Rating: Mature Audiences – for content and themes
Summary: Xander has PTSD after rescuing one too many slayers. Spike is recovering (sort of) after the battle with W&H. Fate may have it they eventually find each other - she's funny that way.
Spoilers: Sometime in early season five – or possibly late six BtVS.
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.
On the second week of his stay, Xander was feeling decidedly better once more. It was early evening just after dinner and he was again writing at his small desk, intermittently gazing out the window that this time faced only toward a quiet street. Dr Hokin was a little late but Xander was unworried. His latest story was about a certain blonde vampire, one he had come to respect, like even there at the end of Sunnydale, one whose good looks were undeniable, presence bigger than life, and loyalty to those he protected (Xander included) demonstrated time and again.
Xander rubbed his good eye, the one Spike had saved then tried again to describe what he imagined Spike would have been like as a human. After writing the same paragraph three times, each time feeling it was inadequate, he decided more research into Victorian England would perhaps assist.
He had only a vague idea of the lifestyle of a middle class gent of the era, and most of that via period pieces on television and the occasional movie. He already had notes jotted further down, memories of discussions with Spike about his past, anything he could recall about Spike’s ‘softer side’, snippets from Dawn and Buffy, and his own ideas regards a storyline. It was not really an attempt to write a biography, just a baseline from which to start. He’d attempted a similar story for Anya, but ultimately abandoned it after only three chapters after realizing how rather inadequately he truly knew his now dead former fiancée.
A quiet knock on the door signaled the arrival of his psychiatrist. He hit save and stood.
“Evening Xander. How are we today?”
“Fine I guess.”
Dr Hokin dragged the guest chair closer to the window and sat down. Xander turned his chair to face the doctor and did likewise. “Same story?”
“No, kind of had writer’s block and… anyway. It’s only a draft. I kind of need to do some research for this one, so I’ll kind of have to wait until I can get onto the net.”
“Hmmm. Have you been sleeping since we stopped the Sonata pills?”
“Yeah, I suppose.”
Xander snorted, “Could say that…”
“So themes still the same?”
“If you’re talking death and mayhem, less, or at least not real memories… some falling from things - buildings that sort of stuff. A weird one of flying where I couldn’t seem to get down no matter how hard I tried, the rest I just don’t really… they’re too confusing.”
“I wouldn’t worry too much if they are confusing. If you get any emotion or theme from them you might still find them informative. Try to write down anything you remember straight after you wake. We can talk through them when I visit again Friday if you like.”
Xander stared down at his hands for a minute, frowned then said in a small voice, “I kind of want to ask you something… something kind of odd.”
Hokin smiled, in all their sessions it was the first time Xander had really ventured a question without prompting, it was progress of sorts. “Of course, go ahead.”
“Well, it’s kind of… I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror yesterday, I had the light off, ‘cause… anyway I, kind of… I just kind of disappeared… not I mean, literally. There was still someone there but it just didn’t… I sort of couldn’t recognize me… as me… I was just gone, someone else was there not me… I’m not making any sense, don’t worry about it.”
Dr Hokin frowned just a little then schooled his features back to neutral. “Has it happened before?”
“Yeah, but not for as long. Used to happen a bit when I was… away… in the field. Figured it was just ‘cause I was by myself a lot and too much in my head. So it can’t be that right?”
“Did you feel any particular emotion? At the time, or after?”
The doctor noted Xander begin to nervously roll and unroll his the hem of his sweatshirt as his patient stared at the floor again.
Answering almost in a whisper, “Lost, alone, not there, nowhere… I kind of lifted my hand up, but it wasn’t mine… I dunno really… then I kind of came back… And I kind of felt… um… sick, afraid that… Well what if it really happens and I can’t come back? What then? It’s crazy I know… but I want to be here, and *Me* not some freak nutcase who keeps scaring his friends, can’t recognize himself, and is no good to anyone… and I’m, you know… drugs and it’s better… But it’s always me but maybe not, the one with the responsibility, the one who gets them killed because I’m not fast enough or smart enough… and they die not me… but if I’m not there anymore then… that’s why I guess…” He had raised his voice gradually as he tried his best to explain… but trailed off at the last part, “I guess that’s why I’m here and they’re… not… anymore. I just… so many times it should have been me, and now I’m just a guy who needs a certificate to say he’s sane…” He trailed off.
Midway speech, tears began streaming down Xander’s cheeks from his good eye, and eventually oozed from the damaged tear duct of the scarred other as he finished.
Dr Hokin waited for the brunette to compose himself, quietly reaching for the tissue box on the desk and passing the man a couple, and was given a nod for his trouble.
“Xander, your responses are far from unusual to a combat situation, or any trauma per se, but I would like you to report if you have the sense of disassociation from yourself again. It would help you to understand and perhaps even resolve some of the underlying issues, to give the flashbacks causing you to panic some sort of context, a full storyline as it were, and may well aid in your recovery.”
After composing himself and listening, Xander nodded contritely, though not looking particularly convinced as he angled his eyes up to meet Jacob Hokin’s.
“So what now?”
“Now you stay for a little longer, keep up your writing, and when you return home, your woodwork, and we start to help you truly heal, to bring you to a sense of wholeness again. I won’t promise it will be easy or fix everything… just perhaps it will give you a starting base, yes?”
Xander felt empty and unsure but tried to meet his doctor’s eyes, to gauge the truth in the man’s words, then managed a small, “Yeah… OK.”
“Now I’m going to suggest you have another week here, we see how you are travelling and then discuss a release date you feel comfortable with.”
Xander let out a small sigh of relief and nodded once. The prospect of going home to the Watchers’ Council seemed an insurmountable task at the moment, but he knew he could not stay at the Delmont indefinitely, it was a security of sorts and one he needed right now.
“Now, I am going to leave you with some homework for Friday. Try to note down your dreams, document any more episodes of the kind you just described and do continue your exercise. I am also going to leave a prescription for meds on demand with the night nurse. I need not tell you that they are a last resort, but I do want you to feel confident that your sleep patterns are stable before you sign out. Agreed?”
The brunette mumbled his agreement, then answered more clearly, “Yeah… sure.”
The doctor stood to leave, “Right. Well I must be off, I’m afraid my partner will be terribly miffed if I don’t get home before 7.30 tonight, we’ve tickets to some live play or other.”
“Yeah… well… thanks… I, um… thanks.”
Dr Hokin smiled and departed the room. Xander slowly turned his chair back to the desk, contemplated writing some more, then decided a hot chocolate and mindless television in the common lounge was preferable.
Spike and Connor’s new abode was a relatively small but comfortable apartment in a back street within walking distance of Stanford, which was a blessing as far as Connor was concerned having become used to not having to worry about lengthy time in traffic or parking whilst living at the fraternity house on campus.
Spike was easy company, generally sleeping until well after his younger ‘sibling’ had departed, rising to watch some daytime television, play house boy to a degree and as the season changed to a sunny spring took to sitting on their small balcony reading on an iPad Connor had given him having recently upgraded to a more powerful laptop. Lately, if Connor had a late start, he would accompany the young man to the university and had taken to reading in the main Green Library, after Connor had managed to obtain him a library pass on the grounds he was his brother from England and graduate of Oxford (both technically true).
The Lane Reading room made a pleasant change from the apartment, and several of the library staff more than happy to help him search out some more obscure texts, even suggesting he visit the Classics Library and the Crown Law Library after establishing his broad interests.
Spike usually sported his trademark black jeans, T-shirt and his Doc Martin boots, but his duster that had been badly damaged in the final battle, was absent. Despite being repaired and cleaned, it simply hung in the wardrobe for old time’s sake. Now he wore a short, collarless, black biker jacket or very occasionally a knit sweater. He still sported short blonde curls, often leaving them softer with product rather than gel and perhaps better described as Nordic pale blonde rather than electric white.
Connor was surprised as to how easily Spike (aka: William) blended in to the university life, if only a few times a week. There was no pretense, yet he inevitably (at least of late) had at least two or three ‘in tow’ if ever he and Spike met for lunch. Whether they were library staff, post docs or young under graduates of literature seemed of little consequence.
And Spike (to his own surprise) reveled in it. Realizing belatedly that some of the joy was to do with his ability to enjoy the lady Sun.
The Stanford ‘Cafe’ became his occasional haunt. He affected an air of nonchalance and consequently, if he happened to ‘skim’ from one or two satisfied undergrads in ‘the mens’ it was a bonus. He knew how to thrall, not as well as his Drusilla, but enough that their odd marks on the neck, when felt by a passing stroke of the hand, sent a shiver of excitement straight to their groin. And many returned to engage the ‘fascinating young academic from overseas’ more than once.
By the summer break he had quite a following of undergraduates wanting to engage him in dialogue regards history, philosophy and all things European. Initially it was a couple of Connor’s friends who he had met at their apartment once or twice, but later groups of young women and men were drawn to the handsome blonde ‘academic’ from England who had an easy smile and was willing to debate topics they otherwise found rather dull, effortlessly adding a lively narrative to any discussion pertaining to the old cities of Europe, various wars, the English legal system and sometimes even the supernatural.
He and Connor sparred nightly, their fights increasingly faster and harder each time, and, of late, went out at night to ‘patrol’. An innocent enough word if it pertained to simply wandering the streets around their abode, but so much more when two progeny of the ‘Scourge of Europe’ was concerned. They rid the city of many low life demons, vampire nests, and all besides, and ‘had a right ol’ time of it’ according to Spike.
Connor was as vicious and swift to the kill as Spike, they had the habit of fighting back to back when outnumbered. It was thrilling for both individuals, more often than not both men finishing off their opposition and grinning maniacally at each other afterward almost disappointed that the tussle was over.
Six months later, as Connor embarked on his MBA (on scholarship again having passed with no less than nothing under a ‘High Distinction’), the younger Aurelian found himself surrounded by the University’s elite early one evening at their apartment, and watched with a sense of awe as Spike held his own in a discussion related to China in the era of the Boxer Rebellion and the social upheaval that had caused the same. It was the first of many soirees and the beginning of Spike’s desire to return to England at least for a time.