Formerly Known as Sunnydale

Summary: Individual character thoughts and reflections set during and immediately post Chosen.

AN: Ever wonder what the characters were thinking as the screen faded to black, the credits rolled and we heard our favourite "Grrr Arrgh" for the last time? Here's my interpretation of what may have been going through their heads during the last scene of Chosen.

And thanks to my beta lilfunnymonkey for putting up with me asking you to edit this so many times and dealing with my madness while writing this fic. You're awesome.

Disclaimer: All characters and events are owned by the genius of a man that is Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and whoever else has rights to them, i.e. not me. Nor do I claim to own the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Gap, Starbucks, Toys "R" Us, the song Wild Horses or the band The Sundays. I think that covers it all.

Chapter 1 Xander

"All those shops gone. The Gap, Starbucks, Toys "R" Us. Who will remember all those landmarks unless we tell the world about them?"

Gone. Everything was truly gone. There was nothing there anymore; every single, last bit of the town – blown to pieces. Kaboom: completely and utterly destroyed. Where his whole life once stood there was now… absolutely nothing. An enormous hole in the ground. It was a barren crater, an emptiness that could never be filled again. The town of Sunnydale was gone forever, plain and simple.

True, everything was gone, but at least there was one positive thing to remember when taking into account all the mayhem before them: they'd won. That should count for something, shouldn't it? They beat it; they stopped The First Evil. They crushed the first and most deadly of all evil, the very source of evil. That malicious monster was finally defeated. Months of planning, fighting, injury, and losses… they beat the odds and won. That damned beast was gone for good, locked away somewhere where it couldn't escape. Never again would it threaten to end the world. Never again would an innocent person die because of its incorporeal hands. Never again would blood be shed because that sick bastard willed it.

But this was their prize, their first place metal? This was the gold star on the top of the page that meant a job well done? If this were true, then this wasn't a prize he wanted, this wasn't a prize anybody would want.

He could almost hear the cheery, fake voice over the loud speaker announcing to everyone standing there, "Congratulations, you saved the world. And how will the higher powers be rewarding you, by initiating the destruction of your whole life, of course. Were you expecting anything else? Look behind door number one and see the destruction of your home. Let the sight of it all kill any thoughts you may have had of staying in town a few more years."

Three cheers for the Scoobies, they blew up Sunnydale.

The damage they had caused this time was a whole lot worse than when they'd blown the school the first time around; much, much worse. This time, the high school building wasn't the only place that had suffered the consequences of their battle with The First. Now, the whole town of Sunnydale looked like the beginning of one of his construction sites, just rubble and debris. All around were broken bits of people's homes, of people's lives. A giant crater of nothingness. It could take years before people would be able to live here again. At least last time, it was only the school that had closed down. But this time? All of Sunnydale was closed, possibly for good too.

Welcome to the town of Sunnydale. Population: 32,900 to zero in ten seconds flat. We hope you enjoy your stay.

Could it really all be gone?

Xander had grown up here. He'd spent his whole life in this small, lame-assed, vampire-infested town. But as lame as the place was, everything he knew – the people, places, things – it had all been here. It had always been here. His house, backyard, the corner store, the elementary school, the park, the mall, the grocery store, the movie theatre, the high school – it had all been part of his life. Those were the things he had grown up with and seen every day, and now he would never get to see them again. Those small, trivial, and seemingly insignificant things had been part of his daily life, they were paired with memories and events that had shaped who he was, and who he was going to be. How could they honestly be gone for good?

It was surprising to Xander to discover that he actually cared so much about Sunnydale. He had taken for granted how much of this crummy town was part of him. Sure, it centered on a direct portal to Hell, was a common hangout for bloodsucking vampires, and generally was a magnet and neon-flashing sign for demonic activity, but it was still the place he called home. It was still the place he'd been familiar with and felt safe in. Well, as safe as he could while living on the Hellmouth anyway. This whole place had been his home, his "safe as houses." And now… nothing. Gone.

That word kept bouncing around in his head, like a fly that wouldn't give up when trapped between two pieces of window-glass. The word kept bouncing into the metaphorical glass in his mind, hoping to break free, hoping to make a connection. He couldn't understand the situation he was in, couldn't comprehend the hollow space before him that he was being forced to look at. How could everything he had ever known suddenly just… stop being? How did the sum of his existence be there one minute and be a hollow space in the ground the next? How could it disappear like that? How could the ground swallow up a whole city?

It was all gone.

Xander was numb, both his body and his mind. His whole body was rigid and frozen as he stood there with the rest of the Scooby Gang, looking out at the destruction they had created. He had expected to start hyperventilating at the sight of the crater, but instead his breathing seemed to slow down. Time had slowed to almost a stand still. But his mind wasn't panicking at the shift in time around them; his mind was just as numb as his body.

Thoughts drifted through his head, but didn't seem to be making any connections. He couldn't think straight, couldn't center on a single emotion, couldn't feel or focus on anything. Numb. There was nothing that he or anyone else could say that would make this emotionless state he was in go away. He knew he should feel guilt, pain, sorrow maybe, but he couldn't feel anything. His mind was frozen, his eyes fixated on the scenery he knew he should be seeing, but wasn't, because it wasn't there anymore. Never would be there anymore.

Even though he couldn't focus on anything in particular there was still something happening inside his head. Deep inside Xander's mind memories were flickering behind his eyelids, as if a movie was stuck on fast-forward and the remote control was lost. There was no way to find a stop button to make the memories go away and let him come out of this numb and confusing state.

Memories, both good and bad, shot through his head at break-neck speeds, barley pausing long enough for Xander to register what they were before they were replaced by another. And another. And another. It was like his mind was trying to relive every moment of his life all at once. It was turning his whole life into one instantaneous moment of sights, sounds and smells. Initiate sensory overload.

Was everything honestly and truly gone, once and for all? Never to return again?

The images were getting faster and faster as they flew through his brain. They were becoming more and more jumbled and overlapped until he could barely tell where one memory ended and another began. Dimly he thought of the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, a movie he had always loved as a kid. Working in a candy factory? It was every ten year old boy's dream. He thought of the scene where the characters are riding in a boat down the chocolate river, and images are flickering on the cave walls next to them. Scary, creepy images that didn't completely make sense. That was similar to what his mind was doing, flipping from one image to the next. It was fast, blurred, unexplained explosions of colour and sound. Too much for him to focus on at once.

How could everything actually be gone?

Yet, as the memories kept coming, flicking past one after another, something stayed constant. Mixed in with all the recollections of his old life in Sunnydale was something simple but apparently significant to him: the Sunnydale High School library. There was something about that place that tugged at Xander's heart. Up until his sophomore year, Alexander LaVelle Harris had barely spent more than ten minutes in any library, much less the one in the school.

Then suddenly, when Buffy Summers literally smacked right into him on her first day at the high school, it was as if his life started over. When her bag had gone flying and her things scattered all over the hallway floor, it was like the same thing happened to his life. His old life had scattered, but what he'd picked up afterwards was something worth so much more. Being a devoted Slayerette had given his life purpose, given it meaning. He wasn't simply Xander Harris anymore; he was part of something much bigger. He was suddenly part of the fight to save the world from the forces of darkness.

And he had to admit, that was pretty awesome.

Specifically, that fight against evil had centered for them at the school library. Research, training, meetings, hanging out, lunches, after school, before school, during classes even, planning, eating, the occasional sleeping, and even some major demon slayage – it had all occurred at the school's library. Their Scooby-family had centered in that room for almost three years. That had been his life, and it had been a good one.

But it was all gone now, gone without one last farewell.

Again, he had taken it for granted. Just like Sunnydale itself, the library had been a big part of him. In truth, it had been a really, really big part of all of them. Sure, at the time high school had been composed of never-ending vampire and demon slaying and apocalypse-stopping mixed in with trying to pass their classes and figuring out what to do with their lives, but that was cake compared to what they'd just faced. Xander honestly missed stopping by the library before class started and getting a recap of what vamps or other-worldly nasties Buffy had slayed during her patrol of the town the night before. The fun, easy-going way they had been when they were teenagers was gone. It was terminated, kind of like Sunnydale was.

He was standing there, looking at the ruins of his former home, and the thing he missed was the school library? Strange, but it was true. And it wasn't just the physical building that he missed, but all that it had represented. That sense of family, of belonging, of vampire ass-kicking. It had been a second home to Xander. That one room, stuffed full of books, computers and weapons and centered on the mouth to Hell; it had been a true home to him. It was a better home than his parent's house ever was. He'd only lived there; but he'd been part of something at the library. And now, when everything he had ever known was obliterated, he realized he really missed that stuffy old place.

Stupid amulet. Stupid First. Stupid apocalypse.

Sure, their Scooby meetings hadn't taken place there for years, not since graduation left the high school an empty shell of a building. But that essence of the library, the Scooby Headquarters, had stayed with them even after the school went boom. First it had transferred to Giles' apartment, then to The Magic Box, and finally it moved to the Summers' home. But the library had always, in a sense, been there. It changed, it wasn't what it used to be, but it was still there. Or, maybe they had been the ones to change, not acknowledging that it was still with them. Either way, it had been there, always. Waiting for them to wake up and smell the vampire dust.

Too bad it was gone now.

Early, early mornings full of caffeinated beverages and research parties, late evenings full of planning their attacks on the current Big Bad, endless hours of being the only ones that occupied the place – that was what Xander missed right now. He longed for that sense of family they had created. It had been so easy then, just a group of friends trying to save the world. The library had brought them together and made them a family. It had made their fighting worthwhile, gave it meaning and reason.

Why hadn't they realized that sense of family had always been there, even when the library wasn't? Why had they let a part of it die with the school? They may not have noticed it right away, but they'd begun to fall apart the moment the school was blown to pieces. And they hadn't tried to stop the process, just denied it was happening. Xander could see that now, they had all been in denial. All through Buffy and Willow's stay at university, Giles' mid-life crisis and Xander's own dive into the work-force, they'd been forcing themselves to act like a family, instead of letting it come naturally they way it had in the library.

Lately, their family had been put to the test. The last few years it seemed like they were living on autopilot. Loyalties had been tested, promises broken, hearts betrayed, and when it seemed like they were giving up, like they were finally giving in, they had somehow managed to come together again. It hadn't been the same as before, but at least they were trying. Buffy was somewhat herself again, not the emotionless shadow of a girl she'd been when they first pulled her out of Heaven. Willow was slowly recovering from losing Tara and from losing control of her magic, and she was gaining her confidence back. Dawn was growing up before their eyes and proving she could take care of herself and stake a few vamps in the process; she wasn't the tag-along teenage sister she'd been a few years ago. Giles was back from England, and he and Buffy were slowly forging each other for what happened between them. And he and Anya were… trying. She'd forgiven him and they were gradually getting back to where they had been before.

Anya. The two of them had a connection Xander would never be able to explain. He'd never loved anyone the way he'd loved Anya, and assumed he never would again. In Xander's opinion, love like that only came around once in a lifetime. The love he and Anya had shared had been rare and beautiful.

And now she was gone too.

Xnader knew he would never forgive himself for leaving her on their wedding day, never forgive himself for the fear and doubts he'd let get the better of him. He had broken her heart and deserved every bit of anger she had towards him, but he had never stopped loving her. Not by a long shot.

The connection the two of them had ran so deep that even when they weren't together anymore they couldn't deny it was there. The night they'd shared over the carton of ice cream would remain one of the best memories Xander had. It hadn't meant they were back together, but they had both acknowledged their feelings and were working towards being something again. Not friends, not lovers, but something.

She would always be his Anya, the beautiful girl who'd always been there for him. Xander had loved watching her sleep, when her blonde hair made a perfect halo around her head. He had loved watching her laugh, because her laugh was infectious and never failed to make him smile. And even though it was awkward at times, he loved how blunt and truthful she was. Sometimes it was amusing, having to cover her mouth to keep her from saying something others didn't want or need to hear, or reminding her not to talk about their sex life in public.

One of the things he loved most about her was her love of dance. In her hundreds of years as a vengeance demon, one thing she had picked up was rhythm. Xander remembered how sometimes she would insist he take her on real dates, where they could go dancing. Even their first real connection had involved dancing, when they'd gone to the Prom together. Sure, most of the night they had stood together awkwardly, him listening to stories of how she had charred this guy and snake-afied that guy. But eventually they had agreed to one dance together. He remembered her saying, "This isn't bad" as they slow danced to The Sunday's Wild Horses. Outwardly, Anya seemed uncomfortable as they swayed to the gentle music, but he knew she secretly loved it. That was where it all started, dancing together at Sunnydale High.

And that was where it had ended too.

She had died a hero though. She died trying to save the world. And that seemed fitting somehow. Anya said she never fully understood the human world, didn't understand all the emotions humans experienced. But she was a fighter, and it was right that she died fighting for what she believed in. It hurt, knowing she was gone, like something was trying to claw its way out through his chest. But knowing that she died a hero helped the pain, if only the smallest fraction of a bit. Andrew said she died saving him, and as much as it ripped him apart, Xander knew it was the best way she could have died. That was Anya; his dramatic, heroic, fun-loving Anya.

If Xander had asked her that night of the Prom how she would have liked to die, if she'd had the choice, Xander didn't know how she would have answered. Something witty, for sure. But she had changed since then. She had become human, fallen in love with him, and died saving the world. Her death was a poetic, heroic one.

Xander was a changed man because of her, and knowing that she had loved him meant a lot. In the end they had been working on forgiving each other. It was a hard, slow, painful process, but she was worth it. Anya had been more than worth it. She would always be more than worth it.

It hurt, knowing she was gone. It hurt more than Xander felt he could take. He had loved her and now she was gone, really and truly gone. Now, all that remained of her was what was in his heart, his memories of her.

If The First hadn't already been defeated, Xander was ready to pummel it to pieces, barehanded. Anya's death, as well as all the deaths and destruction over the last few months, were because of The First. Just as they were beginning to become the Scoobies again, to trust and love each other once more, this perverted monster comes along and tips everything upside down. It convinced them there was nothing they could do, no way to defeat it.

And yet, they had. They'd saved the world from the apocalypse, again. Maybe now they could start over, try and bring things back to the way things used to be. Not the same, nothing would ever be the same again, but they could try. But maybe things could go back to those simple library days, where they had become a true family.

Xander knew it would never be exactly like it had been in high school, that their sense of family would never come to them that easy again. But it could be close. They could be the Scooby Gang once again and save the world from vampires, demons, and anything else that stood in their way.

Yeah, that'd be nice.