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.
Jonathon picked them up shortly after seven and they headed to Sir Urqhart’s pretty cottage in the countryside just north of Oxford city proper. He chatted easily to the men as they drove, providing commentary that ranged from historical fact to local hearsay regarding landmarks and features as they drove.
Twenty minutes later Jonathon turned right from the main thoroughfare onto a pretty tree and hedge lined country road. Spike’s hand found Xander’s and gave it a friendly squeeze as their driver’s conversation moved on to their prospective fellow guests, reassuring William’s ‘young American’ friend that he would be in good company.
A stone wall preceded the small elegant entrance to Faedon’s Rest – the name Spike recognized as a quiet in-joke typical of the old professor. They drove up the gravel driveway through an avenue of fruit trees which opened onto a broad graveled round in front of a very pretty thatched two story home.
Jonathon parked in line with several other cars grumbling good-naturedly about his own ‘Rolls C’nardly sedan’ when compared to the shiny newer vehicles in the row. When Xander looked confused at the comment, Spike pulled him close as they mounted the steps to the front door, whispering, “Rolls down the hills and c’n ‘ardly get up ‘em. Now let’s see that lovely smile o’ yours ‘n come meet the prof.”
They were met at the door by a beaming, tall and attractive, auburn haired, teenaged girl who announced herself as “Becky, granddaughter and general dogs body for the night”, who ushered them through the classic Tudor style hallway, into the very modern, open plan rear of the house, and out to a pretty patio.
A long solid oak table stood to one side apparently set up for a smorgasbord style meal with a spit roast turning happily at the garden end next to it. Numerous chairs and pieces of outdoor furniture were arranged around the well lit patio and onto the neat lawn area nearest the house. Upwards of thirty people were already present and Spike placed a hand on the small of Xander’s back, guiding him through the small crowd and over to the open grill where an apron wearing emeritus professor was waving around a pair of barbeque tongs and speaking in a most animated fashion to two elderly male guests.
Becky cheerfully announced ‘William and Alex’ and reached for the waving cooking implement, “Now give me that before you put an eye out Opa.”
Dutifully handing over said tongs, the Sir Gordon then tugged his apron off and handed it to her with a smile, “Happily my dear, if you wouldn’t mind taking over for a while. I’ve kept your mushrooms out of the way of the meat, dear heart. Wouldn’t want your vegetarianism sullied after all.”
The girl rolled her eyes and giggled, but took the apron then busied herself at the grill while the host led his guests over to pour them all a drink, before joining a larger group of people at the beginning of the central garden path.
Introductions all around were followed by the usual polite questions regards the newcomers, which Spike (aka William) fielded easily, making casual mention of the fact that he and Xander had both been in England before, met in the USA, and that they had ‘only recently reunited and decided to travel together’. After several minutes it seemed immediate curiosity had been satisfied; their status as a ‘couple’ understood (or assumed); and William’s roll as a former favorite student of the professor accepted without question, so the topic turned to other matters.
Before long he was thoroughly enjoying himself, and just as had happened the previous evening, found his concern over not perhaps having the ‘right’ education or the intellect to fit in, discovered it was entirely the opposite. Xander initially kept close to Spike but very soon was engaged in his own conversations, finding his contributions welcomed and positively encouraged.
The guests were a diverse group, not only colleagues and ex-students of the professor, but also partners and wives, several children, special ‘old friends’ and family. Amongst their number were a well known radio host; an ex war correspondent and his wife; the professor’s daughter - an antique dealer and her same sex partner; the professor’s son (Becky’s father) Daniel who was an academic specializing in physical activity for handicapped; forensics anthropologist ‘Prof D’ from Glasgow University; three jovial and passionate archaeologists who Xander recognized from the ‘Time Team’ on television; and a number well known artist friends of the professor’s wife Jemima, plus various others. Xander felt remarkably at ease, several times looking up from a conversation to spy Spike smiling his way, causing a warm joyous feeling in his gut that was new and lovely.
A glorious red sunset marked the shift from twilight to star studded, clear evening as food was served wine and beer flowed and the conversations moved from serious to jovial and back again. It didn’t seem to matter who was in dialogue with whom, all present were just as willing to contribute as listen, and few ‘held court’ until well after the meal when the discussion turned to modern film and the ‘bastardization’ (or otherwise) of the classics and history.
Sometime late in the evening the entire group had gravitated to sitting or standing in a wide circle around an open flat brasserie with cheerful fire lighting animated faces and flickering reflections off half full glasses. Conversations still waxed and waned but now involved the entire gathering and an almost forum type atmosphere as individual contributions were welcomed and areas of expertise deferred to if appropriate. It was all in good humor – indeed the gales of laughter regularly interrupted this or that more serious topic as side comments and witty repartee abounded.
Jemima, Sir Gordon’s agelessly beautiful, pixy faced, white haired wife, was an early contributor to the wider group, regaling them with her early experiences at antique auctions. The hilarious tale included several disastrous bids courtesy of an itchy nose and passing blowfly, and descriptions of a number of oddball traders encountered over the years – foibles and fancies explained with very funny, and quite necessary, pantomime.
Xander was thoroughly enjoying himself, choosing to listen rather than contribute, but stealing surreptitious, admiring glances across at Spike, and blushing unnoticed in the firelight, on the occasions his gaze was met with a reciprocal, knowing smile.
Late in the evening a debate regarding the ridiculousness of the depiction of Achilles and Patroclus in the Hollywood movie ‘Troy’, extended to a discussion of the historical merit (or otherwise) of the pederastic relationship of the two. Various translations were quoted until finally several of copies Homer’s Illiad were produced, one in the original Homeric Greek, one Latin and a third, the English translation. Spike seemed utterly in his element, agreeing wholeheartedly with a number of the group that it was a homoerotic partnership, and making his point by reading out a section of the epic poem from the leather bound Greek tome.
The audience was appreciative, none more so than a rather wide eyed Xander, who kept having to remind himself that it was really Spike, his friend and sometime vampire ally from Sunnydale, and not some famous stage actor with stunning looks and dulcet baritone voice. Several times after that, he found himself staring at the blonde in admiration and wonder, only to drop his gaze in embarrassment when Spike directed a smile his way, or another person asked him a direct question.
Becky and her grandmother eventually interrupted proceedings with the offer of coffee and cake all around, and Xander took the opportunity to ‘make himself useful’, following the two inside to assist.
Jemima directed Xander to a bench where all manner of small sweet treats were laid out on pretty crockery, asking that he to load up the Georgian mahogany, three tiered serving trolley, whilst she and Becky busied themselves with trays of hot drinks. The two women chatted easily as they worked, the relationship between grandmother and granddaughter obviously very close as friends and interests were discussed with knowing smiles and a well-practiced banter.
Xander smiled to himself a few times as the generation differences caused one or other woman audibly sigh in feigned despair, or roll their eyes knowingly for his benefit.
As Xander pushed the laden trolley out to the patio, Jemima sidled up beside him and whispered, “You and William make a good match, dear. I know a fine partnership when I see one.” Xander turned to her a little surprised, then followed her gaze to where Spike was standing, listening to the group, but obviously smiling in his direction.
He replied in a near whisper, “I hope so, I really do hope so.” For his trouble he received a friendly pat on the arm and ducked his head in acknowledgement, blushing profusely and returning his focus to pushing the trolley of cakes into easy reach of all the guests.
The evening concluded as amicably as it had begun with the guest all rising to leave around the same time. Jonathon, Alex and William were almost to the front door when the Professor called William back and led him to a room off the main thoroughfare.
It was obviously his library and study of sorts, and he left William just inside the door to rummage around in the drawers of a huge ancient oak desk. Smiling brightly he announced, “Hah, there they are!” From the confines of the drawer he produced a small package wrapped in silk and handed it to William.
“You sent me these, along with a few other trinkets which, I am happy to say, are still in circulation around here, but I thought you might like these returned. I must say I was flattered and intrigued at the time the original shipment arrived from your London address with the accompanying letter. I must say it’s rather a jolly thing to be able to return them now.”
Spike was entirely puzzled by the statement but accepted the gift graciously and carefully unfolded the material revealing the contents. It was his father’s engraved solid silver fob watch, and a slender black box containing the ebony and gold gilt fountain pen that his mother presented to him to commemorate his graduation from Oxford. Spike was speechless, standing staring at the two items for a long minute and caressing each ever so gently with soft pale fingers.
Finally he found his voice. “I… Professor… that is Sir Gordon… I really don’t know what to say… This is just… It’s unbelievable, that is, unbelievably kind of you… But how did you...?”
“Oh, I had a sneaky suspicion you would come back this way some day. Didn’t quite anticipate the duration of the wait, or the circumstances, but let’s just say I had hoped you would appreciate the gesture. All I ask is that you put that pen to good use and write an old academic a proper letter now and then, let this old body enjoy some adventure vicariously eyy?” The professor gave Spike a wicked wink and guided him out to the landing.
Spike all but floated to the car, garnering quizzical looks from both Jonathon and Xander. They waved their goodbyes to the hosts who were standing arm in arm at the top of the external steps (Becky included).
Jemima called out as the car turned for the driveway, “We do expect you will visit us again very soon, Will and Alex.”
Jonathon kept up a happy commentary as they headed back to the B&B with Xander replying for both passengers since Spike seemed more than a little distracted in the back seat. He was unwilling to open his prize again until they were alone, instead constantly rubbed the soft material with his thumb to assure himself that the contents were still real.
The following day would see the pair back at the University for a short meeting, Jonathon still keen to have William consider an occasional speaker role in his department, before a little shopping and bus ride back to London.
Xander was beside himself with curiosity by the time the two entered their temporary abode, but was desperate for the bathroom so rushed past the vampire to relieve himself with an appreciative groan.
Spike was sitting on the bed with the box containing the pen open beside him, turning the watch over and over in his hand, occasionally pausing to trace the fine embossed filigree with wonder.
Xander pulled off his eye patch with relief and changed into some comfortable sweat pants and t-shirt, all without a word from Spike. Finally he could stand the mystery no further and sat down next to Spike to get his attention, “OK, care to explain? ‘Cause gotta say, the whole silent Spike thing is starting to get weird.”
When Spike looked up at Xander, his pretty blue eyes were emphasized by puddles of unshed tears. His voice was just a whisper and thick with emotion, “Two most precious things from my human life, pet. Sent ‘em to the prof. after I was turned, after mother… I was still soft then you see, fancied he would like ‘em as a keepsake and a thank you from me for all the times he made my student life bearable… ‘Gelus would have stripped me with a whip if he’d found out, but I was there alone so no one ever knew. Strange really… now I think about it… Never knew then that the old bloke was different, least wise never expected ‘im to keep ‘em safe. Just…” Spike’s voice trailed off as his gaze fixed once again, on the object in his right hand.
Two enormous tears dropped onto the pale hand holding the watch. Xander took a risk and flung his arm across Spike’s shoulder, putting his other hand over the watch, giving the vampire a rather tentative one-armed hug. Spike accepted the embrace, even turning a little until they were as close as possible without altering their seating arrangement. After a long moment Spike began to speak, his voice low and rather muffled by his position against Xander’s shoulder. And Xander listened.
Almost an hour later, Xander had been privy to insights into William’s very private human life he had never dreamed possible. Details of his father and mother, their relationship, the triumphs and devastating losses, and detailed (if a little non-sequential) memories of his teenage and university years, and the importance of the objects now returned.
Eventually Spike was all ‘talked out’, sniffed hard and finished with a wry smile and attempted growl, “You tell anyone any of this and I’ll bite you, understood?” Xander simply nodded and smiled back, adding as an afterthought, “Wouldn’t expect anything less, not-so-bleach-boy.”
The mood broken, both men made ready for bed. It was only as they settled comfortably that both felt something had truly shifted between them. No bolt of lightening or magical flash of insight, simply that something was different, their friendship was different – more intimate, warmer, comfortable, and safe. So when Spike rolled toward Xander rather than staying on his own side of the bed, he was met by welcoming arms and the two sighed simultaneously then chuckled. “We really are a pair of nancy boys, don’t you reckon?”
“Yup. And I so don’t care who knows. Now go to sleep, vamp o’ mine.”
Spike stayed awake long enough to relish a few adjustments of position by his sleeping partner, the last of which saw their legs tangled and Xander lying half way across his chest. Happy he did not need to breathe, he sighed and drifted off.