this is for a challenge for Christmas Eve... but as usual Daisy got over excited... would like to know if I should ditch or continue... It's unbeta'd, I'm home sick at the mo', so please forgive any odd turns of phrase... but... FB adored as always L... J
Title: Keeble Gardens
Rating: Mature Audiences – for content and themes
Summary: Xander was tired… so *very* tired. No one visited him anymore, nothing new there. His birthday was tomorrow, the twenty fourth of December. It seemed… logical somehow… the right time to go. But the higher powers hadn’t quite finished playing with him.
Spoilers: Canon is AU - very post S& BtVS & S5 AtS.
Warnings: M/M – if you don’t like boys together, don’t play here!
Disclaimer: Don’t own the characters nor make any money from stories etc, and bow down to their original creators Joss, et al., plus all the wonderful online writers who continue to give the Buffy/Angel verse characters life.
It was quiet.
It was always quiet after seven in the evening. The last of the visitors had gone; those residents unaware or unable to decide if they needed to stay in the television lounge or not had been wheeled to their rooms; and the rest… The rest were residents of Keeble Gardens who, despite various physical ‘impediments’, were still fully aware, cognisant of their final journey and capable of acting as navigator… if only any one carer would listen and take them seriously…. Usually if anything was ‘wrong’ the staff simply booked them in to the resident doctor and recommended a review of their meds.
Xander’s walker was too far away to be bothered going to, just for Christmas Eve supper.
He was close enough to hear the ceremonial bells from his room so simply turned off his hearing aid.
Of the four others on his designated table, only one was dementia free and good for a chat anyway. Mira – she was good value.
The previously pretty blonde had been cruelly struck by a drunk driver whilst walking home in her own street some twenty five years before. After fourteen weeks unconscious, she had woken to a missing number of memories and a body with movements restricted to those of a serious cerebral palsy victim.
Prior to her accident she had been one of the World’s top lady golfers and a respected business woman, yet now, at age only sixty (and good lord that was less than two thirds his years!), her parents were dead and her sister unable to care for her. She was ‘lucky to have money' so able to secure a place at Keeble Gardens. The double edged sword. A room and care in exchange for being condemned for all time to being treated like a child… kindly treated there was no doubt, but... sometimes the staff forgot that not everyone in the establishment was suffering dementia!
Ironically, it was Mira who now pulled Xander to the present as she banged the arm of her chair then smiled sadly into his room when her chair passed by the open door and a rather officious orderly continued to quietly reprimand her regards ‘visiting hours and please make sure they leave before eight’.
Xander couldn't help it, he stared at his neat, near empty room with a single photo frame containing the images of his loved one and the Sunnydale women. At least Mira still had a someone who cared.
Another staff member came to collect Xander. Thankfully it was Jarad – a beautiful chocolate coloured boy with green eyes, somewhere in his late twenties, Jamaican and still hoping to fund some sort of medical career ‘down the track’. He treated Xander like he was still a person, asked his advice and listened, and consequently was a ray of sunshine in Xander’s life, and there were precious few these days.
Jarad and he had ‘an understanding’ – Xander would not tell the bosses that Jarad wasn’t dumb, had another job… and was planning to move on in the New Year, and (oh by the way) was absolutely gay… and in return Jarad occasionally took refuge in his room for a quiet chat and brought him a beer. Tonight it was good that it was Jarad.
Jarad pushed a wheelchair into Xander’s modest room, “Come on Mr H?! Free ride to paradise… Hear the fare’s all ham ‘n holiday food… Not figurin’ you for carin’ but Santa Claus will be attendin’, but ya gotta eat right?!”
Xander sighed and complied. With the aid of a kind young hand, he levered himself slowly from his recliner to the chair. The walker be damned – a free ride was a free ride… and he was tired, he wished he could tell Jarad just how tired… but it really didn’t matter. Instead he opted for patting the dear youngster with a thin left hand (the ring finger and middle one both missing two sections – ‘go the wrapper look Mr H’, his apprentice Jake used to say)
Memories, so many… memories…
Eighty years ago today, his best friend Jesse had silently joined him in a sleep over on his parents’ front lawn… Seventy years ago he had been supervising the building of houses in AIDS ridden sub-Saharan Africa…Sixty years ago he was about to get on a plane to visit Willow and the very ill Giles in England… Fifty years ago *their* Christmas eve dinner had been a smash… Forty years ago Justin and he had celebrated their twentieth anniversary, his birthday and their love (and a hot festive season) in the tropical beauty of Cairns and northern Australia… Thirty years ago they were at home – annus horribilus – the terrible year, Willow’s passing and Justin’s lung cancer and traumatic surgery and treatment just two of many ‘things’ that year… Twenty years ago, the house was dark and the telephone disconnected as Xander grieved. Justin’s twin brother had died earlier that year resulting, somehow, in Justin’s own life force had waning, so much so that two days after Thanksgiving Xander had held his dear lover as cancer finally claimed another victim. Ten years ago he had just moved in to his final residence. Aged eighty five and with two knee and one hip replacements (and still sporting the eye patch) he was quite the ‘catch’ for those still cognisant enough to notice. But this birthday… this time it was done.
He could hear Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’ as they approached the eating hall. Jarad saw the tightened grip on the arm rest of the chair and observed as Xander reached up a shaky hand check his eye patch was in place. Jarad knew it was the old man’s birthday… Ninety five today. He liked Mister Harris… Alexander… He seemed… different to the other residents. He had done so much, seen so much… and yet was so very alone and of late, so very sad.
Just before they entered the eating hall, Jarad stopped in a darkened spot in the hall.
“You OK tonight O’Pa Alex?” The young man rounded the chair to squat down and stare at his charge with the genuine concern of a caring friend. “We can go back to your room if you need...but I think some of the ladies would like to wish you a happy birthday… So what do you say, hmm? I’ll stick around… And hey! Someone has to direct the fire service when they light all those candles and set the alarms off… C’mon O’Pa Alex… Let ‘em make a fuss of you yeah??… Hmmm???” Jarad reached out and offered a dark hand.
Xander looked up with apologetic gratitude and grasped the young man’s hand with his very shakey one. Jarad could not fail but notice the sadness, the shaking and the incredibly soft paper thin texture of the skin covering sinew, bone and vein, and squeezed back with genuine love for the old man.
Xander was wheeled past his usual table and ‘presented’ to the board members and guests as ‘the oldest resident at Keeble Gardens’, before being ‘invited’ to read a predetermined passage from the bible, blowing out his candles and making the effort to join in singing a Christmas hymn of thanks.
He did all dutifully, knowing that the intent on behalf of staff was genuinely to treat him and provide the other residents with an event – though for most… not a memorable one. They had cake with their cups of tea/coffee and night time medications, and the board members went home.
Mira leaned over just before they were all ushered away and in slow moves, offered her congratulations, and a gift. Xander did her the honour of unwrapping it at the table. It was a tiny wooden cross and a tiny corked bottle with ‘Holy H2O’ written on it in barely descernable, shakey writing.
Xander was flabbergasted and looked to the younger woman for clues. Despite her head’s unwillingness to cooperate she eventually managed to look him in the eye and simply whispered brokenly, “Mother… Slayer… Know *you*.”
Jarad pushed Xander back to his room then assisted his charge with his night time ablutions, helped him into bed and thought little of the two strange objects now clasped firmly in the old man’s right hand as he tucked him in. As he pulled up the covers, however, an ancient hand touched his and stopped him.
“Just doin’ my…”
“No… Thank you… I need you to know… tonight… and I want you to take this for you and your family… You'll understand.” Xander reached over then pushed and envelope into the young man's hand. It had a rather silly ‘perky’ Christmas Santa and message on the front… but when Jarad opened it…
“*I can’t take this*!!!! *O’Pa Alex* I can’t!!!”
“Everything I have is fairly divided, but I selfishly wanted to give *you* this for Christmas. Please Jarad… take it. Treat yourself - be the doctor I always wanted, and the person you deserve... please!! And if it's not enough... then do something nice for your family for all I care… but … You will make a wonderful doctor Jarad… so *please*, take it!”
The young man clasped the envelope to his chest and fell to his knees at the edge of the old man’s bed, overcome, and now, literally in tears, “Oh… [breath] O’pa?!! But this is too much you [breath and another tear]… you can’t mean… there has to be fifteen thousand dollars here???!!!…”
“It's only a drop in the ocean… Now get out of here, go ring your pretty boy, and let a grumpy ol’ man be… *grumpy* on his Birthday… Christmas… whatever!!”
But Jarad was in shock. The money would indeed allow him to start college, something he had never been able to afford, and had given up now his sister had no husband and a child on the way… Xander watched the reaction closely then reached for the young hand one more time to emphasise his point, “You and your fellow sort it out… but, as a wonderful English friend used to say… ‘My dear boy, you are better than this’… so please! Tell no one, invest it wisely, and be happy.”
Jarad floated home, embraced his beautiful partner Eric, and called his sister. They spent the evening planning their newly funded future carefully.
After his lovely helper left, Xander looked at all the tablets… his walker… his tiny room with no photos but the one… and knew it was time. The eye socket ached as it always did when he was upset… and he rolled out of bed onto the floor and knelt in prayer. The act in itself caused an arrhythmia, but he didn’t care. His prayer was to any deity listening. He was the last of the line, no family and few friends. His post mortem assets were divided into two thirds to charities in the third world, and one third to the Watchers’ Council fund for old slayers, and all his other loose ends tied up.
He was ninety five, his lover had been dead twenty years and all his friends were gone. He was sans an eye and wore a colostomy bag. His highlight last month was to pee unassisted into the toilet rather than have the catheter or a pad catch his fluids. And the treat of the year was the thrill of someone ‘doing’ his feet – calluses and toe nails apparently harder than steel coming with extreme age. Oh there were nice things... the nurse who regularly treated the ulcers and re-bandaged his lower legs was called Sandy and was ever so sweet, and his ‘meds were upped’ if he ever reported feeling unhappy. He still had seven of his own teeth… but he realized belatedly that his favourite food was now, in truth… apple sauce.
Xander was tired. He cuddled the rather odd gifts from Mira close, then offered up another appeal to relieve his existence… pleading his case, long past asking for anything, simply begging… oblivion.
It was his turn. Exhausted from the recent trip to Bangladesh sweeping the results of yet another flood…
This time was different, and he had been touched for a purpose. The ‘brief’ included images of selflessness, of pain, of heroism, but not in the public ‘look at me’ sense as usually happened, but rather in the very genuine ‘you are important to me, hero of the people’ type genre. After close to seventy years of ‘call outs’, Spike was sceptical, but something about this subject felt very familiar, regardless he murmured out loud ,“Not another bloody oldie!” The comment gained him a hard slap on the backside and a grin from the kindly Phillias, “Get back to me with your complaints after you’ve passed your second millennium, pretty boy! Now come on! Client’s a waitin’.”
Spike grunted then launched himself again – as he had every night since the fall of the Black Thorn, his curse (or blessing, depending on the day), to be one of Michael’s crew - an Angel of Death whose calling it was to judge then ease (or not) the way of all those stricken and begging passage… He was one of the true angels now – a minor one, but it had turned out to be alright, regardless of the day, he came home to a loving embrace that was… family and adoration… and the promise of contentment, one day.
His stretched his wings, spreading them to their full span and took off into the night. It would probably be quick. It was an oldie, a relatively easy one, given the history, and marked his two hundred thousandth spirit eased to the next plane.
Alexander Lavelle Harris woke momentarily then fell asleep again at twelve sixteen in the morning.
Spike’s angelic form read the spirit not the physical man, and knew the whole story courtesy of his status. He begged his superiors but knew there was really no need.
On this night, on Christmas eve, he would pleasure the human, and if it was Xander’s choice, the aged Scoobie would join the realm. Spike knew the changes would surprise, but hoped, nevertheless…