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.
Spike watched Xander leave, listening to the polite but friendly exchange between the two men until they were out of even Spike’s extraordinary hearing range. Stamping down his sense of worry and mild jealousy over the boy, he turned his full attention to the room and realized that, though he may have appeared polite, he had been paying very little heed to the introductions to the various guests present. His distraction had apparently gone unnoticed and he mentally shook himself as Jonathon’s final guest stood up and turned to greet him.
“… And this is Emeritus Professor Sir Donald Urquhart, who was the chief librarian of Old Library here at Trinity for as many years as anyone here can remember, amongst other things.”
The silver haired, elderly gent smiled easily as he offered ‘William’ his hand in greeting, and Spike’s eyes went wide with sudden recognition, even more so as he shook the man’s hand.
“William old chap, wonderful to meet you.” The thick Scottish accent was unmistakable, and the wink with implied ‘again’ that went with the handshake was for Spike only, and promised a private conversation later.
Introductions made, all present settled for what was to prove a morning of lively debate and highly engaging conversation covering all manner of current and past research, the dialogue only interrupted by a short break for tea and finally adjourning around two for a late lunch.
As the group made to depart, Sir Donald pronounced the meeting an “absolute delight” and insisted that all present attend a “rare opportunity for a free feed” at his home that evening, friends and family welcome. The invitation was unanimously accepted, with only a couple of good-natured (and obviously expected) jibes regarding haggis and compulsory wearing of kilts for the occasion.
In the end it was only Jonathon and Spike who walked to the nearest pub for lunch, and only after Spike was ‘cajoled’ into a private tour of the Old Library by the emeritus professor, who insisted they meet after he his customary “a wee nap”.
Jonathon was in a fine mood and over a simple Ploughman’s lunch in the beer garden of the pub, regaling his companion with stories of Sir Gordon and his own memories of the man’s apparently ‘terrifying’ guardianship of the library when Jonathon was an undergraduate, and his integral part in the advancement of the History Faculty and Jonathon’s own research career.
Nursing their second round of drinks after lunch, both men sat back in comfortable silence to simply appreciate the sunny day in pleasant surroundings. “So, William, is this trip to England simply a sabbatical, or are you looking to move back here? I, for one, would be happy to put a word in for you to the Academic Board if you wish to offer your services in the coming semester, and I’m sure Sir Gordon would second the nomination, I’ve not seen him quite so ‘taken’ by a newcomer in years. Don’t get me wrong, he is a great friend, but does tend to be a bit ornery in discussions such as this morning, usually takes more delight in shooting down arguments with a well informed pointed comments, than engaging others as he did earlier. His opinion holds a lot of sway with the ‘old guard’, so I’m confident you would be made welcome should you…”
Spike was a little taken aback by the offer and hid his surprise by taking a timely long draft of his beer before answering. Had it been some century and a half previous he would have jumped at the chance. It had always been a secret dream of his to join the intellectual elite, to spend his time researching and writing, cloistered safely and happily in the bosom of academia, able to pursue his passion for poetry and literature. But now? His status as undead was a fairly big impediment, and the fledgling relationship with Xander (and care of the man) his primary concern. But what were his plans beyond the immediate future?
He focused back on Jonathon and replied carefully, “Not that I don’t appreciate the offer, but my return to the ‘old country’ is strictly for personal reasons. I fear family matters must take precedence at this point, though I’ll certainly bear what you’ve said in mind.” When Jonathon’s face fell a little, he quickly added, “Hope that don’t mean I can’t occasionally contribute to the cause and annoy you with my presence down the track.”
He was rewarded with a broad smile, “No, no, of course not! You need but say the word and be assured, I *will* take you up on the offer of an occasional lecture – paid of course – just let me know your availability and consider me in your debt. It will be a rare treat to have one such as yourself addressing my students.”
“I think you’re overdoing it a bit, aren’t you?”
“Not at all. Young, worldly and articulate, you’d have them eating out of your hands, just the sort of thing we need to encourage students away from the Law and Commerce departments.”
Lunch was deemed finished on that high note, and the two men returned to Trinity with Jonathon bidding William farewell at the doors of the Old Library with the promise to pick he and Alex up ‘around seven’ at the B&B for the short trip to the Urquhart’s for dinner.
Xander had left with Richard still wondering at Spike’s proprietary growl, but happy that he had handled the situation (not to mention the rather nice kiss) with a, until recently forgotten, measure of assuredness and maturity. He smiled at Richard and engaged in easy conversation as they wandered around first Trinity College then beyond into other sections of the University proper.
Richard was good company, quickly identifying himself as one of the University Rugby First XV, a ‘reformed’ architecture student who fell in love with the interiors of the buildings he studied and their historical origins, eventually drifting over to doctoral studies in the History department. Xander was amazed how easily their conversation flowed as they wandered Richard including in the commentary tidbits of information regards various film and television productions utilizing the campus; funny side stories including the Trinity vs Balliol College rivalry; and the admission that he was an ‘elite member’ of their Nude Calendar for Breast Cancer crew from the previous year.
When asked about his own interests, Xander managed to give sketchy details only regards his preference for ‘hands on’ experiences beginning in construction and his recent return to the UK after work as ‘a field operative in Africa for an international organization based in Britain’. Despite emphasizing the less than glamorous nature of his Sub Saharan experiences and travels, Richard seemed genuinely impressed, though did not pursue the topic beyond a few questions as he sensed some reticence to share on Xander’s part. “What goes on tour stays on tour” seemed to cover much of the missing information for the intrepid tour guide as the focus turned back to sport and Richard’s travel and career plans for the immediate future.
By one o’clock the pair had completed an enjoyable circumnavigation of the university campus and Xander was delivered to Rebecca’s office door with a little more confidence than the beginning of the day, having managed to last the tour without once resorting to his old ‘goofy Xander’ act when feeling anxious.
After thanks and quick farewells were exchanged with Richard, along with assurances that they would meet again sometime, Xander was ushered downstairs again and followed the rather flustered figure of Rebecca to her car. As they waited to safely pull out onto the road, Xander noted the attractive brunette’s urgent tapping on the steering wheel, so ventured, “You know, it’s really nice of you to take me swimming and all, but if this is a bad time, I’m happy to go it alone.”
The pretty brunette abruptly stopped her nervous fingers and turned to face Xander, “Oh, I’m so sorry! But that would be terrific, it’s just that I’m speaking at a conference in Berlin on Monday next week and the organizers want my powerpoint and video materials by the end of today. I mean I’m almost ready but… Look would you mind awfully if I just drop you off? I know it’s terrible to abandon you like that, especially after I had promised…”
“No problem. The pool is right by where we are staying - five minutes walk max.” Xander tried for his most disarming smile, which seemed to have the desired affect, as Rebecca visibly relaxed and gave a relieved sigh, “Oh thank Ghod! I mean I always try hard to keep my word and I know it’s only an hour or two but…”
Xander was so reminded of a younger Willow that he could not help but grin as the drove out and the young woman continued to chat as they wove in an out of traffic, the young woman chatting cheerfully as quickly as she drove. She insisted on paying for his entry to the facility and waved brightly to him as he disappeared through the gate.
The open pool obviously catered for families and on such a clear summer’s day, was busy with numerous children and parents having a fine time in the leisure section. Xander divested himself of all but his swimming costume and goggles applied, dove into the cool depths of the lap lanes to swim with practiced ease.
An hour or so later found him relaxing on his towel in the bright sunshine, content to bask in the warm sun for a lazy afternoon, only moving for food and the inevitable toilet break. As shadows began to extend across the area, he packed up and walked home via the off-license picking up some much needed sustenance and a six-pack of beer. A leisurely shower later, he settled in front of the television with food and drink to wait for Spike to arrive home. It had been a very enjoyable day and as his thoughts turned to a certain blonde vampire, he reflected on the last few days with Spike, the good memories they held, and the hope for possible future shared experiences.
Sir Gordan was leaning against one of the tall oak bookshelves near the entrance, apparently engrossed in conversation with someone behind the stack but turned as he heard Spike approach. With a broad arm gesture and warm smile, he directed the vampire toward a side door, “William, my boy, welcome back. I’m sure things have changed somewhat since your time here, but let me assure you, I still keep a close eye on the collection and can certainly supply you with anything you need for your research. Now just follow me.” The odd announcement was obviously meant for the academic to whom he had been speaking moments before, so Spike merely nodded and followed the direction.
The small side room was obviously used as a temporary office or ‘breakout room’ for small gatherings and though sparsely furnished, was still brightly lit with two old, yet attractive prints depicting Trinity College and its original Durham heritage hanging on the wall.
The emeritus professor settled himself opposite Spike, leaning elbows on the broad dark wood of the circular table, hands clasped and looking expectant. “Well now, you simply must tell this old fellow exactly how you came to be here in Oxford after all these years.”
Spike pursed his lips then allowed a slight shift to his vampiric visage. When there was no indication of surprise on the old man’s face, Spike grinned and shifted back, “Only if you do the same Sir Gordon. Seems we both have a tale to tell.”
“As it should be, of course. But guests first.”
The remainder of the afternoon was enlightening for both parties, and a solid friendship that had stood the test of more than a century’s absence and change from human status (on Spike’s part) was firmly reestablished.
Sir Donald was a well-known figure on the Trinity Campus even before William appeared on the scene, though it had not occurred to the young gent at the time that his age and longevity of his tenure was anything particularly unusual. What had certainly been apparent to the young scholar, was that he was afforded unusual liberties in the library, and given a great deal of helpful advice by the, even then, somewhat feared and highly respected Professor Urquhart. The young William was often challenged by the professor, had his reading widened and poetry aspirations quietly encouraged, though the two were strictly on a favored student and revered teacher basis. William had, at the time, been blissfully unaware of the professor’s demonic origins, and simply enjoyed the encouragement for what it was, and at a time in his life when a guiding hand and assurance was desperately wanted.
Spike found himself feeling very much akin to the young student he once was as he told the professor of his rather mundane existence and mother’s illness following university, and the date of his turning, though not the particular circumstances. He then brushed over his time with Angelus and company, though felt the professor knew more than he was letting on as he merely nodded at the mention of the Scourge of Europe.
Spike did describe Drusilla, her madness, vulnerability and beauty in loving terms, but found himself strangely detached, realizing as he spoke that she really was a chapter that was permanently closed for him. Angelus being cursed and events following including two wars and post war ‘good times’ with his paramour were mentioned without detail. When it came to Sunnydale, his capture by the Initiative and miserable and dangerous existence leading up to his seeking out his soul met with an audible growl from his elderly audience. But when the First and his consequent voluntary sacrifice to stop the apocalypse, Sir Gordon’s eyes flashed crimson and gold, he stood abruptly and turned away staring out through the small ornate window at the courtyard beyond. Without returning to his chair, he waved his hand and commented for the first time, “I thought as much, go on.”
His return as a ghost, and exploits at Wolfram and Hart that followed, led to the inevitable description of the final battle with the evil law firm hoards, the losses incurred and Angel’s death. Spike was finding it increasingly difficult to keep the emotion from his voice and paused after all but whispering, “Angel’s son, Connor felt his passing and knew what was intended. He was the one who found and rescued me. He’d just lost his real Da, and he still stayed to help me. Right bloody champion, he is… always will be.”
At this last admission, Spike sat with his head bowed staring at his hands and fiddled with the ruby encrusted, Aurelian signet ring he had worn on and since that day, unsure of what more to add.
Sir Gordon retook his seat and reached over to pat Spike’s hand tenderly, “Brothers in battle and brothers by blood. I am sorry for your losses William, but also happy for you that you still have family through Connor, and now your soon-to-be Consort for comfort.”
So caught up in his own thoughts, Spike very nearly missed the last few words. As soon as he processed the statement he pushed back from the table in shock, almost upending his chair in the process. Recovering somewhat, he stared hard at the older man but seeing only a bemused knowing smile, decided it was time for the good professor to tell a few of his own home truths. “Seems not much goes on you don’t know about. But I reckon it’s your turn for show an’ tell. Maybe starting with the not quite human, and incredibly old part.”
“Happy to oblige you, young William.”
Spike rather sheepishly slid his chair back to its rightful position at the table and gave the professor a small smile as the older man took a deep breath and began.