Title: All over Again
Warnings/Squicks: M/M relations (way later) and human boys (for now)
Rating: NC-17 (or MA 15+ or R?) There is violence and sex and vampires, and boys.
Summary: Saving both of them had a bizarre set of implications – not least of which was the chance to start again.
Disclaimer: Characters are the concept of the wonderful Joss and Co. Don’t make money from the writing etc etc.
Of all those killed that night, Spike had cried the most for Angel, they had just begun to reconcile and now...
In the end Spike and Illyria were the only two and the demons just kept coming. Lying in the pouring rain, covered in demon filth, he still crawled to the spot near the dragon carcass and smeared the filthy water that he knew contained the dust of his Grandsire onto his face. He thought he heard the ‘next wave’ so forewent his desire to grieve and curl into foetal position as he knew another needed his help.
The ‘halfling’ Illyria thought of as a mere Pet, had voluntarily stood in front of her as the hoards approached knowing full well she was the stronger of the two of them, yet he defended her. So now, as a Wolfram and Hart ‘disposal’ truck backed its way ‘bleeping’ up the alley to dispose of the embarrassing evidence of the night’s altercation, she observed him as he continued to bleed from a gaping stomach wound and rubbed a little more of Angel’s ‘mud’ on his face.
Spike knew he was mere minutes from dust but managed to lift his filth covered face to look at the Old One in her petite blue guise, “Please (!) make it worthwhile! Let *something* good come of… this.”
Generally disdainful of the majority of humanity, Illyria cocked her head, then seemed to decide something.
She lifted the broken form of her ally, “I do not understand your chivalry but yours is a gesture that should not go ignored. I shall return to the country of the Battle Brand where you say you began as a human and find the one you referred to as ‘Red’. The good you speak of is linked to her.”
Sadly Spike failed to hear the speech, feel the preternaturally strong hand put necessary pressure on his major wound, nor see the flash that finished the remaining demons and transferred them both to a coven in England.
That evening, as the blonde vampire lay bandaged in the coven infirmary alongside a second dying figure and fed blood direct to his stomach to keep him from dust, Illyria was in conference with the elders of the coven.
Though her time on the current Earthly realm was limited, she was still extremely surprised by the solemn respect, deference, and gratitude shown her. She was offered food and rest, then assistance in her determination to return to permanent slumber with the other old ones.
She quickly ascertained that the one the vampire spoke of as ‘Red’ was both wise and powerful (though her habit of speaking too quickly when excited was somewhat irritating). However, she did seem to have an ability for magic unsurpassed by others in the realm.
High Mistress Willow could feel the other being’s power – everyone could!
“Who is the second in this room? He too is connected to you?”
The young nurse-come-wiccan tending Xander moved aside, and Willow stroked the forehead of the (thankfully) now sleeping Xander. “Yes… He is a hero and my best friend from childhood, a friend of Spike… um the halfling’s, too.
“They fought together? They were allies?”
“They lived together. Spike saved his good eye…”
“From an agent of the First. Yes, I remember that story. The vampire was most articulate, if somewhat random, in his thoughts as we sparred. I now understand. What is wrong with the human? He does not smell correct.”
“He is dying of a terrible virus AIDS - it... affects humans. He was helping those who had the same affliction when he contracted it.”
“The best of humanity has an apparent death wish which is difficult to fathom and unfortunate. But I admire his willingness for sacrifice – I would want such a one in my army." Illyria touched the inert foot then looked genuinely concerned, "You have feelings for both of these beings - but mostly for this one you call Xander. You are powerful. Can you not solve his various bodily concerns alone?"
“M… G… Illyria, there is nothing we can do now. He contracted it and continued to help others until…Human ways have no cure and there is no other...”
Illyria rounded the bed and stood with her hand on the too pale, marred forehead, “He carries other spirits, not as old as I, but strong. Is it not wrong that these two beings in the room – and their carried demons - should die without accolade, without reward?? The blonde one attempted to shield me though he was the lesser being. He displayed great valour and was loyal in ways I have struggled to understand. You speak of other battles, and I note that… this Xander… has also been marred by his efforts, though again did it willingly and without thought for himself.?”
Willow watched desperately as another bag of blood was attached to Spike’s feeding tube and the nurse boosted Xander’s morphine to close to lethal limits. “He… he was so brave… Mistress Illyria… I um… he was a mere human but has spent his short life… saving… the world and we just didn't know and now...”
“In exchange for your willingness to assist me, I will assist your friend but all will be lost if I do not have the vampire to agree to your friend’s survival.”
Spike barely understood the question from the pretty blue being, but enough that *someone* of their number might survive, so without the power of speech (courtesy of the feeding tube) he nodded, and hoped Illyria understood the ‘thank you’ in his eyes before he closed them against the pain.
Post Sunnydale averting the apocalypse, Xander had gone to Africa as he had always jokingly threatened. Ebola and marauding hippos be damned, there were hundreds of children orphaned by AIDS and plenty of organizations who could use his help. His building skills were very much appreciated, naturally jovial nature a godsend, plus his Hellmouth upbringing was truly a plus as not only human but demon families were affected.
Sadly two years on, his own situation mirrored that of his charges. He worked on at the refugee centre and kept to himself and his symptoms hidden.
There were nights when he had cried in pain as an unwilling oesophagus convulsed against an ulcer that no one could see and he didn’t truly understand but just knew was there. He endured desperate leg cramps as his body struggled against a silent aggressor, but put it down to lack of salt. And the weight loss was attributed to his near vegetarian diet and lack of appetite... and repeated rounds of dysentery and possibly worms not helping!
Eventually he had walked to his friend Gerard, the refugee camp’s wonderful French born doctor when unaccountable bruises began emerge, and a too thin hip bone began to ache even though cushioned by a (admittedly hard*ish*) mattress and prevented sleep. The pained look on Gerard’s face as he reported the blood tests said it all.
By the time he was on the plane to London, he weighed in at just on forty nine kilos and needed help to ascend the steps. Willow had met him with something he knew to be a horrified gasp at the airport as he was wheeled through the ‘green door’ at customs by a fellow aid worker, who burst into tears as Xander greeted Willow weakly, then fled.
The ‘White Hat’ from Sunnydale, the one eyed good natured man, accepted that his unprotected liaison with Eunice, his fellow aid worker was from Mozambique, had condemned him. They had sought comfort amongst desperation amongst spiders and other crawling night creatures, and exchanged fluids.
The noble nurse and mother of two surviving children, never realised her terminal legacy for the jovial, kind American friend. Ironically, before he knew he was sick, her children were orphaned, not by the disease but an incident that saw the car she was travelling in fall victim to a target happy youngster with a rocket launcher… Xander had left the children all the money he could when his own illness drove him to England, and the grateful grandmother, two young, worldly wise girls and desperately ill American had cried their goodbyes at the grave of a gracious woman that spent her life devoted to others.
Being ill seemed to make everything raw, admissible, exposed. He admitted all to Willow but also mused that it was ironic.
The boy that had stared down the mighty Angelus; lost an eye to a preternaturally strong Caleb; revived a Slayer; and complained of lack of ‘non demon’ female companions, had contracted his own killer in the most pedestrian (and time-old) ways, and had signed his own death sentence as a by-product of the first world - third world split that saw more orphans produced in a year than the entire population of Australia and New Zealand combined.
He remembered reflecting that the demon community of Sunnydale (or anywhere) had nothing on humans as he watched yet another emaciated child die crying soundlessly with her desperate mother begging staff for drugs that, he knew, though willingly donated, were never coming, likely to have been sold for ‘favours’ five hundred kilometres away at the port.
He had never prayed so much as in that place, appealing to every deity he knew that worming tablets, antibiotics, morphine (!) might somehow arrive to the same establishment, if only that a lethal dose could ease the way of a tiny girl whose missing lower leg (courtesy of a mine), that was festering and slowly bleeding out, might have her way eased. There was no dignity in death.
Six months on he had put the continued fevers and dry cough down to the heat or a mosquito borne illness. He threw himself into working for the greater good, as he always had, but in his heart he knew something was not right.
It was easy to put all thoughts when one found oneself the project manager with a seemingly endless stream of well meaning volunteers to build houses for local grandmothers who took in not only their own but also the three neighbours’ remaining children. The local communities nominated the worthy recipients and Xander worked on.
Two years later, he continued to build sturdy beds for the hospital, his co-worker and ‘lean to building mate’ Raoul worried.
Xander remembered the afternoon. He had felt ill all day but continued working, and all it had taken was the lovely Gerard, the long suffering, war weiry, doctor from Toulouse saying, ‘Xander are you OK? Raoul said you were…’ before all went black.
He remembered nothing of the ensuing three days and as his only family contact listed was Willow, he was air lifted to a military airport, transferred in Cairo and transported to the UK… 'for treatment'.
Willow had taken the urgent call, and four days later, was the one to accept the wheelchair containing her desperately ill friend at Heathrow. His passage through Customs and Immigration was eased by the mere fact that he was incapacitated, dying, and carried papers that indicated he was an Aid worker for the Red Cross… and was ‘being collected’.
That evening, as he was loaded into the back of a specialized taxi, and quietly thanked Willow again, he had tried to very hard to give a 'Sunnydale' smile, though when his old friend turned away and pulled a tissue from her pocket he assumed that even that had been a futile attempt.
Willow's warm hand held love and desperate concern but there was… so he tried to smile again.
Swallowing hurt and he was *so* thirsty but also wanted to apologise to Willow, yet a dry tongue and mouth prevented it. He knew the lesions were unsightly, and did manage to stem a tear before accepting the water bottle produced by one of Willow’s acolytes. The prick in his arm was everything… and he silently thanked the nurse for 'blissful black'.
A month later – and despite western drugs and palliative care, his tongue was ulcerated, drinking water hurt, and he just wished he could be more chipper for Willow’s daily visit.
In the last week, when he had the energy, he had taken to pulling out the various tubes and monitors, only to have attentive professionals on their third night shift in a row, come running. His dying logic was impeccable really – there were many others in Africa who needed the medicine more than he and… He kept trying to explain that!
But his state of health determined it. His fate was no longer within his control…and he was just so tired all the time…
So he sent prayers to various deities for ‘those who needed it more’; tried to smile when the children of the resident wiccan’s tried to cheer him with music (though one had to wonder how *very* tone deaf their conductor might be to tolerate the din!?); and patted the rather portly, elderly labrador dog as it was led through the infirmary as a 'comfort pet' for some reason Xander could not really be bothered with.
It hadn’t been so strange really. That day, the day of their miraculous change, Xander had opened his eyes to an old friend, or enemy, in the bed beside him. He heard the discussion, the vampire whom he assumed dead(er) had once again played hero and was now mere minutes from dust. Glazed blue/yellow eyes were staring at the ceiling while the limp body was stitched, bound and had a feeding tube inserted. No one deserved that, and he sent a silent prayer that Spike was at least now, beyond pain and would, wherever he ‘went’, find love and peace.
The chanting began, and Illyria delivered her promise, blasting the room with energy, and included the ill human friend in the spell, as his own prayer for clemency for Spike was caught up in the mix. The two male humans would be given a second chance, and Illyria the peace she so craved.
Seconds after the blast Illyria was gone, and two tiny baby boys were lifted from the beds that so recently held their damaged adult forms.
Xander’s first new conscious thought was how very comforting it was to be wrapped tight and to feel another body similarly bound, along side.
A year on as Willow’s fellow wiccans celebrated the Summer Solstice, the Senior Mistress was driven to tears as she sat presiding over a communal dinner. A tiny dark haired boy pulled himself up, stood triumphant then toddled three steps to be caught in the arms of his delighted, adoring, adoptive mother.
Willow knew there could have been no better choice for mother of the boys. The wiccan was still heavy to the point of pain with milk, when the two were changed.
Mistress Charlotte was in the adjoining room of the infirmary resting the day Illyria arrived with Spike. The wiccan had tragically lost her own two day old boy to a catastrophic aneurism, but a day and a half before.
The attending paramedics could do nothing for the newly named Justin, the post mortem scan was conclusive, and the distraught mother had only just managed to stand for the ceremony as her dear life partner, Trent, himself in tears, lowered a coffin barely larger than a shoebox into the tiny grave.
Trent was one of only four men at the coven. A quiet and serious scholar with warm aura and even warmer hug. His energy was part of the group that boosted Illyria’s power. And as soon as the rather extraordinary power abated and the evidence seen, had begged the High Mistress Willow that his Charlotte be allowed to feed them.
And so it was that a tearful Charlotte, nourished first the dark haired, pretty Alexander, then her resident cuddler,‘little Billie’. And later that evening, both parents had embraced their existing daughter and joined the coven members and their natural born daughter Blanche as they blessed the boys and fixed their naming day.
The boys were turning one soon and Charlotte’s first born, Blanche, was the quintessential dark red haired older sister to ‘the boys’ - bossy, protective, magically gifted, and, at six and three quarters (!), and without a fault, one of the best motherly types in the coven. Indeed Charlotte sometimes wondered who *was* the mother in the room!
Willow smiled at the pint sized redhead as the budding wiccan held little Billie fast whilst his brother walked from Charlotte toward a very proud Trent. By colouring he could well have been Alexander’s biological parent and certainly rejoiced in his role.
Alex’s brother by adoption watched on, knowing that he had mastered ambulation on two legs some month earlier and, despite wanting to talk to Willow, gave in to his own current limitations and giggled as Blanche taunted her blonde adoptive brother lovingly by rubbing his favourite soft toy bear against an exposed tummy. Minutes later his outstretched arms were rewarded by the capturing of the prize and a warm hug in a sweet smelling young girl’s arms.
The boys were lucky but Willow had not forgotten Illyria’s statement before she vaporized into blue smoke. The body was new, but the soul and the memories would be those of her old friend(s). It was ‘necessary’ and she worried what that might mean.
In the beginning Willow had spoken to them as adults, explained that it was part of the agreement… part of the plan. They were being ‘rewarded’, given a second chance for their efforts to help the ‘greater good’. There was no error in that it was to occur in an out of the way, rural locale, protected by wards and distant from any major demon activity (though some would argue so many witches living on a pretty old estate in Berkshire, England, could attract its own set of problems), as the two were legendary in the demon realm and still carried magical signatures that might prove problematic.
But it didn’t take long, and there were only a few more ‘one way conversations’. Observing two little figures sucking on toys, crying with a new tooth, and grinning wildly as peek-a-boo was finally understood, and she began to genuinely forget their heritage.
For two little boys their greatest hazards seemed to be that they were surrounded by more oestrogen, motherly love and hugs than the average human garnered in a lifetime.
In their lucid ‘adult’ moments, both Xander and Spike reached for each other wondering at their fate. The trouble was still growing bodies that would not cooperate by speaking and other issues like the gentle care and simple amusement, food on demand, and the loving attentions of sixteen coven women in addition to their new parents and sister, that distracted.
They were also privy to being flung joyfully into the air by very strong hands, had tummies ‘rumbled’ by a mouth attached to a rough chin, and between sleeps on one occasion were perambulated to a spot by water after which tiny hands were encouraged to wrap around what Spike knew vaguely from his adult memories to be a fishing rod. Neither of them had experienced that the ‘first time around’.
Alexander tried to listen to the adult conversation as another little body squirmed in front of him and strong thighs held them both safely. The male he now knew as Papa, was worried by his compatriots wriggling, and the fishing rod was placed aside as a consequence. Finally, several sets of female hands rescued him as he too began to fuss, word free in an effort to indicate his hunger.
They were bathed and fed a vitamised combination of pumpkin and… Alexander really didn’t care, he was a pudding man and would down *anything* to get to the apple and semolina at the end of the meal! Spike was the fussy eater at the best of times, and had been ill with a fever three times in the last two months. Consequently, and through no fault of his own, Billie was smaller, lighter and was breast fed more often than he ate solids.
The coven was soon to host the annual Solstice meeting of all the witches of the British Isles, but the message from Giles on screen was clear. The two in their care were living out a prophesy. But surely these two had paid enough! And how was the coven to have known? How could two little boys ever…?
She observed the happy fishing party returning from their afternoon in the sun, hit delete then text messaged Giles.
Prophesies, after all, were always open to interpretation.