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 slept the sleep of the extremely jetlagged, and was literally dead to the world until all that remained of daylight was the spectacular oranges, reds and pinks of early sunset. He found the bathroom three doors up from where he had slept; threw the four bags of AB-positive from the cooler into a basin of very warm water and showered for long enough have gained a decent body temperature.
He pulled on his travel clothes with a measure of distaste, but was unwilling to unpack anything until happily ensconced in the Soho flat.
Xander was already perched on what appeared to be a very battered backpack by the library door as Spike descended the stairs. He was staring at the hallway carpet runner as though it held all the answers to the universe, either that or wishing it would open up a hole into which he might disappear, regardless he failed to even acknowledge the vampire’s arrival until Spike’s boots came within his line of sight.
“Giles will be along in a minute. He said he’s just got a phonecall or two to make before we leave.” Spike would have missed the message had he not been blessed with vampire hearing, and tried unsuccessfully to gauge Xander’s mood beyond simple dejection. He stood for a moment then tilted his head to the side audibly sniffed and replied “Right then” before placing his own bag beside the ex-Scoobie and sitting on it like fashion.
They waited in companionable silence for a time, Spike focusing his attention on the library and the one-way dialogue in the various calls Giles was making. After twenty minutes or so the light in the office was switched off and the jeans clad Watcher appeared at the door laptop bag and small suitcase in hand.
“Sorry to keep you, I just had some things to tidy up before we departed. I take it you are both ready?”
Spike stood and offered a hand to Xander who looked up with surprise but accepted the assistance without comment, rising stiffly. “Right you are. Lead on ‘Jeeves’.”
Giles gave the blonde a hint of a smile before gesturing toward the front door, “The car is just around the side of the building. It’s open so you can put your luggage in the boot, I’ll just say my farewells to Mistress Carlotta I’ll be with you momentarily.”
Xander lifted his backpack and slung it over one shoulder with an “Umph”, tucked what appeared to be a rather full, soft briefcase under the other arm, took hold of the handle on Giles’ suitcase with the other, and proceeded out the front door without comment. Spike watched him go but paused before following him and whispered loud enough for only Giles to hear, “Boy OK with all this?”
“I believe so Spike. That is to say, he didn’t object to the arrangement.” Giles fished out an envelope from the back pocket of his jeans and handed it to the blonde, “Here’s all my contact details and dates of my movements… and some emergency numbers just in case…”
“Taa, ‘though I’m sure we’ll be fine. Now go say your cheerios and let’s be away. This much female white magic in one place is enough to make a bloke right twitchy.”
The trip from the coven in Surrey to the London flat was done in relative silence, at least on Xander’s part. The young man stared dispassionately out the window as the nighttime hedged laneways and fields gave way to darkened silver birch forests then more and more built up areas. Giles had the BBC 2 playing quietly on the radio, ‘easy listening’ music with intermittent chat from a perky host, certainly not Spike’s first choice, but he made no comment.
As they pulled onto the A3 merge by the edge of a large common and the traffic became heavier, Spike took out his cigarettes and lit up, winding down his window at the rather disapproving sideways glance from Giles.
“Haven’t been this way since the mid 60s, got bored of scruffy blokes in narrow ties ‘n tired trilbys, twead skirts ‘n twin sets, ‘n too many two-up-two-downs. Dru ‘n me much preferred to be in the thick of it ‘round the West End, not much changed there…” Spike trailed off as he realized that continuing that trip down memory lane led nowhere good. Instead he pointedly took a long drag on his cigarette, blew the smoke out the window and changed the subject as they approached the Thames. “What’s with the C’s on the road?”
“It’s the Congestion Charge, an attempt to discourage people from driving into the central city. We’re after 6pm so the ten pound fee doesn’t apply. I must say it has made a marked difference.” Giles went on to expound the improvements to public transport and comment on various familiar landmarks en route to their destination in Soho. Spike glanced back at Xander and caught his eye at last and, noting the slight bemusement on the young man’s face, gave him a wry smile and rolled his eyes. He was relieved to see Xander give a silent snort and the hint of a real grin before the young man attention back out the window.
After winding through a number of narrow one way streets, they found themselves parked a short distance from a fairly non descript red brick four story building standing on a corner opposite a small, well manicured park.
Giles led them to the rather stylish entrance beside the shop front on the ground floor then up a set of stairs to the fourth floor landing. Opening the third door on the right, he ushered them in to an obviously recently refurbished, well appointed, living space with the customary, “Well here we are. I’m sure you’ll find everything in order.”
Xander dropped his pack in the middle of the lounge area and moved to stand and stare rather dispondantly through the large south-facing window, while Giles began to give Spike a brief tour of their temporary abode.
The small kitchen to the left of the entrance was well appointed, with black marble surfaces and ultra modern stainless steel appliances. Spike opened cupboards and draws at random, familiarizing himself and was surprised to note that someone had stocked the place with basic supplies to suit both new occupants. Giles caught the vampire’s look of surprise as the fridge door was eased closed, and pointed to a business card on the end of the pristine workbench.
“I wasn’t sure of your immediate plans but took the liberty of ordering you a week’s supply of… yes well I’ve left the details by the phone over there. It’s the local ‘off-license, just ask for the proprietor Sahil, he’s a nice chap and very accommodating when it comes to his more ‘unusual’ clientele.” Giles spared a glance toward Xander, who remained with his back to the room, then gestured toward the glass and pine, ‘floating’ staircase leading to the mezzanine level. “If you follow me I’ll show you to the guest rooms upstairs, I’m afraid the bedroom on this level has been rather taken over by the need for an office-come-library space, though if you prefer I can always fold out the couch in there.”
The upper level consisted of a wide sitting area with a waist high white balcony allowing a view down to the living room and giving the whole flat an airy, spacious feel. The two moderately sized bedrooms were separated by a shared bathroom and on the opposite side of the sitting area to the stairs, an upper walkway led to a glass door and open south-facing balcony, complete with seating and potted plants.
Spike took a quick peek into both bedrooms, identical but for the designs on the bedlinen, admired the ultra modern bathroom, and wandered out to the balcony followed by Giles. The view of the well-lit public park below was pleasant even at night, and the area itself seem very quiet despite being so close to restaurant, shopping and theatre precincts. He patted his pockets, pulled out his cigarettes shook one from the pack and offered it to Giles, who, to Spike’s surprise, accepted. Lighting his own then passing the silver Zippo® to Giles, he exhaled his first puff skyward and waved his hand back toward the door, “Must say, all this… seems a might high end modern for a Watcher’s digs, I would ‘ave thought.”
Giles mimicked Spikes action with his own plume of smoke, and answered after a thoughtful pause, “Yes well… strictly speaking this is, in fact, my private residence when in London. I do have other interests outside the Council, in particular, my own business matters.
“When my cousin George passed away before the final Sunnydale debacle, certain circumstances transpired and rather forced my hand regarding this property. The building itself was being updated, and as it was now mine via George’s will, it seemed both prudent and timely that I invest in the internals of the space. It is certainly far more convenient, and significantly more private than either the Coven or the Watchers’ council accommodations. I no doubt expect you will find it adequate for your purposes.” Giles concluded with a cautiously curious look in the vampire’s direction.
The blonde continued to smoke apparently lost in thought, but eventually butted out the cigarette in the dirt surrounding the nearest potted palm and answered the implied question. “Pretty sure the whelp ‘n meself‘ll do just fine here. Appreciated the offer when you first said it a month or so back, ‘n nothin’s changed with that. Reckon I’ll get done what needs doin’ and wing the rest. ‘N don’t you go frettin’, any sign of real trouble - I’ll have the boy to safety in a flash, with you the first to know - Cliff notes ‘n the works.”
As Giles reached down to put out his cigarette in the same pot as Spikes, his only reply was, “Yes, of course… Perhaps we should see to Xander now. I really must be off soon if I’m to reach Bristol before midnight.”
The Watcher departed after several reassurances regards Xander’s state of ease and promises of regular contact; a manly, if a little awkward, hug with the brunette; and a handshake and nod of understanding between he and the boy’s vampire carer.
As soon as the front door closed, Spike marched over to the forgotten luggage, picked up Xander’s pack and shoved it into his arms. “Right you go get yourself sorted upstairs – pick either room, ‘m not fussed. I’ll be down here rustling us up a snack.” He pushed Xander toward the stairs and turned his attention to the kitchen, pulling open the fridge to retrieve two beers, a couple of bags of blood and loaf bread. Pulling some pristine white crockery from the cupboard he yelled, “Hope you’re partial to toast and tomato soup, we’ll go for a real shop tomorrow.”
By the time Xander came down, the television was on and supper was waiting on the coffee table. Though little was said until they bade each other goodnight, there was a gradual but noticeable easing of tension between the two, and both males retired to their rooms around midnight, decidedly happier than when they had arrived.
Xander slept solidly until the call of nature permeated a rather scrambled forgettable dream. He woke rather disorientated, not helped by the battery of unfamiliar smells, city traffic noises and a very white bedroom ceiling.
Untangling from the sheets took a moment or two, remembering where he was and the way to the bathroom took a little longer, though he did manage to pick up some fresh boxers and his toiletries bag en route. His morning ablutions were completed at a leisurely pace with a deliberate effort to plan some quiet indoor activities for the day, in essence, time browsing online to familiarize himself with the Soho area and possibly beyond. At least, as much as was possible without actually venturing out, or most particularly, confronting the new environment solo.
He wasn’t fearful exactly and at least here he had a decent rationale. Spike was here with him and wouldn’t appreciate him wandering off alone on their first day in London; it was already late morning so by the time he ate and settled there would only be a few hours until the vampire woke; he could sit on the balcony later as it would be bathed in sunshine for most of the afternoon, assuming the weather held; and he was just a bit unsure of… well... anyway… Staying in? Definitely of the good and he proceeded to do just that.
Brunch consisting of toast with butter and jam, accompanied by two fresh bananas, his medications and an enormous mug of good filter coffee, was taken in front of a rather none descript morning chat show on the television. True to his initial plan, he followed up with some rather random online browsing and another coffee before venturing up and out onto the balcony. Settling in for what was to be a few hours, he rearranged outdoor chairs and table until his body was stretched in the sun, feet up, and everything else he might need (novel, laptop, sunscreen, water bottle and bowl of crisps) was within easy reach.
Spike woke around two in the afternoon, but remained in bed for a few long minutes worrying a little about the inevitable revealing of his now sun proof state to Xander. After a minor internal debate, long hot shower and liquid breakfast, he decided on the ‘no wait - no fuss’ approach.
Seconds later, sunscreen and dark glasses applied, and book (chosen at random from Giles’ collection) in hand, he wandered up the stairs and out to join his old friend in the sun.
Xander was dozing seated with feet up on another chair and his face pointed directly at our Lady Sun. He didn’t notice Spike’s presence beside him at first, but clearly heard the whispered, “Need to tell you a secret, pet. Might be only one of many you’ll know soon enough, but this is important. Can you spare a moment for a mate here?”
Spike steeled himself and waited as Xander blinked his good eye open.