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’s eyes flashed gold as he swung around to face Xander, grabbing the brunette’s upper arm to the point of pain and gave a dramatic, growled out whisper, “I said, that bloke playing to the audience is the f%$#ing Immortal!”
Xander tore his arm away with effort, and kept his voice low but urgent whilst rubbing his near bruised arm, “Geez Sp…William! Oww!! Over react much. It’s ‘*Anton*’ – a guy who was nice enough to talk to me when you left me to try to socialize while you went off with Lady Regina.”
Spike’s face was in darkness as he had his back to the brightly lit pool area, nevertheless Xander could see fangs emerge and immediately began to worry as the vampire muttered “Only you pet” and “Bloody demon magnet” along with expletives, names and dates, and apparent acts requiring retribution. Xander could do little though did place a calm hand on his lover’s upper arm to keep him facing away from most of the crowd in the hope Spike calmed down before someone (other than a demon) noticed his changed features, or worse, the vampire carried out some of his threats!
As accolades for the performers died down after yet another rousing trio and chorus, Anton excused himself politely (leaving the others to continue the music) and to Xander’s horror, made his way directly over to the pair. He could hardly turn and run, and barely managed a “Spike shut up here he comes!” before Anton was within a few paces of them.
“Alex! I must apologize. I didn’t mean to chase you away from Sophia, it just that we’ve not played together since her tour of Prague last year. A bit of fun though, don’t you agree?” Anton looked a little puzzled at Xander’s somewhat desperate expression and noted the hand on the arm of the man with him, and the tense back of the same. “Ahh, I see you have found your friend at last.”
Xander had no idea how to rescue the situation, afraid that Spike was about to explode into violence so typical of the Sunnydale vampire he remembered, so answered as calmly as he could, “Umm, it’s fine. I… umm… that is… we… It was great… the music I mean…” He trailed off feeling utterly pathetic but received a broad smile for his trouble, and was so preoccupied with worry that he jumped when Spike whirled around and stood as though ready for a fight.
What happened in the next few minutes was so unexpected that Xander was left utterly aghast and reexamining everything he thought he knew about Spike.
Anton broke into a broad grin and exclaimed, “Well bless the Gods. Alex! I had no idea your partner was Lady Regina’s Master William!” He immediately thrust out his hand toward Spike, “We’ve not been formally introduced, Anton Athenatos, at your service. I had no idea that Alex here was your Consort, but what a delightful choice for both of you.”
Spike was initially taken aback, nevertheless shook the extended hand politely. “William Aurelius.” There was something in the man’s touch, and as their eyes met fully, Spike looked a little bewildered for a moment then gave a rather wry smile. “Immortal in any language then?”
Anton laughed with delight, “Indeed, though only a scholar or those in the know make the connection these days!” He sobered for a moment and added sincerely, “I was saddened to hear of the loss of your Grandsire. Please accept my condolences.”
Xander saw a flash of raw pain as Spike replied simply, “Died a hero, as he wanted.” Despite his position, now standing slightly behind and to the left of his partner, Xander slid his hand into Spike’s and squeezed it in silent support. The act was reciprocated, and Spike pulled him forward without relinquishing the hold until they were side by side facing Anton.
The Immortal noted the move as he continued, “Indeed… But come, let us find a drink and speak of happier times, and future opportunities.”
Spike gave Xander a doubtful sideways glance then shrugged and followed Anton’s back as he wound through the crowd toward a tray-toting waiter.
Moments later they were lounging opposite each other on luxurious garden furniture, Xander and Spike opposite Anton, and the conversation between the two ‘rivals’ began in earnest. Spike was obviously still very much on edge, though affected a casual air as he sat hand in hand with Xander. He took a draft of the red wine in his hand and placed it carefully on the low table separating them, “So… not tryin’ to run me around, or get your minions to chase us out of town this time? ‘Cause got to say up front, not a really stellar history between us mate.”
Anton toasted the statement and took a sip of his own drink, “I do confess to that, William, but in my defense, it was never directed at you personally, more it was to prevent certain actions of yours, or more importantly that of your Sires’, and the wider consequences. And you must admit, it was dignity more than bodily hurt.” He gave Spike a knowing smile that was answered by a half-hearted scowl, “Yeah… well… Just so long as you don’t go messin’ with the boy here. ‘E’s off limits, got that?”
“But of course! I would not dream of coming between a Master and his Consort, much less a union of two beings as unique and important as the two of you! Now come, that is not really what we should be discussing. Montague mentioned to me that you are going to be taking a more active role in your investments here in Europe and that we might find some interests in common that could advantage us both.”
Spike was still struggling to reconcile the amicable, quietly spoken Anton with the ‘foulest evil, the Immortal’ image he had built up over the past hundred and twenty plus years. He had to admit that he was intrigued by Anton, and more than a little puzzled by the ‘unique’ comment regards he and Xander, but let it slide in preference to learning a little more of the man behind the legend, and getting to the bottom of just what Monty had said regarding his investments. He took a slow draft of his wine, deliberately placed the glass on a convenient side table and sat back, his left leg in contact with Xander’s, still eyeing Anton warily, “I’m listening.”
“I don’t profess to know your exact financial circumstances by any means, but we do seem to have similar portfolios, indeed I was surprised to learn of our many shared ventures – via our companies of course. And given the larger scale project opportunities and percentage of ownership for some of the companies in which we are both investors, I felt we might work together directly for mutual benefit. After all, you like myself, are working to secure a future of indeterminate length and must be proactive according to the times we are in. This conversation is of course, only a precursor to any agreement should my proposal be judged advantageous.”
What ensued sounded to Xander like the experienced negotiations of two captains of industry rather than two demons or whatever magical creatures Spike and Anton identified as. The brunette was flabbergasted by the sums being discussed by both men; amazed at the complexity and diversity of Anton’s investment interests, short and long term; and intrigued at Spike’s obvious knowledge and understanding of his own substantial holdings, despite his open admission that he had only just returned to active involvement in the same.
Xander zoned out a little mid-conversation, instead turning to listen to yet another round of well-known duets and trios sung by the operatic guests by the piano. He was feeling a bit buzzed and relaxed back, closing his eyes and let the music wash over him. It was only when one of Anton’s female companions from earlier approached that he ‘came back to the room’ realizing that the entertainment was about to take a vastly different turn.
The piano had been wheeled inside and instead a small band was in its place. As the strong latino beat and trumpet started, guests began to move to the wide deck, now makeshift dance floor. He recognized the music and eyes went wide, the jovial elderly musicians were obviously members of the Bueno Vista Social Club, a supposition confirmed by Anton.
A statuesque blonde woman approached and held out an inviting hand to the Immortal. Anton shook his head politely and redirected her to Xander.
Xander smiled nervously and looked to Spike. The vampire leaned over and whispered, “Go on pet, have a bit of fun.” He winked and gave his ‘Consort’ a light peck on the cheek. Seconds later Xander was on the crowded dance floor doing a passable version of a samba with Sabini from St Petersburg (as she had introduced herself).
Spike watched until the two melded into the crowd then turned his attention back to the Immortal. “So… All sorted for now. Boy and I should be back from Zurich Friday week by my reckoning, I’ll have a clearer picture by then.”
“Why don’t you and Alexander come back via my home near Florence. I would appreciate the company and this time of year is quite beautiful.”
“Why us? Surely you’ve got plenty of more important takers for that sort of invite?”
Anton laughed aloud, “Oh William, you of all people must realize that there are always acquaintances, business associates, rulers, merchants, politicians and hangers on when in my position, but there are few kindred spirits with whom I can associate. Even fewer I would desire as friends.”
Spike was rather taken aback as almost sad pale green eyes met his, “You would call us friends?”
“I had hoped so. William, I am in my third millennium of existence, about to enter my fourth. I have learned over that vast time that there is always ‘a catch’ as you so eloquently put it. People and demons who want to associate with me for money, power or prestige. On the very rarest of occasions I have been blessed to meet beings such as yourself and Alexander. Ageless, good souls rewarded or, as the case may be, cursed by the Ghods of this Universe to walk the Earth longer than mere mortals. Those who straddle good and evil, show loyalty, bravery and selflessness, and unconditional love. At my great age I had hoped, if you are willing, that I might share that with you both. I ask for nothing in return but that we might share comfort and counsel on occasion, for I see in you both something I feared I had lost eons ago, genuine understanding and enduring platonic friendship.”
Spike looked hard at the raven-haired man. Anton had leaned forward, shoulders slumped a little, studying his hands as he spoke quietly, and for the first time Spike saw fatigue and a good measure of sadness in the Immortal’s demeanor. When pale green eyes lifted to meet his own blue orbs the look was one of hopeful loneliness that Spike recognized immediately. There was no pride or malice, rather it was an unguarded moment of vulnerability, and Spike knew in that moment, with all the understanding and empathy at his command, that Anton was indeed someone he was prepared to call friend. And he knew in his gut that Xander would feel the same.
He broke into a genuine smile and stood slowly, holding his hand out to his former ‘nemesis’, pulling the man up also, “Guess you’ve got me in your corner then. The boy too I reckon. Now let’s go find our dance partners. Fancy meself a bit of my fella after all this chit chat.”