NB: By request, seventh arc in the Five Gold Rings canon
Rating: Mature Audiences – for content and themes
Summary: The Immortal Anton is now universally accepted as the Sire of the High Master William Aurelius (aka Spike) and his Esteemed Consort, now Childe, Xander, just as he is to the Full Blood Aurelian, Connor. He has supported them all in the past, perhaps now it's his turn
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.
Buffy was barely semi-conscious when Dawn and Willow entered the sick room. They would later come to question the assumption of any awareness, her half open eyes not focussing on anything in particular and certainly failing to blink.
Anton ignored them as he said a heart wrenching goodbye, though used the combined energy of the two wiccans to ease his partner's distress as the sixty something Slayer's body struggled. Buffy had squeezed his hand weakly as he kissed her, and he fancied she mouthed ‘love you’ before her body took over, the convulsions started again and she slipped into her final coma.
Connor and Helle’s children were ushered in the following day.
She had been a favourite Aunt – particularly for the girls who were always in awe of her shopping prowess. Sadly, as they stepped into the sick room they all knew, her eyes were pushed closed, the older ones had been told. Several hours before, the visual and audio signals to Buffy’s brain ceased, but according to the new scans, her body would respond a little if touched on ‘the pressure spot’, Anton's marking. They all pressed on the point on her neck as directed, and bid her goodbye in their own way.
Buffy’s ability to speak had been absent for many weeks; her sense of smell and taste also departing as the tumour grew; sight and hearing last to go, yet the older woman had always seemed to *feel*. According to the children, she had, indeed, squeezed each of their hands ever so slightly as they kissed her goodbye. Little Olivia was unsure of what was going on but instinctively knew that the whole family was upset about Great Aunt Buffy, so pushed her favourite toy, a stuffed rhinoceros, under the covers with the dying woman, then gave her a wet kiss as she explained, “Jasper is the best for hugs if’n you feel sick.” Buffy normally would have held the little girl’s hand and expressed her thanks, but Olivia did not seem to mind that the gesture was missing, and the youngster departed unaware that ‘Lady Buffy’ was within mere hours of death.
Connor had returned from Geneva the very day he felt Anton’s distress through the familial link.
That evening, after Connor’s children had bade farewell to their great Sire’s mate, and as Buffy began to fail, the medical team moved in, but had no need to send for the closest family, they were all present.
They all knew… Buffy was slipping. Her central systems were all shutting down and the body, so wonderfully strong in her prime, was now in the latter phases of failure and shock. For all his talents there was nothing Anton could do for his beloved but brush lank strands of hair from an all too pale forehead and request that her pain medication be boosted one more time.
The Immortal’s Childer were all present, as was his trusted Gregor, Helle and Stephanie, and Willow and Dawn.
Spike, Connor and Xander all gave their open wrists to the Immortal, but as Buffy’s body began to relax again after convulsing in another tumor induced fit, the ancient did as he had promised his beloved weeks before, just prior to her losing first the power of speech then consciousness. In the presence of family, he let his fangs drop, kissed her inert, dying form, and with Dawn holding her sister’s hand, Anton drained his partner of near fourty years’ lifeblood. Buffy passed away quietly, strangely aware in her dying few seconds. She felt her beloved the Immortal’s immense love for her, and by proxy the love of family and friends... then passed from the mortal realm.
They had all heard the heart stop and felt the cessation of her magical signature… Partners initially hugged each other as Anton pulled away from the pale neck, then collapsed in shared grief as Anton gave an agonised cry and collapsed across her torso to give in to his shock and desperate loss. He and Buffy had been together for thirty nine years. She may have been the oldest Slayer in history, but in the context of Anton’s age it was a mere blink of his tear-filled green eyes.
The doctor confirmed her passing and fully understood his patient’s request that her partner take her blood when her final struggle began, and closed his file with a final report.
“Deceased: Buffy Anne Summers
Time of Death: 19.21 on the sixth day of March 2043
Cause of death: Malignant brain tumour.
Summary: Initially attack centred in the frontal lobe controlling speech. Primary tumour later located by MRI in hypothalamus.
Radiography unsuccessful and surgery ill advised due to tumour’s growth rate and position. Chemotherapy attempted, unsuccessful.
Loss of all bodily functions and Grand Mal fitting frequency approaching life threatening recorded in final six days of patient’s life.
No autopsy requested.
Donation of organs not recommended: Slayer status, age, and risk of undetected secondary cancers and compromised organs cited.
Consulting Doctor: A.J. Nuell MD PhD ”
Anton and Buffy’s life together may have been fraught with external issues, but the chirpy blonde ‘chosen one’, even at sixty something, remained much as the Sunnydale girl he had seduced (or perhaps it was the other way around) all those years ago in Rome. There had been frequent periods apart but that merely made their time together more meaningful.
Anton had come to know the strong woman behind the petite, power shopping, deadly-to-demons, Californian. And according to his Childe Spike, in her latter years, Buffy had ‘a lot of Joyce’s qualities’.
The Immortal vaguely registered the arm across his shoulders, gently pulling him into a tight hug as he remembered…
The first time she had attempted to make him hot chocolate in the tiny Rome flat she and Dawn shared. It had been a disaster. In the end it was Andrew who produced a drinkable beverage, but Buffy had learned, in later years even garnering compliments from Spike comparing her drink making prowess to that of “Joyce in her prime, Pet. She’d be right proud.”
There were so many moments like that… so many yet so few because now she was gone.
Anton remained at her bedside with Buffy’s inert, now cold, physical body for nearly two hours. He had no idea of the time, but eventually his wonderful boys led their grieving Sire to his own quarters, then stayed. The death bed was dealt with by caring nurses, and the coven via Watcher’s council spread the word. He heard Spike, his William, say the arrangements were all taken care of but Anton was in distress.
In the end, it had been Gregor who insisted he lie down… *now*. His dear loyal servant used a tone of voice rarely heard expressed by the taciturn devotee, that of a fatherly order, with no question that Anton should refuse to comply.
In a daze, Anton felt his clothes being removed and someone tucking him into bed. A little later he vaguely registered two cool figures settling either side of him. He drank of family and eventually fell asleep, hoping it was all a bad dream.
The following day, the leading couple left Gregor to tend his long time Master whilst they finalised the funeral arrangements.
Buffy was cremated three days later after a relatively short ceremony involving immediate family, key members of the court, friends and some senior staff of Buffy and Anton’s, along with Andrew and a small delegation of Slayers and Watchers. Amongst the latter was surprisingly, Faith who flew in from New York for the occasion. The now aging Slayer arrived with her partner Robin, both now retired, and gave an impassioned speech then collapsed into her partner’s arms as the old tune ‘The Rose’ played.
It had been decided that Buffy's ashes would be buried in a very private ceremony under Anton's and her favourite coral ash in their pretty courtyard of their Tuscony home. For now the family merely pulled together, fed their darling Sire, and survived their own memories and grief.
Buffy Anne Summers was dead.
The outside family had all departed after only a week, a week of reminiscing and of kind gestures and warm friendship. The remaining ‘inner circle’ rallied for each other but all knew, and Gregor picked it first… Something was seriously wrong with the Immortal.
The next Court meeting was cancelled – and all leading vampires accepted (though some grumbled a little that there was little cause for a Vampire Court to adjourn to respect the memory of a Slayer).
The note Willow received a month after her return from the funeral was bizarre and extremely worrying. Two weeks after Buffy departed the mortal coil, it had been reported that the Immortal was ailing, something that should have been an impossibility for a being of his nature.
Initially the diagnosis was melancholy due to grief, but as time went on, his refusal to eat or wash, or to venture into the afternoon sun, engage in his favourite sports or even answer family phone calls, caused Gregor to call the High Master.
By the time his boys arrived, they were forced to make a desperate decision. They moved the gaunt, virtually catatonic Anton to his suite in their home in Switzerland, hoping that family attention might lift his desperate state. They rang Willow to report that no change had occured – in fact he had become worse.
Over the ensuing five plus weeks, the formerly timeless, tireless, calm, capable Immortal slipped more and more. In his place was a pallid, increasingly thinner, invalid, whose previously powerful positive magical signature now simply exuded hopelessness and pain. He was inert, constantly in the dark and silent, even ceasing to breathe. He was for all the world a corpse, eyes sightless and detectable presence, that of any inanimate object.
Shortly after a desperate phonecall from Xander, Willow arrived. She and all the family surrounded Anton’s bed and joined hands circling the inert form of the Immortal. They appealed for guidance from both the Powers and from Artemis.
Amelie, Willow and (rather surprisingly) Spike, all threw their heads back and arched in pain, then almost broke the fingers of the hands they held as the powerful reply came. Eyes black and voices not their own, the three simply conveyed the inner thoughts of first the Powers then Goddess Artemis in turn.
Buffy’s death was not the cause of the malaise so much as a trigger for the Immortal’s state. Somehow he had conscious mind had become overwhelmed by the grief of eons, the sadness and yearning for every other loved one who had died in his very long life. The message was clear, he needed to be reassured since, if not addressed, the demise would be swift and final, Anton mummified, effectively dead but perfectly preserved for all time by the fact of his status.
The three channelling gave the same message. They needed to show him that there was still hope and purpose.
The Goddess Artemis spoke through Amelie directly to the rest of the family, “The Immortal is *so* young. He must learn that his influence is outside the measures of good and evil – just as ours are. Our decisions are intuitive – as are his, and none can be reversed. He regrets so much… and for one so old this has come to a point of no return. He must realize that he has been given an eternal gift… that of family. He needs to know and accept, he was, is and will be given and by his very nature, return... Love - with all the strength, joy and pain that brings. If it is denied then he will die.
“Two of you can show him. This is a ‘once only’ however. If he does not recover then you will all be at risk of decline, swiftly and violently. I can provide the slide through time, but with two caveats. The two embarking on the venture must be of the Immortal’s line. And second I cannot guarantee your form or task. You must somehow reinvigorate the Immortal, through love and… anyway. I advise you to act with care as there may be no return, should your Sire decide his existence still to be incapable of finding redemption and love.”
Amelie slumped and passed out as the Goddess retreated from her being. The hand held ring of beings broken, it was Antonio who caught her on the way down. Both older brothers tending her as their mother ushered the distressed younger siblings back to their quarters for afternoon tea and a ‘debriefing’.
It was a devil’s bargain but as Connor, Spike, Xander and family closed ranks to discuss the best interests of family, Gregor surprised them all as he threw himself at the High Master’s feet.
“Let me go High Master, I know much of my Master’s pain, and Stephanie and I… we will always serve the household.”
Instead of answering Spike opened his wrist and fed the distraught Gregor, not missing that he was still holding Stephanie’s hand with such force as to be painful. Of all the extended ‘family’, Gregor had known the Immortal the longest, but the instruction was the two must be of ‘the Immortal’s *line*’ meaning the exchange needed to be on a Sire/Childe basis.
Gregor was still kneeling at Spike’s feet when the High Master matched his position hugged the loyal servant and friend close then looked directly at Connor as he addressed them both, “Keep them safe… Whatever happens… Keep the family safe.”
Spike bit Connor hard and took his fill, an act reciprocated and acknowledged for what it was, open permission to lead. All knew, if the effort to save Anton failed, and the High Master and Consort lost, the Aurelian line would continue through the full blood. Connor took from the Master’s Childe, now uncle by Mating, Xander, before rejoining the circle and nodding to the others.
All contributed their energy as the ruling couple broke hands then bedded down with their stricken Sire, enveloping him in a two way embrace, at the same time not breaking contact with each other. The chanting began and all in the room sent a prayer for clemency as the complex spell took effect.
Spike and Xander joined Anton in unconsciousness and made the first shift.