others whose names he was only just starting to remember when they were cut down.
And yet somehow, most of them managed to survive. It was unbelievable, but true. They'd gotten the hell (literally) out of Sunnydale in a bus with 18 Slayers, one witch, one Watcher, one Key, one formerly-evil demon summoner, one school principal and one carpenter. They left behind 16 Potentials (some of them so-very-briefly Slayers), one ex-vengeance demon and a vampire with a soul. Oh, and Jonathan. He's not positive, but he thinks that Jonathan should be counted as one on their side, despite the previously evil thing. The guy _was_ under the impression that he was being a hero in the end, not realising that he was being played for a sucker. A lousy way to go, really (and he shudders when he thinks about how he nearly went the same way. Damn demons and their blood offerings).
Funnily enough, it wasn't until they were out of Sunnydale and halfway to Oxnard that reality came crashing down. That's when they suddenly realised they had nothing but a school bus, an impressive array of weapons, and whatever they had in their pockets. He still smiles sometimes when he thinks about the first two weeks A.S. (After Sunnydale). Wood, Giles and himself trying to scrape together the finances to house and feed a small army of Slayers. Getting the wounded to hospitals, getting clothes and cleaned up (a massive logistical problem all by itself. He'd thought just getting access to showers had been difficult. This minor issue was dwarfed by the sudden realisation that you had a bus full of 20 girls with no combs, brushes, soap, toothbrushes, tooth_paste_, towels or clean underwear).
Eventually however, they'd achieved a certain stability. The necessities had been purchased (along with a few toys). Housing had been found. The worst of the wounded had been released from the hospital.
Then there was more planning. Followed by the sudden realisation that if everyone didn't achieve a certain level of personal space very, _very_ soon there was going to be a fight that would make the Battle of Sunnydale look like a picnic.
And so it was agreed that they would all take a break. Get some rest, get some space, get haircuts and make contact with their families and just generally take a quick holiday. They'd certainly earned it.
Those Slayers who had homes to go to had gone, often taking with them others who no longer had a place to call home. Kennedy had taken Willow home to meet her parents. Vi and Rona had headed to Vi's Uncle's place in Dakota. The list went on.
Buffy and Dawn went to L.A. briefly to meet with Angel and thank him for his help in the battle, before going to England with Giles.
And he'd moved to Duluth, Minnesota. Why exactly he wasn't sure, except that he'd never been there and it was a nice, not too big place and, most crucially important, was NOT situated on a doorway to Hell itself. He'd tried to contact his own parents, but had been unsuccessful. He knew they'd made it out, but they seemed to have taken the opportunity to bail entirely and hadn't bothered to leave a forwarding address. Truth be told, this had been something of a relief, and he hadn't really tried his hardest to find them since. He was sure they'd turn up again someday.
In the meantime, he has his project.
The first week in the new city, he had been busy getting organised, picking up the pieces of his life, looking for work and hoping he could make the rent.
Then the insurance payment came through. His apartment, his belongings, his health insurance, all paid up without question. His accounts were made available to him again. His old company (which folded after all their work collapsed into the sinkhole) sent him a redundancy cheque. And then the lawyers contacted him once Anya's death had been confirmed, and told him that everything was still jointly in his and her names, including the life insurance policy he hadn't known she'd had.
He was slightly stunned to find that he no longer had to worry about working (at least not for a while). He was also amazed that noone gave him any trouble about anything, there were no disputes over his claims and everything went through quickly (although he became less surprised after Dawn emailed him about Angel's new line of work as head of a supposedly-former-evil law firm).
He had no worries. He had no obligations. He had space, freedom, and time.
Lots of time.
Too much time.
After a week he'd found himself brooding. Since he knew from experience that it was all downhill from there, he'd cast about for something to do, and found the house.
Oh the house.
It was a big house. It was a very big house.
Actually, it was a bloody great _mansion_ and he'd never, ever understand why he decided to buy it. It was old, it was in the middle of nowhere, it was unfinished, in need of _serious_ repair and it was waaaaay too big for his needs.
He'd bought it anyway.
Had gotten a damn good deal on it too, just by standing still and examining the lines of the house while occasionally glaring at the estate agent, who was clearly wigged out by the eyepatch. But bought it he had, which left him with the expensive, and (more importantly) time-consuming job of restoring it.
He could have hired people to do it, but that would have defeated the purpose.
And so his days had achieved a kind of structure. Get up slightly before noon, eat and work on the house till about 8. Then dinner, beers (and sometimes stronger alcohol) and DVDs until midnight and bed (and sometimes crying, although he was doing less of that these days).
It had taken him awhile to get confident working with only one eye, but he'd gradually adapted and was now back to his old self. He'd even branched out into the electrical system, doing most of the re-wiring himself. For a time he'd thought he could do the entire house single-handed, but the pipes had defeated him and he'd had to hire a plumber in the end. He'd hammered, screwed, replaced, reinforced, hung, stripped, painted, and polished, and now the end was in sight.
At first it had been a project ("Something to keep my hands busy with").
Then an investment ("Once this baby's finished I figure I can sell her for 10 times what I paid!")
At some point, it had turned into a labour of love ("How many speakers do I need to install to give this room complete stereophonic surround sound?")
And now he had to admit it was home. Not just any home, but the kind of home he'd always wanted. A dream home. The one he wished he'd been brought up in.
Three separate bathrooms, one with a spa bath, plus the en suite for the downstairs spare bedroom. A huge kitchen with a gigantic and very well stocked fridge. Seven upstairs bedrooms. An actual dining room. A library (mostly empty). A weapons room (downstairs, next to the recreation room and the other room he doesn't know what to do with). A nice, solid door with reinforced hinges, guaranteed not to be casually kicked in by a passing demon. A couple of sofas that fold out into beds. And the entertainment room, with its massive stereo, hidden speakers, dimmer lights and newly installed projection unit which flings movies up in beautiful clarity on the huge, empty wall.
He really shouldn't have bought the projection unit. He didn't need it. Or so he'd thought. But now he can't imagine living without it. He still loves his 29 inch flat-screen TV, now permanently hooked up to the X-box, but he won't go back to watching movies on it. The projection unit made him realise that this was his home now, not just a project.
Of course, once he realised he wasn't selling the house, he had to make more decisions and do even more work. For starters, he added a whole lot of anti-vampire features in: crosses on the windowsills, massive exterior lights triggered by movement, and a lovely white picket fence with easily snap-offable pickets. He also started designing some sort of memorial sculpture for the fallen and those left behind (Anya. Jesse. Joyce. Tara. Amanda). It'll look good in the backyard, possibly surrounded by flowers.
Another thing he needed to do was to find a new job. He still had a decent amount in the bank, but noone knows better than the Scoobies how houses eat money. Especially this house.
Surprisingly, finding a job wasn't as hard as he thought it would be, thanks to a visit from some old work buddies. They'd drunk his beer and examined the house carefully from cellar to rafters. A week later he'd noticed some people driving past. Then the calls started: was he busy? What were his plans? Did he have the time to look at some building designs?
So now he has a house which he admits he has no intention of parting with, and a job which utilises all of his skills and talents. And still the time piles up around him.
The projection unit helps with that, and so does Andrew.
Andrew apparently came with the projection unit. They really should put a warning on those things: Caution – Installing something so way cool is likely to cause people to show up and never leave.
Ever since he put it in he's been unable to get Andrew out of the house. The guy's practically moved into the downstairs spare bedroom (which can hardly be called a 'spare' bedroom anymore), and sits down every night on the comfy over-large sofa to help him work through the various box-set DVDs he's purchased (they're currently halfway through Farscape season 2). After Sunnydale, Andrew didn't have anywhere to go, so he caught a ride to Duluth with Xander, moved into a crappy apartment nearby and got a job at a video rental place. The two ex-Sunnydalers had gotten into the habit of hanging out, talking about things (geeking out) and sharing their memories of Anya. But shortly after the house was inhabitable Andrew got 'evicted' from his apartment, and 'crashed temporarily' at Xander's new house. From which he has yet to leave.
To be honest, Xander likes having him there. The house is perfect now, but still too big. It needs a family. A very large family. Possibly one with a dog (they have a large yard too).
Anyway, it's starting to look like his time problems may be ending. The house is finished, he has a job, the break is nearly over, and his friends are coming back to set up Slayer school somewhere and work out where to go from here. Somehow it's been decided that they're all going to crash at his place temporarily while they work things out, but he's heard that song before (and he suspects that Andrew has been telling Dawn about his recent purchases. She mentioned in her last phone call that she'd just bought the boxed DVD set of Passions, and he knows for sure that Buffy doesn't have a DVD player).
He thinks that they might like his house. The house he designed for a family. _His_ family. He thinks they'll arrive and disagree on their plans and argue about who gets to use the spa bath first and eat all the food in his fridge and generally take over his house.
He thinks that'll be just fine.
Author's Notes and Optional Epilogue/Alternate Ending/Deleted Scene
I'd like to thank everyone who's reviewed so far, I appreciate your comments.
Several people have asked for or suggested I write a sequel, showing everybody arriving. As a matter of fact, the first draft of the story actually ended with such a scene. I took it out in the end because I prefered to keep the focus on Xander, rather than splitting it, but I hung on to the scene in a separate file because I liked it.
Since I have no plans to write a sequel, I thought those of you who were interested might like to read this "deleted scene", and so here it is:
* = * = * = * = *
Buffy and Dawn were the first to arrive, with Giles, Willow, Kennedy, Faith and Wood close behind. And somehow his house has become Slayer central again. Willow and Giles are ensconced in the library (which is slowly filling with books and computer equipment that Giles complains about bitterly) using locator spells to find more Slayers. Faith and Wood are in the bathroom with the spa bath (and they'd better clean it afterwards). Dawnie is laughing her head off as she lays the smackdown on Kennedy in Samurai Knights on the X-box, with Andrew cheering her on. And Buffy is sitting beside him, watching and smiling. Just friends, relaxed on the sofa. And now she's looking over his plans for a memorial and adding or notating bits. More names are on the list now, in a variety of handwriting styles. Merrick. Jenny Calendar. A woman's name he doesn't recognise in Faith's messy scrawl. Pieces of the past, pieces of memory.
Pieces of family, finally brought together again in this house.
* = * = * = * = *
Completed 15 December 2003.
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