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 approach to the villa was via a long, dimly lit driveway, the pale walls rising from the landscape just as they had done for hundreds of years. They entered the ground floor via the rear of the house, Anton ushering them into a wide hallway where three staff were obviously awaiting their arrival.
Anton introduced the individuals in formal fashion, “Senor Marcellus Leptus, my manager of all things horticultural on the estate.” Spike then Xander stepped forward to shake the smiling, elderly gent’s outstretched hand. Anton then turned to the two women who had been waiting patiently, “This dear lady is Marcellus wife, Signora Rita Leptus, my wonderful housekeeper, and her sister Signorita Fulvia Paccio who is our gifted cook.” He winked at the dear lady and added, “I do hope you have a good exercise regime, or you will find yourselves ‘filling out’ in no time, if Rita has her way!”
Spike took the rather rotund Fulvia’s hand and kissed the back of it, causing her to blush then moved to do the same for her sister, just as Xander greeted the housekeeper. At that moment, Anton said something in Italian to the two portly women, the response was a small cheer of joy whereupon both men were promptly pulled in and kissed on both cheeks as if they were long lost relatives rather than newly acquainted.
When a rather bemused Spike (whose hand was still being held by the darker haired Rita) explained something to the excitable ladies in their own tongue, another round of kisses ensued and the two visitors required a polite rescue from the bemused Immortal. Anton swiftly guided them to a richly decorated sitting room with doors open to what he called the loggia, though Spike muttered “a ‘Colonnade’ mate”, for Xander’s benefit.
A generous repast was on offer on a sideboard, including a carafe of blood for the two vampires. Natalie briefly looked to take her leave for the evening as the three men helped themselves to cold drinks and various tidbits, waving a friendly goodbye to the two newcomers as she departed.
Spike settled next to Xander on the expensive plush lounge suite, taking care to place his mug of blood and plate on the cork mat protecting the highly ornate low table across from the Immortal. He didn’t need their mating link to know Xander was nervous. The way the brunette was toying with his glass, and the tension in his back was a giveaway for a start. Anton saw it too and deliberately relaxed back with a smile, made direct eye contact, and addressed the brunette, “I hope you will enjoy your stay here Alexander, William tells me you are a keen swimmer?”
Xander flicked a glance to Spike who shrugged before answering, “Yes, I mean I enjoy it and, um, well… it’s just for fitness really. I don’t count or anything, just swim for a time period… so I can kind of let thoughts come and go, like a form of meditation I guess. I started doing that after… my doctor… um… Yeah. I like to swim.” The last part trailed off and he was aware of Spike’s hand finding its way to the nape of his neck to rub small circles as Anton replied cheerfully, “That is a stroke of luck then. I have only last month finished the lap pool adjacent to the lower level of the east wing. It is heated and though indoors, opens completely to the south if the weather is fine. Use it at your leisure. Spike do you swim also?”
The last part was said with a definite twinkle in his eye as though there was some story Xander was not privy to behind the question. Spike’s replied with a playful growl, “Not it I c’n help it mate. Bloody unnatural flingin’ yourself in the drink on purpose.”
The statement caused Anton to laugh openly for the first time, and his guests found themselves smiling back and relaxing fully as a consequence. “Then perhaps a sauna or spa would be more to your taste… or you might do me the honor of a spar of a different sort. I have a properly equipped dojo set up in the old eastern stables, though you will need to go easy on me, I confess I am a little out of practice.”
“Find that hard to believe mate. Look fightin’ fit from where I sit.”
“I do work out it is true, but the rare joy of training with a Master vampire, an equal, is something I yearn for.”
“Well then, wouldn’t do to disappoint the host.” Spike emptied his glass of blood just as Anton stood and handed Xander a fine cut crystal glass indicating, the collection of decanters on a side table.
“Come let us drink to it and then I will show you the lay of the house, so tomorrow you might wander with purpose at your leisure.”
Xander loved everything about the building, admiring the stone and wood craftsmanship of eons past, the recent restorations, and Anton’s very tasteful additions. The original building had been a private residence in the early 1500s, then the property of the Dominican monks from 1609 until early nineteenth century when it was taken back during French rule and became once again a private home. As a consequence, there was apparently a private chapel and crypt, though neither included in the evening’s ‘guided tour’.
The upper portico surrounding a formal garden courtyard and the views to the sparkling city of Florence from various windows were a delight. Numerous study rooms and lounges, plus huge library, well stocked cellar (and tasting room) and billiard room, all decorated with an eclectic mix of antique and new furnishings, classical and modern art pieces creating a warm, homely feel, yet at the same time, had an elegant opulence throughout.
Marcellus, Rita and her sister Fulvia, lived in the three bedroom, separate apartment on the ground floor. It was a lovely big space according to Anton, something Xander had no doubt about as he estimated the floor space involved.
It was some time later that the Immortal bade goodnight at the door to their ground floor suite with the promise to meet them for brunch around midday the following day.
The suite of rooms with its vaulted ceilings was beautifully decorated in neutral tones and dark wood. Its open fireplace and plush lounge looked inviting, but the pair were tired and opted for a quick inspection of the amenities before undressing and snuggling down in a comfortable tangle under the covers of the rather grand, four poster bed.
Xander let out a relieved sigh as Spike readjusted for maximum skin contact, “This is nice.”
“That it is pet.”
“Have I told you today that I love you?”
“Yeah… I do, you know, love you.”
“Love you too.”
“Everything… You. I thank the Ghods for you.”
“Feeling’s mutual luv.”
Everything was quiet for a few minutes as Spike stroked the brunette’s torso rhythmically, listening to the strong heartbeat and slow breathing before, “Spike?”
“What is it now luv?”
“This is forever isn’t it… us, I mean.”
“Seems that way.”
“Hmm… good.” The final word was slurred and accompanied by a languid sensation of complete trust and love openly flowing through their link from his mate.
He gently kissed the long brunette locks as the man’s breathing evened out and slowed even further in sleep, adding his own, “It is that, Xan… very, very good,” before he joined his partner in slumber.
Xander was oddly aware that he was dreaming but swept along anyway. Though it began in unfamiliar territory, it swiftly became a disturbing dream full of imagery of his lover sacrificing himself for the greater good, and missed opportunities to save him, of trying to offer himself instead, and being thwarted in every attempt to win the day. As with all dreams, the plotline was mixed and confused with his own violent African experiences, and with associated feelings of obligation, responsibility, horror and guilt.
Spike’s ear was over the man’s chest, and the vampire was instantly awakened as the racing heart rate and near panicked breathing signaled his partner’s increasing distress. The link was so open that it allowed some of the images to directly permeate his thoughts. He saw a jumbled version of some events witnessed by his Mate, old memories of the terrors of Sunnydale and far worse experiences on the Dark Continent. The results of mines and bomb blasts, of gunfire and machete attacks, and the feelings of the man caught in it all with a near impossible task to do.
He tried to send back love and calm but his efforts were like a single voice in a storm, so he acted on instinct. He let his vampire visage emerge and found his partner’s neck, biting down as gently as possible at the same time pushing up a little so his jugular was within easy reach of Xander’s mouth. He almost released again as a particularly vivid image of a tiny headless corpse blasted through the link, but then there were teeth, Xander’s very real, small fangs, biting down desperately hard, followed by and exponential calming that came with the sensation of feeding and being fed from. And slowly everything faded into that singular sensation, hatred and fear washed away by blood and love exchanged.
Finally Xander’s eye’s fluttered open, he released his bite and relaxed back, allowing a few silent tears as he tasted familiar blood on his tongue and recognized the loving presence of his mate, “I’m… Oh Spike! I am so sorry! I’m… I didn’t mean… Did I hurt you?”
Spike stroked the handsome features and kissed the beloved wet cheek gently, “No Luv. No hurt… Do you want to talk about it?” Spike waited as emotions ebbed and flowed like ocean waves.
Xander’s voice was still rough with sleep, “Not really…” He cleared his throat, then started again, “Not really, anyway I figure you might have copped some of it anyway judging by past experience. Anyway… sorry you had to see…”
Spike pushed up a little and looked directly and stroked the handsome features once more, “Problems shared Pet, always a good thing. Anyway, you’ve seen enough of my nightmares… but you want to talk about it, or it leaves you edgy sometime down the track an’ you tell me OK?”
Xander gave a small smile, took the hand touching him and pressed it to his lips, “Love you.”
“Yeah feelin’s mutual pet. Now ain’t that a stroke of luck.”
They lay together for a little longer just enjoying the connection and the calm after the storm. Eventually human bodily functions demanded that Xander visit the bathroom, the vampire joining him when he heard the shower turn on. A soft knock on the door and “Like some help with your back?” resulted in Spike being dragged into the double shower cubicle and a thorough soaping (amongst other things) given and received.
By the time the two emerged onto the sunny portico to look for Anton around midday, the dream was all but forgotten. Senora Leptus saw them from the doorway at the end of their first story vantage point and hurried over arms outstretched, speaking in rapid Italian and offering her greetings for the day.
Spike answered for both of them and inquired after Anton while Xander was happy to merely nod and smile at the kindly lady. They were pointed toward the domed stone rotunda on the first terrace below the formal garden, where a lone figure was sitting.
The stone cross on the apex of the structure, words “Protector Sanctae Ecclesiastae Opranobis” and Dorian style columns of the structure denoted its religious origins. The intricate mosaic floor in rich colors depicted a rural scene became apparent as they moved closer.
Anton was obviously working, papers in a neat pile to one side weighted down by a mobile phone and laptop open. His fingers flew across the keys as they approached, but as soon as they were within hearing distance he pushed back, turned and gave them a broad smile. “Good morning! As you see, the Gods of the weather have chosen to smile on us today. Come take a seat and enjoy the view. I’m sure Senora Paccio will bring us some refreshments directly.”
Xander followed Spike’s lead and settled onto one of the ornate ironwork chairs, taking in the view fully after exchanging pleasantries. Immediately below them was a sloping orchard of ancient olive trees and grove of citrus, beyond that, a long stone path that led to a small treed promontory dominated by bay trees and ancient stone arch which served as another focal point and lookout, and may at one time have been the site of an older residence.
Anton stilled his activities completely and smiled serenely as his guests took in the scene properly, particularly noting the brunette’s appreciative gaze as his blonde lover turned his face directly toward the sun.
As promised, Senora Paccio arrived within minutes laden tray in hand. She tut tutted at Anton as any elderly Aunt might, as his attempts to clear the table and assist in laying out the repast seemed appreciated, but not quite swift enough for her satisfaction. Freshly baked bread, fruit of the season and a platter of antipasto, sausages and cheese were swiftly deployed, beverages of choice served and coffee promised to follow.
They ate companionably, Spike consuming a generous mug of warm blood swiftly and Anton doing the same before both joined Xander in more standard human fare. The conversation was light hearted and about nothing in particular, and Xander could sense Spike growing to like the Immortal more and more. It was odd in a way, he should have been jealous, but that simply did not occur, even when some cheeky remark regards some shared Italian history from Spike resulted in a light tap on the arm and knowing look. Instead he found that he too was drawn to the ancient being in a young man’s guise.
There was no doubt about the ancient power Anton exuded, an immense latent power that was neither dark nor light, rather, one had the distinct impression it was quite capable of manifesting as either, or both. Yet his appearance was that of a very handsome twenty-something male.
The Immortal was of athletic build, slim and just a little shorter than Xander. He had almost fashionably mid length, near black, somewhat curly hair; perfect, straight white teeth; a straight nose and the high cheekbones of the classically beautiful; and the pale green eyes and olive skin. Xander wondered at the true origins of such a beauty and determined to ask at some time during their stay, after all, it sounded like they were to be family of sorts.
Even more difficult was reconciling the age of Anton with the person they were chatting to, but then Spike looked perhaps only a couple of years older – all true until one looked carefully into the eyes of these beings. There one saw the wisdom gained of time and experience, both shielding this from the outside observer as a matter of course, a prudent move in most cases, as the young are so often underestimated.
Xander hardly noticed that the coffee had arrived, been served and the remains of their luncheon cleared away, and was still staring out at the vista thinking, when a cool hand on his arm jerked him from his reverie. “Gahhh!!”
Spike laughed and sat back, “Sorry Pet, didn’t mean to startle. Figured you for just bein’ quiet for a bit but then you didn’t answer. Anythin’ amiss?”
“Wha? No… no… just… I was just sort of… thinking about things…” When he saw the shadow of concern fall across Spike’s features he quickly added, “Good things! All things of the good… promise!”
Spike grabbed the hand closest to him and pulled the brunette over for a swift kiss on the lips then sat back, “Right then. How about we take Anton up on his offer then?”
Xander ducked his head with slight embarrassment, “Sorry, I kind of drifted off…”
Anton was the one to reply, “I thought perhaps you two would like to come into town with me. I have one or two meetings to attend, but I would be pleased to show you around, indeed you may like to make the acquaintance of some of my contacts here – it can never hurt to expand one’s corporate network. I would also like to take you to visit the Uffizi Gallery, my dear friend Dr Scudieri has promised to show me the new acquisitions and we need to discuss the impact of the changes in the management structure. I am a simple ‘friend of the museum’, one of their patrons, these days, but Magnolia is a darling and does keep me updated as often as she can. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.”
“Um yeah… Sounds like a plan… Spike?” Xander was answered with a squeeze of a hand and smile, “Love to.”
Yes, the villa is based on a real place, with a bit of writer’s licence: