NB: Sixth part in the Five Gold Rings canon
Rating: Mature Audiences – for content and themes
Summary: Spike (High Master) and Xander (Esteemed Consort) rule the European Court, but when the pure bred brother arrives with the Immortal, and external threats are thrown in, family becomes the priority.
Spoilers: Canon is Post S7 BtVS and 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.
Things were quiet for the following week.
Connor and Helle reconciled, their son reflecting his parent’s joy through the familial link. Xander and Spike had become used to feeling the little lad, his signal always returned with love regardless of its message. After the first few times the pair had sprinted Connor and Helle’s aid, as they felt extreme distress, they began to discern the subtle differences in the messages from their little relative. Hunger, tummy ache, need for a hug, puzzlement, frustration, all had their own slightly distinct feel.
The link, when they held their little relative, skin against skin, was simply extraordinary. It was as though Liam drew strength from the bond then doubled it! Even Anton gasped and looked in wonder at the tiny boy as he accepted a hug from Connor and was handed Liam to hold during the last hour of a flying visit to confirm actions regarding some of the international issues.
What was equally as extraordinary to Anton was the development of Master Vampire Xander.
In his day and a half with the couple, he watched them operate as they had for years now, the cool, capable, calculating leaders of an enormous organization; he watched them spar and sprint, Xander increasingly fast and strong, not quite matching his Sire yet but coming close. Anton couldn’t help himself and worked out with the pair on their second day together just before his departure.
Spike was thrilled by his Sire’s participation, always learning from the ancient individual. Anton’s style was more to do with patience, planning and accurate strikes, than flair and showy finesse. Spike sat back and admired the extraordinary elegance of his Sire as he easily countered every one of Xander’s ‘attacks’.
Anton was enjoying himself immensely and by the time he was ‘going the third round’ with Master William, he winked at the Childe Xander and the two of them attacked the High Master with the most effective of techniques – they tickled him into submission! In the end the three were all lying on the mats in a giggling heap and panting with unnecessary intake. As they calmed, blood was exchanged and the three lay in a quiet embrace for many minutes.
Anton eventually rolled away from the happy tangle of limbs and made to straighten his clothing.
“Will you come for the next meeting Sire? Please?”
The rather needy tone in Spike’s voice was not lost on Anton. The worry of Little Liam only added to the weight of concerns regards their worldwide involvement, European clans and business dealings of both he and his dear Childe.
“I will come, but only if you can provide my partner with a friend to shop with.” Anton grinned as did Spike.
“Oh I think Mistress Helle and Mistress Stephanie might just be able to oblige.”
Spike knew that if Buffy accompanied Anton, then the stay would be longer and, since Buffy had (in Email at least) accepted Xander’s new status, it would be enjoyed by all.
The High Master needed his Sire. The next Court gathering was but a month away, marking the seventh month of Liam’s existence and his presentation, yet Anton had a sneaky suspicion it would be Xander who would made the greater impact. His signature rivaled the High Master’s now and though still needing a touch and reassuring hugs and feedings in private, he exuded confidence and strength. And Anton could not but reflect… the killers of Xander *had* made a very grave mistake indeed.
As he stepped into his plane to return to his Italian home, Anton sent another prayer of thanks to his beautiful Artemis, then another to protect the family thinking of the trouble that might still come. As he did an odd phrase that his lover Buffy often used when heading out to support a fellow Slayer came instantly to mind… ‘Bring it on’. Apparently his goddess was more confident than he.
The Ruling Couple left for England the day following their Sire’s departure. The elderly Watcher Giles had taken a turn for the worse. He was now on a constant drip of morphine and in a hospice just out of London.
A tearful Willow met them at the airport, and held Xander’s hand tightly as they entered the final residence of their dear friend. Spike kept his arm around the now slimmer waistline of his Mate, grounding him and giving him the strength to stay in human form.
Rupert Giles had drifted in and out for the last three days as his body fought desperately to survive. There were times when the drugs were reduced a little and as the pain renewed, he was pulled from his comfortable haze to cry anew. There was no pride in the final battle. One cried and begged and… wished for a kind hand… and then it was there…
His boy… his Xander… the lad who was the *most* unlikely hero, yet had stepped up again and again… risking everything for… the benefit of the group. And now… at the end of his own life… In the bliss of morphine relief, he spoke quietly to the man he had always treated as a favorite nephew, a relation in the truest sense as it was a connection sought out and accepted by both parties…
Xander sat beside the invalid’s bed and held the almost ice cold hand. Giles felt the warmth and thought it odd as Xander was technically more dead that he. He made the effort to keep his eyes open for a while, even that now seemed exhausting.
The High Master rewarded his effort with a kiss on the lips and an open wrist. It prompted new tears but the rich fluid gave the old friend a little relief and a connection with the ruling Court. And still his tears flowed as he turned painfully to his dear Xander.
“Oh Xan!... I … Jussss” Giles gave in to his own grief and illness, then let two sets of cool arms envelope him and quiet his distress. Only later would he realize that the two were feeding from each other intermittently as they comforted him.
They visited and sat with him for the following two days, vampire blood gently trickled down his throat five times in his last days, easing the way as the tired body, wracked with cancer, gave up it’s fight.
The last struggle was horrendous to witness… according to the nurse, the distraught group of Willow, Xander, Spike and now Buffy, was told there could be days of it! Giles called for long lost relatives, then mourned as Buffy visited, sobbed for Tara with Wilow, and finally grieved for and with Xander even as Giles’ own body gave up. Willow took away as much of the pain as she was able, Buffy held his hand, and Xander did the only thing he now could. He kissed the old man and held him.
Spike stood quietly at the door of the room and simply sent love through the link to his Childe. There was nothing more to do.
In a few lucid hours of the same evening Giles cried and pulled Xander to him begging him for the end and to take away the pain. A tearful Spike asked the two women present permission to ease their dear friend’s way. After speaking to the physician, the choice was simple in the end. The much loved man might survive another two or three days struggling for breath and in excruciating pain that even his wiccan friends could not control, or he could choose to allow a beloved son to relieve him at a time of his choosing.
At Giles’ request, all the needles and catheters were removed and the emaciated figure was tearfully farewelled by all. The old man kissed each and whispered his love for each of them in turn… But even the short time without morphine began to bite, and by the time Xander kissed him his mind was again disappearing into the white agony.
He whispered, “Please Xander… Oh my dear boy… please! I love you as a son… Please… Take me… Finish this and let me move on.”
Xander sank to his knees on the floor by the bed of the man who had been so much of his life. Spike slid behind his Childe and held him, giving him the strength needed, “Do it for him Luv. He asked you… so do it for him… Ease his way like he’s asked, we both know… I’ll be here for you… Sire will be here…”
Xander rallied, stood and leaned over the bed.
The young vampire stroked the loved face, now so grey and lined with pain, eyes that begged him to be the one. Xander was the boy he had always cared for, the one Giles could not be prouder of.
Xander began to cry but still did as asked. Despite his own tears he took the now inert arm of the old man and kissed the wrist, then kissed the inner elbow, then the shoulder and finally the lax lips before looking directly into the eyes of the man who had been so much of his life and whispering, “I love you.”
Giles’ breathing was labored. Between pained inhalations he whispered, “Oh my dear… son… Loved… Please… let… be you… Now!!… please! Xan…”
Giles turned his head painfully, exposing his neckf and waited. Xander kissed the spot, took the old man’s hand and his Sire’s with his other. Spike bit the wrist of his Childe as Xander cried and gently bit the dry skin on an all too wrinkled neck. Giles sighed and whispered, “Thank…youuuu”
And as he left the mortal plane Sire and Childe both prayed to the Powers, their Sire’s Goddess Artemis, and Giles’ Christian Jehovah that he might find redemption and rest.
Xander took but three drafts of the blood poisoned by illness and painkillers, allowing the spirit of the man who had struggled so hard on behalf of others to slip from the realm quietly, painlessly, and in the arms of a man who had been the lost boy before an aging librarian allowed him to find a place in the good fight.
Willow and Buffy were crying, as were Dawn, Andrew and three young slayers, who had arrived that morning to take up the vigil at Giles’ deathbed.
The young nurse who had been so attentive and helpful in Giles’ last months called the doctor and the ‘family’ filed out. Some patients were harder to farewell than others, and for her Rupert Giles was certainly one of them. She wrapped the body with reverence and said a small prayer before calling the orderlies to help her lift.
Spike drained his Childe to the point of oblivion that night, his dear mate so distraught that there was not other option. Anton visited his Childe after comforting his own distressed partner. Buffy also, in the end, crying herself to sleep.
Both exhausted, the High Master collapsed into his Sire’s arms and offered his neck and took Anton’s for his own comfort. Anton accepted the embrace for what it was - an exchange and familial reassurance.
The funeral would be in three days. Meanwhile Spike had Court duties in England and Xander would be involved in preparations for Giles’ farewell.
Spike rested back on his Sire’s chest. A man who looked the same age, but was so much older, and had seen so many loved ones pass… He addressed Anton in his native Greek, “Oh Sire… how do I…”
Anton smiled at the courtesy, kissed ‘his William’ on the forehead and simply tightened the embrace. After some minutes the Sire whispered, “Honor them… our lost ones… all we can do is continue what they started and honor them. Look to the red of the sunset – for you have that now - and think of them.”
The funeral was extraordinary. Not advertised, the word had apparently spread. Slayers stood shoulder to shoulder with demons and vampires, all apparently distressed by the passing of a patriarch of their realm. It was a civil service, Buffy, Willow and Xander all too distraught to speak, but as the chaplain invited the audience to speak, a surprising number of people/demons rose and said a few words.
The final person who rose to speak was an elderly rather frail looking man that they all recognized later as Ethan Rayne. He walked forward and took the chaplain’s arm for support as he approached the coffin. Ethan’s prayer was not delivered lightly…
“Lord have mercy… So many years have gone by… but in your own passing, I ask your forgiveness… You were always the better man… I envied you your intelligence, your sense of nobles oblige, your love of others above all. It’s so hard to say goodbye… My *dear* friend… If I had just one more day… I would tell you… you were the best of us… the best… and I… You were so loved… by so many… and… by me… always. [hic] Vale Rupert Giles, a scholar, a gentleman, and a bloody hero for the people.”
The crowd stood as the elderly Ethan fell to his knees and finally let himself cry, having done his duty to his friend.
Later the congregation would learn… The two had been estranged for almost five years after the Fyarl demon prank but of late had reconciled, played golf regularly, then as Rupert’s health failed, in the last months, been to two shows in London together (one a rather average ‘new play’, the other a brilliant version of La Boheme). No one knew the true length nor the depth of their friendship, but Anton saw it in the grief expressed as Rupert Giles was put to rest.
Long after others had left the burial site, Ethan continued to kneel at the grave, finally hugging the freshly laid soil and sobbing for his old friend. Anton touched his shoulder, and Ethan felt the power, knowing immediately who it was, but was still too caught up in his own distress to react.
Finally, shortly after sunset, Anton simply lifted the elderly mage, cradled the grief stricken man in his arms and took him to his waiting car. He drove the old man back to his hotel, helped him to his room, then informed the concierge of the recent loss before returning to his own distraught partner and the comfort of his family. And they truly were his family.
For the first time he felt it completely, the Aurelians were *his* family. Part of the reason, he was sure, was the connection with, and the power of Connor’s little boy. Liam had only just started to crawl the day of his most recent visit, and the joy and love he felt through the familial link as the little lad made his way toward his GrandSire Anton was… extraordinary… just… wonderful.