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! Character death.
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.
He must have drifted off. His room was illuminated so he kept his eyes closed. It was probably the last check, the ten pm lights out check. If they thought he was awake they would fuss…
He’d had a disturbed sleep – but then that was not so unusual. What was odd was the strange pain down his left arm and across his chest, not sharp, just a slow crushing pain that burst into white agony then, then it was gone and Xander felt himself lifted by incredibly strong, warm arms that seemed to give off love by mere contact.
In truth, he wasn’t sure if he was awake or asleep, but really couldn’t care, he’d asked for oblivion so if this was to be it… He felt his ancient failing form settled lovingly on his own bed. He opened his eyes to see a long lost face smiling down at him, framed by a magnificent white span of wings. His life had been long, his sins many. He just hoped for purgatory rather than Hell. And his angel heard the thoughts even as he settled the ancient man onto his death bed.
Spike knew the drill. The process was usually a standard one, but something in Phillias’ tone said this might be a special one. One in every hundred thousand… one that required more careful attention… one that might…
Spike’s time on the earthly plane had faded in his memory, though daily he prayed forgiveness for his killing when a vampire, something he had atoned for many years before. He recalled flashes – like an adult recalls one’s infancy, images faces, smells, but no logic and limited timeframe. And yet… there were a few. The first touch of this old man and he remembered, vividly, he knew the missing eye and suddenly understood why he had been tapped, yet still cried to his higher power for clemency… “Don’t make me judge… not him… *please* Father!… Mother!… Michael!! Please… Philias!!!?… I can’t…”
All he received as an answer was a severe jolt that made his throat ache and his wings extend to the point of pain. He knew he must… and that this was his test just as much as it was his subject’s rite of passage. It was not so much his High Lord’s wishes that he suffer – rather it was a given… every few hundred or so souls he had been tested, usually a teenager, old enough to sin but not old enough for the sin to be premeditated; or a drug addict, or mother of many… the Higher Power had nothing if not a sense of cruel irony. The last time it had been a young poet, a good one, a pretty one, a boy who had no sins to speak of particularly but perhaps for lust. The dear lad still trapped in the mangled wreck of his car, had struggled to confess more than a few minor misdemeanours, and most of those in thought, but then fell instantly in love with the angel and so confessed to a lust directly linked to his white winged messenger. Really there was no problem, but it threw the angel a little.
Now, after all this time, an old friend begged his own passing… and was asking that his life be judged. Phillias had known – so had the Power – this was his to do.
So the angel, Spike, did something that he had done literally several thousand times before. He landed beside the bed of the dying, but as he let his visage be known, he was somewhat amazed by the reaction of the dear old man.
The angel was met with a derogatory snort and a self deprecating tone that gave the angel cause for worry. The Harrises had been Catholic, lapsed of late, but Xander had been baptised and confirmed so the final confession was required. And of late Xander had taken his faith far more seriously, so now the judgement was expected.
“Spike ?!… Of course it would manifest as you… All my sins revisited yeah?” His eyes had been… resigned, but as the angel’s wings undulated and the blonde looked just a little worried, Xander’s attitude shifted, looking simply regretful and pained. He reached out toward the wings and was amazed that they really were tangible. Soft, warm even… as was the pale figure who sported them. The beautiful face, the strong pale body, the crystal blue slightly sad looking eyes, this was the Spike he remembered from the end of Sunnydale, the hero, the comrade… someone who had seen him at his worst – well his worst at the time… now he had seventy or so years more to ‘own’. Confession seemed to make so much more sense when the being one had to confess to had already seen the worst of you…
What he didn’t expect, as the massive hole in the wall of his atria opened, was the angel’s reluctance to accept his admission of sin.
Xander’s skin was so thin and soft that even the kindest ‘firm hold’ normally led to bruising at least and bleeding at worst. But as the angel chose to hold the thin hand and steady the old man, there were no such issues, the touch was feather light yet firm, warm and soothing and drew tears from the old man, and those Spike had not jurisdiction over. It always seemed to happen, and he always wondered… but even asking Michael brought no insight. He had concluded that he was simply the Angel of Sorrow… and never really understood his charges’ overwhelming sense of joy as they touched him.
The angel knew to remain silent as the ancient dying human confessed for the last time. Xander’s breathing was laboured and interspersed with bouts of panting but still he confessed.
“Greed… I wanted her favour… and so… Oh… Geez… It was Angel – And a deliberate betrayal even after he was ensouled – and I knew… I really did but I still … Oh Spike! I sent him to *Hell* ensouled and I sent him to Hell… I’m sorry, I’m so sorry!”
Spike of old would have said something but the angel knew that this was not about old vendettas or anything even approaching that. So the angel answered, “And yet later you gave most of the money from your Sunnydale disaster fund to victims of natural disasters over the years, then went to Africa to build houses for the poor. Putting yourself in danger and worrying about everyone but yourself.”
Spike saw the desperate look as Xander rallied a little and tried to speak again. He knew from experience that this was important so ceased speaking.
“Gluttonly - surely that’s it… My parents *suffered* with over indulgence… and I never understood… I blamed them and did not understand… Ohhh but I did later and then it was too late!”
The elderly man was beginning to pant again and Spike knew there was limited time, so simply said, “Self restraint, ‘n self preservation on your part Pet… You loved them and lost them and have done nothing to disgrace their memory.”
As the agony of his final minutes began, however Xander needed to let… someone know. His voice now all but failing he whispered, “Lazy! I was lazy at school and after you and Anya… and Sunnydale… I just didn’t know how to…”
The angel snorted with disbelief, “So years of survival then becoming one of the most respected project managers on the western seaboard doesn’t count as diligence… *please*!” But the old man’s weak grip tightened a little and Spike saw the need. “You’re more than forgiven, Pet, more than forgiven.”
Xander curled up for a moment, the foetal position comforting, “I’ve sinned so… much… I lusted after so many… And yet paid for it already in demons and… distress… And *loved* Justin… that wasn’t about lust… it was about love… friendship that grew into adoration and partnership… there is no sin in that.”
The angel stroked the old man’s face. In the absence of family or friends, Spike knew Xander’s blood had begun to drown him, unable to be serviced by the now failed, valiant pump. The aged human called for clemency once more…
“Anger… Wrath! I was guilty of that too… I hated… oh God in Heaven… I hated and I killed! … Jesse… my friend and I… So many others… and I was so angry with the world… so many lives and children and the cure, and I hated you… Oh *please* *I’m sorry* I hated you because I… you were the first man I truly *wanted* for my own… but you were… and I… I’m sorry… dismember me now if you must. God, you are still beautiful… so very beautiful.”
Spike’s fate was to have a direct connection to his charges, so felt the emotions on a visceral level but was still stunned as his own wings were stroked instinctively. The act of a kindly owner or a lover… A tear from the angel fell onto the old man and Xander was overwhelmed by the sensation of love for a moment but rallied. He stared up at his judge. The angel was the epitome of his darkest moments, and his deepest shame, but also some of his greatest triumphs and a saviour many times over, a friend and a hero. And so he began to pray as his body convulsed with pain once more.
“Lord forgive me for my sin of … envy - for coveting that which was not mine to have… Cars houses, women, men! And forgive my pride. Please forgive that. I disappointed so many, yet tried to tell myself I was the better one. And forgive me for wishing for death after my darling Justin... passed. And…”
The angel was rather overwhelmed by the depth of self deprecation, and unprepared for the very physical connection as his wings continued to be stroked. Finally the old man reached up for the angel’s hand again. It was given willingly,
“Please bless Dawn and her daughter Grace…. and... just… let it be…” Another bout of white agony ripped through his chest. He closed his eyes, sensing it was finally at an end, he squeezed the angel’s hand and rasped “Take me now, I’m ready.”
“You come with me willingly Xander. Lift up now and join me in the realm of light.” Xander nodded slightly then simply mouthed the words of the old prayer, “Our father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into tempta… ” He lost his train of thought, then opened his eyes, stared, and with complete clarity saw the beautiful angel above him, the familiar face, the twinkling eyes and loving smile, and breathed a sigh of relief.
It was Xander’s time. Unlike his other charges, Spike chose to kiss him firmly on the lips taking in the last breath the old man expired, and felt the shift.
The hand he held became younger as the spiritual form moved out of its earthbound shell. Spike tugged a little until Xander, still disorientated, was free, and then scooped up the pretty boy, looking just as he remembered him from Sunnydale, held him close as a parent might a small child and took off toward the heavens.
There would be a quiet service for the old man’s body two days after Christmas, but it was for the benefit of those left behind. Dawn and Justin’s brother received the balance of his estate, and his room was taken over by a new resident within the week.
But there was no reason to grieve, and the angel was witness to the joy that was Xander’s awakening in his new realm, the boy’s essence now able to commune with those he loved for all time, and eventually… eventually Spike figured to put in the good word... even source him a pair of wings… he’d look pretty with wings…