A Prayer for the Living
Category: Crossover/Au/Challenge response
Spoilers: S7 of Buffy
Warnings: Buffy and Willow bashing, Angst
AN: For the Cliched FQF http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cliched
Answers: The Buffy/Angel/X-Men challenges.
Disclaimer: I own nothing herein, except the tale they reside in.
Archive: The Cliched site and later Beyond Canon
Feedback: On list or at email@example.com
Thanks to Edi for the beta.
Summary: Someone's bought the crater that was once Sunnydale. Who it is brings a shock.
His eyes were closed and his head thrown back. The mid-afternoon sun shone down on a drawn and pale face. Today was the one-year anniversary of the day that changed his life. However, that wasn't what had him so upset. What had him upset was the fact that he had lost everything. So much in his life had shattered recently. His best friends had turned their back on him. A man he professed to hate, but secretly respected, had died to save him and the rest of the world. The woman he loved, but not enough to marry, was dead. He had more money than he could spend in several lifetimes and no one to spend it on. Then there was the shock of being able to see out of more than one eye. The day it grew back his screams had echoed through the lobby of the hotel. Angel and Wes had had to hold him down while Giles talked to him until he stopped screaming.
It was still hard to believe that he had both eyes. Harder still to accept that he was alone. The day after his eye returned Willow admitted that she was the one who had done the spell. She had also admitted that she removed another spell that she had placed on him when he was a teen. The pain of the admission had caused him to lose his temper and then Buffy had screamed at him for being ungrateful. In the end she told him to leave. So he had done just that.
He opened his eyes and looked back at his home. It was a quiet place and he had no real neighbors. Xander sighed and stood up. No one knew who the mysterious owner of the land and crater that used to represent the area around Sunnydale was. For that he was grateful. Maybe it was crazy to return to the area, but he had lived here his whole life and wanted to be nowhere else.
"So, we're just going to go in and talk to the guy, right?" Oz asked, echoing Riley's question. Angel and Spike turned and glared at the pair. "Bloody hell! Yes, we're just going to talk to the wanker. Tell him the history of the area and why it's a bad bet to live here," Spike growled at them. Doyle chuckled and winked at the pair.
The powers had decided, in their infinite wisdom, that Angel needed his favored Childe and his seer back. So, six months earlier they had been returned, and Angel's soul had been made permanent. Oz, Riley and Graham had shown up at the hotel to make sure everyone had survived the battle for the Hellmouth. Only to learn that Spike and Anya were dead and that Xander had left. It was only after much pressing on Oz's part that Buffy admitted to telling him to leave. Not long afterwards Buffy, Willow, Kennedy and Dawn left LA and California altogether. The only one any of them missed was Dawn, but she promised to come back when she turned 18.
Then Giles had found out about the purchase of the Sunnydale crater and all the land around it. Needless to say there was a bit of a panic. His lover, Xavier, had tried to get a psychic reading from the area, but was blocked, even though he knew that there was someone living there. Now they were there to talk to the man and, hopefully, convince him to leave the area. They were all sure that demons still lived there and that it was dangerous. As they walked up to the front door Spike, Oz and Angel caught a familiar scent. They were startled.
"What is it?" Doyle asked as they came to a halt and began to sniff the air.
"Xander, he's here somewhere," Oz answered.
"Maybe he lives here," Bobby said helpfully. He still didn't understand why so many people were needed to talk to one person, but they were a large bunch anyway. Wolverine just grunted and looked around him.
"Actually I own the place," a voice said from behind them as light suddenly flooded the clearing. They all blinked rapidly against the blinding light. Once their sight returned they could see Xander standing on a deck. Dark brown eyes looked back at them with cool mistrust.
"Why are you here?" There was no friendliness or welcome on his face. Until he caught sight of Spike. His face paled and he swayed slightly. "Spike?"
Spike nodded and tried to come to grips with this newest development. Xander shrugged off his shock and sat back down. Bobby noticed that he didn't invite them any closer. "What are you doing here?" Xander asked harshly.
"We thought the owner of the property should be warned about the dangers," Angel answered. If possible he would have blushed over the derisive laughter that statement brought.
"Well you've given your warning. Now get off my property." Xander felt unbalanced at the sight of them. "Except Spike, he can stay if he wants. The rest of you aren't welcome here." Spike started in surprise, then sneered at the others and followed the boy into the house.
Angel growled in frustration and turned back toward the way he had come. Doyle shared a look with Riley. He knew why he wasn't welcome. He and Xander hadn't been all that close. He did wonder though, why Oz wasn't welcome. The werewolf's shoulders drooped and he started to follow Angel. They were all stopped by Xander coming back outside.
"Okay, I'm a rude dickhead. You can all come inside. I'm sorry. I wasn't expecting company," Xander said sheepishly. They all grinned at one another and hurried up to Xander before he could change his mind again. As they filed past him Xander greeted those he knew and motioned them past him.
"Sorry, dude, seeing Spike threw me for a major loop." Oz grinned and allowed himself to be led into the house. When they got into the living room Spike was already settled into a chair and was watching them with smug amusement. Angel flipped him off.
"Maybe later, pet, I doubt Xan would want us to fuck in his living room." Sputters of laughter met that statement.
"So someone want to tell me how Spike went from being ashes to back to an undead asshole?" Xander asked as he settled himself into his chair. He shot Spike a grin to soften his words.
Spike grinned and answered, "The PTB's decided that Peaches had suffered enough. So he returned me and Doyle about six months ago." Xander felt something tighten in his chest.
"Do you know anything about Anya?" Xander asked softly. There was pain shining in his dark eyes.
"She was in paradise last I saw her," Spike answered. They watched as relief and sorrow crossed his face. He closed his eyes and looked away for several minutes. Then he looked back at them.
"Thanks for telling me," he said.
"You're welcome, luv. How have you been and where did you get the dosh?" Spike asked bluntly.
Xander grinned. "I've always had it. My uncle drank away his money and put us in debt. The reason they made me live in the basement was because I wouldn't sign papers giving my uncle control of my inheritance. By the time I moved out and came into my money I was doing a job I loved. I preferred to do things on my own. After my falling out with the Scoobies I decided to use the money to get away from them and to get some peace."
They all gaped at him in shock. "All those shit jobs? Your Uncle?" Spike asked, confused.
"Part of my mom's will was that I not come into my inheritance until I was 21. Until then I was given a monthly stipend. I worked because I was bored. I called Tony and Jenena Harris my parents at their insistence, but my real parents were killed when I was a baby."
Angel cleared his throat and looked over at Xander. "Would you consider returning to LA?"
"No. I like it here. No Willow and no Buffy," Xander answered shortly. They could see pain in his eyes.
"They left town after Oz forced Buffy to confess that she was the reason you left. Dawn's been worried about you, so's Ripper and the cheerleader," Spike told him.
"This is my place. No one with ill intentions can get through my wards. If they try they'll be fried. I'm peace and quiet guy now. Any of you can come and visit, but I'm not going anywhere," Xander told him calmly.
Oz blinked in surprise, then nodded. "That's how you knew someone was coming."
"Who did yer wards?" Spike asked. It had to have been powerful magic for them not to have felt them.
"I did," Xander answered shortly.
The men who knew him looked at one another in surprise. "I didn't know you could do magic, pet."
"Neither did I. You ever wonder why spells went to hell around me?"
"Yes," Oz, Spike and Angel answered as one. Riley nodded.
"It's because Willow put a spell on me that stopped me from being able to use the magic and the other powers that live in me. It's also the reason that I'm a demon magnet. Somehow, she found out that I'm a cross between a mutant and a Gorlnd demon. Willow admitted to the spell after she regrew my eye," Xander spat out.
Spike sat in stunned silence, looking at the boy in horror. All those times that Xander had been seriously injured and almost died. They were pointless. With his birthright and gifts the boy would have been a force, was a force to be reckoned with. There were few demons that would be able to take him on. Gorlnd's were a very old race of demons. They had been among the first to emerge. In fact, many believed they weren't actually demons at all, but the first inhabitants of earth before humans began to populate the world and run them underground. Other demons were drawn to them and they were known to be protectors of humanity. Even going so far as aiding the forces of light in their battles against the encroaching evils. It fit the boy perfectly. Gods, how could the witch do that to her best friend?
"Please come back with us, Xander? Gorlnd's are healers. Cordy needs you. Please?" Angel asked. His eyes held a desperate plea. Everyone knew that he loved the young woman.
Xander growled. "Damn, and I thought I was good with the puppy dog eyes. All right, but I take my own car and only stay long enough to help Cordy. Then I come home." Xander sighed. "Wait here, I need to change and put some shoes on."
As soon as Xander was out of earshot Angel snickered, "I told Dawn she was a good teacher." Spike let out a snort of humor and the others grinned.
"What do ya suppose he's gonna do when he finds out she's already been healed?" Logan asked, amused by the vampire's act.
"Pitch a fit and fall in it. As soon as Cordy and Giles stop trying to hug him to death," Oz said with a slight laugh.
Spike looked over at the whelp and wondered where the talkative, nervous boy had gone. He had become a quiet, self-assured man. Spike realized that it had to have taken place while they were fighting the First. He had just never paid attention. Oz, Riley, Doyle and Graham sat in the back of the Suburban and were also wondering about Xander. He hadn't said much since they started off to LA. Oz couldn't help but notice the differences in Xander. He was so quiet. The Xander he remembered was always talking and making jokes. This Xander seemed more at peace. Oz hoped they hadn't done the wrong thing by tricking Xander into coming back to LA.
Cordy was tapping her foot impatiently. The idiots should have been back by now. Ororo raised an eyebrow as she watched the young woman glower at the door. Giles and Wesley were doing their best to stay under her radar. For that matter so were most of the inhabitants of the school. Beast and Rogue were in the library with Fred looking for information on a new demon in town. "Where the hell are they?" Cordy growled.
Ororo sighed and was about to answer when the doors opened. Cordy gasped in surprise and was running towards the young man that came in with their friends. "XANDER!" She screamed happily, and laughed as he lifted her off of her feet and held her close. Her scream brought people running from different points in the school. Giles, Wes, Fred and Gunn were among those to rush forward and greet the young man.
Xander grinned at his friends before turning and looking at Angel. "Liar. You are such a liar, Deadboy. Cordy needs to be healed. Jerk." Angel grinned unrepentantly and watched as Cordy was lifted up into his arms again. They were all pleased by the warm laughter as he carried her further into the lobby. "How you doing, Cordy? Feeling better?" he asked, concerned.
"Yeah, I'm great. Better now that you're here, though. What happened? How did you meet up with these guys?"
"They came to my house to warn me about the dangers of the area," Xander said with a snort. Cordy looked at him wide eyed. "You bought the area?" Xander nodded.
"Wait, you knew the boy had dosh?" Spike asked.
"Well duh! I was a snob. Do you really think I'd date someone without money? Especially someone I thought of as a geek?" Cordy rolled her eyes at the vampire and turned her attention back to Xander. They both ignored the amusement on the faces of those around them. "So how long are you here for?" she asked.
"Just tonight, I'm going home tomorrow," Xander told her. He was uncomfortable around so many people. He needed the quiet he had achieved. "Why? Buffy the stuffy isn't here. Come on, we haven't seen you in forever," Cordy pleaded. Xander sighed. He kissed her cheek and shook his head.
"I can't, Cordy. This isn't my place. I need to go home," Xander said with a sad sigh.
"Xander, please? What's wrong?" Cordy asked.
"If I'm around humans for too long I get sick. I don't know why, but it hurts," Xander told her. Cordy and the others stared at him in silence.
"May I examine you?" Wes asked from behind him. Xander looked at him and nodded. Cordy moved away from them and Wes gently touched the young man using magic. What he found shocked and sickened him. He knew even the light contact Xander had had with Cordy and now with him was hurting the younger man.
"He's been cursed," Wes said softly, tears filling his eyes. The very nature of this curse was vile. Wes turned away trying to get control of his spiraling emotions. Rage, pain and horror wanted to overcome him.
"Did Willow do it?" Cordy asked angrily, knowing that Wes would be able to pick up her magical signature.
"No, this is vengeance magic. In fact it's probably responsible for what happened between Xander and the girls," Wes answered.
"What's the curse?" Giles asked.
"Xander is to be bereft of any human contact as long as the curse holds. Just a single touch causes him pain. Prolonged exposure to humans will end up killing him. I'm not sure if this holds true for demons as well," Wes told them.
Xander nodded. "When I touched Spike and the others it hurt."
Cordy began to weep silently. She wanted to touch Xander, but she didn't want to hurt him. This must have been sheer torture for Xander. He was a physical person. Always touching and hugging. To never be able to touch again. It was too awful to contemplate.
"Xander, stay with us. No one will touch you and we can figure out how to break the curse," Wes urged, sighing when he saw Xander shake his head. "Xander, please?"
"I can't, it.....it hurts too much. I'd rather not be around anyone, than not be able to touch them. I'm sorry, but I'm going home in the morning," Xander said quietly.
"Can I go with you?" a soft, accented voice asked.
They all turned to look at Rogue. Xander frowned. "What, why?"
"Because I hurt people when I touch them. I'd rather not be around anyone right now either." Bobby flinched and looked at his feet. Tears gathered in both their eyes. It had been an accident, but Bobby had ended up in the infirmary for three days. Rogue and he had been swimming when they fell into one another. She had drained him before they could get away from one another.
"Rogue," the Professor said softly from where he sat beside Giles. The girl smiled sadly at him. Xander saw his own pain on her face and nodded.
"You can come with me."
"If she's goin' so am I," Logan growled out. Marie needed her friends around even if she didn't realize it. Xander glared.
"No. I'll let her come because we have the same problem, but no one else. You can visit her if you want, but no one else stays," Xander told him angrily.
"Listen kid, I don't know you and I ain't trustin' yu to take care of Marie," Logan snapped.
"Fine. I'm sorry, Marie, but I won't move anyone else into my house," Xander told her quietly. Marie nodded; she figured it was a long shot anyway. It would have been nice, though, to be around someone who understood what it meant to never be able to touch someone else.
"Xander, please think about staying. Just for a few days. No one will touch you and you can get to know us again. We can tell you about all that's been happening since you've been gone," Wes told him. "I may also be able to find a way to break the curse. I've been working on a magical way of controlling Rogue's mutation. Perhaps it would work on you as well."
Xander was about to say no again when Angel spoke up. "We could use your help to train some of the younger fighters. Most of our forces haven't fought anything but other mutants. You've been fighting them since you were fifteen. We could really use your help."
Xander glared at him for a few minutes, then sighed. "Low blow, Deadboy. Fine I'll help, but only for a few days. Three at the most." Cordy sighed in relief and Angel nodded in agreement.
Angel stood at the top of the staircase and watched as Xander told his class how to stand and how to move. The boy, no, the man was so different. In the three days that he had been there no great change had occurred. Xander was still leaving at the end of this class. While they had, indeed, found a way to control Rogue's mutation through magic, they were unable to break the spell on Xander.
The longer Xander stayed the more withdrawn he became. Angel found himself missing the boy who had a barb for everything and everyone. Even Spike could not get Xander to speak often. In fact the only ones that Xander really mingled with were Giles and Cordy. He avoided everyone else like the plague. Angel figured that it was because, for Xander, they were.
Angel felt something catch in his chest as he thought about the loss of the young man who had won his heart without ever realizing it. The PTB had already given him so much by returning Doyle and Spike that Angel was afraid to ask if they would break the curse on Xander. Walking down the stairs Angel stood off to the side and continued to watch the class and Xander. Though in truth he was watching Xander more than anything. He was beautiful, the tan skin and tightly compact body was distracting. The women and many of the men in the hotel had been drawn to Xander, but understood his reticence to get to know any of them or to get near any of them.
Angel was about to leave the room and stop tormenting himself when a flash of silver light enveloped Xander and then shot out to catch him as well. Dimly he could hear screaming and what sounded like swearing. "Stupid, bloody idiot! What the hell have ya done ta Peaches and the boy?" Spike bellowed at Wes.
"I have done nothing, Captain Peroxide! I didn't do the bloody spell," Wes spat back at him. The two glared at one another for a moment before they were drawn back to the pair.
The silver shimmer changed to an opaque screen. On it, they could see an image of Xander and Angel, caught in an embrace. It was passionate and gentle and sexy as hell, shocking in its sensuality considering that they were just kissing slowly and not even undressed. The depth of feeling they were conveying brought tears to the eyes of several watching.
"I did the spell," Cordy murmured quietly.
They all turned to look at her. There were tears in her eyes and her face was taut with pain. "It was to find a cure for Xander's illness, but I read it wrong. I didn't realize until the silver light flew through the hotel."
Wes sighed, "What spell did you do?"
"Heart's cure," she answered, never taking her eyes off the pair.
"It's a love revealing spell. You said it right. Heart's cure was written by a witch who wanted to find the cure to her friend's broken heart. It finds who the person being questioned about is longing for, and whether the one they're longing for returns their feelings. Obviously, in this case, Angel returns Xander's feelings," Wes told them.
"Cordy, you shouldn't mess with magic," Giles scolded.
Cordy nodded. "They'll remember, won't they?" she asked softly.
"Yes." Wes answered.
Tears slid down her face faster. "This is going to hurt them so badly. Only in a dream were they able to touch. Xander's allergic to people and Angel can find no happiness. It's not fair. Why can't they be happy, too?"
No one could answer her question. The spell ended as quickly as it had begun, leaving Angel and Xander shaken by what they had seen and experienced. When they looked at one another agony shone clearly on their faces and Xander spun on his heel, fleeing the room and something he could never hope to have.
Angel howled in grief and dropped to his knees. Why? Why did this always have to happen? Hadn't he suffered enough? He had lost his children, his hope and his future all in such a short time. When would enough be enough?
Xander was thinking of nothing but getting away from the pain and temptation that Angel represented. It had taken him a long time to reconcile within himself why he was so cruel to Angel. Xander had never really believed Angel was responsible for the things his demon did, but his attraction and a deep-seated need to hide his feelings made him lash out at the vampire.
Now that he knew his feeling were returned, he wasn't sure he could stay away from the vampire. The pain would far outweigh any pleasure that could be had in Angel's arms. Sooner or later, Xander was going to die. He could already feel himself weakening from the time he had spent in the hotel. There was no choice but to leave tonight. No choice, but to go back to the peace and quiet that he now knew would feel more like a prison than freedom. With a sob, he pushed himself into his room and collapsed on the bed, sobbing out his heartache. He had no future and now no present.
He was still lying there when Giles found him. The older man's heart clenched with pain at the sight of the boy's tear streaked face. He knew that Xander was going to have to leave. He had been able to see that Xander was becoming increasingly weak the longer he stayed in the hotel. Now this. Giles was unsure whether Xander would be able to withstand the temptation of holding Angel now that he knew that the vampire returned his feelings.
He could still feel the agony in Angel's howls. Spike had finally simply knocked Angel unconscious. This was too much. None of them knew what was going to happen. All they knew was that their friends were in pain and that they couldn't help them. It wasn't right, and it certainly wasn't fair, but then what in their lives ever was?
Xander had been home for nearly a week when the visitors arrived. He was sitting on the deck, soaking up the sun, when the wards alerted him that he had company coming. He walked into the house and touched his magicked mirror. He sighed and wondered who these people were and what they wanted. One looked like an angel and the other was red-eyed. He went back out to the porch to wait for them. Warren sighed and sent another glare towards Remy, but the Cajun just ignored him. Neither man wanted to be there, but the Professor had sent them to retrieve the boy and let him know that his friends needed him back at the hotel. None of them knew what to do about Angel. The night before he had been raging at the Powers and this afternoon they had had to chain him in his room.
Wes was terrified that they would end up having to stake the grieving vampire. None of the psychics could read what was wrong with him, and Spike had admitted that Angel was blocking their bond. He had no idea what was wrong with the older vampire. Though they all suspected it had to do with Xander and his leaving the hotel. It had been Lorne who suggested sending for Xander. The demon had confessed that he had heard Angel singing. Though no one could get him to tell them what it was that he had read from the vampire. Since then, Lorne had been tight lipped with all of them and had taken on the responsibility of sitting with Angel. The others couldn't talk him into telling them anything, or into letting them stay with Angel.
So it had been decided that someone needed to go and get Xander. Unfortunately, everyone that knew Xander was needed in LA. The TPTB had sent a nasty vision and every one of the Fang and Scooby Gang was needed. Many of the X-Men and students were there as well.
The Professor and Giles had decided that Angel and Gambit would go. The two men hated one another, but they would follow orders and had dealt enough with Rogue that they knew how to act around someone who could not be touched. "What do you want?" Xander growled at them when they neared the porch. Warren jumped in surprise, but Remy didn't react at all.
"Giles sent us here to get you. Angel is in a bad way and they need you to help him," Remy answered for them.
Xander just stared at them. "Like I'm suppose to believe you," he scoffed.
Remy sighed and Warren scowled. "Giles said to remind you of what you told Willow after your run in wit da last Demon lady," Remy told him.
"Go on back to LA. Let Giles know I will be there tonight," Xander told them before going back into his house. Warren and Remy looked at one another before shrugging and turning away. They had done what they were told and decided to head back to LA. If they were lucky he would actually do as he said he would.
Angel stopped raging and turned amber eyes to the door of the room he was being held in. His sudden silence frightened and unnerved those in the room. Wes looked over at Fred and Cordelia. They were tense and looked at the door as well. Gunn shifted and Giles stood. If there was danger coming they wanted to protect Angel. At the same time they were all hoping it was Xander. Warren and Remy had returned earlier in the day and had told them of their meeting with Xander.
Logan was of the opinion that they should have forced the boy to come. That had brought a snort of derision from Cordelia. There were very few people that could ever force Xander to do anything. One was dead and the other no longer had a place in his life. And the only reason they had any say in his life was because he loved them.
When asked who they were, she answered shortly, "Anya, his dead fiancée and Willow, his ex-best friend." That had been the end of that topic.
The door opening brought them out of their thoughts and they all released the breath they had been holding as Xander appeared in the doorway. "Xander," Angel whispered as the boy walked into the room.
Xander ignored everyone else and walked forward, gently laying a hand on Angel's face. "No, you'll hurt yourself," Angel protested.
"Shh, tell me what's wrong," Xander ordered. He didn't like the sight of Angel in chains.
"The Powers won't help me," Angel told him brokenly.
"After all you've done? Why? What did you ask for?" Xander asked, stunned and angry. Angel had sacrificed everything for them.
"You," Angel answered.
"Me?" Xander asked, confused.
"I asked them to remove our curses. They refused; they said you had to give them something in return."
"What do they want?" Xander asked, shocked.
"If they break the curses you have to swear to stay with me for eternity. You would be my mate. There would be no one else for either of us. I would no longer have to be afraid of Angelus returning, but you would be soul bound to me for eternity. We would both be bound to the powers," Angel told him dejectedly. He tensed, waiting for the boy to reject him and begin to rage.
"Why are you in chains? Does the thought of eternity with me freak you out that bad?" Xander joked stiffly.
Angel jerked his head up and looked at him in shock. "No! I just- I knew you wouldn't want that. I was angry that they were trying to force you to be joined to me and to them."
Xander shook his head and smiled slightly, leaning down he placed a gentle kiss on Angel's lips. Those watching were stunned by what they had heard and what they were seeing. It was the magical vision come to life. Xander broke the kiss with a gentle nip to Angel's bottom lip. "You're worth it. I love you, Angel."
Angel cried out with surprise and joy and captured Xander's mouth in another kiss. They were so lost in one another that they never saw the silver light encompass them or feel the Oracles place the binding rings on their fingers then disappear.