Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Xander/Spike (With mentions of Anya)
Warnings: Mild Angst. Character Death
Feedback: Please. It's more important than oxygen and ‘tis the only food of starving muses.
Author Notes: Not my best work, but the need to write was there. Written for the contrelamontre Broken heart- with a box! challenge. Done in about 35 minutes, instead of thirty, because I’m terrible with guidelines.

Summary: In search of love, Xander must settle for grief. Everyone deals in their own way.



Missed Opportunities


by
Yours Truly



He walked.

Endless streets piled up ahead of him, in a labyrinth city where everyone had a place to go. It was the middle of the night, and the shadows around him seemed to hide danger everywhere, yet to him, the threat was of little importance. Heavy steps laden with determination carried Xander forward, hands deep in his jacket's pockets as he clutched his precious burden. The weight of it in his palm was what kept him grounded.

It was in nights like this that he remembered. Distant echoes of Buffy's heels ahead of him, patrolling with a smile and a smart outfit. Her golden hair guiding him through the hard times, to the tune of her voice, as she spoke to him of college, her mom, her sister, her job, her life. All that remained of that past was her and Dawn, trying to pick up their lives in distant Italy. The last time Xander had heard from them, they sounded happy. He'd barely recognized them.

In one of the dimly lit corners, he caught the eye of a particularly brass hooker. Her smile was tainted with yellow as she flicked her cigarette away, limp auburn locks seemingly deadening what little expression remained on her features. She smiled at him hollowly, holding her coat open to expose a milky thigh that must have seen a thousand nights like this one, held on show as merchandise for whoever was willing to pay her rent. Her hair reminded him briefly of Willow, and her pale skin of...but he crushed that thought. Xander turned away from her without responding her interest and without the faintest trace of remorse for his disgust or even sympathy for her situation. Everyone chose their destiny. It was one of the things he'd learned the hard way.

Walking further along, he found that most of the remaining people on the streets tended to steer clear of him. His expression, coupled with the eye-patch, apparently granted him some sort of free pass through these dense areas. He either looked like he was the criminal, or like he'd been victimized too many times. In Xander's opinion, both assessments would be right. 'Silent as the grave', he walked. An edge of hysteria coloured the grin that slowly made an appearance on his face.

Silent as the grave. It was funny.

Finally, he was there. A mountain of rubble that had been cleaned of most bodies buried underneath it. Offices had once stood here, the centre-piece, the heart of a group that gained profit from other people's grief. And at the head of it had been...Angel. He couldn't really elaborate more on that thought. Angel wasn't a friend, a lover, a loved one at all. He was just...Angel. He was vampire with a soul on a mission for redemption in a big city, far from Xander. One of the good guys.

Xander looked around the ruins of a once imposing building, noticing that a few homeless people had set residence in the remains that the company in charge had yet to clear up. He thought about doing the same, sleeping under the stars and on top of a symbol of their triumph, but couldn't bring himself to do it. Instead, he knelt quickly, digging through the dirt until he found a half-buried fountain pen, probably from one of the many attorneys that Wolfram and Hart had lost. Tucking it in his pocket, he stood, looking over the ruins with some distant sense of satisfaction. But victory left a bitter after-taste.

Tuning, he walked away; mind growing more troubled with every step.

Xander had heard it all from Andrew. Angel's work, his new mission, his attempts to crumble W&A from the inside, the people that worked with him and...Spike. Oh, he'd heard about Spike all right. It was all Andrew would talk about for weeks. But the fact remained that while Xander listened to the kid babble on, he couldn't conjure up the image of Spike, the vampire who had died closing the Sunnydale Hellmouth, rising from the ashes while Anya remained in them, and of all things to do with his new chance, joining forces with Angel.

Most importantly, Xander hadn't been able to understand why Spike himself had never tried to contact them....him.

So he'd stayed in Africa. Angrier, and angrier, mounting frustrations on Spike's image, because it was easier. The bastard was back. Alone. No Anya behind him. And there were no calls. No letters. Nothing. Just Andrew's excited tones telling him about how it was a secret, but it was too-big news to keep them quiet forever. Andrew’s hero-worship and his tones that indicated more than a light crush, his quick ramblings only growing more solemn as the boy told him about Spike's run-in with a deranged Slayer and the wounds it left him with, and his rather crippled relationship with Angel and his crew. But not even shock and sympathy could have overruled Xander's anger by then.

So finally, he'd snapped. He’d bought a ticket back to the States, jumped back on a plane after months of brewing, and mentally prepared his reunion with Spike. In his mind he saw the vampire, cocky as ever, trying to dismiss Xander's anger with a casual wave of his fingers. The image made him angrier, and he held on to the feeling as strongly as he could, unwilling to acknowledge the other emotions rising as Xander thought about seeing the vampire again and unwilling to face the real reason he was going at all.

But as the endless hours of his flight crawled on, Xander's mind had provided other images. Of Spike's more subdued nature since the soul, the screams Xander sometimes heard at night when the vampire had stayed at his apartment. He remembered Spike's noticeable efforts to pull himself together whenever he was around the Scoobies, Buffy in particular. Remembered their final days in Sunnydale, remembered the vampire running just in time to save his other eye from Caleb's finger. Remembered the wave of incredulity and unexplainable grief Xander had felt when he'd learned that Spike was gone for good, because he'd sacrificed himself to save the world.

Then, finally, as if even his mind was afraid to remind him, a faint image of a stolen kiss in the shadows of the final day in Sunnydale had rose to the forefront of his thoughts. The faint memory of soft skin beneath his touch, smaller but strong frame pressed next to him as arms rested on his shoulders. Bright blue eyes looking into his and even Anya's smile had seemed dull in that second.

So by the time Xander had reached LA's airport, his stomach was tying itself in knots for very different reasons. Anticipation rose like a tidal wave, and Xander had smiled suddenly and widely in the middle of the crowded flight. Arriving at the airport had been a blur of motion, rushing through the motions to see those blue eyes again, to finally acknowledge that Spike was back. He was back. Back to action, back on the good fight, back to…Xander. So Xander had rushed to pick his bags, absentmindedly turning his cell-phone back on as he went.

That was when he'd gotten the call.

Giles was there, subdued voice choking on a feeling Xander thought might resemble guilt. Clipped British tones destroyed his hopes one word at a time, and by the time Giles was done, Xander was sitting in a bright yellow plastic chair in the midst of the airport, pale and shaking in disbelief. He'd been told of Angel and all of his friends, trapped in a hopeless battle against Wolfram and Hart and hordes of Demons sent to kill them all. There'd been a Dragon, portals, death and blood, and too few people to fight it all. A savage show-down, it’d been ...and Spike had been there.

Now it had been weeks after the fact, and of all of them, all of those good people working on their side, nothing remained.

Xander stopped walking briefly, trying to get his breathing under control. Not now. No tears now. Clutching the box in his pocket tighter, Xander withdrew it slowly with shaking hands. Inside an antique box from the Nineteenth Century lay a silver Zippo, Anya's gold chain and the font pen he'd just found, lying innocently cradled in red velvet.

Symbols of victory. Symbols of ending.

Slowly, painfully, Xander closed the lid and clutched it for a moment, lost in remembrance. Anya's smile. Spike's voice. And not a single ash to mourn of either of them. And that road was closed for good.

Placing the box back in his pocket, Xander straightened his shoulders and kept walking, pale face marred by too many loses at barely 22 years old.

Somehow, though unseen, two shadows watched over him, and smiled.




The End




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