My submission this year was Walking Higher (The Childhood's End Remix), which was a remix of Winter Garden by kivrin.
Before sending you off to read the story, I'd like to get in a little blather about how this particular remix came together, in large part because of how fundamentally different my process was this year versus previous years.
For a start, the choice of story to remix, not to mention the form my remix would take, came very easily to me. However, there were a bunch of smaller pieces that were actually a lot harder.
The hardest thing of all for me this year? Coming up with a title for the story, which was changed mere hours before the archive went live.
Before we go under the cut, I would like to start my little bit of meta on this year's remix by blaming Homicide: Life on the Street as the inspiration for my remix story. And in particular, I'd like to blame the Season 4 episode, The Damage Done.
Cut for those who don't care.
Choosing the One
This is now my fourth time at the Remix wheel and I'd like to think that I have something of a system which...
Isn't actually a system at all, if you want to be honest.
Usually, when I get my remix assignment, I scan my paired author's fanfic archives. The criteria by which I settle on a story is usually in the following order:
- Which fandoms do we have in common?
- In the common fandoms we share, which one am I comfortable writing in?
- Which characters am I comfortable writing within those fandoms? Do we have any matches?
Funny thing is, this year marks the first time I've actually written a remix in BtVS fandom, let alone have written a Xander-centric story, which is the fandom and character I primarily write. My first year, I wrote a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine story. My second year, it was an Angel story. Last year, it was a Battlestar Galactica (2003) story.
Which only goes to show just how useful (not) my above list actually is.
Okay, okay, technically, Angel is at least related to Buffy fandom, but I'm far less sure about my grasp on the characters associated with that show.
Notice what's not on the list: shipping.
I'm pretty much the gen-iest of gen writers with a slight favoritism toward het. My reading preferences are much, much broader (slash, gen, and het), but writing-wise, I'm just not a shippy writer by nature, so there's little or nothing by way of ships in what I write.
I am well aware that this puts me firmly in fandom minority, which makes the remix kind of freeing in a way. When one lacks an OTP, and can count the pairings that squick them out on one hand and have fingers left over, shipping matches play a very, very teeny-tiny role the story I choose.
This year, I lucked out. I had someone who was almost exclusively a Buffy writer.
She's a Giles writer.
Don't get me wrong. I like Giles. I like Giles a lot. But of all the Scoobies, he's the one where I have the weakest grasp on his voice, mostly because I'm horribly aware that I'm somehow missing the boat of Giles's inherent "British-ness," so I tend not to use him as much as I would the other characters.
The fact that she writes primarily slash, with a smattering of het and gen wasn't the issue, at least as far as I was concerned. However, her favored slash pairing kind of was: Giles/Wes. Not because I have problems with the pairing, understand (I like the pairing just fine), but because I have a very, very weak grasp of Wes's character.
In short, all my issues with Giles? Goes times 1,000 for Wes.
As a result, I was able to narrow down my field of choices very, very quickly. There were a couple of Giles/Buffy, a couple of Giles/Xander, and a smattering of het and gen drabbles and ficlets.
It goes without saying that I honed right in on the Giles/Xander stories. My thought process wasn't that complicated. It pretty much boils down to, "Xander! One character I know I can write with almost zero problems is Xander. Yay, Xander!"
The secondary reason is that I love Giles/Xander as a ship. Love. It. And post-"Chosen" Giles/Xander is one of my slash bulletproof kinks.
Needless to say, I immediately focused on Winter Garden since it was both Giles/Xander and post-"Chosen." I looked at several other items: a couple of the short-ish or drabble gen pieces, but kept going back to Winter Garden. My mind was made up within 2 hours of first opening kivrin's archive. The story I was going to take was Winter Garden and no other.
Usually it takes me weeks to figure out which story I'm going to remix, so 2 hours is a land speed record in this regard.
Analyzing the Hell Out of the Original Story
The first thing that came to my attention in reading the story was the overwhelming atmosphere of isolation — not just within Giles's headspace (Giles is the POV character), but in the exterior environment as well.
Although Giles and Xander are wandering through the various landscapes of the National Mall & Memorial Parks, and later the United States Botanic Garden, the environment around them is devoid of anything resembling a human presence. Oh, there are signs that there are people around (discarded protest literature, for example) and expectations that there should be a crowd where there is none (Xander's observation that they're surprisingly alone in the botanic garden, for example), yet for all intents and purposes, there's no one around.
On a practical, logical, and a realistic level, such a situation is simply not likely. Washington DC is the U.S. capital and it's always a hubbub of activity, especially during the daytime. There are always tourists, local people on business, and epic traffic even in the worst of the weather. It's unlikely to be devoid of all signs of human habitation, as the atmosphere of the story suggests.
Or, to put it another way, if Boston and its museums are a hubbub activity even in the worst of weather, even in the middle of the workweek, and even when school is in session, it's not bloody likely that Washington DC is going to be a sleepy little burg by comparison at any given point during any given day. And if the New England Aquarium always has more than its share of visitors during operating hours, I find it hard to credit that there isn't a single visitor in the United States Botanic Garden.
That said, I understand (I think) what kivrin was going for: creating an external a manifestation of Giles's internal isolation. There is a dream-like quality to the environment in the National Mall and in the botanic garden, as if we're not actually seeing reality, but reality as interpreted by Giles and his isolated emotional state, and that Xander, to one degree or another, is violating that emotional bubble that Giles has built up around himself.
I think (I hope), I'm not pulling that idea out of my ass. There are plenty of hints within Winter Garden that Giles is isolated by chance or design. He doesn't feel as if he has a terribly solid grip on power as head of the Council. He doesn't feel terribly fulfilled with his post-Sunnydale life. He seems very much out of the loop when it comes to at least Xander and Willow (of Buffy and Dawn, nothing is said at all). He even thinks of himself as wearing a "uniform" of dress shoes and a long coat suitable for "a man in somewhat-more-than-nominal charge of an international organization."
As for Xander, he seems almost painfully real to Giles, despite the fact that they hadn't seen each other face-to-face for 14 months. Yet, even though Xander is "real," and a somewhat known quantity, Giles has no idea what to do about him or how to react to him. Xander, in a lot of ways, is a presence that just throws Giles off and, possibly, drives home just how isolated he's become.
With this headspace in place, it's almost comical the way Xander just bulldozes right through Giles's defenses at the end by, of all things, being straightforward. Before Giles can even muster up a defense (not that he tries all that hard), Xander's got Giles backed into the metaphorical corner with a kiss.
So, once I had absorbed at least the atmospherics of the story (isolation, a shock of contact that's unexpected and not unwelcome), I then set about tearing it apart.
No, no. Not in a bad away.
By "tearing it apart," I mean poking and prodding the story until I came up with a list of questions that were not addressed within the body itself. This process served me pretty well in Five Easy Steps to a Broken Heart (Keiko’s Heart Remix) and saved my hide in The Murder of Crows (Blackhawk Down Remix). However, it was completely useless for Refugees on Sunset Boulevard (The Our Town/Twilight Zone Mash-Up Remix), mostly because no matter how many times I poked and prodded Sun Worshippers, I couldn't come up with any unanswered questions.
For Winter Garden, the question that immediately popped into my mind was, "What the hell are Giles and Xander doing in Washington DC?" It was clear from the story that at one point they parted company in Cleveland. It was hinted that Giles headed back to London and it's stated outright that had Xander headed off to somewhere in Africa. Yet, for whatever reason, they were meeting face-to-face for the first time in 14 months in Washington DC. Why? I'm sure the writer had a meta reason for it, but there was no in-story explanation for it.
Well, once I asked that question, several other related questions immediately sprung to mind. It's stated in-story that Xander had arrived in DC from Nairobi (in Kenya) mere hours before the beginning of the story. Yet, instead of the pair of them sitting in a hotel somewhere, they're walking around the National Mall.
What makes this state of affairs doubly odd (at least if you look at it logically), the weather is terrible. It's cold, there's sleet, and a harsh, cutting wind. The weather is so bad, that they change their destination twice. First to the Museum of the American Indian because it's closer (Giles's suggestion), and then to the United States Botanic Garden because it's right there (Xander's insistence).
It's here I picked up a key thing that is stated outright in the story: Before they run into the United States Botanic Garden to escape the weather, they're looking to duck into one of the Smithsonians so they can have a clandestine meeting about Council business.
Why are they doing that? Wouldn't it make more sense for them to be talking in Giles's hotel room?
All around these questions were tantalizing hints that the background situation isn't that simple. Since Winter Garden isn't actually about that background and isn't the point of the story, the hints aren't paid off (nor should they be because, as I said, that's not the point of the story). However, there are hints that Xander's sudden arrival in Washington DC is wholly unexpected by Giles. There are also hints that Xander's there to give a report, presumably one that had to be given in person instead of via the usual channels of communication. Add these two factors together, and suddenly you get the idea that Xander not only isn't supposed to be anywhere near Giles, but that it's very important that they're not seen together.
If all of the above is true, then setting of the story makes a whole lot of sense. Giles and Xander are wandering around the National Mall and looking for a place where they can be anonymous simply because it's important (for whatever reason) that no one knows they've had a face-to-face meeting.
"Aha!" thought I. "An angle! Cloak-and-dagger. I can pull that off!"
A (Wo)Man With a Plan: Coming Up With the Concept (Spoilers Ahoy!)
And so, I went to bed that night thinking that my remix was set. I'd just expand the story a little bit on the front end, switch it to Xander's point of view, and write myself a cloak and dagger story where Xander needs to deliver information and/or a package to Giles who's in Washington DC on Council business.
Although that was my original idea, clearly that was not the story I wrote. Oh, there's some elements in there. The cloak-and-dagger is the cause of the story, as opposed to the reason for its existence. The fact that Xander's there to deliver a message is there, but the message in question has precisely zero to do with the cloak-and-dagger stuff.
So, what the hell happened?
Now, here's where the influence of H:LotS comes into play, specifically, the Season 4 episode of "The Damage Done."
Just prior to the Remix assignments being sent out, I had been mainlining H:LotS, all seven seasons (plus movie). As it so happens, the "Kellerman years" are my favorites in the run and the Luther Mahoney arc, complete with the writers' big "fuck you" to NBC in the way it played out, is (IMHO) what makes H:LotS one of the greats in television.
The second episode in the Luther Mahoney arc is called "The Damage Done," the title of the episode referencing the Neil Young song, The Needle and the Damage Done. To sum up, in the episode Kellerman and Lewis are after a drug dealer named Drak against the background of a drug war. Near the end of the episode, Kellerman and Drak have a violent confrontation in which Drak states, "I ain't innocent of a whole lot of things, yo, but I ain't guilty of what you're after."
But here's the thing: Drak's speech in that confrontation is actually moving (certainly it's moving enough that Kellerman decides to let Drak go). The drug dealer, who we're supposed to see as a just another punk and sleaze bag, transforms into a tragic figure. He knows that he sealed his fate the second he slung his first bag of crack. He's not going to die of old age, he's not going to die a peaceful death. Because of the life he chose, he's going to die horribly and young. If he had to do it again, he'd chose a completely different life.
But the real tragedy is this: Drak knows all of the above is true, yet he can't see a way out of the life he's got. He's trapped, maybe in the same way that Kellerman eventually becomes trapped by his own actions. In short, Drak knows that death is the only way out, but he's not ready to die just yet.
The episode ends with a "candlelight peace protest" in front of the police station, one that Drak attends with his Wife/Girlfriend and child. Kellerman also attends, candle in hand, and for a moment, cop and drug dealer give each other an almost-friendly nod of understanding as they stand side-by-side.
Just when you think some kind of understanding has been reached...
In the last 10 seconds of the episode Drak is gunned down like a dog in a drive-by. The protesters scatter, and there are screams of outrage. Kellerman is left bending over Drak's body trying to stop the bleeding and swearing a blue streak that Drak dare not die. As he looks up, he sees Luther Mahoney with still-lit candle in hand standing over the pair of them watching the scene with an amused, cynical air.
Overlaying the final scene, from the start of the peace protest to its shattering, blood-spattered interruption, is the song Walking Higher by Heather Nova, a haunting melody about the people left behind after someone dies.
I think the notion of sealing your fate via your own choices, and the fact that a violent life is likely to lead to a violent death must've buried itself in my brain, because when I woke up the next morning I thought, "What if in Winter Garden Xander was already dead when he and Giles met in Washington DC?"
Crazy idea. Completely nuts. No way is it going to work. What the hell am I thinking?
And then I went back and read the story again, this time with the idea in my head that the Xander we see in Winter Garden, the Xander that Giles is interacting with, is a ghost. Or, if not a ghost, at least something close to it.
And what do you know? The story took on a whole different meaning when read in that light.
Now, I had noticed that Xander seemed "off" in Winter Garden. And not jut me. Giles notices that Xander is strangely off and quiet. He observes it throughout the story and even directly mentions this fact to Xander.
Obviously, there are plenty of non-ghostly explanations for Xander's odd behavior. Xander (as stated in the story) is a few hours off the plane from Nairobi, which even on the best of days would be a long and difficult flight. When looked at in that light, Xander could simply be exhausted.
Then there's the fact that Xander directly propositions Giles right at the end of the story and takes the lead in the kissing. Xander could simply be off and strangely quiet because he's trying to work out how he can let Giles know how he feels about him.
But here's where the stumbling block comes in: Xander and Giles haven't seen each other 14 months and it's hinted that their communication has been strictly business (Giles makes no mention of the contents of their communication in those 14 months, but he doesn't seem terribly aware of anything of a personal nature about Xander either). So, I wasn't entirely sure how to work in the angle of Xander falling in love with Giles when their personal contact seems so limited.
However, the original story rescued me in this regard, as well as giving me at least some wiggle room on the "Xander is really a ghost" idea. When Giles confronts Xander about him being "changed" and "too quiet," Xander's response is evasive at best. He bristles at the idea that he's completely changed, but is willing to admit that he's not exactly the guy who parted company with Giles 14 months before. He also resorts to his usual defense when confronted with something he doesn't want to hear: by being distracting and jokingly coming up with why he's more quiet than usual.
Okay, yeah. Xander doesn't have to be a ghost to make that scene work, but I kind of liked the idea that the scene worked in service to the "Xander's already dead" idea.
Now that I had my angle, I then had to think logically about how I was going to tackle my story. Obviously, Xander couldn't simply be a ghost (there's actual touching, after all). But since this was the Buffy/Angel-verse, it's possible for Xander to be dead and not be a ghost. In fact, there are several options, but the fact that Xander and Giles are wandering around during the day (albeit an overcast winter day), pretty much narrowed down my options considerably (for example, Xander couldn't be a vampire).
Luckily, I had You're Welcome, from Angel Season 5 ready to spring to mind. Dead Xander as an avatar for The Powers That Be who's granted one last communication with his loved ones before heading off to his (presumably) very busy afterlife! Sure, I'd have to bring Cordelia in the mix if I did that, but it immediately hit me that the idea, as well as Cordelia, was eminently doable!
I immediately knew that if I went in this direction, my take on Winter Garden would become shrunk down to one section in a much longer story, which was the same trick I employed for The Murder of Crows (Blackhawk Down Remix). After all, I was writing a Dead Xander story from Xander's PoV. If the conceit was that he got one last visit with his loved ones as a "bonus" for signing on with The Powers That Be, he'd have to also visit Dawn, Buffy, and Willow.
Sure, the idea was definitely stretching the idea of a what a "remix" is supposed to be, but if I retained the central idea of "isolation," specifically the isolation that's a result of one's choices and the sometimes-confining roles people play in their day-to-day lives I thought I'd be okay.
At least I hoped.
The Writing Process (Even more Spoilers Ahoy!)
Once I was satisfied that my "Xander is dead, has been recruited by The Powers That Be, and has been granted one last visit with his loved ones" idea could work in the context of the original story, the skeleton easily fell into place.
The story would be in 5 parts: One part for each member of Xander's "family," and a final epilogue taking place as each of the Scoobies realize that something isn't right in Xander-ville.
The idea of how to show the readers that Xander is no longer among the living came pretty quickly as well. Instead of just writing an opening scene where the reader "witnesses" the horrific last few hours of Xander's life in Nairobi before getting into the meat of the story, I broke it up so that the first four story sections began with a snippet taken from those hours. The final story section ended, of course, with Xander heading off to begin his new life as an avatar for The Powers That Be. The reason for this is that, instead of an information dump, I wanted to readers to wonder just a little bit (at least for the first section or two), about what really happened in Nairobi before Xander suddenly shows up in L.A. to talk to Dawn and (possibly, but not likely) before Xander also suddenly shows up in Rome to talk to Buffy. Certainly, by the time Xander shows up in Washington DC to talk Giles, the reader has figured out that Xander's already dead, but doesn't know why Xander's bounding around the planet earth. The final section, both in the immediate aftermath of Xander's death and his talk with Willow in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport answers the "why."
Even the decision to write Xander's last few hours, death, and the beginning of his afterlife in second-person limited was an almost subconscious decision. It's not exactly an orthodox way to write, and it's certainly not an instinctive way to write, and there's a reason for that. To write a long-ish story in that manner takes waaaaaay more skill than I posses, not to mention it can get pretty irritating for the reader. But if used like a scalpel (and I hope I managed the scalpel-like aspect here), it can be devastatingly effective. The use of "you" as a second-person limited point of view when used correctly can make something more intimate than even a first-person point of view can. It (hopefully) draws the reader in and makes them in a round-about way the point of view character. However, the strangeness of the language required to pull off the use of second-person limited also puts a disturbing distance between the reader and the text and can repel them even as it draws them in. Since I wanted to give Xander's desperate last few hours and horrific death a off-putting intimacy, second-person limited was pretty much the only way to go.
Then, of course, each of the conversations with Dawn, Buffy, Giles, and Willow had to be in-character for each of them. Dawn would pretty much buy Xander's story with few questions asked, but would immediately rebel against whatever he had to say. Buffy would immediately pick up that something about Xander wasn't adding up due to a thousand little things that she can detect with her Slayer perceptions, and would initially fight before accepting whatever Xander had to say. Giles would be so lost in his burdens and isolation that Xander would have a miserable time figuring out what he needed to do to break through.
Well, Willow wouldn't be fooled at all, which would make Xander's job in one way a lot easier, but in other ways far more emotionally charged.
After that, the rest was mechanics.
I'm rather proud of the fact the mythical Tweety Bird watch gets mentioned in passing in all 5 sections of the story. I even had a little something on said Tweety Bird watch (the last time we see it on Xander's wrist is in Season 1's "Never Kill a Boy on the First Date" and it's in the context of Xander feeling like he's not really an adult while watching Buffy and Owen flirt), but ended up cutting it because it was distracting and ultimately not about the characters Xander interacted with. I suppose I saw it as something that represented things that Xander had put aside as he grew up and into his new role (once again, the whole "choices determining our fate" idea that I pasted on to my remix), and that's why it was so important that Xander had regained that Tweety Bird watch at the end.
Another thing that makes me proud is how James Bond gets brought up with Dawn, Buffy, and Giles, the three people who don't realize that the Xander they're talking to is already dead, but not with Willow, who does know.
A third thing that pleases me is how Cordelia is never once mentioned in the story by name. Cordelia is always "she" or "her," but never once is her name mentioned. Yet, the people who gave me feedback immediately knew it was her. (As a side note, I'm also pleased I managed to slip Connor into the story completely under the radar.)
But the thing that makes me really proud? I worked out the timezones of each and every section so it matched up with Xander's time of death in Nairobi. So, when Xander confesses to Willow that he's "sort of" talking to Dawn, Buffy, Giles, and Willow all at the same time, he's telling the absolute truth. When he confesses to Willow that he's having these conversations right in the middle of or in the immediate aftermath of his murder, he's also telling the absolute truth as well.
Yes, Virginia, the timezones all match up! That makes me so very, very happy. It's one of those weird things that only I know, but that's okay. It also meant that I had Xander do some fancy dancing (especially with Buffy) to explain how he got from Nairobi to wherever he is. (And yes, it really is a 12+ hour-flight from Nairobi via Amsterdam).
Believe it or not, the research on the timezones, as well as figuring out the flight schedule between Nairobi and Rome, took roughly a day. No joke. Okay, part of that was doing some research on Nairobi itself so it wouldn't sound completely like Any City In the World, but mostly it was the time zones and flights out of Nairobi that ate up time.
I knew going in that the story would be a long one (I estimated 75 pages, it came out to 89), and that I had to write the Nairobi sections with its second-person limited point of view separately from everything else (just try switching back and forth between the two such radically different styles — it's impossible change on a dime like that).
The size and scope of the story pretty much meant that I was writing it every spare moment I had. Despite that, the story flowed pretty easily and with very few problems. Most of the work was in paring it down and eliminating unnecessary words from the final draft, but I think it's safe to say that I was still editing and writing right up to the very last second of the reveal.
It's Always Something...
I did run into some real trouble on a couple of technical issues. Nothing that would detract from the story itself, but still problems that had to be resolved nonetheless.
For a start, how to split up the story? I knew going it that it would be multiple posts, but if anything is true about the Remix, it's this: The longer the story, the fewer the number of people who are going to read it before the reveal.
I honestly can't blame anyone for that. The Annual Remix is fairly large and people only have so much time in the day. A two-part story tends to cut down on the feedback. Three parts, even more so. Unfortunately, because of the length of the different parts, and because I didn't want to break up the flow, I couldn't post it in less than 5. Posting it in four parts turned out to be impossible, and three parts was out of the question. I had to accept that not a lot of people were going to be willing to read it in a blinded situation, and that was that.
Then there was the issue of the how to title the chapter breaks. I had decided pretty early on in the process that I'd use quotes from works penned by my Dead White Male American Author Boyfriend Nathaniel Hawthorn, but it seemed that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't come up with just a pithy quote. To be honest, Nathaniel Hawthorne pretty much is the antithesis of "pithy quotes," so I spent at least a day searching his works for keywords and seeing what I could find. This, despite the fact that everything he's ever written is in a searchable database. While I'm ultimately happy with the quotes I chose to start off each section, and I'm reasonably satisfied that the tone of the quotes matches the tone of each section, there was an awful lot of swapping and trial-and-error going on.
Then the summary. Oi! Do you know how hard it is to write a non-spoilery summary without giving away the key surprise? (Xander's dead!) Don't ask. The summary that's there still encapsulates the story, but doesn't really tell you anything at all. Certainly it's not going to tempt anyone to read it, not unless there are other aspects of the story that attracts them (i.e., characters involved, pairing). I'm still not satisfied with the summary, but I'm not entirely sure how to make it better, especially since I spent weeks trying to come up with one.
And finally, the title. The title, more than anything else, made me pull my hair out. While I'm ultimately pleased with Walking Higher (The Childhood's End Remix), it's also a last-minute substitution.
To give you an idea just how bad it got...
I wanted to have a title that basically "spoiled" the story, but without actually spoiling the story. I tried finding a Latin translation of "the valley of the shadow of death." I poured through Hawthrone's oevre. I tried everything.
In the end, I went back to my inspiration: H:LotS and "The Damage Done."
Now, as it so happens, I have Heather Nova's Oyster, the CD from which "Walking Higher" comes. Initially, I was going to use a lyric from "Walking Higher" (under the assumption that the song title itself was too spoiler-y given the subject matter of the song), but none of the lyrics easily lent themselves to a story title.
Then, for whatever reason, a lyric from Walk this World somehow attached itself to the story.
The original title? With the Light in Our Eyes, It's Hard to See (The Childhood's End Remix).
I haaaaaaated it. With burning flames, I hated that title. Sure, the subject matter of "Walk this World" sort of fit the Xander & Cordelia side of the equation (very, very loosely I might add), and the title had a nice cadence, but I didn't think it fit right.
I think I spent every single day between deciding on how I was going to write my remix and the day of the reveal trying to find an alternate title. Any title would do.
No go. Nothing worked. I'd change it, pout at the new title for a little while, and unhappily revert back to With the Light in Our Eyes, It's Hard to See (The Childhood's End Remix).
In fact, I even posted the story to the Remix Archive using that very name, pissing and moaning all the while that the title made me deeply unhappy.
Then, just hours before the reveal, I decided to just go ahead and stick with the song that brung me (so to speak), and a new title, Walking Higher (The Childhood's End Remix) became The One.
The way I figured it was simple: Heather Nova is not exactly what one would call a Top 40 artist, and there are just not that many people out there who even know who the hell she is, let alone would know a song of hers that came off a 14-year-old CD. How spoiler-y could the title be?
And so, Walking Higher (The Childhood's End Remix) satisfactorily replaced the working title once and for all.
Sorry for the tl;dr discussion, but I'm really excited about this remix and, I feel I should add, that I couldn't have asked for better source material for my remix. I do urge you to go read Winter Garden by kivrin, a short, dream-like story of excellent quality about Giles and Xander finding each other in Washington DC 14 months after the events of "Chosen."
If you're curious, you can hear Heather Nova's "Walking Higher" in its entirety on LastFM. You can also hear "Walk This World" in its entirety on Last FM.
Now, on to the story...
Title: Walking Higher (The Childhood's End Remix)
Author: Lizbeth Marcs (liz_marcs)
Summary: There’s only one person who’d ask you to give up heaven, and there are four people for whom you’d do it.
Genre: Future fic, ghost story, angst
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel the Series
Characters: Xander, Dawn, Buffy, Giles, Willow, Cordelia
Pairings: Primarily gen; Buffy/Xander UST; light Giles/Xander slash
Title, Author, and URL of the original Story: Winter Garden by kivrin
Warning: Disturbing imagery and violence. Vague spoilers for all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.
Author’s notes: Takes place a year-and-a-half after ‘Chosen.’ All related comics are cheerfully and willfully ignored. Additional writing credits at the end of the story. Additional writing credits at the end.
Disclaimer: Xander Harris, Dawn Summers, Buffy Summers, Rupert Giles, Willow Rosenberg, Cordelia Chase, Connor, and all associated characters and organizations are the property of FOX and Mutant Enemy. Any mention of real life events and real people is not meant to imply that the people or incidents in question as they are used in the story have any relationship to reality. All original characters and the plot are mine. No payment was asked for or received in the writing of this story and no profit was earned. No copyright infringement on FOX or Mutant Enemy is intended.