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.
The next day and a half in Zurich seemed to fly by.
They attended the initial valuation of the artworks designated as ‘to sell’ items, though Daniel’s aunt and expert colleague with their eye pieces at the ready spent so much time ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the various paintings and small sculptures, that it was all Xander could do keep from falling asleep on one of the ornate chairs in the corner. He admired Spike’s fortitude and ability to look interested, and smiled once or twice as his vampire corrected Horace, the white haired, monocle-wearing expert, on certain dates and historical events linked to the works.
In the end it had been a successful meeting for all concerned, and they had topped the evening off with a final visit to farewell Franz and his family. Feted like returning heroes, they departed for the hotel with enough blood to service Spike’s needs for the next three days along with some home made chocolate delicacies, and a silver ‘good fortune’ talisman each. The latter was inscribed on the back with odd writing that apparently also granted them both ‘sanctuary of family’ with the Le Bouche clan wherever they were in the world.
The following day they had the jewelry assessed, this time at Sotheby’s as recommended by Montague since, as he pointed out, the collection included pieces from all over the globe and their Zurich expert, one Dr Johannes Fitzroy, was second to none and “an old school chum and a tremendous chap, though does tend to err on the side of eccentric.” Broad yellow poker dot tie, pipe and trilby hat aside, Fitzory was both personable and very informed, and proved a wealth of information regarding the vast majority of pieces with a particularly effusive response to a rather garish, over complicated (in Xander’s opinion), earring and necklace set.
Apparently they had once been the property of Yekaterina II Velikaya (Spike whispering “Catherine the Great, of Russia pet” to help Xander out). Spike had smiled and provided some background for the excited Fitzroy, “Been in the family for years, relative was given them by one of the royal ladies as a bit of a friendly token during a St Peterburg palace visit back in the day.” Spike had winked a Xander and whispered he would have the whole story later.
In the end, they entrusted the collection to Dr Fitzroy for full cataloguing and sale with the assurance that there would be no ‘cock ups’, and that a conservative estimate before auction was ten to twelve million.
Xander had a final swim at the lake baths before they took their late leave from the Baur Au Lac and made their way to the train station for the mid afternoon departure. Their quantity of luggage had increased somewhat, but it was of little consequence as they checked in and made their way to the first class carriage. The trip to Milan would only take four hours after which they would change and have a private berth all the way to Florence.
Xander was more than impressed by their luxury double compartment in a designated quiet section, having travelled extensively across Africa often in little more than cattle trucks and more often than not, without a proper seat. The first leg of their journey was a four hour trip to Milan on the Cisalpino, then a change to the speed train for a quick hour and three quarters arriving in Florence just before ten in the evening, where a car would be waiting courtesy of Anton.
The train pulled out shortly after they settled in and their complimentary drinks arrived. The compartment was light and airy with enormous picture windows, perfect for enjoying the views of the alps and beautiful Swiss countryside. Spike toasted the brunette opposite, “To our journey, and to the future with all that might hold, and to you pet. Thank the Ghods.”
Xander smiled as he felt the jolt of love flow through the link and held up his glass of champagne, clinking it gently. He replied, “To the future” and had a swig of his drink then snorted, grinned and held it up again over-dramatically, his other hand in the gesture of a Vulcan greeting ‘V’, “Live long and prosper.”
It earned him a light smack on the arm, before Spike looked to the ceiling for patience, grumbling, “Why do I always fall for the balmy ones.”
Sitting in silence, staring out at the beautiful vista, feet tangled in front of them, the lull in their lives was very welcome. To the casual observer they were a loving, wealthy (if their casually expensive clothes were any measure), gay couple on holiday in Europe. Xander was quietly pleased when Spike’s hand did not withdraw from his knee as the female hostess, come train conductor, checked in to confirm everything was to their liking and chat easily about the various facilities on the train.
Spike engaged Patrice easily first in English then switched to Italian, leaving Xander wishing he had more than his schoolboy Spanish and a reasonable grasp of Arabic. His French was limited to polite greetings, directions and money – enough to get himself into trouble, but not always out of it! He admired his lover as the blonde laughed and winked Patrice after she made some comment, then blushed red as Spike grabbed his hand and kissed the back of it dramatically exclaiming ‘il *mio* amante’. She gave a faux put upon sigh, “Tutti quelli buoni sono gay!” then took her leave with a quick, “Enjoy your trip with us,” the English obviously for Xander’s benefit.
Apparently they were ‘out and proud’, even to the human world, something that far from bothering the vampire mate, actually gave him a warm feeling. Spike wasn’t ashamed of being with him, being identified as his lover. The strikingly handsome, blindingly intelligent, brave, blue-eyed blonde really was… his! To the human and demon worlds they belonged to each other. It was still an amazing thought.
Spike let go of the hand he was holding and reached down to pull out his laptop. There was good Wifi connection in their cabin and, as Spike was quick to point out, he needed to check in with Monty before they arrived at Anton’s as the visit to Immortal was as much business as pleasure.
Xander relaxed back and spent some time just staring out at the scenery set off perfectly by the late afternoon sun, and as he did so, he contemplated the immense changes that had occurred in his life in the past month. He had gone from a state of mentally unstable, virtual invalid with little or no hope and occasional suicide watch, to a person with a future. A future full of promise, albeit with all sorts of implications and consequences he couldn’t possibly fathom, but a future… with a wonderful, attentive, ridiculously wealthy and loving partner, his Master Vampire, his adored mate, his Spike, William the Bloody, once William Cavendish and now, William Aurelius- his William, ridiculously intelligent, well-educated, funny and caring, and scary as hell.
Looking over to Spike, who was frowning slightly at the screen of his computer and absently spinning the fine fountain pen recovered in Oxford, he idly pondered whether his far older partner found the whole thing as wondrously crazy as he did. Spike looked up just at that moment and when met with, “Ghods, I love you Mr Aurelius,” he received a blinding smile and small shake of the head, “Ditto pet… I’ll be finished here in a few. You want to go for a wander? Take a few photos on that fancy phone of yours ‘n see what you c’n find? Reckon there’s a club car we should go christen at some point, no good having first class tickets if we can’t drink the difference!”
Some four hours later, the two were alighting in Milan for a change over to the night train with its private deluxe double compartment complete with beds made up for the night journey (and obviously geared to those continuing on to Rome and Naples). Once again they were greeted politely by the staff and provided a light supper and drinks as they pulled out of the station.
Replete with food and utterly relaxed, it didn’t take long for the darkening vista outside to lose its appeal and, well, what was a good vampire and his mate to do with a spare hour or so? Particularly when the shower cubicle was so… snug… and the single lower bed so… inviting…
As the train pulled in to Florence, Xander was dressed but still brushing his damp hair and trying hard to wipe the satisfied grin from his face, “Geez Spike, cut it a bit fine… but sooo worth it. Guess that makes us part of the ‘Mile-wide Club’, don’t you?”
Spike smiled and shook his head as grabbed his laptop bag and another carry-on and made his way out their door and toward the exit mumbling, “Yup, always me ‘n the crazy ones.”
Xander half expected to be met on the platform, and almost began to worry as they exited the luggage collection area with no sign of Anton, then spotted a very flustered thirty something woman scanning the crowd and holding a large print sign reading “AURELIUS”. As they approached the attractive, thirty-something brunette, she visibly sighed and smiled at the two approaching men, addressing them in perfect English as soon as they were within earshot. “Oh thank goodness! I thought I might have missed you, or perhaps had the wrong exit. I am Natalia. Master Anton is in the car. I will just let him know we are on our way out.” She pointed them toward the main exit whilst making a swift call on her mobile.
A late model, large black Mercedes sedan pulled in to the curb in front of them and Natalia opened the front passenger side door to reveal the Immortal in the driver seat. He leaned over and smiled broadly, “Car for Masters William and Alexander? Well done Natalia, now help these two with their luggage and let’s get them home.”
Xander and Spike politely refused the petite woman’s assistance lifting their bags before Spike was waved to the front passenger position, whilst Xander and Natalia slid into the plush tan leather seats at the back.
As they pulled into traffic, Spike looked back to check that his Mate was comfortable with the arrangements, receiving a smile as reply, then turned his attention to the driver, “Thanks mate, though you always struck me as a stretch limo and chauffeur type.”
Anton scoffed a little and smiled, “I love to drive when I can, and it seemed more appropriate since I am host, that I should be the one at the wheel for your first taste of our beautiful Florence. I assume it is your first time here, Alexander?”
“Umm, yes… to the whole of Italy actually. I… really didn’t get around to seeing Europe much. Mostly just southern England and Africa before this trip.”
“Ah well, you are in the right hands then. I am sure William knows all the best places, and I hope I can at least prove an adequate tour guide whilst you are here. Tonight we will just take you to my home, there is time to see the sights later, though I am sure Natalia will be happy to point out some places as we pass. I am sorry but we have about a half hour of driving to reach my home in the hills, but the view is well worth it, as is the quiet.”
Xander smiled across at the attractive women next to him and was given a polite nod and smile in return, “Of course, Master Xander. We are just about to pass the Giardino della Fortezza on our left. It is a very beautiful park in the day…” Natalia took her role seriously and continued her commentary, happily pointing out various Piazzas and other highlights as they passed.
With Xander happily occupied in the rear of the car, the Immortal turned his attention back fully to navigating through the traffic and while addressing Spike. “I was told of your troubles in Zurich, or rather should I say, once more the heroism of you and your Consort... but my apologies, your Mate.”
“Nothin’ hero about it, just the wrong place at the right time. Was just pickin’ up some supplies from ol’ Franz Le Bouche’s when they had some very unwelcome visitors. Near as bloody well lost the boy in the fracas.”
“It was well he was already Consort then. I take it he was able to take of you enough to survive.”
“That ‘n had a bloody good doc at the hospital. Still, it all turned out for the best. Saw Master Marcus before we left. Don’t think Franz will have any more problems for a while. ‘n Xan… well, as I think you’ve already guessed, he’s now full Mate, though couldn’t quite do the rituals.”
“Ahh, I…” Anton broke off the conversation to sound the car horn and swear under his breath in several languages as they were cut off by a small Fiat changing lanes at speed. “My apologies. As I was about to say, would there be any way I could be of assistance? I realize it is the roll of your Sire to acknowledge and seal your mating, but I understand Drusilla has cut all ties and Angelus… well, may we pray he has found peace in his final rest… I do not wish to presume, but I would be honored, William, if you would allow me to second for them in their absence if you wish the formal ceremony.”
Spike looked across at the Immortal, studying the handsome profile and seeking any sign of deception. Finding none, he finally asked, “Have to give it some thought. I’d… I’d like little brother to be there too… And I’m pretty sure Xander would appreciate that.” Spike didn’t add that he was pretty sure the man’s human family would not understand, or that his friends, the Scoobies of old, who were effectively family, would hardly feel comfortable.
The continuation of the conversation was delayed for a few minutes as Anton deftly wound the car in and out of traffic and onto Via Sestese out of the city.
Finally Spike spoke again, “Why would you do that for us? It will have repercussions surely?”
“The recognition the House of Aurelius will gain from formal joining, at least in the eyes of the demon world, is significant, but it is more for a selfish reason… I seek family, you see… and you are the closest I have come in almost two millennia to that. I think you will understand my motivations more clearly after we have had a proper discussion at home. But think on it, please.”
Their journey continued up into the hills north of Florence proper. Although only ten or so kilometers from the city proper, the road wound around the valleys and up to the former monastery now known as Villa Colonnato, Anton’s home.