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I Pray the Lord My Soul to Keep

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Summary: When the gypsies cursed Angelus with a soul, did they really pull one out of Heaven?

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > Xander-CenteredGreywizardFR15421,58067623,29218 Apr 0830 Apr 08Yes
CoA Winner

Chapter One

Disclaimer: Is this really necessary? If anyone really thinks these characters belong to me, then I've got some *great* real estate investments I'd like to discuss with you. All of the Buffy characters belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, etc; Gilad Abrams (The Eternal Warrior) belongs to Valiant Entertainment, Inc.; and Dr. Peter Silberman belongs to Orion Pictures Corp. There is no intent to profit from this. Only the story is mine, and if anyone waves enough money in front of me, even that is negotiable.

Time frame: Starts approximately six months post Chosen for the Buffy characters.

Character Bashing: None.

Feedback: Of course! It's like food, water and air to a writer.

Archiving: Check with me first, please.

Author's Notes 1: Any dialogue quoted from either show is taken from the transcripts at the ‘Buffy vs. Angel’ website (http://www.buffy-vs-angel.com/guide.shtml).

Author's Notes 2: Thanks to Lori Bush, Tim Joy, Bill Haden and Drake the Archr for beta-ing this story.

~~~

Chapter 1


Arashmaharr
A demon dimension relatively close by in the multiversal matrix


"You are playing a most dangerous game here, my Lord. Should they realize who is responsible, the consequences could be most severe. I would urge you to carefully consider your plans before taking any actions."

"Be silent, bitch! You overestimate your own importance! I know exactly what I am doing and I will have my vengeance on that arrogant, smug, self-righteous little bastard. He will suffer as few have ever suffered before! That I swear!

"And the best part is that his own actions will be the instrument that initiates his own suffering!"

"Of course, my Lord. I apologize for my impertinence. All will be done exactly as you wish. I leave now to initiate your command."

~~~

Bratislava, Czechoslovakia
November 5, 2003

Approximately six months post Chosen


"Seems like we're only seeing each other whenever the latest apocalypse rolls around, Xand."

"Yeah, looks that way, Buff.”

“So, think we should probably talk to Giles about better scheduling for these things?"

The laconic, matter-of-fact manner in which her companion had replied to her semi-joking statement and the complete lack of even an attempt to make any sort of joke about their current situation deviated so far away from the concept of normality that she might reasonably have thought she had somehow ended up in some parallel dimension to their own, Buffy Summers reflected as they opened the trunk and pulled out the standard Slayage supplies it seemed everyone involved with the Council's operations carried with them anymore.

Normally, Xander Harris would have been the one doing the joking, not her. He should have been the one trying to lighten the atmosphere with seemingly superfluous remarks and she should have been the one making the semi-somber responses, not the other way around, she noted to herself as she prepared for yet another in what now seemed to be a never-ending series of would-be apocalypses.

She'd been awoken quite early that morning – actually, to be completely truthful, she'd only gotten into bed just a few moments before Giles’ phone call, after finishing up her typical round of ‘partying’ the night away in Rome (which even Dawn had agreed was actually a semi-valid way to patrol some of the more exclusive clubs in the city) – to find herself being summoned by her former Watcher to play yet another round of ‘Demon, Demon, Who’ll Find and Kill the Demon?' – this time in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia – as she was the closest trained and experienced Slayer available.

"I'm sorry to disturb your sabbatical, Buffy, but the number of locations we need to cover in depth are so numerous and wide-spread, I have no other choice but to call in both you and Dawn to help provide support for this operation," Giles had semi-apologized, even as he had adamantly insisted that the two Summers women rejoin the Council's demon-fighting efforts, at least temporarily.

Somehow, she'd ended up being paired off with Xander Harris, also temporarily called back from his apparently quite successful Slayer-search efforts in Africa to assist in their endeavors after having dropped a Slayer off to attend her grandmother’s funeral in Albania, and she'd been more than a bit surprised to see the lean, hard-muscled and atypically unsmiling hunter who'd met her at the airport as he deplaned from his escort duty.

The grim, sun-darkened expression he'd presented as he answered her questions in an almost monosyllabic manner had made her wonder just what had happened to transform her formerly carefree friend into this stern and unsmiling sentinel against the supernatural in the relatively few months since the Sunnydale survivors had parted at the Los Angeles International Airport. This guy was nothing at all like the normally cheerful and optimistic joker who'd become the first volunteer in the group that had formed to help her keep back the forces of darkness that seemed constantly focused on opening Hellmouth. In fact, he seemed almost the antithesis of the guy she remembered who'd given her CPR and brought her back to life after the Master had left her for dead.

"People change, Buff," was the only response he had given when she had first commented on the differences she'd observed between the Xander she remembered and the man standing in the terminal with her waiting for her bags, and the almost gruff way he had shrugged off any further questions had quickly stifled any additional inquiries she might have made.

Her curiosity had definitely been piqued as she wondered at the magnitude of the changes that her old friend had apparently undergone, and she made a mental note to speak with Giles about the possibility that Xander was most likely also in desperate need of some time off to unwind and let go of the seemingly never-ending tensions that had accumulated during the seven years they'd spent living atop the Hellmouth.

After all, she knew from personal experience just how unstable you could get if you didn't take some time off to relax and loosen up; to decompress and let the accumulated stresses work their ways out of your psyche.

Those last two years in Sunnydale had most certainly contributed to any number of neuroses and psychoses and whatever other –oses you wanted to add to her laundry list of mental problems, and it had only been because she had finally realized that she had reached the end of her rope, mental stability-wise, and insisted that she had to have some time off to relax and decompress that she had had the opportunity to realize just *how* screwed up she'd been. The way she'd treated the Potentials, let alone her friends, still made her want to crawl under a rock and disappear when she thought about it.

She also knew that most of the Council's support staff back in London thought that she was doing nothing more than partying her nights away in Rome with 'The Immortal,' one of the more mysterious figures who made up part of Europe's mystical underworld, but Giles and a few select others back at Watcher HQ knew the truth of the matter; after all, he had been the one who'd arranged her introduction to Gilad ("Call me Gil, Miss Summers, and I’ll call you Buffy. Okay?") Abrams for the advanced weapons, strategy and tactics instruction she was currently taking. Finally getting some real training from a professional who had actual experience fighting the bad guys (and if several thousand years of experience didn't qualify you as an expert at combat, then nothing ever would) after eight years of serving as the primary focus of multiple supernatural Big Bads and their plans to take over the world had made her realize just how lucky they had been during that time period.

It had taken a little time, but she had finally realized it was long past time for her to get some kind of strategy and tactics training; all it had really taken for ‘General Buffy’ to recognize she didn’t know nearly as much about leading an army as she’d believed she did was for several of the Potentials to die and for her best friend in the world to lose an eye to a superpowered nutjob preacher during a raid she had decided they needed to make on a completely unknown and fortified enemy stronghold to try and seize whatever unknown something that might *possibly* have been hidden inside.

Dr. Silberman had finally agreed, after several rather – intense – sessions, that she was at least stable enough to begin such training, and that it might actually help her alleviate some of the guilt she had been feeling over her past actions. Reflecting on the first conversation she'd had with the balding psychiatrist ("You're probably not gonna believe a lot of what I'm gonna be telling you, Doc," and his rather cryptic response, "Oh, I think you'd be rather surprised what I can believe, nowadays, Ms Summers."), she recalled with a great deal of dismay and chagrin the belatedly recognized accuracy of quite a number of the acerbic observations he had had made regarding her various personal relationships – especially those concerning the man who had been the founding member of her informal support team.

{ There'll be time enough for us to talk after we get done here, } she decided as she considered Silberman's last recommendation, given at her most recent session, just two days before. { We both need to be able to focus on finding the Baby Slayers and freeing them. Getting distracted while on the job is a really good way to get yourself killed. }

She was pulled from her reminiscences as Xander stopped the pickup they were using a short distance from the cave that had been identified as the lair of whoever was responsible for kidnapping the missing Slayers.

"Word from Giles is that the local Big Bad is the top tier of a dozen or so assholes scattered around Europe who're looking to offer up some captured Baby-Slayers or other sacrifices to the Norse goddess, Hela, as an offering for her empowerment," Xander grunted as he checked the drum magazine of the cut-down, apparently personally customized combat shotgun he had hanging from a strap over his right shoulder.

He also had an assortment of other, unfamiliar gear clipped to the web belt around his waist, along with the .45 semiautomatic pistol he was carrying, she noticed as she opened the duffle bag holding her own equipment and pulled out her favorite sword and a bandolier filled with stakes, which she quickly slung over the denim jacket she was currently wearing. Asking him about any custom items he might have developed on his own to deal with the bad guys might be one way to get him actually involved in a conversation once they were done here, she mused idly.

And then once they were actually talking, she could hopefully direct their conversation to some of the things she really needed to talk to him about – things she needed to try and explain and words she'd said that she desperately needed to apologize for – she thought to herself before taking a deep breath and refocusing her attention on the here and now.

"Okay, then," she nodded, letting her own game face slide into place, much like the one she could see her one-time best friend was now wearing, "let's go kick some demon ass, and see if the kiddies want to join in the fun."

***

“Something’s not right, Xand,” Buffy warned as they advanced into the cavern, Xander throwing out chem-lights to mark their path. “I can’t sense any demons in the vicinity at all.”

"Ah, Slayer Summers. So good to see you managed to show up," the mockingly polite voice of whoever was holding their people prisoner suddenly echoed from a clearly hastily cobbled together P.A. system that they could now see was hung along the cavern walls, adding just enough distortion to prevent identification. “I wasn’t sure whether it would be you or Ms. Lehane showing up. Not that it matters a great deal, since either one of you will serve my purpose,” the unseen observer proclaimed.

“In case you were wondering about the absence of any demonic minions in the area, let me assure you that there aren’t any. All of these somewhat elaborate machinations were merely for the purpose of luring you and any of your companions to this particular location,” the voice went on in an exceedingly smug and self-satisfied tone. “I have no intention of allowing your people to slaughter any of my subordinates unnecessarily.”

The group of six kidnapped Baby-Slayers was also clearly evident, all of them jammed together in a cramped cage that hung some forty feet above them, suspended from the cavern's ceiling.

"The release mechanism for your sister Slayers is that big red button on the pedestal in front of you that's marked 'Push Me'," the voice informed them helpfully. “And as you’ve probably no doubt already surmised, whoever pushes the button will end up as the recipient of a spell I’ve specifically chosen to accomplish one of my own schemes.” They could practically hear the smirk in the guy’s voice as he spoke to them.

"Okay, Buff, you watch out for whatever the bad guy’s got planned, and I'll push the button, or maybe just heave a rock at it," Xander suggested as they both examined their surroundings for any sign of enemy forces.

"Oh, I don’t think that’d be a very good idea, Mr. Harris," the voice interrupted their discussion, revealing that the cavern was also evidently wired to pick up their conversations.

{ Bastard probably has a video feed and is watching our every move, too, } Buffy thought to herself as she glanced around the interior of the cave, analyzing it from the tactical point Gil had taught her to use when involved in the ‘business’ aspect of her life.

"You see, a very specific spell has been placed on the release mechanism, so that it will only work for someone who possesses the Slayer essence," their 'host' informed them with a hint of malicious amusement. “Anyone pressing it who’s not a Slayer will be on the receiving end of an electrical charge strong enough to kill an elephant.

"Oh yes. There's also a time limit involved, too,” the voice also noted, in a casual manner. “If someone possessing the Slayer essence doesn't touch the button within three minutes of your entering the cave, a very large fireball will detonate, centered on the floor of your sister Slayers' cage. You’ve got less than a minute and a half left to act, by the way.

"Tick-tock. Time's running out," the voice added in a mockingly-helpful tone of voice.

“Tell Dawnie I love her in case things don’t work out, okay, Xand?” the petite blonde replied, a look of concern on her face momentarily passing across her features before she started forward towards the pedestal. “She already knows it, but just tell her one last time, okay? I know you and the guys will look after her, so I don’t have any worries about that.”

“Hold up a minute there, Buffy,” she heard him answer from behind her, his footsteps echoing hers. “Remember that Joining thingy we did to stop Adam, back in your sophomore year at UC Hellmouth?”

“Yeah, what about it, Xand?” she asked as she continued heading for the small plinth in the center of the cave.

“Remember how Short, Muddy and Cranky visited me, Wills and Giles in our dreams afterwards, ‘cause she didn’t like the idea of the Slayer essence possibly getting contaminated by you mixing your spirit with other ‘un-chosen’ people?”

“Yeah, I remember. So, what about it?”

“So, I think that means that I’ve probably got at least a trace of the Slayer essence left in me,” he said. “And that should be enough to work the mojo on the button.”

“Uh-uh, Xand. No way,” Buffy shook her head and paused for just a moment to turn and look back at him. “Look, I really do appreciate the thought, but I couldn't stand it if you got zapped while doing that, instead of me. You’ve already done enough for me as it is. This whole thing was set up just to get either me or Faith, so I think whatever’s gonna happen after that button gets pushed is intended to take down a Slayer. That means I’ve gotta do it.”

“That’s kinda what I figured you’d say, Buff,” she saw him sigh and shake his head as he pulled something from his equipment belt.

“Which is why I’m doing this.”

As she opened her mouth to ask what he meant, Xander extended his hand towards her and she heard a barely audible ‘Pfft!’, an instant before she felt as though she had somehow grabbed hold of a live, high-voltage wire. Every muscle in her body spasmed, and she let out a short scream of surprise and pain as she collapsed to her knees, momentarily unable to even stand upright.

“Sorry about that, Buff,” she heard him apologize, as he strode past her now-trembling form towards the dais. “But the way I figure it, I’m a lot more expendable than you are, so we should try out my idea, first. If I’m wrong, then you’ll still have the chance to save the Baby-Slayers.

“And if I am right, and I’m still around afterwards, you can kick my ass around the compound as much as you want,” he promised.

“No, Xand! Don’t!” she yelled her protest as she tried to force her uncooperative body back to her feet. Sure, Slayer healing might be super-fast as compared to a normal human’s, but she still needed some however-brief time to recover, and that gave him the necessary few seconds he needed to reach the pedestal and press the button.

“NOOOO!” The agonized scream that was ripped from her lips followed the sudden, silent flash of light as his fingers made contact with the release button and echoed through the empty space where he had stood just a moment before.

The surprised screams of outrage as the cage abruptly vanished around the half-dozen baby-Slayers, leaving them to fall to the cavern floor some two score feet below, didn’t begin to cover the sound of Buffy’s distraught weeping.

~~~

Elsewhere


The world around him suddenly vanished and Xander Harris found himself standing – floating, maybe? – in the middle of nowhere.

Literally.

There was no one and nothing around him as far as he could see. Assuming, of course, that there was anything around him to see, he reflected.

Or that he had any eyes to see with, either. After all, he didn’t seem to have any kind of body, he noticed.

{ Guess that means I won’t be heading back to see any of the guys anytime soon,} he decided.

A faint shimmering off to one side caught his notice and he focused his attention on the six-horned, scaly-faced being that slowly materialized into view.

“Good evening, Mr. Harris,” D’Hoffryn smiled at him.

“Aw, shit.”

No way was this going to end well.

Nope.

Not at all.

{ Really wish I still had my shotgun. }

~~~

Bratislava, Czechoslovakia
A gypsy encampment outside the city
July 1898


“The monster has killed Jereni! Death is too good! It must suffer!” the old woman declared, her eyes blazing as she contemplated the loss their clan had suffered.

“The demon laughed as it killed her. It cannot even comprehend the concept of remorse or guilt. You know that, Saskia,” one of the elders reminded her. “Things like that have no soul that would let them understand such things.”

“Then we will *give* it a soul, so that it *will* understand!” she snapped. “We WILL have vengeance!”

~~~

Elsewhere


“It’s been a while since we last saw each other, Mr. Harris,” D’Hoffryn smiled affably at him; something that would have sent chills down his spine, if he still actually had one, Xander decided.

“Yeah, it has. But to be perfectly honest, I have to say, I really haven’t given much thought to you since then,” Xander replied. “Been busy keeping the world from ending and other fun things like that, ya know.”

He had figured a while back that D’Hoffryn’s losing Anya for the second time, back when the First had been trying to open the Seal, had pretty much solidified Xander Harris’ lock at the top of the demon lord’s shit list, so why be a hypocrite and pretend to be pleasant to someone he despised and who he knew hated him with a passion?

“I see,” D’Hoffryn nodded. “I, on the other hand, have been giving a great deal of thought to how best to deal with you,” he smiled again, but this time, it was the kind of smile a shark might have right before he tore a chunk out of is prey.

“I’ve been studying you for some time now, Harris, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the best revenge I can take against you would be to make you that which you hate most,” the demon lord stated.

“You can’t make someone a vampire against their will,” Xander replied, shaking his head in disagreement as he realized exactly what the demon lord meant. “You have to drink willingly, to allow the demon access to your body.”

“That’s true if you’re trying to Turn someone, Harris,” D’Hoffryn said with what was, truly, an evil grin. “But that's not completely necessary for me to accomplish exactly what I said I wanted to do.

“Take a look at those idiots down there,” he then said, gesturing to one side as he created a ‘window’ looking down at a group of people gathered around a blazing fire, all of them dressed as though they were auditioning for a part in a low-end stage revival of ‘King of the Gypsies.’

“They’re a Romany clan named Kalderash,” D’Hoffryn commented casually, “and they’re all so very self-righteously outraged because a vampire killed the favorite daughter in their clan. The elders there have come up with what they think is a truly marvelous, if stupid, plan for revenge – they’re going to curse the vampire responsible with a soul, so that it can feel the pain of its deeds.”

Turning to face Xander, the demon lord’s face took on an expression of vicious delight.

“Now, where do you think these fools are going to come up with a soul to do that?” he asked rhetorically. “None of them are anywhere near strong enough to pull someone out of the afterlife, like your resident witch allegedly did.”

“Guess they’ll have to find one a little closer to home, hmm?”

Xander’s face shifted to a look of dawning horror as realization slowly came over him.

***

The matriarch of the Clan began the ritual, her words echoing through the night.

“Quod perditum est, invenietur.” (What is lost, return.) As she spoke, a chill wind began blowing through the camp.

“Non mortuus…neque nec non of victus. Phasmatis of interregnum, ego dico.” (Not dead... nor not of the living. Spirits of the interregnum, I call.) A small crystal globe positioned in front of the old woman began to glow softly as she chanted.

***

“Oh my, looks like they started without us,” D’Hoffryn observed, even as he gestured at Xander, who abruptly felt his apparently immaterial form begin to dissipate even further.

“You bastard! I swear, I’ll get you for this,” he snarled as he lunged forward at the demon lord, even as he began feeling himself being pulled elsewhere.

***

“Filiolus , redimio him. Iacio suus pectus pectoris ex malum regnum.” (Gods, bind him. Cast his heart from the evil realm.)

The orb’s glow grew brighter, as though it were a fire greedily feeding on all available fuel.

“Te implor, Doamne, nu ignora aceasta rugaminte. (I implore you, Lord, do not ignore this request.)

***

An inaudible scream of rage reverberated through extra-dimensional spaces.

***

“Nici mort, nici al finitei...” (Neither dead, nor of the living...)

***

“I swear, I’ll find some way to pay you back, you sonofabitch!” Xander’s threat was barely audible as D’Hoffryn’s smile widened to inhuman dimensions.

***

“Lasa orbita sa fie vasul care va transporta, sufletul la el.” (Let this Orb be the vessel that will carry his soul to him.)

***

“No, Harris, you won’t,” D’Hoffryn gloated as his victim listened helplessly while being drawn into the crystal. “Your conscious mind's not even going to remember who you really were; all you’re going to have are the memories of some drunken lout named Liam. But deep down inside, part of you will remember the truth, and that part will also know that you’re going to be room mates with a blood demon for a very, very long time!”

***

“Asa sa fie! Asa sa fie! Acum!” (So it shall be! So it shall be! Now!)

The crystal was glowing almost as brightly as the noonday sun now, and Xander screamed in impotent rage as he felt his memories fading under his foe’s spell, leaving him wondering for a brief moment who he might be before the memories of a dozen years of drunken carousing filled his mind.

“Acum!” (Now!)

***

The orb glowed brightly for a brief moment before going dark and a dozen miles away, a vampire pulled away from the throat of his latest victim and screamed as never before felt emotions of self-disgust, regret and overwhelming remorse surged through him, causing him more pain than he had ever felt before.

***

And in a neighboring dimension, a demon lord looked on his work and smiled with satisfaction.

{ One truly inspired piece of vengeance to balance a truly idiotic one. I am a genius. }

~~~
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