Disclaimer: I own nothing of the characters.
This story is set after season seven, and does not follow comic canon or Angel S5. It's set a year after the Hellmouth has been destroyed. Xander has been working in Cleveland, and returns to LA to spend the anniversary of Anya's death as close to her final resting place as he can get. Whilst there, he stops in LA to visit Faith and her branch of Slayers, and decides to follow a seemingly harmless job checking up on a mental patient who has been having visions of Slayers….Spike/Xander friendship mainly, Spuffy undertones.
A/N: This is my first Spike/Xander centric story. There will be no slash, it's not that kind of fic. I just think that Xander sometimes got a bad rap on the show and I used to hate his behaviour, but I've decided to give him a chance to redeem himself. At least, in this fantasy! I'm not sure how long this fic is going to be, it depends how long it takes for issues to be resolved.
A YEAR TO THE DAY
The car was too quiet for his liking, but he didn't think he could stand the seemingly non-stop cheery pop music that would be on the radio. Today was a serious day for him, a day of mourning. Not that he hadn't spent every day of the last year mourning. He'd experienced loss before, but that day, he'd lost the world, even though they'd saved it. He'd kept on going, walking through the first few weeks as if in a daze.
He wasn't blind…well, he wasn't entirely blind. He knew Buffy was grieving too. They'd spent many nights in companionable silence, not speaking of the ones they had lost, but knowing who the other was thinking of. He'd respected Spike in the end – he'd given his life to save the woman he loved. He didn't believe Spike was so inclined to save the rest of the world, but for Buffy, Xander understood that the blond vampire would have trudged through Hell and back. He understood that love. It was exactly the same love as he had for Anya. Always. Not just at the end of it all. Just too scared to admit it before.
She'd given her life for someone too. Someone unworthy probably but he'd hoped it had given her peace. When Buffy had died and they'd thought she was in a hell dimension, it had troubled Xander. But thinking of Anya suffering the same fate – that gave him nightmares. She was so sweet and loving, albeit blunt in her ways…she did not deserve to burn. He feared that her demonic past would have condemned her. It drove him crazy not being able to know for certain she was safe and at rest.
Even though he'd give his own soul a million time over if she were at his side instead.
As he slammed on the brakes and skidded to a halt in the desert, he realised that he was crying. He wiped his face, irritated that his patch had gotten wet. It was weird that his lost eye still produced tears, and according to the doctor it was perfectly normal. He'd only lost his eye, not the parts around it. They still worked. He'd recently been for an appointment about having a prosthetic eye fitting, but upon remembering the creepy caretaker from his elementary school, he'd decided against it. That guy's glass eye, always staring in the same direction and occasionally rolling around…he shuddered. Horrible.
The engine turned off as he pulled the key out, leaving him in the dark and silence of the night. He opened the car door, checking on his weapons holder in the back seat. He didn't think he was at risk out here but it was better to be safe than sorry. He wished Buffy had accepted his invitation, but when he'd mentioned it to her, she'd cried and said it was too hard. In truth this was hard for him; only he had to do it. He owed her at least this much. To stand and pay tribute to her, remember everything that made her and all the ways he loved her.
He'd always love her.
Giles said that meant people never really died. They always lived on in our hearts. He'd tried to explain it to Buffy and in return he had received that look of hers; the one she reserved for people she wouldn't trust again. Xander knew what Giles had tried to do, what they all had tried to do at one point or another. He could accept that Spike had fought for his redemption and believed it was wrong to take her choice away from her, even more so in the light of Robin's very personal involvement. He'd heard her tirades on the subject, when the pain wasn't so raw and she'd spoken to him, revealed things he'd never known about her.
If one good thing had come from all this death, he knew his best friend all the better for it, and she often rang him now to talk, to reminisce. He knew he was the only one she could confide him. And he truly wished he could give her back what she had lost when she had lost her vampire.
He stopped for a moment in his musings and leant against the car, only to jump when his cell rang. He pulled out his cell, flicking the top and answering. 'Hey Buffy, was just thinking about you.'
'Hey Xan. I was just ringing to check up. Did you get to LA?'
'Yeah, I passed through. I'm out in the desert at the moment, you must have just caught me with signal.'
'I'm glad. I wish I could have come with you…' A sniffle came across the line and his heart broke for her. 'I'm sorry. I should be there. But I don't think…I may have crumbled just like the town if I'd faced it. Dawn's gone out so I've got a tub of Ben and Jerry's and a gooey chick flick to cry to later.' He smiled and nodded, even though she couldn't see him.
'Okay, Buff. You know I'll be back in London before you know it.' He looked around. 'It's pretty creepy out here.' He chuckled. 'I'm gonna check in with the group of Slayer's in LA, I think Faith is still there. Maybe stay a day or two and then head back. I did try to get hold of my folks but…' He left the sentence hanging. Buffy knew all about how his parents hadn't seemed to care he was still alive after Sunnydale. It was heart breaking to her but he was kinda used to it. Still, would have been nice to see them one more time.
'No worries Xan. Call me when you're back in LA, just so I know you haven't been eaten or anything. Don't worry about the time difference. I don't sleep much, you know that.'
He frowned, wishing he could help her more. Buffy was stubborn however, and he knew she would heal in her own time. He said his goodbye and hung up, looking over to the horizon and the soft glow of the city in the distance. The sun would be rising in the next hour and he wanted to do this properly. Last thing he needed was gawky tourists who come to see the carnage of "The Lost City" staring at him in his ritual of mourning. He walked around the car and opened the passenger door, picking up his rucksack from the footwell. He slung it over his shoulder and locked the car up.
He started to walk, fishing for the flashlight in his pocket as he knew falling into the crater would not be a smart thing to do. As he turned it on, he nearly fell over a bush and he cursed himself and then the bush. Naturally it was the bush's fault for creeping up on him in the dark.
The flashlight lit up the sandy ground in front of him, and as he neared the edge of the crater, it cast eerie shadows across the earth. He slowed as he approached the edge, cautiously looking over and into the sunken pit with the flashlight. Pieces of metal, wood and concrete reflected the light back at him and he sighed heavily, thinking of the town that he'd called home all his life.
All gone now.
She was gone now.
The tears came again and Xander cursed his weakness. He knew it wasn't something to be ashamed of, crying wasn't a bad thing; Willow constantly told him that. He still felt like it was a little unmanly to bawl his eyes out so much though. Maybe this "anniversary" would give him a little closure and he could stop feeling like such a girl.
He surveyed the area around him with his one eye for a moment and then opened the rucksack, pulling out a candle and a rose. He shuffled in his pocket for a lighter and lit the candle, placing it on the floor. He laid the rose in front of it and then sat cross legged in front of his little shrine. The last thing in the rucksack was a photo of Anya, one of the rare ones he'd captured of her alone. She was radiant in the sunshine in the photo, a way he'd never see her again. His heart swelled again as he placed the photo in front of the rose, glad the air was still tonight or it may have ruined this entire thing.
Maybe something out there had taken pity on his grief and stopped the wind just for her.
Maybe it was her doing it.
He kinda hoped it was.
The sun had risen. He had been sat on the cold ground for at least three hours. His legs were cramping and his mouth was dry. But he couldn't bring himself to move. He didn't want to move. Didn't want to stop thinking of her. But he had to go. Otherwise he would sit here forever just waiting to be with her again.
And he wasn't the type to just give up on life.
So he pulled himself to his feet and with one last lingering look at the place he'd lived all his life, his one Starbucks town and all the memories he'd made there, he turned and walked back to his car. Five minutes later he started the engine and drove off, leaving Sunnydale behind.
Three hours later he'd parked outside an old hotel, where the faded signs proclaimed "Hyperion Hotel". He'd been here once before, and knew his least favourite vampire owned it. But from what he understood, Angel avoided the place because of its current residents and because he was off playing CEO of a massive law firm. Xander had no desire to see him. Buffy had spoken to him briefly after Sunnydale was destroyed, and it had left her angry for a good few days. He had a feeling she still held a grudge against whatever the vampire had said to her.
He sat in the car for a few moments before looking at the clock on the dashboard. It was just after 9am so he imagined someone would be awake inside the hotel, and so he climbed out of the car, brushing the remnants of the desert from his trousers as he locked the driver's side door and moved round to the trunk, grabbing a holdall and heading towards the hotel entrance. The door was unlocked open, but he could feel the bristle of a magical barrier around the outside, years of being around magic making him a little attuned to the feel of it. He entered, figuring that someone would be around. He was right. Faith sat at the welcome desk, her bare feet up on the desk and a tattoo magazine firmly in hand. As he walked towards her, she glanced up and smiled widely.
'Xan-man!' She chorused and put the magazine down, standing from her relaxed position and heading towards the brunette. He smiled tightly and nodded in greeting.
'Faith. How are things?'
'Not too bad, not too bad at all.' She grinned. 'It's good to see another adult, man. Got so many kids running round her, and Robin's been off on some training thing for like, a week. I'm starting to go a little stir crazy here. What's brings you to my neck of the woods anyway?' She asked, motioning that they go to the office. Her gaze drifted to the stairs and he was sure he saw concern pass over her face. He filed it away for later questioning.
'I was…passing through. Thought I'd stop by and make myself useful for a couple of days. You got anything needs fixing?' He joked. Faith chuckled and shut the office door behind them as they entered. She took a seat by the desk that dominated the room and he sat opposite. Opening the desk drawer, she pulled out two sodas and chucked him one, smiling as he took it gratefully.
'Buffy rang me, said you were probably going to drop by. You staying for a couple of days? Some of my girls would love to hear your war stories.'
A chorus of doors opening from the upper levels stopped him from answering straight away, and he realised that the concerned look she'd had earlier was for the influx of girls under her protection. For her credit, Faith seemed to have taken to her job as a leader very well; better than she had in Sunnydale. She'd…matured…as much as Faith could anyway. She had definitely changed.
Xander realised he had yet to speak and smiled awkwardly. 'Yeah. Just a couple. I don't mind sharing some tales. Got a few I think.' He slurped his soda and looked back at the closed door. The lobby was beginning to get noisy.
'They'll clear off into the dining hall soon for breakfast. That's mostly the younger girls, the older ones were up until sunrise on patrol, so they won't rise until the afternoon. I don't let them go out unaccompanied unless they're over sixteen. Giles' suggestion.' Faith explained, finishing her drink and crushing the can with ease. 'It's been a year today, hasn't it?' Xander nodded in reply, ignoring the pain in his chest. Faith's mouth formed a thin line. 'Can't believe it's gone so quick.' She murmured, and looked at the clock herself. Then she changed the subject, something for which the former carpenter could not be more grateful. 'I'll get you settled in and you can get some sleep. I'll introduce you to my oldest girls later.'
She stood and strode to the office door, opening it and breathing a sigh of relief as she saw the girls were filtering into the dining hall. Xander stood behind her, also looking relieved that he could avoid a crowd of teenagers. He'd always felt uncomfortable around all the girls in Sunnydale. Maybe it was mistake being here…
Faith headed across the lobby and up the stairs, Xander following quickly behind. She showed him to a room and was about to strike up conversation again until a shrill voice called her name, followed by a smashing noise. She rolled her eyes and apologised to Xander, who grinned in response and waved her off. She shouted back to whoever had called her and shut the door of the room, leaving Xander in silence. He looked around, eyed up the bed and promptly passed out.
He awoke several hours later. It was still light outside and he blinked several times before remembering where he was. Wrinkling his nose, he knew he smelt bad and decided a shower was the best course of action. And luckily, Faith had given him the privacy of a room with an ensuite. A working shower. Bliss.
Twenty minutes later, he emerged from the room smelling fresh and in clean clothes. He looked around the corridor and sighed, heading for the stairs. As he moved downstairs, he saw a small group of girls researching in the main lobby. The phone rang and a sweet voice answered it. Catching sight of Faith, he moved to her, ignoring the stares and whispers of the girls around him.
'Xander!' Faith said, noticing him. 'How'd you sleep?'
'Good, thanks Faith.' He said, running a hand through his hair. He motioned to all the girls researching and stuffed his hands in his pockets. 'What's the research for?' He enquired and Faith sighed heavily.
'Got some clan of vampires terrorising Beverly Hills. It's a paid contract by some community of the rich and famous. Don't want their images harmed. I gotta feed my girls, so I got a bunch of them working on it.'
'Anything I can do?'
Faith opened her mouth to reply when she was interrupted again, this time by the phone answering voice. She looked exasperated and turned to face the voice with a patient smile. 'What's wrong?'
'Sorry.' A mousy girl timidly replied, knowing she'd pissed Faith off. 'One of our contacts over at the hospital rang just now. Says they had a guy brought in yesterday. He was found comatose and badly injured in an alleyway, woke up during the night screaming about demons.'
'That's not unusual in LA.' Faith replied, looking bored.
'I agree. Except this man has also been screaming about slayers.' The girl waited for a response as Faith grew serious.
'I can't go until later. Where are they keeping him?'
'He's in the emergency room at the moment. He was seriously injured when they brought him in, badly burnt. Marie didn't go into too much detail, she couldn't without getting into trouble. They've got him being assessed by psych at the moment.'
'Best we get to him sooner rather than later.' Faith mumbled, thinking of who she could send.
'I can go?' Xander offered, raising his hand. 'I can make enquiries about looking for a brother. If you can tell this contact to look for me, I'll find out what this guy's about.' Faith nodded in agreement.
'That's a good idea. Thanks Xander. Will you do me a favour? Take Sarah,' She pointed to an older girl with her nose in a book by the reception desk, 'Just in case.' He nodded, feeling a little less useless at the prospect of something to do. Something to take his mind off of the day. At least it was gone three, so he'd not have much more of the day to get through. The slayer Faith had pointed to smiled at him and he warmed a little. She seemed like a nice girl at least.
He hoped she wasn't going to ask too many questions.
The hospital was busy when they got there and it took a while to find Marie. When they'd found her, she'd been grateful for their presence. Apparently the man had become scared and violent, not able to remember who he was or where he was. They'd had to sedate him and move him to a secure room until psych could eventually assess him. After a trip down winding corridors filled with gurneys and emergency room patients, they came to a quieter part of the ER, where Marie stopped outside a room with shuttered windows. 'He's in here. He's in soft restraints and pretty heavily sedated so you might not get much sense out of him. He's scared too so try not to freak him out too much. Feel kinda bad for the guy, he was real messed up when he came in last night, they had to resuscitate him three times, thought they'd lost him. Gave the night shift quite a start when he suddenly woke up screaming. He should be dead.'
Xander swallowed hard, wondering what they'd find beyond the door. Marie opened it and they stepped inside, Xander's eye adjusting to the dimmed room. He looked over to the figure on the bed, taking in the sandy coloured messy hair and various wounds on him. He moved closer and looked down, frowning at the familiarity of the face and almost kacking his pants as the man opened his eyes and looked at him.
'Holy Zeus…' Xander whispered, glancing at Sarah. 'It's Spike.'
A/N: I've got some idea as to how this story is going to go. It's mostly Spike/Xander interaction as I said before. I would like to know how people feel about it so far before I continue. Many thanks for reading!