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.
Anton’s fingers tightened around Spike’s hand as tear filled eyes met the vampire’s, “Yes, William. My beloved Hadrian.”
“But, correct me if I am wrong, that would make you Antinous! No wonder the historians struggled to find out anything about your past…”
“Or the true circumstances of my ‘death’, yes.”
Xander felt a little out of the loop until the connection with Rome and the name registered fully, “Wait… Holy S%$#! As in the Emperor of Rome, Hadrian’s Wall and all that, Hadrian?”
Anton gave a rather sad smile, “Yes, that Hadrian. He was touring the province and was staying in Nicodemia at the home of the Procurator. He was, obviously, taller and much older than my twelve-something year body that I was still coming to terms with at the time. I was seated by one of the villa water features a little way from a group of older boys who were keen to recite some of their lessons to him. I did not know the piece of prose, but listened in. He saw me and approached with a kindly smile, asking my name and my opinion of the writing. I gave it to the best of my ability, then remembered my place. This was the emperor, and I a mere child… Yet I was drawn to him, just as I had been to Isesi.
“And the Powers had not finished with me. A week later my new life took an unexpected turn as Hadrian had taken a shine to me and determined I would be educated in Rome with the hope that one day I might grace his presence again some day, perhaps as a dalliance or even temporary companion, as he was known, like so many others of the time, to enjoy younger men.
“I studied hard, and trained hard at the imperial paedagogium for the next two years. I knew the emperor loved all things Greek and worked hard to hone my skills as conversationalist, as well as in music, and in the art of pleasing. I hid my origins from others and did as I was told, and finally Hadrian sent for several of our number including me, to join him at his villa in Tibur.
“When he first took me, I think he was surprised. I was so much younger, smaller and lighter than he at the time, but had the hormones appropriate to my age and was intensely attracted to my bearded god, added to that were the memories of my past Sire and my many experiences in another time. It was joyous that first time and every time after that.
“I felt like I was coming home. It was like having my Sire present again. Hadrian was so considerate and attentive, so gentle in private, yet stern and, by necessity, distant in public in those first days. I was well versed in the expectations a Sire has of a Childe, so took my role seriously and without complaint. I loved and admired him, and some time in the next year he took me as his favourite. By the time I was fifteen in my new human years we were lovers to the exclusion of all others.
“You must understand the times, pedestary had been an acceptable societal role in Hellenist society for centuries by then, and same sex pleasuring was a recognized part of the social fabric. So I travelled with Hadrian’s entourage and we were together constantly, just as a Sire is with a Childe, for all his journeys. It took us the length and breadth of the Roman Empire for the next five years.”
Xander could feel Spike beginning to become upset through the link and recognized the feelings of sadness for what they were - a quiet grief for a Sire, memories of lost loved ones and residual loyalty and devotion. Xander slid from his seat to a position of submissive love, leaning against Spike’s knee, his arm draped gently around the strong calves.
“At first the partnering was nothing more than was socially expected in such circumstances – Hadrian was always in charge in the bedroom, just as he was in the Empire. He was a brilliant man, charismatic, handsome and able; a strategist, politician and academic; a soldier, pragmatist and humanitarian. Though Spanish by birth as you would know, William, he had been educated in Athens and loved poetry and the writings of the Greeks. I used to sit at his feet, just as you are now Xander. He used to play idly with my curls whenever... he loved to touch...
“As I matured in physical age, I also began to forget my past as a vampire. I revelled in my life each passing moment spent in that body, and the more we were together the greater… our love grew virtually exponentially. I travelled always by his side a constant companion in a golden world where everything seemed positive. We loved to hunt together – reminding me so much of my time with my Sire. Hadrian even slew a lion the afternoon one of the beasts turned on my horse, so brave and concerned for my well being was he. We ate, bathed, studied and were playful in each others’ company.
“I tried to be a support for him. I knew too much of politics and kings to venture an opinion, not only would it have been dangerous, but would also offer Hadrian’s detractors an opportunity to use me in some way. As it was a few had tried with no success. We were together as much as two beings can be without being one in the circumstances. He never hid his affection for me, something that was unusual, and I knew that I could never be treated as full partner or equal to the Emperor, but that was immaterial. I loved and was loved... completely.
“I had heard nothing from the Oracles, or the Powers, since my shift back to human, but as I approached my twentieth birthday (according to the astrologers’ reckonings) when on our travels found us in Egypt, travelling down Nile, we visited a Soothsayer, an Egyptian sorceress Lyceptia in Canopus. There had been several dark portents and Hadrian was a man of his time, so paid attention to the auguries and felt the visit warranted.
“Despite her squalid abode, and even as a human, I felt it, she was very powerful. She demanded a sacrifice of personal significance from him to guarantee a ‘good reading’ for the Empire. He could not offer a human, nor dog, the first against his morals and the second unavailable. And I could not let him offer his prize steed, so I offered my own falcon, it was all I had of my own and very dear to me. Hadrian at first refused my offer, then, seeing my determination, allowed it.
“Her mumbo jumbo meant little, but the moment she slit the dear, trusting little creature’s throat and began to examine its innards, something dark shifted inside me. Old sins were replayed. She looked directly at me as she gave her message, “Darkened horizons and pain for the princeps. The Gods must be appeased.” And in that moment I knew. I could choose to continue the blessed life I had, but it would be Hadrian who would fall because of our love. I was his Achilles’ heel. Others would ultimately determine his devotion to me to be a weakness and exploit it.
“My only thoughts were for Hadrian. He was my all. And Rome was his to govern, stabilize and consolidate its prosperity. He loved me completely, I never had any doubt of that, but he loved Rome, wore his role as Caesar nobly and absolutely, and the Empire needed him. I could not be the cause of the Empire’s ruin, much less his death by foul means.
“We were about to leave her compound and Hadrian was discussing the reading with Phlegon, his scribe, when the sorceress grabbed my arm and with swirling blackened eyes, fixed me with a gaze that informed me what was expected, what was being demanded of me. I was again to be required to be the agent of balance. This time the price was even higher than losing my Sire, or being confined alone in the Well. This time I was being asked to give up my human existence, to become once more part of the ‘other’, turn my back on the man I loved so much. But it was my life for his, there was no question and it was so far from what I wanted that I really doubted I could go through with it.”
Anton’s strong baritone voice broke off with a shuddering, unnecessary breath, and Xander looked up to see tears begin to track in earnest down the beautiful features of their host. Spike stood swiftly and pushed his chair around until he was side by and touching the ancient being. Xander moved also, until he was back in contact with his mate, in much the same position as before, except that he too touched Anton with a reassuring hand as the Immortal struggled to continue.
“That night we made gentle, passionate love. I tried to put everything of me, all that I was, all the love I felt into that glorious set of moments, knowing that it would be… I… I cried that night too… And I could not tell him, not a word, or the Powers would undo any good my sacrifice would create.”
Spike fell silently into game face and bit into his wrist, the blood offering accepted by Anton then licked closed with Xander’s gentle tongue.
“It may have been the principal night of the festival of Osiris, but the Gods and Powers I was trying to satisfy were many. All I could do was hope my humble offering was enough. While my darling, my all, and the rest of the entourage slept, I took a small punt to the middle of the river, said the appropriate phrases as they had come to me via the sorceress, adding some words from the priests, and lowered myself into the water.
“The demons of the river took delight in my death. I was a good swimmer and they enjoyed reminding me that drowning was anything but peaceful. They delighted in violating my mind and body as I died. Attempting to blot out any goodness, destroy my memories of love, make me forget the reason I was making the sacrifice, but I held firm.
“By the time my physical being was washed ashore a bank of the river nearby the Emperor’s barge, I was obviously (to the trained eye) battered and drained. But unlike the first turning, this time I seemed to float in and out of the scene. I was still present in some way. It was to be the cruelest of tortures.
“I could see my beloved in such pain, such grief, and could not go to him. He insisted on my being embalmed, but was unsure where to bury the remains, such was the depth of his despair. The embalmers were Fezakii demons, directed by the Oracles to leave my body in tact to rise, and who cleverly managed to embalm another unfortunate in my stead.
“I stole away on the third night. Once more a demon, once more alone, once more… without anything… I discovered I had the sun, much as you do dear William, and that short of complete dismemberment, beheading, or immolation, there was virtually nothing that could permanently kill me. I could not stay in Rome. Not to watch my darling from afar, not when my whole being screamed for him and my plight, so took the Silk Road east, beyond the Empire, through mountains and deserts until China.
“The journey took me through Persia and India, along the rooftop of the world, Tibet and on to China. I travelled thus for close to five hundred years. You can imagine my surprise when I learned of my deification by the Greeks and the establishment of Antioopolis when I returned to Rome the first time after forty years. And so many likenesses! I was never happier that my hard living en route had given me tougher thinner lines that the boyish beauty depicted in the statues. And how the early Christians seemed to hate my memory. But no one knew nor noticed me then.
“So I was taught some more valuable lessons. I learned the value of being the anonymous… and of being of both demon and human worlds yet allied to neither… and of acquiring knowledge and understanding from and of all beings I met… and of maintaining a level of wealth and influence that set me apart… just as my age brought wisdom and patience, and so determined that I was often seen as advisor or adjudicator.
“But I never forgot Hadrian. Even as I knelt in deep meditation and observed life in a Tibetan monastery; as I walked the great roads of the earth and sailed its seas; as I met all manner of man and demon; as I existed beyond all others save the Ghods and eternal spirits of this plane, I mourned him, missed him, remembered him.
“I participated in establishing universities, and backing new industries and innovations; promoted peaceable solutions and helped those in dire need where I could, refugees of all sorts. I suppose I was happy at times, though resigned is a more apt description. I had time… really all I had. Oh, I saw the marvelous human technological advancements that heralded each era, but on a more fundamental level one tended to see the similarities in human and demon nature from era to era, rather than the differences. The usual vices and flaws, sins and fear driven hatred, all grist for the worshippers of the dark powers flourished in every age. Just as the immense kindnesses, generosity and selflessness, the goodness exist to balance it out.
“But in all that, in all my long life – or unlife depending on how you look at it – I have never forgotten that desperate lesson. The one of how it feels to belong, to be loved and love in return, and I had almost given up finding such a thing again. Then recently the Oracles contacted me again. Told me to watch for the special two, unique pairing borne of pain, of light and dark, the lost and found, two who would need my help, but would also fulfill something for me. Two who might agree…
“I was told to watch for two who were ‘as one’, and might also provide for me that which I thought was quite lost… Two who, if willing, could bring me peace and allow me the joy of family, and for whom I could contribute the third in the triangle of strength, a triumvirate of balance… to be joined later by another but for now, two with whom I could share… myself.”
Xander found himself holding his breath, not daring to breathe for fear Anton would reveal something dire about Spike and his Mating. He noted that waves of the same emotions as Anton was expressing, was also coming from Spike. When he looked over at his beloved, he was faced with an emotional, game faced Spike.
Anton took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, “I have not told you everything, of course. And you are welcome to ask me anything… But know this - I wish only that you both experience the love and devotion denied me because of circumstance in my long existence. And if you have any space in that love to allow a stranger, the Immortal, me, Antinous, Anton, to call you family.”
Anton placed a rather shaky hand on each of the Mated pair’s shoulders. They turned and looked deep into tear filled, hopeful eyes and saw in the man as if for the first time.
Without pause, Spike and Xander said as one, “We would be honored… Sire.”
They were still quietly sharing blood and contemplating all that had been said and agreed upon when Xander’s mobile phone ‘Dr Who’ ringtone broke the mood. Blushing his apologies, the brunette tugged the offending article from a back pocket and checked the number.
“S#$%! It’s Giles… I had better take this…”