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 rest of the day was spent adventuring on foot, first the Villa Gregoriana with its many grottos and waterfalls, Anton delighting in giving the history of the two temples and thoroughly enjoying seeing it through the appreciative eyes of his new family. Several times Spike caught him taking furtive looks at Pippa, and finally pulled him aside, “C’mon Sire, you’re actin’ like a pup of seventeen, just ask her to take a stroll with you. We’ll all split up and meet back up at the Villa Este in an hour or so. No need to make a big show of it, just a lovely day for a walk and play tourist with a pretty young thing on your arm for a while. I fully intend to make use of one of the grottos for a quick snog with me boy, so reckon now’s as good as any for the suggestion.”
With that Spike rejoined the group, convinced his Mate that a second at the grottos was an absolute necessity and made arrangements to all meet back at the gates of the Villa Este an hour hence. With a slight nod from William, Connor took Spike’s lead, and suggested he and Claire check out a few shops before joining the others while Anton and Pippa elected to wander slowly to the Villa Este and enjoy the sights.
An hour or so later the group met up again as planned and it seemed all had enjoyed their individual tours, Connor raising a knowing eyebrow and smirking at Xander’s flushed appearance and not quite concealed fresh bite mark on his neck.
They wandered the gardens of the Villa Este until just before dusk then made their way back to the hotel, the humans of the group discussing the wonders of the architecture and mosaics, and beauty of the water features all the way home. En route the group stopped just short of the hotel to have dinner at a small family restaurant where Anton was greeted like royalty by the owner, who immediately led them through to a private dining room and with much gesticulation and loud shouting rallied his staff to provide a veritable banquet for the six guests.
Spike leaned over to Anton as the wine was being poured into impossibly fine crystal glasses, “Friends or fans Sire?”
The Immortal laughed aloud, whispered, “Very old family favor, so yes, friends”, then in a louder voice, introduced their intrepid waiter, Lucius, to all present. He was the youngest son of the owner and blushed profusely as Anton went on to explain (in Italian then English) that the lad was an aspiring fashion photographer with a following online and very good client base. Lucius (senior) entered the room just as Anton finished his explanation, and beamed with pride as Anton asked if the lad would be willing to take some shots of the family, and portraits of the girls, the following day.
Pippa and Claire were happy to have a night to themselves, and seemed unworried that Connor and the others might have to go out later at Anton’s behest, arguing that they fully intended availing themselves to the spa facilities at the hotel.
Fed, home and changed, Xander, Connor and Spike sat in the drawing room of Anton’s suite whilst various phone calls were made confirming their plans for the remainder of the night.
Spike fidgeted in his seat, and Xander was feeling the vampire’s excited anticipation through their link and Connor seemed keyed up as well, so when Anton finally put his phone down and turned to the group there was a collective feeling of relief that the hunt would soon be on.
“The Master of Rome’s First Childe, Tristan, will meet up with us at Piazza del Plebiscito within the hour. He suggests we walk from there, but keep a car close by in case of more trouble than we can manage. And yes, before you ask, William, he has several trusted colleagues with him who are well aware of the situation and its seriousness. So, shall we?”
They were dropped off by Anton’s driver at one end of the still busy, well-lit, Piazza. Xander wondered at what sort of image they created as the four made their way across the cobbled street to a table outside a small café. All four had elected to wear smart casual clothes with slightly longer than usual coats concealing a number of weapons, though, as Anton had pointed out, he hoped they would have no use for them. The five men waiting all stood, the slightest of the group greeting Anton with a broad smile and suitable deference. Extra chairs were soon procured and a round of coffees ordered as introductions were made and niceties exchanged.
What followed was a very hushed, serious discussion of the aims and strategy for the evening. Tristan, though marginally older than Spike, displayed an unusual level of respect, apparently well aware of Spike and Xander’s status, though seemed a little dismissive of Connor. Spike was looking forward to seeing the younger man in action were it to come to that, and by Tristan’s account it was apparent that was quite on the cards.
Tristan seemed keen to keep the whole group together, a notion that went against Spike’s hunting instinct and certainly did not seem to sit well with Connor. Nevertheless Anton agreed to remain in earshot of each other if not line of sight, eventually convincing Tristan that this would suffice regards safety in numbers, were the Scourge to make some sort of move against them.
And so it was that some time just before midnight, Anton flanked by Spike and Connor with Xander to Spike’s left, strode down an increasingly narrow alley in the old city heading toward the river. Anton knocked on a couple of doors, having a hushed conversation at the first and meeting deathly silence at the second, though Spike could clearly hear a heart beat on the other side. Instead of pursuing the issue Anton called in a near whisper, “It is the Immortal. Stay safe.”
Eventually they found themselves almost doubling back on their route as the tiny laneway folded down and around a hairpin bend in the road. There was a loud crash and shouting up ahead but the narrow road, flanked on both sides by ancient housing blocks with their street level shopfronts, curved sharply to the right, preventing a clear view of the source.
Spike growled and Xander felt the dual sentiment of excitement and worry flowing from his vampire as Spike turned to Connor, “C’mon little brother, how’s your parkour?”
Connor didn’t answer, instead launched himself at a tiny first story balcony and effortlessly vaulted from it to the next and onto the roof, with Spike a hairs-breadth behind, easily matching the speed and preternatural agility. Xander pondered the likelihood of accomplishing such a feat himself, but even with his Mating gift of better strength and speed he was doubtful. Thankfully he was saved the trouble as Anton gently grasped his wrist and tugged him forward to hug the wall of the buildings on the opposite side of the road to their two compatriots.
Anton turned to him as they rounded the tight corner enough to see what was afoot. He could vaguely make out a fanged, cruel smile, one he was unaccustomed to seeing on the handsome features, and that gave him both a thrill and shiver of fear. The Immortal was about to show him just what their Sire was capable of.
He looked up momentarily and could make out Spike and Connor leaping across the rooftops just before Anton urged him forward with a growled, “Let’s go.”
As they rounded the building, it was apparent what was occurring. A large mob of, what Xander could only describe as, the ugliest mobsters he’d ever seen, were attacking a small group of humans. He made a quick estimate - perhaps fifty of ‘them’, ten victims and, to his relief, running up the hill toward the group, Tristan and his five vampires.
It was anything but a clean fight. Initially the Scourge members seemed intent on inflicting as much damage on their victims as they could, but realizing they had company, quickly turned their attention to the newcomers. He had seen this before, in Africa, too many times, racial hatred gone mad, mob mentality, and… weapons. Knives to be exact, the glint of metal obvious despite the insufficient street lighting.
Tristan’s group were well organized and good fighters, fanning out across the street to block escape and launching themselves at the somewhat prepared Scourge members at the rear of the group. Anton sprinted forward taking out two assailants with a single roundhouse kick and without breaking his stride. Xander was unsure what might kill this particular form of demon, but decided to take Anton’s lead, so simply aimed to disarm and incapacitate.
He managed to pull one of the female victims from the grasp of an ugly brute, throwing her, none too gently, clear of the melee and shouting, “Run!” Happy to note the girl paused only for a second then took off screaming for help, in what Xander belatedly recognized as Arabic. His attention was swiftly pulled back to the matter at hand when a knife glanced his blind side, he instantly felt the burn, but turned on instinct and slammed his fist into the attacker’s midsection, connecting with what felt like heavy leather, but must have put enough force into the blow as the figure doubled over and he followed up with a knee to head.
Turning back to the rest of the fight he could just make out the moment Spike and Connor launched themselves from the roof, taking out two and three of the Scourge respectively as they landed. Xander focused on Spike for a moment, their link shut down but for the distinct thrill of the fight, and he immediately knew why as Spike fought back to back with Connor ringed by at least ten snarling Scourge members. Tristan was likewise with one of his trusted vampires, as the rest of the brawl spread out and down the street a little.
Then Xander saw the gun. Just off to the right of the fight was one of the Scourge, holding a hapless male by the hair, aiming the weapon execution style. The shot was fired, the body fell and something in Xander snapped. His world slowed and became a sea of red and black. It was his body moving, hitting, kicking, slicing, crunching, but it was also not him… because he was back in Africa…somewhere… and he had been sent to get yet another ‘her’, pull her from the terror and her family too, but he was too late, and now he was fighting for his life, again, and all he felt was… anger, unchecked this time, so he fought on until his world stopped and reduced to a single yellow dot… then, nothing.
He was lying on a hard, cool surface, his head on something soft. A gentle hand was stroking his cheek and cool drips seemed to be falling from somewhere as he struggled to awareness. “Xan… Oh Ghod… Sire please? Xan… Xan… can you hear me? Please sweetheart…” He felt the entreaty as much in the core of his being as through the words, so struggled to open his good eye.
“Oh thank Christ! Xan… Here.” A dripping wrist was pushed against his mouth and he tasted… Spike. After a few drafts it was removed and another replaced it, this time he knew it was Sire, Anton, who was feeding him. Initially the zing of the blood made his heart race and head spin, but then it settled and he struggled to sit up, only to be gently pushed down to prone again. “Just stay put for a bit, Pet. Let the blood do its thing, yeah?”
He watched as Anton stood within line of sight and began calming an obviously upset Connor. “Is he going to be OK?... S#%$ Sire!... Why did he… I mean that was awesome an’ all but… seven of them down and the heads off three more before he fell… and they had f@#$ing guns!”
Anton put a strong hand on the young man’s shoulder and said loudly enough for them all to hear, “We may be thankful he acted as he did, and I think Spike, you may have some insight, but for now, if Xander is able, we should take this home. The car is waiting at the end of the street, and Tristan is to meet us at the hotel after he has finished [ahem] ‘questioning’ the ring leader of this particular cell of the Scourge.”
Xander tried to stand but almost passed out when he put some weight on his right arm. Spike was instantly in gameface and growled, “Stop f#%$ing moving you idiot, it was dislocated. Had to put it right. Just....” With that he was hefted up and carried to the waiting car.
An hour later Xander was propped up in bed feeling a little better, wounds tended but decidedly confused and trying desperately to accept what he had been told about the events of the evening after his mind “went on bloody holiday!” as Spike so eloquently put it.
Apparently Spike had been otherwise occupied in brutal hand-to-hand battle with members of the Scourge, but had apparently felt the exact moment when Xander ‘lost it’. Turning just in time to take out an ugly figure about to attack from behind and witnessing Xander’s blind rage being expressed in a vicious attack on the mobsters worthy of Angelus in his prime. The Master Vampire’s Mate had ripped limbs from bodies, bitten and torn flesh, and beaten and stabbed Scourge members with anything and everything at hand, only stopping when the last of their number fell at the hands of Anton. And then he had collapsed in a dead faint, bleeding from all manner of cuts and abrasions, elbow dislocated and hands swollen and bloodied.
Spike broke in to his reverie as he entered the room with a tray, “Thought you might like a bit of a cuppa and a bikkie Luv.” The cheerful tone could not hide the worry flowing through the link, and in a way Xander was glad when Spike’s smile faltered and the tray was put on the side table in favor of joining his lover on the bed.
Spike picked up Xander’s left hand and stroked gently over the swollen but now healing knuckles. They sat in silence for a while staring mesmerized by the rhythmic feather-light passes.
“I’m sorry Spike.” The hand caressing him paused then restarted.
“For what Pet?”
“For being such a f#%$ up... I… I could have put you in danger… you know? Distracted you and got you all hurt! … And… I still don’t get what happened… just… I remember the gun… and when he… and the shot…” Xander’s breath hitched and his pulse spiked suddenly. Spike immediately let go of the hand he was holding and pulled Xander until he was leaning against his vampire’s strong chest.
“’S OK luv.”
“But I let you all down! I just went all postal and… Ghod what must the others think of me?!”
Spike stiffened and pulled away a little, deliberately turning them both until he was facing Xander still propped up by the pillows. Sincere blue eyes met the chocolate brown one, “I’ll tell you what they think. Scourge thinks you’re a Hell Beast sent to kill them. Tristan and his cronies had never seen the like, probably jump if you look at ‘em wrong now. Connor reckons you’d hold your own against a Plaidart from Quartoth – whatever the hell that is. And Anton loves you and wants you to stop worryin’. You tipped the balance in that fight pet. We were up against too many and you saw to it the fight was even, we all know that.” Spike leaned forward and kissed away the furrows marring his mate’s handsome brow.
Xander accepted the attention and was quiet for a moment, but Spike could feel the residual concern and knew to wait. And sure enough the question came, “But what about you, Spike, what do you think? I mean, I didn’t know what I was doing or where I was… I just lost it! As in Psycho crazy lost, not just fall in a heap and cry nuts, but full on Over the Cuckoo’s Nest homicidal psychotic… And you’re Mated to me?! Ghod I’m so sorry Spike… I promise… I just… can you help me… I can’t do that again… what if I hurt you? I can’t lose you… Not now, not like this… I love you so much…”
Sometime during the rant, tears had sprung from his good eye and he realized he was crying too hard to speak further, so buried his face into Spike’s neck. As strong arms folded around him it was as though permission had been granted. Permission to grieve for lives and innocence lost; to lament the injustices witnessed, and the aftermath of those that were not; to wash painful memories, long buried, into the open and cleanse them with tears; and to sob with painful gratitude at the life he had been given with Spike and in fear that it may now disappear.
Spike felt the moment the storm subsided and smiled as he registered a warm tongue laving his neck, then the sharp sting as his Mate sank sharp incisors into his neck. No words of comfort would be needed. The truth was in the blood.
Xander nursed for a time, then relaxed and released, still nuzzling the spot, but apparently asleep.
Spike looked up to see Anton leaning against the door frame, arm slung loosely over a worried Connor’s shoulder.
“He had been carrying too much for too long, it seems.”
Spike smiled ruefully, “Yeah. Better out than in.”
Anton released Connor and the two approached the bed and sat in silence.
Ultimately it was Connor who spoke, “Will he be OK?”
“Yeah Pet. Reckon he will.” Spike smiled at the young man, belatedly realizing that they all bore the scars of pain and loss and battles past, regardless of physical appearance that spoke otherwise.
Anton stood, leaned forward and kissed Spike on the temple and giving his shoulder a squeeze said, “We will leave you two in peace. I am next door if you need me, and I think we all deserve a late start tomorrow.”
The door of the suite closed quietly as Spike gentled Xander away, swiftly stood and stripped to join his mate under the covers. Xander seemed to sense the company and adjusted his position, snuggling down to horizontal and tightly plastering himself along Spike’s right side.
And the two slept.