Pairing: Xander/Spike (don’t be fooled by the Willow beginning)
Rating: Mature Audiences – for content and themes
Summary: Wolfram and Hart may have won the day, but the battle is just about to begin...
Spoilers: Canon is Post S7 BtVS and S5 AtS.
Warnings: M/M – if you don't like boys together, don't play here!
Harsh circumstances and difficult start....
The logistics of taking six toddlers with attending nurse, a technically dead invalid, and an able bodied but very worried dad through airports and across countries was ridiculous.
A Swiss passport was organized for William Aurelius – and thanks to some connections, his date of birth, and the place was ‘adjusted’. His bank accounts and property in Geneva were cited in the application process and all went to plan. The association with a separate family trust based in Switzerland was also useful. Spike grumbled rather unconvincingly that he should have an *English* passport, but when it was pointed out that Europe was all-in-one these days and that the Swiss passport came with special privileges, there was no more argument.
The children all had to have their own USA passports complete with custody papers… which to Xander’s distress also included him actually having to carry Willow’s death certificate (on the advice of the lawyer who tidied up Willow’s affairs) since apparently fathers ‘stealing’ children out of the country was still a concern.
The three little girls were organized with new pink sweaters and soft pants for their travel (courtesy of the lovely Noreen – and Clem whose contribution was to ‘ohh and ahhh’ and give them all hugs when they first presented dressed). Each had a different ‘Groove girl’ icon on the front and all had little pink backpacks with the matching icon. They all were allowed one soft toy, a favourite book, some special snacks (tubs of mixed sweets) and a special present that they were only to open when they were on the plane.
Their younger brothers were also in soft travel attire – though unlike their sisters, Noreen and insisted on one green and one purple outfit. They also had backpacks with a toy, book and two jars of their favourite baby jelly each, and they too had a present from Aunty Noreen and Uncle Clem (as their sisters kept reminding them).
Xander was looking positively grey, as was Nurse Susan by the time they waited in line to check in.
Margaret had been without Spike’s blood for three days by the time they got on the plane and was therefore listless and with a fever. Xander was terrified that they would not make it to England in time for either of them. Xander had been feeding Spike for the last month from his own veins to supplement the human blood now being all but force fed to him from a held bottle with teat, but Margaret had been draining him so much each time she fed he had no energy to even feel hungry. Something was still going terribly wrong.
The dear woman at the check in counter noted the wheelchair pre arranged by Nurse Susan, the tiny girl wrapped in a white blanket crying weakly and the distressed father.
The tired, handsome brunette handed over nine passports and the documents required to take the children with him, “I think you need this too… um…” he dug around in his bag for Willow’s death certificate.
The woman looked over the counter, only to spy three little girls, according to their passports, Maisy, Lucy and Sadie, all blinking wide green eyes at her while their dear little twin brothers tugged at their shirts that had been tucked into their pants by Nurse Susan. She noted the date of death of ‘Mother’ on the provided certificate… so many little ones and then this dear man’s wife had died only a few months ago! She read the aneurism note and excused herself to blow her nose, cursing herself for not wearing waterproof mascara.
As she dabbed the tissue under her eyes so as to avoid ‘smudging’, the pretty blonde attendant, Genine (herself a mother), watched the quiet easing of the two little boys onto their invalid uncle’s lap and sharing soft toys, and noted ‘William’s’ supreme effort to cover them with his soft travel blanket.
Genine observed Daniel and Sebastian snuggling down to sleep in the lap of someone who was obviously gravely ill and in the wheel chair but also much loved.
She went back to business, “Just a couple of quick things… and I know you are going to be asked this many times… but reason for travel?”
Xander’s well rehearsed answers went out the window and all he could manage was ‘Their mother died after, umm, Margaret, the little one, her first birthday… She… I’m sorry… um…” He had tears in his eyes as he nodded at the little one who was being cooled from her fever with a wet towel by a worried nurse and a tearful Xander tried to load the five cases onto the conveyor belt for weighing to distract himself. “Sorry… I will answer properly… just give me a moment…”
“It’s fine… so a family holiday then?” These were standard questions but the poor woman on check-in felt for the father.
Nurse Susan stepped in, her medical badge obvious on her lapel, “Not exactly, William suffers much the same syndrome as the dear love in my arms. We are hopeful that the research team and the facility at Oxford will actually hold perhaps relief, if not a cure. I am Nurse Susan Batzanis by the way… Hi… Just for your records… William will need assistance boarding etc, but I am here for both and will certainly be carrying Margaret. Sorry to just jump in there…”
Genine leaned forward over the desk and was touched to see the wide eyed little girls, the twin brothers now pushing up against the invalid William, and the nurse back to gently rocking the little girl in her arms. The woman also took in the father of the brood nodding his thanks to Susan before taking a moment to check on the friend in the wheelchair and whispering reassurance to the little girls. She made a quick decision. There was plenty of space in Business Class particularly downstairs. These folks had a continent then an ocean to cross before they got to their destination.
Xander was very worried when the woman smiled and said “One moment please” then took all their passports over to an officious looking supervisor at the ‘One world flyer’ desk, not sure if there was a problem with Spike’s or did they not have enough seats, or… or… Spike felt the worry and grabbed his hand holding on for dear unlife and looking apologetically at his dear partner. If they were unable to travel then he was resigned… he would feed Margaret until he was dust.
Xander flew back to the counter, “Yes?”
“My supervisor has agreed to upgrade your… ‘party’ to Business Class for the trip to the UK. We feel it is easier for us to manage and will be more comfortable for the children as the seats all recline to horizontal and the wheelchair access is so much easier. Also it means you will have access to our lounge as soon as you are through security.”
Xander could not fathom it… such kindness from a stranger?
“I… Um… Ghod! Thank you!!! How can we…”
Nurse Susan stepped forward again, “Bless you… indeed I’m sure my employer here” she touched a still highly emotional Xander on the arm, “will write to your airline regards you and your supervisor’s compassion and actions.” Even Susan was a little emotional, “This is just… so wonderful of you!”
Margaret reacted a little to the emotion charged moment and just as the airline worker saw the blonde in the wheelchair convulse a little weakly, she inhaled hard and felt quite tearful herself. Later, former flight attendant now ground staff, Genine would put it down to the early months of pregnancy, but for now, simply handed over boarding cards, directed them to security and the ‘club’ and put a special note against their entries regards ‘*Priority 1*. Nurse travelling with party, wheelchair and assistance required.’
Nurse Susan was wonderful. She had distracted the girls once in the airline club by taking them to the toilet, leading them to the free food and drinks provided, and then settling them to watch television. The boys had both simply crawled up and onto Spike’s chair again (with help), and now one was tucked under each arm snoozing against his cool form. Xander was holding the still listless Margaret but noted his lover, the boys heat alone was comfort. The trip would still be stressful but at least now… maybe… He pushed a micro-fibre travel rug over the sleeping pair and Spike again. It was comfort for all three.
They were assisted to the plane, and the seats were wide enough that two girls sat on one, Xander took Sadie (and various others during the flight) the boys were still happy to sit with Spike who had been lifted onto an aisle seat next to Xander, and Nurse Susan had Margaret in her lap. The children all behaved extremely well given the long day and were the girls were thrilled to get a little pack of crayons and a coloring book *and* a chocolate!
The attendants on the flight were more than accommodating. They asked if William needed to recline and to what angle, in the end his seat adjusted so he was lying comfortably but could still interact. Margaret’s bottle (containing some of the last of Willow’s milk) was heated to the body temperature, the children all provided with a meal almost immediately their settling, and Nurse and Xander attended as needed.
Xander managed half a serve of rice and teriyaki beef and a glass of Zinfandel then swapped Sadie for Margaret and reclined completely to sleep the rest of the way. It would be Nurse Susan’s turn to snooze on the next leg, for now she dealt with three little chatty girls who were busy charming the lovely male attendant Germaine with stories that were part fantasy and part true.
Flight attendant, Germaine was lovely, apparently listening very carefully then distracting them by showing them the television that ‘pops out of your seat!’ The squeals of delight that followed as he selected the cartoon channel and offered them each an ice cream was all he needed as a reward, but the grateful look on the Nurse’s face as she turned having just stood to check on the male invalid and the tiny girl in the father’s arms, melted him completely. She looked so tired, as had the father as they boarded.
Germaine had seen this before, AIDS/HIV ravaged families – it had been why he had left Oxfam in Kenya and applied for a ‘regular job’ back home. Xander woke around two hours into the flight and encouraged Susan to recline and sleep. Spike was still out for the count as were the boys and the rest of the plane was quiet, so he pushed the call button and asked for a cool drink.
It ended in a dialogue with Germaine that included their similar experiences in sub-Saharan Africa and the care of a sick loved ones (in Germaine’s case his dear brother whose death led to his ‘African experience’). Xander was appreciative of the young man’s company and all the more as a voice from the ‘executive bed’ said quietly, “Oi you lot, either quieten down or give a chap a bit of a tilt so’s ‘e can have his own two pennies…”
Germaine moved swiftly to assist and angled the pale invalid up a little with a “Can I get you anything?”
“Could go a triple scotch, single malt if ya c’n oblige – ta Mate.”
Germaine looked to Xander who simply shrugged and smiled. As he excused himself to fulfil the request, the attendant didn’t miss Xander reaching over and gently stroking the other man’s cheek then kissing his hair. This was certainly no ‘ordinary’ family. He had already talked to Nurse Susan briefly and knew that the children’s mother was this ‘Xander’s’ best friend for life and the mother of his children, but it was obvious that he had lived another life outside that partnership. Sometimes life demands that… Germaine watched Xander with the little ones and felt for him even more.
In the end their flight was *very* easy, the girls had watched television then snoozed for the four hours, the boys and Margaret the same. Though the youngest cried pitifully and was fed another of her mother’s dwindling supply as they descended in order that her ear pressure might adjust.
Xander knew, Spike hadn’t eaten for twelve hours at least and they still had another leg of their flight and a car ride before the coven.
The children were handed all sorts of little extras as they moved to leave the plane, Sadie Maisie and Lucy all hugged Germaine and the other nice lady who had handed them ice creams in Uncle Clem time honoured fashion. The boys hand in hand, and ushered by the Nurse, simply waved shyly but took the sugar banana and small water bottles offered, with a smile. Margaret was (thankfully) asleep, as was an almost whitish/grey Spike as they departed the plane.
At the last moment Germaine stopped Xander. “I’ll arrange something for you guys OK? Just … hold on once you are through customs, or whatever and get them to call the airline.”
The line in security was (again) long but the wheelchair and nature of their party saw them in the line for only twenty minutes or so. The airline had rung through and identified the group as ‘priority – medical’. The wheelchair was searched manually and the scanner for all their little backpacks and bags revealed nothing of concern. To Spike’s embarrassment, as his wheelchair was examined he needed help, and was lifted up and forward by his dear Xander resulting in a few tears on his lover’s shoulder. He would feed the little Margaret tonight by hook or by crook… but knew that if that was the case then even standing supported in his lover’s arms might no longer be possible.
Other than that little incident, however, their passage through the passport check for international travellers was reasonably easy. The blonde was obviously so pale and in need of care, that all questions were directed to Xander who again gave up Willow’s death notice and the custody papers for all the children then politely answered all the questions.
“Reason for travel?”
Xander paused, looked at the children beside him and the wheelchair.
“Well… I guess … family”
“Specifically?” The rather officious customs officer seemed to have missed the memo re looking over the counter!
Xander was becoming more than stressed but Spike grabbed his hand and pushed his chair forward. He was so positively thin, grey and obviously ill that it was all but an imbecile who could not tell the reason. Once again the tiny Margaret was being towelled down by Nurse Susan and held close as she too suffered.
Spike rallied enough to rasp out “Friend here’s takin’ me home ‘n if we’re lucky… I’ll survive long enough to see…” Spike could not continue as for some reason he began coughing violently enough to leave blood on the blanket… he remembered his mother doing that… it was when he sent for Dr Gull… again. How ironic if he were to succumb to a similar ailment in the end. “… the little ‘un cured… of course!”
The officiousness suddenly dropped and the older customs officer stamped all their passports, handed back Xander the official papers he was forced to carry and said with a compassionate smile, “I hope you have a successful trip.” Then was charmed by the happy smiles of three little girls and waves from the boys who were now back in Spike’s lap for ‘speedy ambulation reasons.
The big bag full of ‘pull up’ nappies and regular ones for the boys and Margaret, and their emergency bottles and was hung over the back of Spike’s chair and they were waved through.
Luckily they did not have to move into sunlight at any point, sadly there was a three hour delay due to severe storms, but they were in the airline club and with a quiet word to staff, bottles were heated for them and the lounge suites more than adequate for the small children to sleep on, which they were encouraged to do. Food was had then naps ensued – although dark haired Sadie refused to settle and wandered around chatting to other bemused guests – finally finding a youngster her age from Germany. The mother smiled widely and let the little girl babble away to her son – who did likewise in German… there was no need for understanding really, and as soon as the crayons and colouring book from Sadie’s previous leg came out, scribbles and odd four year old drawings came to the fore. The rather voluptuous brunette mother nodded politely to Xander who came searching for the little girl and was looking decidedly stressed. She hadn’t missed the triplets and twins combination – nor the ill two he was accompanying.
Xander simply took an old lesson from Spike (in the more lucid moments insisting he should learn other languages) and said, “Fielen Dank Fraulein.”
The pretty woman brightened, “Aber du Deutch gespricht!” She jumped up and held out her hand “Ich bin Mariella und du?”
Xander dropped all attempts and simple replied, “Ich bin Xander, Guten… oh goodness I really don’t speak German… so…”
Marielle switched easily to English, “But it was nice of you to try. Your daughter is very friendly.”
Xander was suddenly both humbled and at ease for the first time in the trip. “Yes she’s a bit of a people person, have to get myself a big gun when she’s older.”
Marielle looked momentarily worried until he quickly added “For the boyfriends of course… ummm just kidding!” Marielle looked decidedly relieved then smiled.
After that there was a relaxed talk with not just Marielle but also her husband Andras – much around the topic of the European Union and their ‘take’ on its effects. But gradually the other children rose, toddled over and soon their son Stathis had more than enough playmates.
It wasn’t until Nurse Susan came through, a sleeping girl in arms, and tapped Xander gently, that the couple from Aachen remembered that there were at least six not five children in the family.
The nurse whispered something into Xander’s ear before he turned back to them… “Excuse me for a minute, are you OK with… I just need to see to… my ummm...”
The couple nodded – the children were all happily playing and the nurse stayed, with sadly, an obviously ill little girl.
Xander rushed to his partner’s side. Spike was panting a little, unnecessary for a vampire but reflective of his condition.
Xander was furious and desperately worried all at once, “You fed her again didn’t you!!?”
It was a laboured slow voice, almost monotone and for Xander, far too like Willow in her last days, “’Course I did you bloody twonk… Little Miss was wanin’ can’t have” he coughed hard again, took a moment then continued, “can’t have that…”
Xander didn’t fail to note. The skin on the arms had lines reflecting his *real* age, the dullness in those normally crystal blue eyes spelt ‘end’ and the apparent inability to fall into game face – even when presented with his claimant’s neck, spelt the last trip to dust.
Xander was desperate, “Just hold on… please Spike… look!” He grabbed a plastic knife from the food table (metal implements having been banned since the terrorist scare) and dragged it roughly across his wrist. It would leave a nasty scar but that was of little concern now.
Spike had, unseen to the rest of the family and even the Nurse, fed Margaret again and was now so drained that he was hardly able to latch on to an open cut. He sucked at the wound site two or three times then released exhausted.
Within minutes, the call for their flight occurred and a motorised vehicle was waiting for the family – the airline had come through once again.
Xander once again slept on the flight. Spike too slept – both men happy to host some little ones on their seat and the hostess of the moment, Rhonda, more than willing to assist whenever needed.
Nanny Susan stayed awake for a time but eventually she too succumbed to sleep. The advantage of the business class seats allowing her to tuck Margaret, Lucy all in with her, the others were in the bed next to them, two girls opposite, and their father hugging his partner close, petting him until Spike slept.
At the other end of the trip they had little problem, it was midnight as they arrived. They were asked questions at immigration and documents produced, and before the exhausted Xander could register that all was well, all the passports were stamped and they were directed to the ‘green’ door.
A trolley of luggage and wheelchair accompanied the group and Xander almost collapsed when he saw the two young coven members with a sign ‘Xander and Family’ standing at the end of the exit ready to welcome them.
Spike was again near comatose, and Margaret crying weakly – both for associated but different reasons. Thankfully the ‘hire-bus for twelve’ had a wheelchair lift, even so Xander worried … again.
Kalia and Jon managed to drive them safely to the coven… but as Margaret was carried inside, someone from the coven whispered “Willow’s children”, and the magical headquarters experienced an enormous blast of magic and associated draining that had every wiccan on their knees and the resident watchers likewise as Margaret took what she needed.
Margaret looked decidedly better, but Spike was unconscious and, leaving the children to be cared for by Susan and the coven, Xander grabbed his too light lover from his wheelchair, cradled him against his body and yelled “Please!!! He needs blood!! And… *help*!”
Kaila struggled up and simply said “This way… Mistress Lilliana will know what to do.”