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 struggled up to sitting, said nothing and bared his neck. Anton was by his side in a flash, elongated incisors taking gently of his relative, an act which began simply enough, but ended with the Immortal half lying on a reclining Spike. Xander lazily pushed his wrist over to Spike who took of his Mate, and Anton, realizing that a complete connection was preferable, pushed his wrist over to the brunette Mate’s lips and was taken.
Some minutes passed before Spike relinquished Xander’s wrist, licking the already healing bite, “Want to tell us the problem Pet?”
“I… it’s silly really… I dreamt, of him, and of you two, and of little brother. But mostly of him.”
Spike was puzzled for a moment, “Him as in, your Sire?”
Spike knew immediately that this was about Hadrian. “Talk to us Sire, that we might comfort.” The words were formal, but with the blood link between Childer and Sire strong with feeding, the sentiment was of family and dear friends.
“I have not dreamt so for years. It was… so real. We were in the private grotto behind the great baths, we made love, basked in the sun, and were as we always were, he telling me of his plans and worries of the Empire, me listening and bringing solace in ways physical. It was wonderful, I knew it to be a dream, but did not want it to end.
“Then I was gone, and I could see him grieving. I was there, floating out of reach, as he cried, rent his clothes, cursed the Gods, punished himself in private… That beautiful man. I caused him so much pain… But I had no choice… at the time there was no choice…”
Spike was listening carefully. Surely Anton had told them of his love and loss of Hadrian before, and yet the upset seemed as raw as if it had happened but days ago.
Spike shoved Xander under the covers and gave him a pointed look. His mate took the hint and moved over, leaving a person sized space, as Spike held his hand out to their Sire, “C’mere you ol’ bugger.”
Anton stood for a moment, as though unsure of the offer, then quickly stripped his shirt off and joined the two on the bed. Spike and Xander rearranged their bodies until the Immortal was between their nude forms then snuggled down to cuddle the perfect, cool body between them. Spike kissed Anton on the lips as Xander began to rhythmically and quite platonically, stroke their ancient friend’s torso in silent support. Ultimately Spike’s hand made its way over the brunette’s as they continued to convey their love and comfort until Anton calmed into a relieved slumber, shortly followed by the other two.
When they woke for the second time, it was well past noon.
Spike woke to Anton’s pale green eyes examining him intently. There was a sense of wonder and something else in the gaze. Spike held the look for a time and felt love and contentment flowing openly through the Mating link so knew his partner was also conscious. He brought a pale hand up and stroked handsome, timeless features before asking, “You OK?”
The reply was a single tear escaping, but knew from the fuzzy but distinct feeling of gratitude through the Sire link, that he had his answer. He waited a few minutes in silence then ventured, “Just a guess Sire, is today a special day, for you… for you and Hadrian? Is that why you had the dream?”
Anton turned toward the blonde, “You are ever the reader of emotion dear heart. Indeed. It is… was the anniversary of his death. He had a weak heart, he was only sixty two when he died. He was always so fit and strong. I wasn’t there when he… He loved riding and hunting. We always went hunting together to celebrate this or that occasion. The year before I… left him, he killed a lion that was about to attack me on this day, the same day he died years later. I only heard of his death four months later… but somehow I knew... the day he took his last labored breath… I knew.”
Pride and love warred with grief as Anton remembered. Spike simply commented with a wry smile, “He would have thought of you to the end, Sire.”
Anton finally smiled, “I liked to think so. I hope he found rest and reward in the heavens. He deserved that and so much more. He was a great man.”
Spike kissed Anton squarely on the lips, “To coin a phrase, ‘takes one to know one’.”
Xander had been awake, enjoying the quiet and feeling Spike’s love and concern through the link, but really needed to use the bathroom, so finally made his conscious presence known with a polite clearing of the throat and “S’cuse the human… bathroom calls.” He rolled up and made a nude beeline for the en suite, grinning with embarrassment as he received a mental version of an appreciative wolf whistle from Spike.
By the time he exited, the other two were out of bed and beginning to prepare for the day. Spike tossed a fresh pair of boxers in his direction, “Reckon little brother will be waitin’, ‘s after ten.”
Forgoing their usual breakfast, the three wandered up the hill to find Connor leaning over the gate to the top paddock, deep in conversation with Marcellus.
The youngest Aurelian spotted them coming up the hill and waved them over, “Marcellus said the new sheep will be here Monday. Would it be OK if my sisters are here for that? I know Claire would just love to see them and Pippa will probably want to spend some time with your P.A., since she’s doing her internship in Washington later this year. I just know she could learn a lot from Natalia.”
Anton smiled indulgently, “I’m sure the whole household would be delighted. You can break the news to Senoras Rita and Fulvia – they will want to make preparations. They are to arrive at five, no?”
Connor nodded, then quickly added, “Yes, but they said they’ll take a taxi…”
Anton cut in, “I wouldn’t think of it. No, William and Alexander can help the family prepare, and we will be there to meet the girls. Now, are you up for a bit of a spar? I believe I promised to work on your bo technique today.”
Spike and Xander offered their services to the ladies of the house as soon as Connor and Anton left for the airport, and were given a few menial tasks then shooed away politely, so were seated in the main lounge when the front door opened on the latest guests. Consequently they could hear the introductions, excited chatter and the Immortal’s baritone laughter as the group made their way down the hallway to where the Mated couple were waiting.
Claire all but threw herself into Spike’s arms as he moved to greet them, young, slim brunette reminding Xander so much of a young Dawn that he had to do a double take. A statuesque, older and far more reserved, Pippa was on her brother’s arm and smiled sweetly at Xander as Anton introduced him.
“This is Alexander, William’s partner. Alex is going to be taking charge of our construction business interests. Until recently he was working in the UN controlled regions of Africa for a private organization assisting young women to access further education in the UK.”
Xander flushed with an embarrassed sense of guilt at the lie be omission, but perked up when Spike smiled and added, “He’s a right White Hat, is our Xan, an’ easy on the eye to boot, but hands off you two – he’s mine!”
Xander managed a smile and, “Nice to meet you”, before the five settled down for a light supper and general discussion of plans for the young folks’ two week sojourn in Italy.
It was quickly established that the girls were keen to see Florence and hoped to visit Pisa as a day trip using Florence as their base. The only other priority was to “end up in Rome” as they were departing from there.
It was Anton who came up with the proposal that they entire family take a road trip via Perugio to Tivoli, with stops along the way, then on to Naples as the girls both expressed a desire to visit Pompeii. After that the group would part, Connor and the girls ‘exploring’ farther to the south as took their fancy for another week, while Anton, Spike and Xander would travel together to Rome to attend to business and family matters. They would all meet again at Anton’s Rome apartment for the Reillys’ last two days in Italy.
The idea was wholeheartedly adopted, and the issue of transport easily solved with Anton’s suggestion that his friend chauffer them in an appropriate vehicle, with their accommodation similarly arranged at Anton’s behest. That settled the conversation turned to what might be seen in Florence the following day, the excitement of the trip to Pisa and various other wish list items of must see’s in Italy.
While Xander was engaged in a conversation with the girls and Connor, Spike pulled Anton aside. “Lovely idea Sire, but got an inclining there’s a bigger picture here I’m missin’.”
Anton held Spike’s azure stare for a long moment before replying in low tones thick with emotion, “I believe it would provide some distraction for me, and I hope… will allow me to share with you, my boys, some of my past in a very physical way. I rarely travel with company and… it would be nice to be with family for a time, if you will agree.”
“Course we will, ya ol' bugger. ‘N if I’m not mistaken, Tivoli… Villa Adriana?”
“I would like to show you, in person as it were. It was our, his, favorite retreat from the world. I feel the need to visit with you, where his spirit is strong… it would be… fitting.”
“We would be honored.” Spike paused for a moment, looked at the Immortal who suddenly seemed every bit as tired as his many years. He sought out Anton’s hand and pulled him toward the hallway so their position would be obscured a little by the door, then bared his neck. “Drink Sire. You are nearly done in.”
Anton initially shook his head, then, seeing the blonde’s determined look, let his fangs drop and accepted the offer gratefully. Licking the wound closed, he stroked Spike’s cheek once and whispered, “Thank you William, my sweet Childe.”
Spike gave his Sire a knowing, loving smile before the two rejoined the group as though nothing had transpired, “So, the menagerie arrives tomorrow, girls do their tourist thing Tuesday and midweek we set off. I reckon it’s time we all got some shut eye, don’t you?” He held out his hand, Xander standing to take it and the two took their leave.
As they ascended the steps to their suite, Xander noted the healing bite wound and ventured, “Everything OK?”
Spike paused on the landing for a moment to kiss his partner soundly before venturing, “’Tis now Pet. ‘Tis now.”
On Wednesday, a brand new, black, luxury seven seater, Audi SUV, pulled up at the front door at precisely ten in the morning. Its small trailer was swiftly loaded with luggage, and a hamper with an ample picnic of home made delicacies placed in the back of the car for easy access.
Pippa and Claire had already become favorites of the household and were busy saying their goodbyes to the new lambs, the two white pups, and of course Anton’s wonderful staff, as the Immortal spoke quietly to their driver. The girls, with Connor present by demand, presented a “special present of thanks from us – from San Francisco” to each person with appropriate thanks, promises to write, and guarantees that they would “visit again soon”.
Their drive out of Florence was a happy one, the girls looking back at the villa until it was well out of sight. The bright sunlight of Italian summer seemed to caress hillsides and highlight the beauty of the passing scenes. They turned off the main highway not far out of the city, taking instead, the route designated by Anton and that wound through the pretty farms and villages of Tuscany.
Seating arrangements were ample with Anton in the front with the driver, the girls and Connor in the central seats and Xander and Spike in the very back. Connor turned toward them several times in the first hour as alternately whispered “Spike stop it or I’ll…” then a muffled groans, and “Just a little lower Xan… that’s… urghhh” were signs of the two lovers trying to ‘behave’ (as jokingly ordered by their Sire).
After several short pauses for photos along the way, their first real stop was by Lake Trasimeno, a veritable inland sea and according to Anton a favorite for amateur and professional fishermen and boating enthusiasts throughout the ages.
The picnic basket was unloaded and a rug spread on a grassy bank where the six settled to enjoy the glorious sunshine, the view of many little boats out on the water and laugh at the antics of a group of young children playing a version of tag with associated commentary so typical of their age. The parents of the youngsters were some hundred or so meters away relaxing with their own luncheon, whilst keeping a keen eye on their children.
The cold repast supplied by Senora Paccio was generous in both quantity and variety, and the conversation easy. More than once Spike noticed Anton fall silent to stare wistfully first at their group, then out at the blue expanse in front of them. He eventually leaned over to his elder and privately ventured, “Penny for your thoughts, Sire.”
Anton seemed to snap back to the present somewhat startled, “Oh… I apologize. It is not my habit to drift off so. I was just thinking how very lucky I am. How I am happier on this day than I have been for a millennia, and it is all down to this… the simple pleasures of a relaxed day with family.”
“Surely you have experienced this more times than most humans have hours in their lives, Sire?”
“Would that it was as you say…” Anton paused for a moment to smile indulgently at the rest of their little group just as Connor pitched a grape at his younger sister, receiving an obligatory “Hey!” delivered with a grin and retaliatory flying piece of fruit.
Pippa’s quiet, “Oh come on children!” seemed to negate any escalation of the activity and Spike noted Anton’s attention being drawn to the young woman, and not for the first time in the last few days. He ventured a question, “She remind you of someone?”
His Sire replied rather distractedly, “Many a fine beauty in fact, more particularly, those of high character and strong will, women of intelligence… I have the happy experience of knowing many so blessed. But you are right Pippa is very like one in particular, a lady I have not thought of for an age… Plotina…” The Immortal continued to stare in the direction of Connor’s older sister, “She was as kind as she was powerful, as gentle and wise as she was cool and calculating. Plotina, the beautiful, raven-haired widow of Trajan, was the dearest friend of my Emperor Hadrian, and who welcomed me, his young lover, into her circle also.
“And before you ask, yes, I, like you, can recall all of my years most clearly, though some I would rather not… and sometimes I am reminded of special times, special people… Pippa is so like her, it is uncanny. The same hair and fine features, her mannerisms, that certain smile…” Anton reached over and squeezed Spike’s hand and smiled, whilst still looking at Pippa (who was currently quizzing Xander on his recent trip on the fast train). “I was never jealous of their friendship, you know. I was glad that she was there for him after… ”
Spike understood, the blessing and/or curse of any vampire, to remember everything, accurately, and recognized the confusion of emotions some reminders could evoke. A confusion he promptly shared as he watched Anton watching Pippa, his love and empathy for his Sire warring with the remembered reputation the Immortal had for seduction (of either gender and any number of species according to gossip).
Anton picked up on the sudden protective feeling coming from Spike and focused back on his Childe, catching the azure blue eyes and holding them as he stated, “She is of our family, William, and will remain so always. I will do nothing to jeopardize that. You have my word. But allow me to be a friend as well as her brother’s kin? I would like that at least.”
Spike’s wariness evaporated as he saw truth and age in the pale green eyes nestled in the handsome thirty something visage. He offered his wrist up to his Sire, “Drink and be well Sire.”
Anton flashed a calculating look toward the others before holding his arm out for Spike. Only Xander was facing their way, and smiled as he saw the exchange.
The group continued on to Perugia, stopping in the town to enjoy the local sights, the five ‘youngsters’ amused and intrigued by tidbits of historical information, supplied by Anton, that were certainly not in the tourist guide.
Their accommodation for the night was to be the Villa Ada some thirty kilometers north of the township of Perugia. The car arriving to a warm welcome from the matriarch of the Lourdes family who apparently knew the Immortal personally and was insistent that they share a meal with her extended family that evening, then bustled them all inside the main house to show Anton all the improvements made since his last visit.
The girls quickly chose the twin room for themselves, leaving the three doubles for Anton, Connor and the Mated couple. Their driver Lucius would have the whole annex to himself, but certainly was to be included in the family meal later that evening.
It was still light and warm outside and some hours until dinner, so when the girls discovered the tennis court to the side of the property, there was an immediate invitation for a challenge match. A quick change into somewhat appropriate attire (Spike insisting that there was no way he would be seen in either shorts or runners…ever!) and the court was taken. The girls tag teamed with Connor on one doubles team, while Anton and Xander took the other side, with Spike as their third.
What ensued was a light-hearted match. A rather nervous Xander hit the ball tentatively at first, but seemed to gain confidence after he realized that Anton was a very able and gracious partner, and the girls could both hold their own and happy to return even his weakest shot. Xander and Claire retired in favor of Spike and Connor respectively and the fun really started.
For all Spike’s protestations that it was a rich kid’s game and that he didn’t do racket sports, his speed and natural physical abilities saw he and Anton swiftly raise the pace and skill level of the match to something worthy of their opposition. Connor and Pippa had played doubles before on the University team no less, their serves sure and teamwork obvious as rallies went for longer and apparently impossible shots were returned to cheers from the sidelines. At some point Claire and Xander decided that they would act as both umpires and ball retrievers with appropriate over the top commentary, eventually ‘calling’ the match after Connor’s over enthusiastic volley landed somewhere down in the valley, was declared “definitely out of the stadium, and possibly somewhere in Umbria”.
As the group wandered up to the house, Xander could not help but ask his grinning mate, “Thought you said you couldn’t play?!”
“Not couldn’t Pet, just not my thing is it.”
“But you were brilliant Spike. I mean you and Sire… Wow!”
“Had a good cheer squad didn’t I… Besides credit should go to the kids. Girls ‘n little brother ran rings around us for style.”
Anton heard the last part, as did Connor who was a little ahead of the Mated pair. Both turned back with near identical grins. Connor quipped “Rematch tomorrow, new balls!” then took off at a run to catch the girls at the house in an enthusiastic double hug from behind.
Spike pulled Xander close and whispered “Can think of a better ball game for tonight… singles match, you ‘n me, playin’ to love all, you game?” He nipped Xander’s earlobe, smacked his behind and took off at a run, the incensed, laughing brunette close on his heels. Anton simply shook his head good naturedly and continued to wander back to the house in the waning light.
NB Villa Ada: http://www.luxuryretreats.com/destinations/europe/italy/umbria/perugia-area/ada-105855