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 season five AtS – and possibly late seven 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.
Xander had barely said more than two words as they wound their way back home, stopping en route for takeaway at a small fried chicken shop that proudly claimed to sell the 'spiciest, niciest chicken in London'.
Spike let them both into the apartment, and had turned on the down lights, flicked the television on, cracked open two beers, and was seated on the couch nursing one before Xander had even closed the door behind himself.
He collected two plates from the kitchen on the way past and joined Spike at the low table. He spread out their moderate feast and served himself before collecting his beer and sitting back to eye the vampire a little warily. He knew something was bothering the blonde, but he wasn't quite sure if he was the problem or even what to ask, so took a swig of his beer instead.
Spike leaned over, snagged a chicken wing and took a bite. His eyebrows rose immediately, and after several chews and an obvious swallow declared, "Bloody hell! That shop wasn't kiddin'. Reckon there's a chilly farmer short a whole crop out there somewhere!"
Xander was about to laugh when the mouthful he had just bitten off, caused a similar reaction. "Holy c#$p that's hot!" was said around his half eaten morsel, then they both burst out laughing. The rest of the meal (and another two beers apiece) was consumed with gusto, albeit accompanied by various comments regarding possible alternative uses for such a potent spice mix, which quickly devolved into silliness on both partakers parts.
In the end they were sitting side by side on the lounge suite, stomachs happily full, and in a considerably happier mood than when they had first arrived home.
"So Harris, thought the deal was you tell me all about the ancient thingy on our way."
"Yeah, well I got kind of distracted." Xander sat up straight and turned to look seriously at Spike."Why did you leave me there Spike? You said you don't have to watch me all the time, and I've been doing OK I thought, so why go to all that trouble to get me out of the way? Look I know you never really liked me and all that but I thought we were friends so what is it? What aren't you telling me?"
Spike went over the day, and their previous conversations, and realized that there was a whole lot he hadn't told Xander, that he would *have* to tell him if they were to continue cohabiting. The worrying question was just how and how much. He did consider Xander a friend, and someone who had been through the mill more than once just like he had. In all honesty he had hoped... but...Would the boy even want to come along with him if there were parts of the vampire's past that Spike (and, in all honesty, the part of him that was still William) needed to face and resolve, and then move on? What did he want from Xander? For Xander? For them both? Was it too early in Xander's recovery? Or too late for his own? He'd promised to help, more than once, and he meant it. And he genuinely liked the boy. So now what?
Spike was silent for just a little too long for Xander's liking, but more than that, emotions he didn't understand warred in the handsome face before him. The vampire's crystal blue eyes were firmly focused on some spot amongst the detritus on the table in front of them, and still Xander waited. He took his gaze off the vampire and let it wander to the enormous floral arrangement on the sideboard.
Finally he came up with something and took a risk, "Spike? Is this something to do with the flowers?"
Spike followed his gaze and conceded, "Yes, and no, and everything in between. Look to get a few things straight first off. I'm didn't mean to be back late to the museum, and before you jump in, *no* I didn't just want to get rid of you. Yes, we are friends. Yes, I did not like you at first and that went both ways I seem to recall, but we got well past that there at the end... Don't know about you, but I need a smoke and at least another beer for this, rain's stopped, let's take this to the roof , OK? And before you ask again, the flowers do have somethin' to do with it."
Xander simply replied "Oh..." then moved toward the stairs just as Spike headed for the kitchen to heat up his real meal and collect the promised beers.
They both settled onto the balcony furniture after Xander thoughtfully retrieved a towel from their shared bathroom and wiped down the remains of the summer shower. It was dark with no stars or moon, but the street lights reflected on wet surfaces and the glass balustrade bounced the soft light from the modern chandelier inside the apartment.
Spike lit a cigarette and blew a thick plume of smoke skyward. "Right... First, word's out I'm back in town. Seems like only the demon circles know at this stage, but it probably wasn't only that little starry eyed bastard at the off license as spread the word. I visited an old friend at Credit Suisse whilst you were gettin' educated 'bout ancients and whatnot. Could've done with lower profile 'til we were over the channel, but it can't be helped.
"Thing is, I got some things I need to sort here in England, some ghosts to put to rest so to speak. Things that I couldn't do whilst I was tied up with Dru, or Sunnydale and your lot, or even Angel and crew - despite all their so called resources. And apart from me own agenda, I owe it to little brother and 'is family to share some of the wealth 'Gelus had us stash back in the day. Angel set him up with the college fund 'n all, but the boy and 'is folks, and the girls, they deserve somethin' nice to divvy up - I know Angel would have wanted that."
Xander broke in as he noted the fond look on Spike's face as he mentioned Connor and his adoptive family. A family Xander knew, even from the few things the vampire had divulged in their short time together, Spike considered his own, and in turn they had extended their love and care to their son's half brother, the gentle William. "It's not just that Angel would want it, you do too don't you? Want to do something special for them, I mean."
Spike stared into space for a moment then turned to give his human companion a rather wistful smile, "'Course I do. Accepted me as family they did, open arms an' all."
In that moment Xander saw the gentle soul that was pure William. A young man who had loved his own family, looked after an ailing mother and, despite all his posturing and bluster even before the soul, had always loved and protected, kept his word, and had been hurt and suffered immense grief over and over as a consequence. He reached over as Spike moved to pick up his beer and put his large warm hand over the vampire's slender one, squeezed it for a moment and said sincerely, "I'm sure they will appreciate it, and they'll know that anything you arrange comes from you too, regardless if you say it's from Angel."
The blonde looked a little surprised at the last statement and returned Xander's steady one eyed gaze for a long moment, then interlaced their fingers where their hands were joined and squeezed back. The baritone reply was barely audible, "Yeah, reckon they just might."
They sat without moving for several moments longer, each engaged in their own quiet reflections. Spike finally broke the mood by releasing their hands, sitting back and sniffing hard. "Right, well... fancy a trip to Oxford pet?"
Xander appeared surprised by the apparent change in topic and mood, "What's in Oxford? I mean I know a university but why there?"
"Like I said before, to tie up some loose ends of old, but also want to follow up on an invite from a bloke I met at Stanford, history boffin and a bloody good laugh after a pint or two. Besides haven't seen me old digs since afore I was turned. I need to make a few calls, make sure he's about and whatnot, but I reckon a day or two wanderin' around the old town'll be fun. And according to Jonathon the new sports complex is top notch, give you a chance for a dip or a workout whilst I'm busy. What do you say?"
Xander looked a little worried at first but brightened when the prospect of a swim was mentioned, it had only been a few days, but he was used to regular exercise even whilst in hospital. "Sure. When?"
"Thought we could take off tomorrow, it bein' Wednesday 'n out of term time, shouldn't have too much trouble finding a B&B or some such to stay a couple of nights. We can catch the Oxford Tube from Marble Arch, let me sort the details. "
"OK... Sounds like... yeah why not. Do we need to visit Sahil again, you know for supplies?"
"Yeah, we'll drop by in the mornin'."
Xander nodded and thought for a minute, "You said there was something about the flowers Spike?"
"Yes I did didn't I. It's a long story, and one we'll have time for tomorrow on the bus, but long and short of it, demon lot know I'm here, with you."
Xander rolled his eyes at the almost tentative tone, "Well derrrr. Hello Lady Regina and bouquet the size of a florist."
"You nit it's not just that. *I'm* here, William Aurelius, and there are certain expectations."
"What expectations? You have start killing again? Or fight and make minions? Or swear allegiance to some London boss or something?… Shoot if Giles finds out he'll… "
"Nothin like that, and no he won't, well not so much as I can help, at least not yet…" Xander was beginning to look decidedly worried at the last statement but Spike continued with an even, all too reasonable (for Xander's liking) tone. "Listen it's not worth the worry at the mo. We just wait for the invite to the shindig Saturday and sort the details then. As for the Lady Regina - she's an old friend, as in old ties, old money, old manners, that sort of thing. Just need to be polite is all."
"Right… Polite… and what is something happens to me when you're out swanning about? Geez Spike throw us a bone here!"
"You'll be with me you nit! It'll be expected."
"Me? With you? Why would they expect me?"
"Seems the story on the street is we come as a matching set… Anyway, let's worry about that when the time comes." Spike stood and collected the empty two beer bottles and headed inside, still talking over his shoulder, "You go get some shut eye, I'm gonna do some bookin's online so we can away early. Why don't I see you 'round 10 on the morrow?"
Xander agreed reluctantly and added as he strode past his cryptic companion, "Alright, but you *promise* to fill me in on the rest tomorrow. Please?"
The pleading brown eye was Spike's undoing. "Solemnly swear mate, you'll have the whole deal - just don't get your hopes up - may not be that excitin'."
Spike listened to the man potter around in the bathroom and finally heard the door of the bedroom close as he logged on with his iPad. He sent an Email to Prof. Mc Dougall (aka Jonathon) and, as promised, booked and paid for their bus tickets, and a very tasteful Guest House. He struggled to find reasonably priced accommodation with twin rooms close to the city centre, so finally settled on one that promised a king sized bed. If Harris was worried about his virtue, he could bloody well sleep with a pillow between them!
Having logged off, Spike sat for a moment reflecting on the day. All in all it had been a good one, immediate plans in place and no major dramas to speak of. He wondered how his charge might react to some of the revelations that would inevitably occur in the promised discussion the next day. He shook himself out of those thoughts. It was tomorrow's problem.
He stood and stretched, he needed an early night so given it was 2am, turned off the lights and went up to bed.
Late morning found both men standing at the Oxford Tube's Marble Arch stop on the Hyde Park side. It was a sunny day with pleasant breeze, both men had packed light and dressed comfortably. Spike had enough blood for the three days they expected to be away packed in his small suitcase and their tickets in his hand. In the back pocket of his jeans was an elegant envelope that had been delivered just as both men had prepared to leave their apartment.
They settled into their coach seats, Xander opting for the window, and relaxed in comfortable silence to watch the passing sights.
Eventually they were clear of the city traffic and Xander turned to the blonde beside him. "So who's the note from?"
Spike was musing over the rather enthusiastic email he had received from the Oxford professor in reply to his contact the previous evening. Happily he would have the opportunity to meet and greet a number of Jonathon's colleagues that evening over dinner and the man had "cleared my schedule" for the following day in order to give William his "full attention". Adding that he was hopeful that several of his doctoral students might engage with the visiting academic from Stanford.
"Spike? Are you in there?" Xander touched his knee and the vampire startled out of his daze.
"I said, who's the note from?"
"Oh that. Hang on." He lifted up, pulled the envelope from his pocket, liberated the neatly folded parchment and handed it to Xander. "It's from Lady Regina I'll wager."
Xander opened the note and his eyes went wide, "It's an invitation for Saturday night - for both of us." Xander kept reading then sat back. "Wow! She must really like you... "To my dearest William"? Come on Spike you promised to fill me in on the way to Oxford. Well?"