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.
It was dark by the time the car pulled up to the front of The Grand Hotel Vesuvio. The last vestiges of the day were fading in a deep red glow along the horizon to the west and the city lights began to define the harbor’s shape and emphasizing the backdrop of famed mountains. Small fishing boats could be seen making their way from the shore out to sea for the night’s catch and the first stars began to blink into view.
The hotel was one of many along the shoreline, but had been chosen by Anton as its manager was well known to the Immortal. Consequently, despite it being summer, their accommodation was suitably spectacular and their ‘special diet’ catered for in advance as evidenced by the rather unusual ‘care package’ in the bar fridge of Anton’s suite.
Their driver, Marco, took his leave for the evening to stay with an old school friend in preference to the hotel, but promised to return in time to drive them to Pompeii at the “Bloody inhuman time” of eleven in the morning of the following day. Anton suggested everyone take an hour or so to settle into respective rooms before meeting on the rooftop for a late supper.
Spike set down their bags, and took the time kiss his Mate soundly before insisting he properly look over Xander’s wounds. He did not have a particularly cooperative patient.
“I’m fine Spike, really!”
“Sure you are Pet, so you won’t mind if I do this.” Spike poked him just below the ribs on his right side.
“Ow! You…you…” Spike simply arched a knowing scarred eyebrow and Xander relented but couldn’t help saying with a slight smile, “OK still a bit sore but…oh what the hell, do you’re worst…undead evil guy.”
The blonde gingerly removed the sling and removed the compression bandage so expertly tied on by Claire earlier in the day. The swelling had reduced somewhat, but the bruising around the joint and in both directions on the limb was still a spectacular range of burgundy and navy blue colors. “How’s the range of movement Luv?”
Xander tentatively straightened the arm, stopping just short of completely extended with a grimace, “It’s OK, but think my career on the trapeze might have to take a back seat for a while.”
Spike gave a distracted “Hmm”, preoccupied with the examination of the various other injuries, most were fading quickly and the scrapes on knees and knuckles looked a week or more old. Most visible was the cut across his cheek, Spike noted with a satisfied nod, that it had knitted but would still leave a scar, though he was hopeful that with enough of his blood and their bond, it too would fade.
Spike could not help a growl as he noted how very close to the already damaged region of Xander’s blank eye socket the slice had come. “Bloody bastard priest, I’m so sorry Pet…” Spike fingers ghosted over the old scar though his eyes were unfocused as an old regret at as a previous failure subsumed his thoughts.
Xander stared at his beloved, his brave, wonderful savior in so many ways. He quietly took the pale, slender hand so close to his face, enclosing it in his warm larger one, and drew it to his lips, kissing each knuckle in turn. “Let’s both stop saying sorry for the past… You keep telling me to, and I promise to try, if you do? Unless it’s something really terrible that needs resolution, then we work on it together. OK?”
Spike squeezed the man he loved above all, leaned forward and softly kissed him on the lips, “Sounds like a plan. Anyway, enough chit chat. Reckon I’ve just got time to treat my recovering Mate to a good seein’ to before supper.”
With that Xander was stripped of the last vestiges of his clothing and pushed onto his back and was ‘seen to’ in no uncertain terms by a skillful mouth and loving body.
Supper was a festive affair with impromptu entertainment provided by a small group of visiting musicians, who apparently decided the clear starry night and rooftop venue warranted a rather raucous sing-a-long with acoustic guitar accompaniment. Anton was known to a number of the other diners, who took the trouble to pay their respects during the evening, the Immortal making introductions when appropriate and conversing easily in the native tongue of the speaker.
It was Connor who took his leave first. Claiming he had a “date with a hot shower and the sports channel”, he waved goodnight, the others not too far behind.
The late start the next day suited everyone. Claire and Pippa had already been for a wander along the shoreline and been for a dip by the time the others emerged, and the trip to Pompeii took less time than an hour.
They wandered the old city, marveling at the preserved buildings and wondering at the rather macabre figures of the deceased, their three-dimensional casts lying, preserved for eternity, in situ.
Claire chatted excitedly to Xander and Spike as they wandered the cobbled roads, stepping over or through the deep wheel ruts as needs dictated. “… I mean, come on…that was so cool! I never realized that the statues were painted! And the guide with that other group said most of the marble buildings had colored facades as well! It kind of makes perfect sense when you think about it… I mean we paint our buildings and I’ll bet they’d look dull and boring in a few thousand years, well if they survived that is!”
Spike had managed to get in some serious ‘uh huh’s, but had given up trying to interject after the first half hour or so, instead simply enjoyed the sun drenched wander around antiquity’s impromptu preservation exercise, made all the sweeter by the warmer larger hand holding his possessively. Occasionally Xander would give his hand an extra squeeze or lift it for a kiss as they stood inspecting a particular artwork or structure. At times it felt like a dream. Wandering around a place Spike had only read or heard about according to travel writers and his contemporaries in human life that went on the ‘Grand Tour’, was somewhat unreal. Being in the sun after so long, being Mated and with his adoptive Sire and brother by vampire and the girls? All quite extraordinary and yet to the outsider, decidedly ‘normal’, a simple family group enjoying the sights.
They managed to escape the ancient town of Pompeii around four in the afternoon, their driver continuing on to Herculaneum where the ruins had been replaced by more modern structures. They stopped at the small town square for refreshments and enjoyed the relative quiet after the summer tourist crowds of the famed township earlier.
The Herculaneum gelati was a must, apparently, and caused some amusement as Spike did a full body shiver causing Xander to make a point of snuggling close in a very public, faux effort to warm him up. The girls ordered double scoops of strawberry and lemon, then claimed symptoms of ‘brain freeze’, to which Connor gave the big brother retort that such a response required a brain in the first place and was given a light slap from Claire for his trouble. Their antics seemed to add to the joy of the afternoon for Anton who luxuriated back, his enigmatic smile and relaxed demeanor not lost on any of the group.
The drive back along the coast was conducted as the sun set with a spectacular display of crimson and gold complimenting the ocean vista, and the conversation was very much focused on the history of the region and the implications of living so close to the sleeping volcano.
Dialogue over dinner turned to the week ahead for the three intrepid travellers as they ventured on alone, with Anton insisting that Connor make contact immediately should accommodation or transport prove an issue, assuring his young relative that he had “friendly contacts in most places”. Pippa promised to keep the other two in line and check in daily with the older Aurelians, and they all retired to bed early with the commitment to be up and about for a family farewell around ten the next day.
Xander was unusually quiet upon entering their suite, so much so that Spike called him on it. “Anythin’ amiss luv?”
The brunette wandered over to stare out at the ocean from the small balcony, but seemed to pull his attention from wherever his mind had wandered, back into the room, “Me? No… well, not a problem… just thinking. You know this is the first time I’ve ever really travelled for… well, just for the sake of travel… You know…seeing things and going to places without having to worry about working, or anything really. And I think it’s… well I really like it, but I kind of like having a purpose when I’m somewhere too.”
“Not sure I follow you, Pet.” The vampire moved over to stand beside his lover who was leaning on the rail gazing over the water, the warm breeze of the balmy evening catching his longer than usual locks and tossing the curls around.
“It just sort of starting to sink in I guess. You know… It’s kind of been like a dream the past few weeks. An incredibly amazing fairytale that I’m only starting to realize, has no real plot line and no ending. We could live anywhere and we’ve got forever, but… where do we fit in? Where do I fit in? … Other than with you… I know I fit with you…”
Spike slung his arm loosely around his lover’s waist and pulled him close, nuzzling the hair and not replying for a long minute, just enjoying the closeness and considering his answer. “I reckon the answers to all that will come when the time is right. One thing I do know for certain. We have a loving Sire, an’ seems like he needs family close. So how’s about we start there. How would you feel about settlin’ here in Europe for a bit?”
Xander turned in the arms of the man he adored. “You mean we don’t have to go back to England… or even the US? I mean… I like England, and… it’s your home really, well it was… but it’s kind of where I… well it’s where I was, you know… sick.” There. He’d said it. The niggle that he could revert back, somehow fall into the hole of depression again and return to being a burden had been the pebble in his shoe since Oxford really.
The link was wide open, and Spike was aware of the underlying doubt, the memories of desperation and helplessness, and identified. He had been there himself more times than he wished to count, but had learned the hard way that survival was reliant upon resilience; finding something to live for; learning and adapting; and having some purpose, however tenuous, some connection to ground existence. He tried to convey all this and more without words, struggling to articulate his answer aloud, but finally settled on, “Don’t know if we need to settle for good anywhere really. Seems that ol’ Anton’s a bit footloose ‘imself, so we’ll probably end up a few different places. But there’s no reason we have to decide past where to after Rome… Was thinkin’ Vienna might be fun for a bit, but let’s wait ‘til we chat to Sire yeah? Reckon we’ll have to square things with Red ‘n Rupert at some point, but only when you’re ready Luv, it c’n wait.”
Xander gave a small smile and sighed his relief before kissing the blonde soundly on the lips, drawing away just long enough to add a breathy, “I love you.” He was graced with one of the smiles he was sure Spike kept especially for him, the stunning smile that encompassed everything his beautiful lover was - the irrepressibly strong, immortal vampire; the soft, romantic poet; the proud, capable man; the tender partner, considerate lover and fierce protector… his.
Master Vampire and Mate forewent making love in favor of falling asleep in each other’s arms, comfortably tired from the day, and utterly warm and content.
The following morning began with a leisurely, shared shower including reciprocal pleasure giving and consequent closeness as they dressed, packed up their belongings and joined the rest of their party for a quick breakfast and fond farewells downstairs.
Connor and the girls were notably excited and eager to continue their adventure. Their driver dropped them at Naples train station where, on Connor’s insistence, the girls left their larger suitcases in the car and took up newly acquired, far lighter backpacks for their continued journey south. Promises were reiterated regarding regular check ins with the older Aurelians and the three disappeared into the busy station.
A rather subdued trio rejoined their road to Rome without fanfare and most of the trip was taken in comfortable quiet, each man caught up in his own thoughts as they made their way out of Naples and sped up the freeway toward the nation’s capital.
The southern approach to the city was not particularly spectacular, notable for the increased traffic on the road and numerous industrial buildings and housing estates marking the beginning of the sprawling metropolis of a modern city. Spike must have noted the slight disappointment wafting through the link as Xander found his hand being taken up and squeezed before the shell of his ear was licked by a cool tongue along with a whispered, “Don’t fret luv. Old parts are near the center, we’ll be seein’ ‘em soon enough.”
For the thirty something Californian, the images of Rome were almost entirely derived from the history channel, so the reality seemed rather surreal as their car rounded the Colosseum amidst several thousand other vehicles simply going about their daily business. Other landmarks similarly merged into the patchwork of architecture denoting the city’s heritage borne of three millennia of occupation.
Anton’s Rome address was in an old sector at the base of the Gianicolo, like the surrounding buildings dating from the early to mid nineteen hundreds. A roller door raised and they pulled into the pristine garage attached to the side of the white three-story home.
They began unloading the luggage as Anton chatted easily with Marco, their driver. The decision to keep the car in Rome was an easy one. They would need transport if the number of meetings and various tasks discussed en route to the capital were to be achieved in the next few days.
“Leave the bags here, we have plenty of time to organize that later. Come, let me show you around.” With that Anton swept from the large white room, through a side door and back out onto the street. Stopping in front of the ornate ebony coloured front door, he turned to his adoptive Childer and smiled, “I want you to see why I fell for this place in particular.”
The building may have been attractive from the outside, but internally it was nothing less than spectacular. Xander gave an impressed whistle as the interior was revealed in all its glory. A central atrium complete with enormous glass ceiling/skylight gave the entire home an airy feel. The second level access was an ornate, dark marble staircase, and traditional balustrades in white marked the upper gallery. The entire lower level was dedicated to a lounge and library area with guest bathroom, obviously set up for entertaining.
“Your bedroom and bathroom are on the second story, follow me.” Anton took the stairs two at a time, his enthusiasm infectious. Spike was impressed. Like the Immortal’s Florence home, every corner of the place seemed to contain artworks or antiques of some kind, though the inner William grumbled ‘typical over the top Italian’ at some of the décor.
Xander found himself reaching out to touch various surfaces, admiring the exquisite craftsmanship and intricate carvings on many of the antique furnishings downstairs and on the first floor ‘attica’ – a wide landing obviously set up to lounge and view the lower story. He was so intent on his inspection that he was quite taken aback by the ultra-modern, black and shiny, kitchen-dining room through an elegant archway.
Anton’s assistant Natalia was present and obviously expecting their arrival. She stepped away from the marble bench top where she was part way through preparing a light meal, and greeted the newcomers. “Good evening Anton, William, Alexander,” she nodded to each in turn, “Your rooms are prepared, and supper will be ready directly. Will you be taking it on the terrace?”
Anton moved forward and greeted her as a favored friend rather than employee, kissing the girl lightly on both cheeks in time-honored fashion, “Thank you, that would be perfect. Everything else is in order I take it?”
Natalia gave Anton a slight nod, then replied, “Of course. There have been a number of rather urgent phonecalls today, and I have your mail in order. I have arranged the meeting you requested but we are still waiting on some confirmations. Perhaps it is best I supply you the details after you have eaten and had time to relax?”
Anton gave the girl a blinding smile, “You are a wonder as ever. Yes that would be perfect.” He turned to Spike and Xander, “Come I will show you to your room, then we can collect our belongings and settle in. Shall we say fifteen minutes on the terrace?” He looked to Natalia who nodded, then led the men to another flight of stairs.
The second story consisted of a master bedroom (Anton’s), a second double bedroom for Natalia, and a large office. All were built around the light well for the atrium. Up another flight of stairs and the suitably ornate guest bedroom and bathroom looked out to the large terrace and ornate grill over the atrium light well. Xander walked to the edge of the terrace and looked over the wall. The city lights highlighted the skyline of old Rome, and while trees obscured some of the view, they gave a sense of privacy and peace to the space. The whole place was, he realized with a smile, all, very typically, Anton.
Spike caught the look and sidled up to his partner, “Whatcha grinnin’ at luv?”
Xander slid his arm around his lover and they both turned to look out over the city scene, “Just thinking I guess… and… I don’t know really. It’s like… Is it right to feel at home when you’ve only just arrived at a place? It’s like everywhere we’ve been feels familiar somehow, like we sort of fit. Not like a local type feel, but just that… I don’t know how to explain it… It’s… nice.”
Spike turned the brunette to him and kissed him soundly before pulling away and with an almost sheepish smile, simply said, “Know what you’re sayin’ Pet. Now, let’s go ‘n get those bags.”
Supper was had in the warmth of the clear Roman evening as they reflected on the last few days of family holiday (minus the violent interlude), but as soon as it was over the relaxed mood changed. They helped Natalia carry the spent remains of dinner down to the kitchen, then all four moved to the adjacent first story alcove to discuss more serious matters.
Natalia was suddenly all business. She handed each man a printed summary of correspondence pertaining to the Scourge and related clan matters, and swiftly updated Spike and Anton on their joint venture investments. She also handed Xander documents updating him on the Spanish construction project - due diligence reports on the companies involved, legal checks, planning and surveyors approvals, and the architect’s proposals and amendments.
Xander was initially a little taken aback, then was surprised by how easily his mind shifted as he recalled his previous roles in construction when perusing the comprehensive collection of documents. He was quick to realize that attention to detail was needed, something which would require more than a cursory glance, so put the papers aside, smiling at Natalia as he did so, “Thanks, this is terrific. I’ll, um… I’ll need a bit of time to go through it all. Is there a timeframe on the project.”
Natalia looked pleased at the response, but simply said, “There is a deadline for sign off set for ten days time, but I imagine that has a bit of leeway… Anton?”
The Immortal looked up from the letter he was currently reading and nodded, “I think they know that we are keen, and that you are taking a special interest, so that should buy us some time if you think we need it.”
Xander visibly relaxed, “Yeah… it all looks OK initially but I would like to go through all this properly. A day or two should do it. We might need an interpreter for some of the reports though, my school boy Spanish really won’t cut it and some of this is in Italian by the looks.”
Natalia spoke up, “If you would please, Alexander, I have taken the liberty of engaging a translator who is most discrete, and specializes in technical and legal work. She is available for the next week. I simply have to contact her with times.” Xander smiled and nodded, then set down his pile of papers in favor of looking to Spike and what he was reading, absently rubbing the gauze that still covered his now nearly healed, facial cut.
Spike looked up and smiled briefly, but the look became one of concern at his lover’s unconscious action. “Cut troublin’ you Pet?”
“What? No, not really just a bit itchy… I um… guess I’m just tired.”
Anton looked up at the statement, “Well, it seems there is little we can resolve tonight anyway. We will set a meeting of clan leaders for three nights hence, and to that end, I will call in some favors and gather what information we can regards the Scourge in this city at least. William, is there any news of your auction results? Anything we should do tonight?”
“Auctions are set for the end of the month. Note here from the Watcher, apparently wants the boy here to contact him. It can wait. Only thing I think might be of interest is that they Council and the covens are gettin’ edgy regards the refugee strife, but that’s mostly human related so… You need anythin’ done pronto?”
Anton shook his head, “Oh I think it can all wait. Let’s retire and begin again tomorrow. I must confess a lovely soak and my own bed sounds quite inviting.”
With that, Natalia took her leave. Spike opened his wrist and offered it to his Sire. Xander, in turn, did likewise, and both were gifted with a small draft of the Immortal’s blood before bidding good night at the door of Anton’s bedroom.
As they alighted the stairs to their own room, Anton called to them, “Oh, I forgot to mention. Buffy left a message. She and Dawn are back from holiday. They’re in Rome.”
Author's Note: Anton’s Rome abode based on: http://www.luxuryestate.com/p19138121-townhouse-for-sale-rome