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.
Willow had not been the only one shocked by the state of the three as they had been carefully tended after their waking.
All were rake thin, muscles atrophied and bones and sinews obvious. The Xander Willow had known in Sunnydale had been long gone – even before he was turned through hard work, exercise and good diet, then of course, turning - but now… he did look like a corpse.
All three were grey-white, panted a little after they fed, and slept for the majority of the sixteen days after initial consciousness returned.
Two days after their return to the realm had found the three still tucked under a thick duck down duvet, the joy of their return tempered by the very precarious physical state the three were in. Connor too, if anyone were to be honest – but Helle was seeing to his needs with rest, blood, massage, good food… The feeding tubes were back intermittantly as the willingness to feed seemed too much effort after the third day. Consequently, a sedative had been applied, the tubes inserted and the three had their stomachs filled over and over with willingly donated human, demon and family blood. And thankfully, unlike when they were in the timeless mode that was the Immortal’s, they slowly began to recover.
The rest of the family rallied as their condition improved. Spike, finally tube free on the seventh day, had whispered his thanks to Helle and Willow; Xander had woken and squeezed Liam’s hand and shed a tear as he realized it was Spike’s hand resting on his all too thin ribcage; and the Immortal had opened near clear green eyes and attempted to reach for the attending Connor’s hand before simply mouthing ‘thank you’ and two tears of thanks drop.
On day seventeen the High Master, Mated Childe and the Immortal finally woke. The children were called and all attended as Anton lifted a hand shakily to first Connor then Helle, Stephanie and finally Willow.
His skin felt soft and thin like that of a very old man, though his appearance was returning to its usual, timeless beauty. Willow bent down as Anton squeezed her hand and he whispered, “You were her best friend… always…” then allowed a single tear to escape as she kissed him, adding, “I miss her…”
Willow sat on the bed and moved until Anton’s head was in her lap, looked pointedly at the other wiccans in the room who waited ready to chant, and said, “We all do sweetie… we all do… but we love you and will remember her with honour… We all love you… Stay with us… and the family… please stay…”
She nodded to the wiccans and this time the healing spell seemed to take as Anton’s tense effort to hold in his grief gave way to a hitched sigh and finally… sleep.
The ruling couple fared a little better as they returned to health. More often than not the younger of Connor’s children were cautioned before entering, though the two were usually well concealed under the covers. It was apparent that the ruling couple was taking strength from being intertwined… or more often than not… literally ‘connected’ both by fang and… in other ways, the act of entering by one or the other and staying there, apparently engendering rest and contentment.
On the seventeenth day Anton woke completely for the first time. His immediate thought was how very soft and warm he was… and how comforting the sheepskin bedcover underneath him felt and how he could ‘feel’ that his Childer were all asleep.
But Amelie felt the full consciousness of her healing 'Opa' return and woke Willow and Helle, who in turn roused Gregor, Stephanie and finally, a fully rested and fed Connor.
The others kissed and welcomed him back but moved aside, then withdrew quietly as they noted a highly emotional Gregor on his knees several feet from the bed. Connor squeezed the vampire’s shoulder as he passed and Stephanie leaned down and kissed her darling partner before leaving, realizing that this was an intensely private moment between two long time friends.
Gregor moved to his Master’s side and bared his neck. Anton smiled, stroked it and said in his familiar baritone, “You have been my solace for so long dearest brother… I saw you… over and over… you have served me for so long… I love you, my wonderful friend… and I thank you.” And then in a most atypical move the Immortal bared his neck to his long time servant and simply said, “Please… Would that you honour me by taking the gift of blood from a humble former human…” Gregor obliged wide eyed, sinking fangs into the beloved skin and taking two long drafts before pulling away, obviously moved. His master was well, was with them, and loved him… it was all that he had hoped for.
The ruling couple were also awake but still too weak to do much more than push into the arms of their carers in order to roll from sitting on the bed to a supported stand, or accept that they needed assistance to struggle into a welcome bath.
Two days later vampire healing saw them still very thin but walking unaided and able to attend their Sire.
The three sat in the waning sun of the afternoon on the balcony outside Anton’s suite, comfortably clad in the soft pyjamas, thick satin robes and slippers of invalids but appearing decidedly healthier.
After they initially greeted each other there was a long period of silence, Xander reclining back between Spike’s legs as they shared one padded outdoor lounge, Anton taking the other and all three staring out over the valley.
Finally, it was Anton who whispered, in a volume none but a vampire might have heard, “I think I felt you somehow… but now I don’t know… it was… odd. Then I felt the tug… saw I was… needed. Buffy is lost to me and I really did not want to stay… but my beautiful brave boys… my loving family… What did you do that moves me so now, that caused your coma also? Please… please tell me.”
And so began the conversation, Anton utterly amazed, thrilled and horrified by the things his adopted Childer had experienced *with* him. He was particularly fascinated by the stories of the some of the manifestations, as it seemed to fill in some very odd occurrences and spontaneous acts on his part, perhaps his careful treatment of spiders post Tibet; his love of falconry; and his ongoing regret, now thousands of years old, of the fate of two slave girls.
He roared laughing when the two related the Mozart and Shakespeare periods, and sobered as they spoke of various wars, of turning, of changing, of dying… but most of all, Anton remembered that he received love openly, easily then, and now more than ever before as the three spoke.
Several hours later, rugs supplied, outdoor gas heater warming from above and several candles alight, the three had been supplied with food, and were now taking a quiet brandy in the cool of the evening.
Again there was silence for a time, but as the near full moon emerged from behind a small cloud and a dog barked somewhere in the distant valley, Spike reached a cool hand from its resting place on Xander’s torso under the covers and reached for Anton. The gesture was appreciated and the two intertwined fingers as they were joined by Connor and Gregor, Spike simply saying, “We thought to save you Sire, but instead we find we understand you more… we miss Buffy too… but please Sire… Don’t leave us… you are loved… so very loved by your family. Let us share your loss and comfort you... We are here Sire, and we love you. Together we *will* prevail.”
Anton looked across and one chocolate eye and two crystal blue full of love and the devotion of family, then at a kneeling Gregor and the concerned face of Connor. "Oh my boys!" It was as though the floodgates opened. All the grief, anger and hurt, the sadness, regret and need, manifested itself as Anton truly cried for the first time since Buffy's death. Despite his very long unlife, it was the loss of his Slayer that was the most acute pain and needed addressing.
There were five on Anton’s lounge in the end. Each, in turn holding him, rocking him, feeding him their blood… and crying with him.
It would not be the last time he cried for his lost lover, but the night was a true turning point, and as the now exhausted High Master of Europe and his Mated Childe struggled to their feet and were assisted back to bed, Anton accepted the arm of his most trusted servant and friend and allowed Gregor to guide him inside. He would rest. Tomorrow was another day, and he had a family to tend to.
(Not sure if we shouldn't finish here?)