Title: Swan Lake
Archived at: http://www.livejournal.com/tools/memories.bml?user=rngrdead
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.
Spike let himself out as quietly as possible, and noted that light from the library was still on and spilling into the hallway as though an invitation.
Giles looked up from the book he was reading, promptly marked the page of the leather bound tome and placed it on the side table by the burgundy Chesterfield lounge on which he was seated.
Pulling his glasses off and rubbing his eyes for a moment with his free hand, he stood and then gestured toward a comfortable reading chair opposite.
“Do have a seat Spike. Drink?”
“Don’t mind if I do. Taa.” He sat heavily reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his cigarettes. “Do you mind?”
“Of course not, though I doubt many of the coven would appreciate the additional odor.”
“Right you are then.” Spike smiled ruefully but returned the packet to his pocket before Giles handed him a generous serve of single malt whiskey in a heavy crystal tumbler then, pouring one for himself, returned to his position on the leather couch.
Spike gave Giles a small salute with his glass then relaxed back in his chair as the old Watcher did likewise then sipped his drink, placed it gently on the broad arm rest of the couch and stared at the glass and its contents, twisting it contemplatively. Spike took a gulp of the liquor, appreciating its quality and the burn as it went down.
“I take it you two spoke.”
“Could say that. Though I reckon ‘twas me did most of the listenin’.” Spike unconsciously mimicked Giles’ action with his glass. “Boy seems to have had quite the time of it, but figure you know the details.”
“Yes, well at least the gist of it. We had his reports and what information we could glean from allied organizations, and of course his doctors have kept us informed where appropriate. I must say it strikes me as unusual for Xander to converse for such a long period, with anyone, particularly voluntarily as it were.”
“Yeah? Well I expect a neutral pair of ears and friend of old… at least comrade in arms… that sort of thing, brings out the reminiscing side of most of us. Still not clear on aught but his last trip to the dark continent, and gotta say if that was typical ‘tis no surprise he went a little sack’o hammers.”
“Good Lord?! He described his time there? In how much detail? What were the specifics of the shootings? How did he make it back to the UN base? Spike you are the first person... ”
Spike interjected as he processed the questions and the utter surprise being expressed, realizing suddenly that Xander had confided in him where he very well may not have done so to any other being to date.
“Hold your horses, Rupert. Boy’s in a bad way, c’n spot that a mile away. Even asked me to off him an’ I was barely in the door.”
“He what?! Surely you didn’t…?” Giles looked about to explode and made to stand, but stilled as Spike raised his free hand and fixed him with a rather angry glare.
“Oi! Don’t do that any more! Least not to thems as don’t deserve it, an’ certainly not a chap, no, friend of old, in such a bad way. No, boy needed to get a few things off his chest, private like. Reckon he figured I wouldn’t judge, maybe even understand more ‘n your lot. Least ways, he took me into his confidence, and much as I would like to divulge all the gory details, I don’t see as it would help at this point.”
Giles looked as though he was about to argue, then slumped back into his chair defeated. Spike noted how tired, worried and old the man appeared all of a sudden. “Yes, indeed. It just seems that he has made very little progress beyond acknowledging his disorder and complying with treatment suggestions. I fear he spends a great deal of time disengaged from other people unless prompted. Though I must say he does still show an interest in his woodwork and, according to his psychiatrist, has been writing a fictional story of some sort, though I confess he refuses to let me read it.”
Spike forewent sipping his drink, instead downing the remaining contents of his glass and moving to the sideboard to provide himself a refill. He turned, glass in hand, studied Giles profile for a moment, and ventured a question that had been bothering him since the trip from the airport.
“So just to get some things straight. You lot all walked away from Sunnydale and parted company. Some with the dark slayer and Nikki’s boy Robin,” Spike couldn’t help the slight growl as he uttered the name but quickly composed himself and continued. “You, Red and the rest of the new slayers came here and set up the new Watchers’ Council, Buffy and Dawn headed for Italy, so what did Harris do? Ponce Andrew made no mention of him in his hilarious visit to LA – or even after, in Italy. Though I can’t say I asked, we were sort of preoccupied at the time.”
“Yes, well, Andrew did make mention in his rather overly florid reports that you had met on several occasions, though the topics of discussion were hardly his focus. Damned boy. I should make mention that he has developed into rather good Watcher, despite, or perhaps because of, his overly ‘enthusiastic’ approach. No, Xander didn’t come with us. He bade us farewell at LA airport and the next time we saw him was almost eighteen months later, here, volunteering his services.”
“He give a reason?”
“I take it, he had used the time to locate his parents who had settled in the outskirts of Sacramento courtesy of the ‘Disaster Fund’ set up for former Sunnydale residents. From what he’s told me, he was welcomed and offered lodgings with them, but preferred to strike out on his own. He’s divulged little about the remainder of his time in the US, other than he was gainfully employed in construction somewhere in Washington DC before venturing here.”
“So what? He turns up and your lot just decide to throw him back in harms way for the greater good?”
“Quite the contrary, Spike. He stayed here at the coven, indeed it was he who project-managed the renovation of the stables in exchange for free board, and as soon as it was finished, indicated he wanted to be more heavily involved in the workings of the Council, particularly the retrieval of young Slayers. His penchant for the outdoors, desire to travel – in particular Africa for reasons unknown to me – made him an obvious choice as field operative in that region. We assigned him one of our most level headed, French speaking, young Slayers, Francis Litand, an Algerian national. They were a perfect team it seemed. Xander made no indication that he was under too much pressure, or that his task, though often quite difficult and dangerous, was beyond him (or rather them).
“Indeed the man proved our most effective Watchers on the ground as it were, even making valuable contacts in various NGOs and as a consequence even became a trusted friend of a number of highly placed members in UN Peacekeeping circles. His reports were always succinct and to the point, and only mentioned the challenges involved in locating and transferring the young Slayers when it pertained to their ongoing wellbeing. It was Francis who flagged his distress and arranged his return after two years in the field.”
Spike returned to his chair, placing his glass on one of the brocaded arms and twisted it around, swirling the amber liquid and contemplating the information in the somewhat comfortable silence that ensued.
Giles finally finished his own drink, and stood stiffly to replenish his glass, standing at the sideboard for rather too long. With decanter in hand, and back to Spike, he ventured, “I must say I was surprised by your interest in his welfare, Spike.”
Spike looked up as the Watcher turned to look hard at him, as though suspicious of his motives. The blonde vampire was unsurprised by the scrutiny. The old watcher and he had never really had a ‘comfortable’ relationship, more of a truce in the last days of Sunnydale. Standing in front of the wall of bound books, glass in hand, face lit only by the small table lamp, Spike fancied he saw some of the ‘Ripper’ in the stare, before tiredness and worry replaced it.
“Dunno really. Had intended to head back over the drink, give Angel’s lad some space, not that we didn’t get on mind, a right champ he is. It was you as mentioned the boy, and I just figured - friend in need, fellow fighter for the good ‘n all that - might be able to lend a hand. But if I’m not wanted, got plenty of places to be…” Spike shifted abruptly in his chair as though to move, but Giles staid him with a wave of his hand and returned to his chair sitting heavily.
“That’s hardly what I implied Spike. Indeed it seems, since Xander has taken you into his confidence already, that you may well have the ability to draw him out, just as I thought you might.” Giles paused, returned to his seat and then continued, “I must confess to being rather at a loss as to what more to do for him. It was most fortuitous that you called when you did, as I really must attend to some pressing family matters near Bristol, and intend visiting the Glastonbury Coven and our Cardiff Watchers’ Group whilst down that way. It may take a several of weeks.
“I am afraid Xander seemed decidedly reticent to accompany me, and I don’t believe languishing at length here at the coven is a particularly good option at this juncture. There is the option of returning to hospital, of course, but discussions with his doctors indicate that this may merely reinforce his current state of mind.”
Spike frowned at the last statement, “Yeah well, boy’s not an invalid. Just seems a bit lost is all. What’s wrong with the rest of the gang? I thought they’d be happy to have him tag along.”
“They have all offered, but the only sign of anything approaching interest was the suggestion that you might be willing to show him around London. I understand from our previous conversations that you have business to attend to and I thought it may be an opportunity for Xander to…”
“Play sidekick? Hardly think he’s take to that… What’s to say I wouldn’t drain him or some such? Still a vampire remember?”
“Spike, I am, that is we, at the Council, are well aware of your status as both ensouled and champion for the good as it were, though I must say it was somewhat of a shock to find you had survived final showdown causing the demise of the Wolfram and Hart LA branch. All our initial reports indicated that you fought by Angel’s side and that there were no survivors, though in retrospect it should have been unsurprising news, given your emergence after Sunnydale and apparent ability to survive all manner of misfortune both prior and post. It was only really recently we were delivered the information regarding the precise location and circumstances of Angel’s somewhat human son, and established conclusively that you had found your way to him.”
Spike was on his feet and snarling in full game face inches from Giles nose before the man even registered him moving. “You bloody well keep your mitts off the boy! Connor’s a right champion, worth ten times the lot of you, and some! He’s got smarts, and opportunities and a heart bigger than bloody Texas, and he doesn’t need your lot – or anyone else besides - dabblin’ in his affairs. You got me *Rupert*? Not now. Not ever! You. F#@%in’. Steer. Clear! Understood?!”
To his credit, Giles replied with a rather contrite, “Perfectly, thank you.”
Spike growled threateningly but then pushed back, returned to his seat, took a deep breath and shook off his vampiric features with difficulty, and pulled out his cigarettes. He extracted one, lit up without asking permission, and inhaled long and hard all the while glaring at the rather rattled man opposite. Finally the vampire seemed to calm and sat back, “Well?”
“I’m sorry? Well what?”
“What *other* little tidbits did your ‘sources’ tell you about me that you haven’t bothered to mention?”
“Well, put simply: that you were cohabiting with Connor until your recent trip; that you had somewhat of the status of popular visiting academic amongst some of Connor’s peers, or should I say, fellow students of the History department; that you have managed to keep a reasonably low profile since the fracas in LA; and that you and Connor appear to be two of the most adaptable, loyal and resilient individuals on this planet, both unique in your own right yet sharing a common vampiric family and all that entails, frankly in ways I struggle to begin to even comprehend.”
Spike relaxed a little as he realized the a few apparent, yet notable, gaps in the Watcher’s information. In particular, his ability to walk in the sun; his and Connor’s regular patrolling and sparring together; the welcome and acceptance of him by Connor’s adoptive family in the US; and his planned trip to Zurich sometime in the next month to source some long untouched Aurelian ‘investments’ still at Credit Suisse headquarters. Rather than volunteering any of that information, he chose that moment to steer the conversation back to the matter of Xander.
“Alright then… That out of the way, reckon we sort the arrangements for the whelp.”
He dropped the remainder of his cigarette deliberately into his all but empty glass and paused as thought considering his options. He had already decided to help Xander in whatever way he could, and if that meant letting to bloke tag along for a while then well and good. After all the boy had taken him in when he was at his lowest, albeit begrudgingly, first with the chip, then post soul, and they had been friends there at the end.
Spike had to admit seeing Xander so defeated earlier had shaken him to the core, but equally puzzling, and perhaps pleasing, was the man’s willingness to trust him with a story he had chosen not to share even with those he was closest to. He acknowledged that his inner William, his soul, was more than willing to help a friend in need, particularly one who was so obviously suffering for reasons he understood well. If Giles needed to be rid of the boy for a few weeks there was no harm in taking the boy on, particularly as he intended to do as much before he even set foot in the library.
The antique long case clock in the hallway sounded its midnight gong as if on cue. “Seems a bit late for a trip back to London. Reckon I could doss here and convince the boy of the move by tomorrow afternoon? I assume there’s room for two in that Soho place of yours?”
A wave of what could only be described as relief washed over Giles’ features and he smiled for the first time since Spike had arrived. “Yes, yes of course. I had planned to stay here, and we have a spare room set up for you on the second floor – it’s sparse but clean and has only one small north facing window to worry about. I’m sure Xander will agree to our suggestion if put in terms of the greater good of the coven, my Watcher duties, and ongoing concern for his welfare.”
Standing and gesturing toward the door and Spike’s minimal luggage, Giles added, “I’ll show you to your room shall I?”
They walked in silence to a well appointed room both caught up in similar thoughts. The Watcher quietly pleased and relieved that Spike had agreed to take on Xander, and confident that the man would be well cared for by the, for all his bluster to the contrary, tender hearted and trustworthy vampire. Spike contemplated the immediate future with Xander in tow, in truth, happy at the turn of events. He did not do well alone, that he knew. At the same time admitting to himself that he had always admired the boy’s bravery in the face of near impossible situations, and resolved that he would restore at least a little of the good humored fire in Xander’s eyes, somehow.
Spike dumped his bag just inside the door and turned to find Giles had extended his hand. He met it with his own and shook it politely rather surprised when the greying gent said, “I am glad you are here, Spike.”
Spike was about to reply but was cut off as the Watcher dropped the handshake and turned adding, “There is blood in the cooler by your bed. I expect you’ll be ready by early evening.”
Spike stared at the retreating back for a moment then closed the door.