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.
(Any FB negative or positive welcome, Muse Daisy waning for a variety of reasons)
Spike found himself sitting in a dark room beside his partner – and in this life, once again, his best friend. His head itched and the dress(!) he was wearing was uncomfortably tight around his ribs and waist. His friend leaned over and whispered “Your voice will break soon I’m sure! And then we can *both* be boys. I mean… come on Will… cheer up! You are so good at this stuff and Mister Shakespeare thinks you are brilliant as Juliet! Oh… I’ve gotta go… me Paris with a sword, but you’re still the one who gets make the boys all hot and bothered! Perks of the job ehh?” Xander/Richard winked and went to stand stage left ready for his entrance.
Will knew it was important to do well. It was the first anniversary of the Globe, now located on the opposite side of the river to ‘The Theatre’ (formerly the Blackfriars Theatre) run by his employer Richard Burbage’s brother Cuthbert. The players had only just arrived back into London after yet another plague episode which closed the theatres and drove them into the provinces to perform for any audience they could find.
Spike was strangely in his element in the theatre. His host body obviously knew his lines and associated stage moves, and his own studies and passion for Shakespeare’s works in his lifetime paid dividends.
As Juliet, he was stunning, fine boned and pretty, regardless of gender, he graced the stage to answer his nurse’s call to the cheer of an audience who admired him as a fine actress and lovely girl. He loved the play but hated kissing John (Romeo) – who always tried to push in a tongue had foul breath and regularly insulted him with words like 'bent-like-a-Will-ohh', 'sailor’s-slut' and 'Pussy-loves-Dick' (playing on the fact that Will and Richard shared a tiny room in the slums near the theatre).
In the past two years, to his embarrassment, so many had commented on his beauty that he had twice been forced by the Queen’s men to stand at rehearsal, raise his skirts and prove his manhood. The sniggers of the soldiers as they ‘inspected’ *him* and commented on the type of man that would cross dress were more hurtful than any comment made by his fellow players, or the humiliation of being reported. He knew that at fifteen and a half he had yet to grow… in all departments… and was further frustrated by the fact that his best friend even had facial hair! Will sometimes worried that he would be condemned to the female roles for all time…
Burbage led a guest around to the actors’ area after the play.
“This is a visitor from Italy lads… and after tonight’s fine effort he had donated two hundred fine Sovereigns to our establishment. Will, in particular, caught his eye. Well done Will. The Count has asked that you attend him.” There were several badly muffled guffaws from his fellow players – and he distinctly heard the badly disguised “Faggot” in a cough from Romeo (aka John) who then stared at him with a sneer, all but daring a comment.
Will simply nodded meekly and stood, eyes cast down. He was still in costume though sans wig, something that did not escape his friend Richard/Xander who stood also and appealed to the stranger on Will’s behalf. “Please good Sir, allow Will to change and remove the powder and colour from his face. His costume is most uncomfortable, and I know he will be better company for you without it.”
Anton was rather pleased and surprised by the boldness of the talented young actor’s friend, “I would have it no other way, and would be pleased if you attend dinner with us also. I fancy Master Burbage will approve your attendance also.” As Richard/Xander’s jaw dropped, Anton turned to Burbage, “And of course your lovely wife, Winifred isn’t it? Please feel free to invite her.”
Richard Burbage looked decidedly shocked, “Yes… um well yes that would be nice – but unfortunately she is in the country with the children… the plague you see.”
“Ahhh yes the plague… Well no matter – Have you asked..”
“The script writer? Shakespeare… yes of course!”
“Excellent! He’s promised me a copy of one of his sonnets and a new play in exchange for fifty Sovereigns – I’ve asked him to do something about Verona.”
Burbage looked incredulous, fifty Sovereigns would keep his friend in luxury for months – and gave ample excuse for many plays to be penned without interruption! He turned his gaze upon the boys and growled, “Well??!! Go clean up! Our patron is *waiting*.”
Will and Richard nodded then scurried off to the changing room, both eager to escape the comments and sniggers of their colleagues regards pretty boys, foreigners and threesomes.
The tavern was on the north side of the Thames, close to the tower, and rather a quieter affair than Burbage and Shakespeare were used to. The food was good, the company interesting and mood jolly. Shakespeare penned his Eighteenth Sonnet from memory for Anton, and the Spike part of Will gasped as it was handed to the Immortal. It was the same parchment, lovingly preserved, that Anton had given he and Xander after their first venture to Italy.
But it was the conversation later that evening, when Shakespeare and Burbage were busy ‘wenching’ (i.e. drunk, dancing and fooling with the ladies) that led Spike and Xander to understand why they had been flung into this role.
It had been Xander that had initiated the conversation after feeling decidedly uncomfortable sitting staring at his own fists, in silence, opposite their benefactor.
“Sir? Sir… um… Do… do… um sorry… but do you have a castle? You know… that you live in?”
Anton smiled, “I have lived in many but only own two, and they are small in comparison with the grandeur of your Queen’s castle here.”
Richard/Xander’s eyes went wide but it was Will who finished the thought, “You’ve been in there?”
“Well of course! Her Majesty wanted an interpreter, I speak and read a number of languages and happened to be invited to assist. Your dear monarch really isn’t good with the eastern languages – quite understandable really. I think she also finds me… pleasant on the eye and rather amusing.”
“How did you learn so much? Do so much? And you are so young?!”
“We’re not always what we seem.” Anton looked hard at Will. “You know you are not a girl, but you *are* a very beautiful boy. Others misinterpret that, take you for something you are not… think you are young, weak or somehow effeminite and vulnerable, that can be used to your advantage… If you are judged as weak or different so be it, but by staying true to yourself, all will be well in the end.” It seemed as though Anton had started to talk to himself not his company, so when the handsome man in front of Will seemed to sigh and look sad, he moved to sit right beside him and took up the man’s hand. Richard/Xander noted the move and repeated it on the other side. Anton smiled at that.
“When this season is done, come and stay with me in Surrey for a few weeks of fishing and recreation. I have a lovely little estate on the river and would appreciate the extra company and you boys would prove a welcome uncomplicated change. What do you say Burbage? Of course you and Shakespeare here are welcome – though I forgive you should you decline, I believe wives and families too have demands.”
Again Anton looked very sad and the glance across to his silent manservant Gregor spelt bushels of pain and longing. Will squeezed the hand he was holding and leaned in close. The man made him feel loved and respected just by permitting the contact, the least he could do was provide comfort. Richard did likewise. Both were rewarded by joined hands being lifted for a soft, thankful kiss from a man that their alter-egos knew so well.
It had only been a day or so since their shift, yet that night, curled up on their shared, tiny bed in a rented loft above a boot maker’s shop, they felt the pull again.
Spike knew immediately he came to his senses. It was Zurich on the seventh day of the seventh month, 1652. The young banker adjusted his small spectacles the v-clip giving little purchase and inclined to fall if not attended. At home he was inclined to tie a ribbon from one side to the other, but it was hardly the look for a professional young banker at his place of employ.
Hardly a man of numbers, Willem (and Spike reflected – at least this time he would remember his own name!), had been employed for his gift with languages, his attractive boyish features that seemed to put the customers at ease, and the fact that he was the grandson of one of the founders of the bank, (always a bonus).
One customer, who was more than just that, entered and waited to be ushered to the desk.
Pierre, youngest son of the Canton ruler of Solothurn grinned at the blonde Willem as he approached, politely leading an attractive man with jet black hair and amazing green eyes. Willem felt a spike of jealousy, then the real Spike’s memories kicked in and he relaxed.
“May I introduce Herr Anton La Intemporel … He is a man of some substance with interests in many places, and wishes to deposit his holdings in your bank’s capable hands.”
Willem stood and offered his right hand, keeping his left, as was custom, on the rather ornate decorative, short sword sheathed at his hip.
The grasp of the other man was firm yet friendly, and the conveyed friendship plus something he felt quite challenged by, the unmistakable feel of brotherly love.
They processed the transaction and locked away Anton La Intemporel’s ‘extra’ funds, along with the deeds for various properties in five countries.
Will then suggested Herr Anton take a leisurely walk along the walled river. The man had just deposited nearly a thousand gold coins, and a variety of jewellery into the vault. If an infatuation with a young employee was afoot, then Pierre knew that the pretty, blindingly intelligent Will, would understand his reason for choosing him as the banker.
Instead however, they were both invited to go fishing in the warmth of the late afternoon.
Willem was rather embarrassed at his inexperience even, Spike had done a minimum or fly fishing in his time – so those memories did not help.
As they wandered down the well worn track by the river, La Intemporel’s influence was almost electric but the two humans felt oddly calm despite the ongoing dialogue being difficult at times and the noble preferring to stand, silently fishing or contemplating the stars. For Willem, fishing was wet and cold and frustrating if nothing was caught, nevertheless that was not why he was there,
The Immortal looked from Canton leader’s son to young banker and back. The attraction was obvious, the arousal potent, afternoon warm, and mood relaxed.
He and his man Anton took the fishing lines in hand and let the two lads relax together on the bank. Anton looked over at the pair as they tentatively began to caress each other, they were so young, so innocent and trusting, so pretty together.
They would take wives no doubt, but the elite were renowned for having discrete liaisons, some lasting years, and though it would need to be *very* discrete given the same gender, in a way that also helped… it was, after all, now very much a man’s world.
As the group of fishermen (and the fishers of men) wandered up the bank to their horses and departed, Pierre slept, and at the end of the day Willem turned to the enigmatic ‘Anton la Intemporel’ and in very formal tones asked a rather challenging question, “Do you, sir, think we are better than the beasts?... That we should all control our carnal pleasures? I speak of curbing our desire and creativity all at once for the sake of another being... one someone loves?”
Anton thought for a moment then smiled, “Only if the person is worth it. One can endure anything if that is the case. Control is more about endurance and acceptance than it is about power. It is the ultimate form of worship and admiration. The ultimate self flagellation in the name of honour.”
At the end of the day, as Gregor made a fire upon which they could cook their catch, Anton sat quietly while Pierre spoke enthusiastically of the Cantons agreement to act as one and come together peacefully.
Lying on the bank, picking sweet, cooked flesh from the fishy bones of his meal, Willem ventured the question – despite his station, “How is it, Herr la Intemporel, that you came to us to invest?”
Anton noted the bright young blue eyes, the genuine curiosity and smiled, “I need a safe place to put my fortune, your friend here recommended your services, what better endorsement.”
The Immortal did not miss the affectionate sideways glance between the two young men, then was rather surprised by the next statement from Pierre/Xander, “Not everything is about money Herr Immortal. It helps to have it, but it is not everything.”
Anton reached for the young man’s hand and squeezed it – and it was not just the ‘perfectly behaved’ Pierre that caught the full meaning of the strangely fatherly contact, but Xander, the lost boy of Sunnydale too. As the young Canton leader’s son placed his hand over that of the Immortal’s, a jolt went through the existing link from Xander to Spike, and all three felt the desperate need to be loved, despite others’ rules.
The four men, Anton, Gregor, Pierre and Willem, spent a moonlit evening on the banks of the exit of Zurich’s main river, the two older vampires simply lying content while the younger men found solace and joy in joint release and quiet repose. Anton’s last thought… that love transcended other societal rules.
And Xander and Spike’s world shifted again…
The disorientation was almost as profound as when they had woken spiders!
Xander was in the dark and could feel a leather swivelled leash around one ankle holding him fast. Wherever he was standing kept moving slightly and there were sounds of horse hooves and men’s voices. A shout went up and Xander braced himself with strangely calm anticipation.
The soft suede of his blindfolding hood was removed, and instantly he felt his leg strap released and the surface he was standing on launch him into the air. He knew what to do.
They had both learned to trust their instincts in their last bizarre incarnations and now was no different, so wings opened and the hunting hawk sped skyward, Spike his blonde feathered counterpart somewhere off to his right and mere seconds behind.
They each soared high, the magnificent long pointed wings of their peregrine falcon forms allowing a near silent attack. The ‘feathered bullets’ as they were known throughout the civilized world, took out their prey with a deadly thud as they first head butted their victims (two ducks in flight) catching the stunned birds momentarily to sever the spine with a lethal beak, before letting the far heavier bird drop and returning to their Masters.
It was the sport of Kings, and as Xander returned to his Master’s arm, Anton smiled watching Spike carefully land on the arm of a young Prince Peter. A cheer was heard from the observing crowd of nobles – amongst them the boy’s father, Alexei Mikhailovich Romanov. Mounted, with his own larger peregrine female hooded and held on a gloved arm, the man was ruler of all Russia and a passionate falconer. He almost burst with pride as his twelve year old son (one day to be known as Peter the Great) took the well trained tiercel ‘Chayton’ onto his arm without fear and fed the bird a tasty morsel of beef before replacing his hood.
That night Spike and Xander (now apparently called ‘Tiohtli’), were in their large apiary with another twenty or more falcons. Their hoods were removed as they were released into the safe space, but not before noticing the identity of the Chief Falconer, Gregor.
He spoke quietly to them, congratulating Spike especially, for being so good to the Young Prince, and letting them both know that they had done his Master Anton a *great* service, “As always my dear ones… as always… I envy you sometimes, I tend and train your chicks ready for nobility, you simply enjoy the hunt then are tended… It would be nice to hunt one’s natural prey without regret.”
Spike’s movements were typically the swift ones of his current species as he turned to glance at Xander on the other perch and then cocked his head to the side as their Master moved silently to push an open, bleeding wrist in front of their kind trainer.
As Gregor accepted the liquid gift and sustenance, Anton, the Immortal whispered, “As do I little brother, as do I… But we are as we are. And it seems that is good enough for the Prince. He has gifted us (with his father’s approval), one of his lesser country estates, so we might continue to return to assist for the summer. I assume that King Alexei really just wants to present the Belgian and French courts with their usual falcons as gifts as it is the King has promised us a handsome sum as retainer for the next year season.”
“But Master… if we stay too long they may find that we are…”
“Alexei is well aware of our ‘unique’ status… indeed one of the King’s cousins was turned when they were still teenagers. Seems he was staked by the Slayer of the time – Finnish girl - when only three months young. Sire and he were out riding in the moonlight. She threw the stake almost fifty yards to pierce his heart. Family was devastated – funny thing about Royalty… seem to cope with eccentricity in relatives a little better than their subjects.”
“I’m tired Gregor. Let us just stay for a time, accrue our wealth, and make our connections in the north. Besides I like all the world’s royalty since I can remember, appreciate the grace, the beauty and the deadliness of these magnificent creatures and their loyalty to us.” As if on cue Spike bobbed a little then cocked his head just so. He was not disappointed.
Anton continued, “My dear devoted friend, I know you’ve seen it too. The falconry is a symbol of nobility, and an entry card to the highest echelons of power. These beautiful birds, you(!), this is what we need to influence, not violence or ruthlessness (though that may prove necessary at times). Be happy here Gregor – whether it be 20 or 50 years, our lovely raptor friends offer us a key to the kingdom… of men.”
Anton stroked Spike’s feathers then Xander’s, before he and Gregor shut off the light in the apiary and departed. Two days later, on yet another hunt, they would learn that their far larger female partners had both produced fertile eggs. Anton would always bred his favourites, and rejoiced, that was as it should be. He adored his deadly game birds and it was right that their lines continue.
Anton’s permanent home would be Russia for close to ninety years, though trips to the rest of Europe would be many… Spike and Xander knew the history but resigned themselves to their current fate, strangely wondering if their offspring would be male or female, though it mattered not. They would all be cared for regardless.
The two male birds perched close and fluffed their feathers with that final thought. Then felt the next shift…