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.
Both men were silent as they entered their bedroom, and equally quiet, as bags were unpacked with an efficiency borne of repetition rather than ease. The only real indication of internal turmoil on the part of both men being Xander’s outburst of anger as he tried unsuccessfully to hang some clothes one handed. He threw the offending shirts on the floor of the wardrobe and slammed the door, almost hitting Spike in the process, and stormed out onto the balcony.
Spike hung the discarded garments, feeling his Mate’s worry and agitation clearly through their shared link, though a little unclear as to why the arrival of Buffy on the scene should cause such a reaction. In the end he chose to wait. Turning down the bed and putting their toiletries in the very generous, blonde marble bathroom. As an afterthought, he turned on the taps of the bath, noting that Natalia had even placed their fluffy guest towels on the warmer before their arrival, and smiled. He would have to thank her in the morning.
The blonde was about to venture out to collect his Mate when Xander reentered the room. Spike knew better than to comment just yet. Instead, he held out his hand and led the injured brunette to the bathroom, stripped him without protest, divested himself of his own clothing and settled them both into the steaming water facing each other. And waited.
Finally Xander looked, the good eye focusing on a point somewhere beyond his lover. “I’m not sure I want to see her.”
Spike knew very well who the brunette was referring to, but chose to misunderstand, “Who, Dawnie?”
Xander gave Spike a withering look, then seemed to relent, “You know I mean Buffy.”
The vampire replied quietly, “Yeah Pet, I do. Want to tell me why?”
The human took a deep breath before replying, “Because… because I haven’t seen her since Sunnydale, Spike!” It came out in a rush, and the blonde knew there was more, and that his lover needed to say it.
“She came to the coven once or twice after I was… you know… back there. She told Giles to say hi on her behalf, but never… She didn’t want to know me any more. Guess I wasn’t… she said she didn’t know how to handle someone who was… you know… mentally ill. Emphasis on the mental. Said that I… told Giles that he should never have… that I was never capable of collecting Slayers… of fighting demons! Demons?! They were f#$%ing humans with human shaped guns and machetes, and F%#@D up political agendas. Who needs demons when you’ve got a bunch of child soldiers happy to murder whole families in their beds! Geez Spike! Half the UN troops out there come back screwed up in some way – and the rest were probably screwed to start with.”
Despite their reclining position and warm water, Xander was visibly shaking by the time he was finished. Spike gently took his lovers large hands in his and pulled him forward a little, just enough to kiss him gently, then tugged him further, urging the bigger man to turn around until Xander was lying with his head on Spike pale shoulder. He stroked rhythmically down the male form, admiring the taut muscles and willing the distress away. His Mate turned and began to lick his neck over what would have been his pulse point. He felt the sting of his lover’s extended canines comfort was taken in true vampire fashion.
Slowly Xander relaxed and almost seeming to snooze for a time. In the quiet, Spike contemplated his own thoughts regards Buffy. He had not contacted the blonde either, though it was doubtless that she knew of his ongoing existence – at least his reemergence at Wolfram and Hart and work with her ex-lover. Anton had said as much, and the little ‘pissant’ Andrew doubtless had spilled the beans after his and Angel’s baulked attempt at seeing said Slayer during their trip to Italy, in what seemed like a lifetime ago.
She and Anton may have had a fling, but they were obviously not together now, unless his Sire was some sort of master of deception. Spike quickly discarded that notion in favor of asking Anton directly what the current situation between the Immortal and the Slayer was exactly. And if his Mate did not want to see her, then they would make themselves scarce for the few hours or days she was around. And then there was the demise of Angel… and his own ongoing survival. If they did meet, how would that set of events pan out? That topic would be a tricky one to address, almost as big as the Mating and adoptive Sire ‘thing’.
The water was cool by the time the two exited the bath. Nothing had been resolved but Spike at least had the impression that the storm had passed for Xander, and that what would be would be as far as the Slayer was concerned. Spike smiled as he tucked the bedding around his already snoring partner, Sire would help them through this. Of that he was certain. It was nice to have family at times like these.
Anton was in the kitchen chatting to Natalia when the two Aurelians emerged for the day. He smiled at the pair then noted Xander’s worried demeanor, the raw bite mark on Spike’s neck. Spike nodded meaningfully to his Sire indicating the door to the alcove, then turned to his lover, “How about you help Natalia for a minute Pet. Just need a quick word with Sire.”
Xander complied, smiling sweetly at the assistant and moved to help with food preparations, or at least set the table. Spike squeezed his hand before turning heel for a quiet word or three with Anton.
Anton was looking genuinely concerned as the two settled onto the antique chairs of the alcove, so Spike swiftly came to the point. “Boy’s worried ‘bout meeting up with the Slayer. Seems she didn’t deal when he was crook ‘n steered clear, said some bits to the Watcher too, got passed on ‘n hit home. Now he’s not sure where he stands.”
Anton’s frown did not diminish, his voice soft and full of understanding, “I see… I won’t pretend, William, Buffy is a friend. For a short while, I think she imagined the liaison could be more, but it would never have worked, she… does not view the world as we do. She really cannot accept the darker aspects of this world. I was happy when she found a more… ‘normal’ human beau. I would venture that Alexander’s experiences of human guerilla warfare are quite beyond her comprehension. Likewise she is blind to his immense strength and capacity for love. When we do meet, as indeed we must, you will be introduced as my Childer. I do not expect her to understand, but I will do my best to encourage her acceptance.”
Anton put a calming hand on Spike’s knee and leveled concerned pale green eyes at William’s blue. “But I suspect this is also about you? She was aware of your return and your work with your true Sire, but… she is unaware of your survival, your changed status, I think.”
Spike shook his head and looked sadly at the floor, “How could I? What would I say? ‘Hey Buff, they still didn’t manage to off me. Oh, by the way your ex bought it fightin’ a bloody dragon.’ Don’t exactly think she’d appreciate me survivin’ when the poof didn’t.”
Anton’s hand had not moved, “And if your roles were reversed? Would you be happy to see her?”
Spike inhaled sharply and looked incensed, “Course I bloody would! I… She… Ahh hell, Sire… Just…” his voice dropped to an almost whisper, “Just don’t want to hurt her, or the boy… or the Bit…”
Anton captured his adoptive Childe’s hands and kissed the backs of first one then the other, “And you will not. You may trust me in these matters. Now let us eat and begin our day. I fear it may be a long one…”
Concerns about the Slayer took a back seat for the better part of the next three days with business matters and broader interests took all their attention.
Mornings were spent much as they had been at Anton’s residence in Florence, with the exception that Xander who moved surprisingly easily into his role as William Aurelius’ business partner and negotiator regards the construction investment. His experience on larger projects in Sunnydale, and status as both Master’s Mate and now member of the Immortal’s adoptive family, gave him the knowledge, skills and position to make informed and binding decisions. His attention to detail was noted and appreciated by the intrepid interpreter, Livia, as she deftly communicated technical and legal matters as needed. Clarification was frequently requested and concise and accurate answers dictated in reply. As a consequence, costing parameters, timeframes and insurance matters were settled to the satisfaction of all parties in near record time.
Anton was impressed, and Spike genuinely thrilled as he saw his lover grow in confidence with each new challenge met. There was little doubt the man was a capable negotiator, instinctive manager and astute businessman, even if he did not fully realize it yet. It augured well for the future. Meanwhile Spike and Anton saw to other investments and, perhaps more importantly, matters of security, of ensuring the relative peace and safety of Rome and the wider regions of southern Europe, and immediate measures to address the threat of the Scourge.
With the general meeting of the combined Demon Council less than nine hours away, Spike was sitting opposite Xander on the sunny patio, laptop open and drink in hand, in the throws of debriefing his partner in unlife of the events of the past few days, when a quiet clearing of a female throat announced Natalia. “Is this a bad time?”
Spike turned his attention to the woman and smiled. There had been a constant stream of visitors and extremely well managed schedule of meetings organized by the capable Natalia over the past few days. Her assistance invaluable and there was no question. Anton joined the group, giving his PA a friendly squeeze on the shoulder before taking a seat. Natalia smiled and handed each man a thin folder containing a number of printouts.
“This contains a list of those who will attend tonight, though I am still waiting on confirmation from the Folgarth and Letnus clans. The Master of Turkey is sending Demir, his First Childe, as there is some serious unrest in their own territory that demands his attention. I have sent out a tentative agenda and the details of the venue to all parties, so unless there are any major changes, there should be no need for any last minute communiqués. Oh, and the accommodation has been arranged as requested, some foreign leaders intend staying for up to a week apparently. I have noted against their names as you can see. I hope this is in order.”
The Immortal smiled and nodded his approval at the girl, “You have outdone yourself, Natalia. I take it the Watchers’ Council is sending a representative?”
“ Yes, their man in Rome, Andrew, will be coming, along with his two Italian slayers and, of course, Buffy.” Natalia took a moment to flick the screen on her tablet PC, “There was an Email from Master Connor this morning. He was pleased to be invited to monitor the meeting, and he and the sisters are staying at Hotel Majestica tonight, as suggested, so connectivity will not be an issue.”
“You have outdone yourself Natalia, thank you.” Anton turned to his adoptive Childer, Spike nodded and smiled, Xander somewhat preoccupied with the list of attendees giving a simple, “Wow… um… yeah, this is amazing. Thanks.”
The remainder of the day was spent discussing possible issues, particularly strategies for keeping the meeting ‘on track’, should inter-clan disagreements distract the dialogue from its prime purpose.
An hour before the three were due to leave for the meeting venue, they were sitting back, calming drinks in hand. They had already exchanged blood, an act that both grounded and reassured. This was to be Xander and Spike’s first experience of the true nature of Anton’s role as keeper of the balance, and for Anton, the first with true family at his side. It was at once, thrilling and a little worrying.
Xander was thumbing the side of his glass when Natalia came out onto the patio, laden with three large boxes. Spike was immediately on his feet and relieved her of two of them, receiving a grateful smile for his trouble, “Thanks. I, um, I thought I would get there a bit early, just check everything is ready, set up, that sort of thing.”
Anton finished his drink in one quick action, “Well, we won’t be far behind. I just have a few things to sort out with my boys, and it might be as well to arrive a little earlier than scheduled to greet any groups needing to beat the rush, as it were.”
By the time Spike had helped Natalia down to the car and returned, Xander was standing on the first story landing and waved his Mate to follow him up the stairs. “Apparently Anton has something for us.” Spike found his lover’s hand as they approached the Immortal’s bedroom where their Sire was busying himself with something on the oversized bed. Hearing Xander’s slow heartbeat, the timeless being turned, smile and stepped aside, revealing two rather spectacular outfits.
“Now I hope you don’t think me too presumptuous, but I arranged to have these made for the occasion. I…” For the first time, the younger two saw real uncertainty and more than a little embarrassment reflected in Anton’s pale green eyes as he continued, “I just thought you might like… Well I thought it would… be nice to have something special for tonight.”
There were two classically elegant, men’s suits on the bed, shirts and ties to the side, and a small jeweler’s gift box atop each. Anton stood aside as first Spike then Xander stripped and pulled on the new, obviously expensive garments. Where Xander’s was a mid brown, Spike’s was classic black and both perfectly fitted to the longer length of mid thigh. Stylish vests in the same colors came with the ensemble, and pants were again a perfect length and fit.
Both men stood caressing the fine wool for a moment, and were inspecting the silk satin lining when Spike saw the label. “Bloody hell Sire. You don’t do things by halves – these are Kiton!”
Anton looked a little sheepish, “Well, I knew Paone when he first began to have success, and am never disappointed in the quality.”
Xander knew the cut and feel of every item was perfect, and assumed that Kiton was a men’s design house of note. He whispered his thanks then gasped as he opened the jewellery box. The intricate filigree, yellow gold ring was topped with an enormous facetted ruby of perfect clarity. Spike’s was similarly designed in white gold with a deep blue sapphire of the same size.
Spike gasped as he noted the filigree included the Aurelian ‘A’ and phoenix plus Anton’s signature Greek ‘A’ worked with tiny Egyptian hieroglyphs surrounding it. “Sire this is… truly beautiful… thank you.” Spike and Xander then moved as one and kissed their adoptive elder respectfully on opposite cheeks, and the three stood for a moment in a fond embrace.
The short drive to the meeting venue took place minutes later, and their entry to the generous conference room of the Grand Hotel conference room went unannounced, with only a few groups of attendees already present but apparently engrossed in their own discussions. Anton motioned his compatriots to follow him as he made his way to the head of a large circle of tables. They chatted briefly to Natalia, who indicated that all was ready, security measures and surveillance in place.
The next twenty minutes was one of meet and greet as delegations and individuals arrived paid their respects to the Immortal and availed themselves to the table of light refreshments that Natalia had so astutely arranged to cater to the widely varied needs of the guests.
Spike and Xander stood back for the most part, preferring to be introduced as the Immortal’s new adoptive family than making a fuss. Spike was acutely aware that although he was a Mated Master, and one of the last Aurelians, he was an outsider as far as the Vampire Courts of Europe were concerned, and certainly had no jurisdiction regards any other demon clans. But it seemed the rumor mill in demon circles worked as well as in the past, and the exploits of he and Xander were well known, at least as far as Zurich, the adoption by Anton, and the Scourge were concerned. Consequently when Alona Costa Di Bianci swept into the room and made a beeline for the vampire and Mate, Spike was unsurprised.
“Spike!” She noted the man frown for a moment, “Oh, of course… William, still so handsome! And your darling Mate Alexander… you are two are beauty embodied. I was sad to hear of your Sire, such a waste, but we will speak of happier times. Now you must have lunch while you are in Rome. Barnardo will arrange it of course.” In amongst the gush of words, kisses to both cheeks were delivered and her long handled cigarette lit by the long suffering PA, Barnardo, despite it being waved around almost constantly. Happily Spike had no need to reply, so simply smiled and mumbled “CEO, Wolfram and Hart, Rome” to Xander as she rushed forward to greet someone else.
Xander felt the prickle at the same time as Spike. It was like ants crawling across his skin and caused an involuntary shiver. He looked quizzically at his partner, who merely nodded toward the entrance to the room. Three young girls walked toward the general crowd with a rather self important looking Andrew at the helm and Buffy off to one side.
Attendees of the summit parted ways leaving a clear path for the newcomers to greet Anton, who in turn smiled, shook hands with Andrew, kissed Buffy chastely on both cheeks and ushered them to their seats at the large circle of tables arranged just so for the meeting. It was a signal for everyone to be seated, and with place names arranged for minimum upset by the competent Natalia, the process was a swift one, and less than two minutes later the only three to take their places were Anton and his adoptive Childer.
Buffy and Andrew both gasped as Spike moved into view on Anton’s immediate right, and Xander claimed the chair a further place on, but there was no time for explanations as Natalia indicated her readiness to take minutes and nodded to Anton indicating that Connor was on the conference link.
Anton did not stand for the introduction, but all fell silent as his presence somehow demanded attention and his rich baritone dominated the room, “Friends, welcome and thank you for coming at such short notice. We have much to discuss, so let us begin. Natalia has provided you with the agenda that has one issue noted above all others… the Scourge. Master Suetinus if you would like to begin with the report from the Palermo region…”