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! i.e. Caution - boys playing together in this chapter particularly.
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 was been dreaming of a nighttime train ride somewhere in India, not long after Angelus had disappeared. They were initially in a private box on the carriage. Images of Dru giggling at something only she could see and tracing patterns on the lace of her dress were interspersed with Darla’s hateful scowls in his direction and her frantic use of an ornately carved, fine bone and feather fan.
Like most dreams it seemed he was missing something, or had to look for something as the dreamscape changed, lurching from pushing through crowds on chaotic railway stations; to desperately trying to locate and catch their chosen train; a feeling of constant concern and effort organizing paperwork, money, tickets, food (safe selection of victims) and luggage; but most of all, there was an almost overwhelming feeling of dread linked to something he had forgotten to do, or someone he was supposed to meet.
Everything was so confused but one constant was a loud chuffing noise which he interpreted to be the train. Then they were in a park and he saw the boy, a slightly younger Xander sitting on a gravestone in the distance, twirling a stake (though why a cemetery would be bang in the middle of the railway yards of Madras was quite beyond him.
He felt a ridiculous jolt of panic and pulled forward, letting go Dru’s hand and immediately losing her in the crush of the crowd at the top of a set of stairs as he tried to reach the boy. As he got closer, the chuffing of the train became louder and he realized that Xander was oblivious that he was positioned on the train track with a locomotive fast approaching. He ran, but his legs seemed bogged down by something and still the rumbling sound became louder.
Just as the whole thing was about to end in disaster, he woke with a jolt, the sound of Xander’s very loud snoring reverberating in his right ear and pressure of one of Xander’s legs, hot and heavy, pressing down on his. Spike was still confused but suddenly aware of his own panicked, unnecessary breaths, and desperately tried to calm and make sense of his world.
“Oh, Bloody hell!” He pushed at his sleeping companion until Xander finally rolled away, stopped snoring and slept on.
Spike picked up his mobile phone and looked at the time. Almost midday.
A hot, relaxing shower seemed in order while he cleared his head, then he padded downstairs, grabbed a liquid breakfast, the apartment phone and his laptop, then adjourned to the sunlit balcony to make some rather unwanted but necessary calls.
He sighed and dialed the first number on his screen. After two rings, a female voice answered, “Hello?”
Spike felt a pang of dread as he announced himself, “’lo, it’s Spike.”
“Oh my God?! Spike! I really didn’t think you would call back! I mean… well I really hoped you would, but… Are you OK? How’s Xander? What are you doing back in England? And why didn’t you tell me you were still around? I mean, why am I always the last to get that sort of information? I cared about you… care about you… as a friend… friends… I umm… Spike?”
“Is Xander with you?”
“As in with me this moment? No ‘e’s still in the land of nod, we were out ‘til late.”
“Oh… Does he seem… you know… OK to you?”
“Boy’s fine. What I c’n tell ‘e’s had a bit of a rough trot what with warzones ‘n human cruelty ‘n whatnot. Bloke’s not an idiot. Needs to get away from thems what keeps tellin’ ‘im it’s all in ‘is mind, is all. Hasn’t mentioned offing himself once since he’s been here, and from what I can tell, is having a right fine time taggin’ along.”
“But are you OK with looking after him? I mean Spike… you’re… what about you? After everything… after… what happened??”
“We fought, we won the first round, we paid the price… Angel died a hero as he wanted. Charlie, Wes, Fred, even bloody Lindsay, died sendin’ a good part of LA evil incorporated to oblivion. Me? Dunno why I survived… Let you know when I’ve got it figured, not before.”
“Oh…” The line was silent for a few long seconds before, “Sorry I kind of avoided you and Angel when you came to Rome, you know… for that family body thingy… It was just that I was kind of freaked that Angel had someone watching me and reporting back, when he could have just picked up a phone and asked. I mean stalker by proxy much?!... I still cried when Anton, you know, the Immortal, yeah of course you do… Anyway, when Anton said he had word Angel and LA Wolfram and Hart had been destroyed… it’s weird but it kind of meant I could grieve and move on, you know…?
“Anyways things here have been busy since then, not so much with the Slayage… well there is some but not like Sunnydale. And we had Andrew here for a while, which you know, and then the offer from the fashion magazine happened.
“A friend of Anton’s said she needed someone to write a column in the summer, you know hot shopping trends for US tourists, that sort of thing, and he recommended me, but after that the rest was up to me. She seems to like what I do, and it’s actually really interesting and fun, so that’s been pretty awesome… Spike? Are you still there?”
Spike was still reeling from the knowledge that Buffy had almost certainly deliberately avoided meeting he and his Grandsire on their ill fated trip to Rome, but really could not blame her. She sounded happy, despite (or perhaps because of) no longer dating the Immortal, a fact he had gleaned from his discussion with Anton the night before. “Hmm? Yeah still here, pet… So what’s the Bit up to? She there?”
“No, she’s at the studio, but if you ring her cell you’ll probably get her about now. I know she’d really like that.”
“Look I really have to fly Spike, but thanks so much for ringing. Promise to keep in touch? And you are always welcome to come visit.”
“ Taa for the invite luv.”
“Bye… and take care OK?”
“You to.” And she was gone. And rather than feeling deflated or disappointed by the conversation, Spike found himself oddly relieved. She had moved on, she was doing well in her new life, and she seemed happy.
Spike sighed and dialed Dawn’s mobile phone number. Unlike the previous call, he waited for six rings and was just about to leave a message when he was answered with a breathless, “Hi... Spike?”
“That’d be me, Little Bit.” He then held the receiver away from his ear as a high-pitched squeal was the reply.
After some cursory reassurances regards his current whereabouts, ‘un-alive’ status, and fact that he was travelling with Xander, the remainder of the twenty five minute conversation was all but entirely one way, Spike occasionally managing to add “Hmm” and “that right” in the briefest of pauses in Dawn’s excited chatter.
She was currently working on the set of the Italian Sesame Street as a “dog’s body until they give me a real job”, all but bursting with enthusiasm as she described her fellow workers, the excitement of children’s television, and the joy of being “taken seriously and in another language!”
The sign off was easy as she was called to fulfill some task or other, so Spike escaped with a simple promise to call often and visit when he could.
He sighed, put the phone down temporarily and lit a cigarette. It was still too early to call Connor but he needed to forewarn him anyway, bank details etc would need to be on hand for their discussion, so an email prior was probably a good idea. That resolved, he snuffed out the butt of his now spent cigarette, picked up the handset again and dialed.
“Rupert. You wanted a chat I believe.”
“Spike… indeed. I was quite expecting Xander to call.”
“Boy’s still abed. Expect he’ll be up in a few. We had a bit of a late night.”
“Yes, so it seems. I am led to believe you took him to a party of sorts. One that was attended by a certain Edgar Lemark, Master of London.”
“That right? And just how would you come by that tidbit of info?”
“I have my sources.”
“Then your sources would also know that it was one of Lady Regina’s social dos. Sure you’ve heard of her, yeah?”
“Good Lord! Lady Regina Grimshaw?” Spike heard the muffled sound of Giles tugging of his glasses, “But she’s one of the…”
“Best connected socialites in London, old money, aristocrat, and vamp. Yes, I know. Sent us a lovely invite so we went.”
“But surely she must then have assumed…”
“That Xander and I come as a pair. We established that before heading to Oxford, remember?”
“Yes but I never dreamed…” The tone altered to accusatory, “Spike, what have you done? And why would Lady Regina be inviting you, surely she does not perceive you as a threat of some sort? Is that why the Master of London was in attendance? You can’t possibly believe that taking Xander along was wise?”
Spike held back a growl, “Firstly, boy was fine, better than in fact. Had a wow of a time by all accounts. Second, I figure Lemark was gate crashing, arrived late with ‘is idiot Childe an’ didn’t stay around long enough to say. And third, I reckon you should do a little research on the good Lady. We’re blood relatives, and I don’t mean that in a vampire sense. Lemme give you a headstart, might be enlightenin’. Daughters of the Earls of Verulam and the Earls of Somerset, and Cavendish family members related to Dukes of Devonshire circa 1800-1850. Throw in MPs around that time, if you really want somethin’ extra to worry about.”
Spike waited for a moment as he heard the distinct sound of some furious scribbling on the other end of the line. “Now, need you to know the boy and I are heading off for Zurich day after tomorrow. Be there a few days, then doin’ a bit of a cooks tour home, Florence and Amsterdam at least. ‘N before you start lecturin’, the boy will be fine with me.” Just at that moment Xander emerged from the bedroom clad only in his hastily pulled on sweat pants and padded to the door to listen. Spike smiled and waved him over. “Xan’s just up if you want a word. No upsettin’ ‘im though, we’re doin’ just fine here.”
He held out the receiver. Initially Xander shook his head, then sighed and stepped forward, grabbed the phone and sat on the outdoor lounge, left leg touching his vampire’s right.
“Xander. How are you? I take it from Spike that you had a late night.”
“Umm...” Xander looked quizzically at Spike who merely shrugged, “Yeah, we were invited to a party. It was… well, it was good actually. I met a few people, danced a bit. A friend of Buffy’s was there and we talked for a bit.”
“A slayer? Or someone from Rome?”
“Well, neither really. A guy called Anton, The Immortal.”
“Good heavens. Are you alright? Spike didn’t do anything did he? I surmised from a few things Andrew said after Angel and Spike’s rather unexpected visit to Rome, that history between the Aurelians and the Immortal was somewhat fraught. If Spike has caused you to…”
Xander was beginning to look distressed, particularly as Spike let out a low growl, “Please stop, Giles. Look, Spike didn’t do anything – to me or to Anton. They got on fine, better than in fact. And apart from anything else, Spike is taking great care of me, and I know this is going to come out wrong, but I really feel kind of whole… as a person, around him.” Spike smiled warmly, eyes bright with genuine affection, and gave him a chaste peck on the cheek.
Giles was not yet satisfied it seemed, and he continued in a resigned, though rather patronizing tone, “Yes well, that be as it may, I am concerned that you are heading off to the continent with him to destinations and for reasons unclear. I do hope you will consider the prudence of such a venture given your recent er… difficulties. I’m sure you are aware that your health and mental state is of utmost importance, I’m sure your doctor and therapists would agree. …”
This time Xander did react. Spike heard his heart rate increase markedly as Xander’s voice took on a rather petulant tone, “That I should go because it’s a great idea, something I should do to help get back to a ‘normal’ life, and that Spike is the best possible person to have by my side to do it! And before you say it, yes, I do know he is a vampire, and yes, I do know he can be dangerous, and yes, I do remember that he hasn’t been around us for a while. But even you know he’s also ridiculously brave, an amazing survivor, loyal to those he loves, and knows what it’s like to walk on crazy street. Anyway, Spike has business over there so he’s going and I am going with him on Tuesday, whether you or Dr Lewis agrees or not.”
There was a long pause at the other end of the phone. “Yes I see… Well I will expect you to continue regular contact, and accept that the Council will extract you if things are not as they should be.”
“I’m not a tooth, Giles! And I’ll be fine, I am fine, and careful and all those other things everyone thinks I’m somehow incapable of anymore. Anyway, if I’m in trouble it will be Spike not the Council who will be there to help!” Spike grabbed his free hand and squeezed whispering, just for him “Too right I will Luv.”
Xander’s tone calmed a little, “Look, I’ll make sure you and Willow are in the loop if it’s important. Can’t you just leave it at that for now?”
It seemed sufficient and after that, the farewell was brief and to the point, though Spike noted Xander was still agitated as the phone was thrown onto the couch cushion beside them.
They sat in silence for a few moments, Xander playing with Spike’s fingers where their hands were still joined.
Finally the brunette sighed and looked up at ‘his’ vampire, “They still think I’m a total f%$#-up, don’t they?! Dumb old, loser Zeppo, the one eyed carpenter/would be Watcher who couldn’t handle a bit of death and destruction without going completely off his nut. I mean, I know what happened and why, and it still doesn’t go away, but… I am working on at least trying to… Arrgh! I guess it doesn’t matter. I just don’t want you to feel trapped, like you’re stuck with me, you know, like you have to be worrying about me all the time. Or like you can’t, you know, do what you want to do without me around… I just…”
Spike stood dragging Xander up with him and spun him until they were chest to chest. “Look at me, Pet.” Spike waited until the man’s good eye focused on his. “Now you listen good an’ proper. I’ll not take anyone insultin’ my good friend and would be Consort… not even you. A friend who is huge of heart, brave in the face of overwhelming odds, loyal to a fault, easy on the eye, a Viking in bed, and just happens to have had a bad run of it lately… And… Yeah, I’ve had experience with the crazy ones, and been on both the giving and receiving end of a lot of nasty business in my time, so know the toll it takes. Also, I’ll have you know I don’t make a habit of abandoning those I love when it suits me, and, contrary to popular belief I don’t go around shaggin’ anything that moves, much less makin’ love good an’ proper, ‘cause I thought that was what we were doin, yeah?” He paused and waited whilst Xander processed the heartfelt diatribe, and eventually worked out that the last question was not rhetorical.
“Well Pet? We were makin’ love, yeah?”
Xander was suddenly feeling exposed and raw. It was what they were doing, perhaps just ‘friends with benefits’ at first and it had been such a short time since they reconnected, not even two weeks, but yes… he could admit it. New as it was, it was not frightening… or ‘wrong’… and it was certainly more than friendship that he now felt for Spike, and that wasn’t just due to having sex, it was everything in between, and that everything seemed to be growing and expanding constantly. The more he knew Spike, and the William behind the vampire, the deeper and more rapidly his feelings grew. It was comfortable at times and hard at others… but that was life. So yes, they were making love in their exchanges.
“Yeah… definitely of the making love.”
“Right, so I don’t abandon you, so long as you want me around, deal?”
Finally Xander smiled, “Deal.”
“Good. Now about that love makin’ – you up for a tumble? Work the kinks out from last night?” Spike wiggled an eyebrow and gave a sly grin, then turned and made for the patio doors
Xander hesitated, “Shouldn’t I ring Willow first, you know, get it over and done with.”
The vampire paused at the door, “Your choice pet, but if you take too long, I might just have to come out here and ravish you where you sit. Sure the witch wouldn’t mind listenin’. Second thoughts, why don’t you Skype her and we c’n give ‘er a real show?”
Xander groaned as his traitorous ‘Little Xander’ twitched at the thought of either option. “A world of no, Spike. Look just go inside and relax for a few minutes, I’ll make it quick OK?”
“Alright luv, but just to let you know, I’ll be makin’ myself verrry comfortable whilst I’m waitin’.” With that, he left.
Xander sat back down heavily and dialed Willow’s mobile number from memory, hoping, though not expecting, a more upbeat reception than Giles’ interrogative style.
The phone gave two rings before it was picked up, “Xander! Oh thank the Goddess! Just wait, it’s really noisy here…”
Xander could hear some unknown commotion in the background and wondered at its source. He worried a little as he waited, knowing that Willow was in places unknown somewhere in northern Brazil with goodness knows what going on around her.
What seemed like an age later, though could only have been a minute or so, a panting Willow came back on the line. “Sorry about that – it’s the Solstice festival here, or rather it’s the Catholic Saint Sebastion festival, which kind of took over the same date so the Spanish missionaries could keep sweet with the local population, anyway, every one is really on a high and there’s a parade and huge crowds. Consuela gave me the heads up this morning but it’s still a bit of a cultural shock, but we’ve had some pretty heavy stuff going down with Philip stepping away from the coven, and the coordination of the new Brazilian central Witches council – turns out there are a lot of undertrained or unidentified witches amongst the population, and the younger ones all needing education, if only so they can get a job and a better handle on using their gifts for good. And it’s really exciting I guess, the future I mean. ::sudden pause :: And you so didn’t ring me to hear all that.” Another breath, and to Xander’s great relief, the conversation continued more slowly, and with definite interaction on his part.
“Not totally true Wills, happy to hear your tales of festivities and happy mayhem, but you sounded kind of urgent.”
“Oh… Oh well… yeah… Giles kind of contacted me and said you were staying with Spike, which I already knew, but that he was concerned that you were… I don’t know… somehow you might not cope, not that you’re not capable of coping, ‘cause you so are, but that things might get stressful and there could be… you know… that Spike… This isn’t coming out right.
“Anyway, I told him you’d be fine and that Spike was totally up with looking after… well, you know, that you two were friends and he always looks out for the people he cares about… But then I did a kind of location spell and before you start getting all antsy it wasn’t a big deal and I am way the uber-witch with control these days. Anyway, my friend Consuela (who is a High Mistress and totally powerful too) reads auras and she can do it remotely. And she said yours was all with the changing colour, and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, it’s just that it sort of indicated that your aura was kind of intertwining with… well with Spike’s. So I did it again and she said it was still kind of weird as in reds changing through purples and into a deep blue, which she said meant calm and complete but then I got thinking that maybe it was you feeling, you know, ‘blue’. And then when I couldn’t get hold of you, I kind of panicked a little… But now you are calling and you sound fine… You are fine, aren’t you?”
Xander was still trying to process the babble but gave up and simply answered the last question. “Yeah Wills, I’m fine, finer than I’ve been for a long time, in fact. Turns out that Spike is really good company, I mean really good. He’s so smart Willow, did you know he got firsts at Oxford for his degree? And he has all this history that I’m sure even Giles doesn’t know, and he was OK telling me… He trusts me Willow, and I trust him. And he would never hurt me – and I don’t mean in the worried about biting sense – he looks out for me, and I kind of found I can do that for him too. He’s been through a lot and he kind of gets me. It’s… nice.”
“You’ve fallen for him!”
“What? No!... Well yeah a bit…”
“Mr?!” The tone was knowing and accusatory.
“OK, yeah… a lot. But you have to admit… Anyway… he seems OK with it at the moment, and we’re just enjoying each other’s company, you know, taking things as they come. So you don’t have to worry, OK? Look, I have to go. We’re heading for the continent for a couple of weeks for some business stuff Spike has to do, and I’m kind of tagging along for the holiday, but I’ll keep in touch, I promise.”
“Alright… but just let Spike know - ‘shovel talk’, me to him, applies still - even though I’m a long way away!”
“I’ll tell him, though I reckon he’ll already have guessed that bit. And hey Willow? Thanks, OK? For being a good bud and worrying about me. I do appreciate it – and you, I’ll always appreciate you.”
Willow took a moment to answer and Xander fancied he heard a sniffle before her reply, “Yeah, I love you too, Xan. Just… be well, OK? And blessings… always that… Bye now.”
“Thanks Will. Bye.”
He was barely to the door of the patio when a very nude, very erect Spike appeared at the bedroom door facing him. “Thought you’d never stop natterin’. Almost made a start by me lonesome. Now come here and let’s get the day really started.”