Swan Lake

BY : Josie_h
Category: AtS/BtVS Crossovers > Slash - Male/Male > Spike(William)/Xander > Spike(William)/Xander
Dragon prints: 4181
Disclaimer: Don't own BtVS or AtS 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.

New Story: Swan Lake

Part 1

“It’s Farah Litand. Is Mr Giles available please? It’s… well… it’s really kind of urgent.” 

The young slayer tapped her chewed pencil impatiently on the side of the small cracked Formica tabletop that was one of five in the tiny backstreet café in Algiers. 

She was relieved when the phone made a clicking sound indicating her call had been taken.

“Giles speaking.”

“Mr Giles, I… I think you need to have someone come here and… and um…”

In Esher, UK, Giles removed his glasses and in frustration ground out, “Oh do spit it out girl I’m…”

“It’s Xander, Mr Giles, it’s my watcher Xander! He just won’t come out of his room, won’t even answer me. He’s been weird all week, I found him crying on Sunday. He said it was just an old memory. We’d just dusted three vamps – no big deal, but there was a little girl with blonde hair, a tourist I think. She was drained already, nothing I could do.

“He picked her up and carried her back here and contacted her parents, just like normal but then he… well he was crying after and then after that just stared at the wall all day then…then he yelled at me when I said we should go patrol, kept saying something about a Zeppo and it going on and on and something about everyone dying, he said he just couldn’t… couldn’t stop it, couldn’t stop me from dying and then went really quiet, just turned and locked himself in his room and now… Mr Giles, I’m scared he will do something or maybe already… Mr Giles?”

“Break the door down.”

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me girl. Kick it in. Make sure he’s… Just make sure he’s still… well, in there. Now”

“OK… I’ll just… Just wait OK? I’ll do it.”

Giles heard the phone go quiet then an almighty crash in the background, followed by what sounded like a struggle. Finally the phone was picked up again, this time it was Xander’s familiar voice though despite the words, the flat tone was less than reassuring.

“Hey G, I guess the Council is going to have to pay for the repairs this time, ‘cause I didn’t bring my tool kit.”

Giles had seen it before, not necessarily whilst in his current role heading up the Council of Watchers, but he had a nephew who had recently served in Iraq returned to England for the very same reason. A brilliant field surgeon Nigel had arrived home reduced to a barely functioning human being, terrified if a helicopter flew over their home, and prone to fits of despair or rage for no apparent reason. His dear wife and he had finally agreed that professional help was needed. A year on he was doing better, but it was a slow process.

Xander had been on the ‘front line’ effectively for the past eight years. Post Sunnydale he’d apparently accepted his parents’ death in the Sunnydale implosion with stoicism worthy of any Brit, claimed the insurance money and government disaster compensation due him and moved to Portland to work in construction.

A year later he had turned up at the Watchers’ Council doors in England and volunteered his services, claiming that normal life wasn’t for him. He’d been in the field, collecting new Slayers ever since. 

Giles knew he needed to act, and quickly, but also aware that Xander would not appreciate a ‘kid glove’ approach.

“Xander, I need you to bring Ms Litand back to England with you. It’s a matter of urgency. I will make the necessary calls to her parents and arrange your travel details. Can you be at the airport by tomorrow morning?”

“I thought you wanted me in Kenya after this one.”

“I’ll send Russell, he’ll be thrilled to be deployed at last.”

Expecting an argument, Giles was rather surprised by the resigned, quiet tone of the answer, “We’ll be there. See you in a couple of days then. Email me the details.”

“Indeed… and thank you Xander. See you shortly.”

As soon as the phone cut out, Giles rang Andrew, “Yes arrange it immediately and blind copy me the Email if you will… And before you ask, yes it will be me that picks them up from Heathrow.”

Xander was coming home.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The final battle with Wolfram and Hart’s Los Angeles Branch brought it down with blast from Illyria but not before Angel was dusted and Gunn dead.

Illyria had been standing over a badly injured Spike when she threw the blast that not only knocked out Wolfram and Hart, but also somehow removed her from Earth’s dimension.

Spike woke as the sun poked its head through the clouds, lighting the sky with pale reds and warm pinks.

He was too broken to move, so simply lay still, expecting to dust. He opened his working eye, the other too swollen to manage, and stared at the pink then blue above, hoping that someone would perhaps remember him, reflecting on his long life as the Sun’s rays gradually crept closer.

It was an agonizing three hours later that the lady Sun finally broke through to the alley. In a blast of heat he felt the moment and closed his eyes, sending a last minute prayer that his Grandsire might have found peace and wishing his mother hers also.

But then… nothing happened.

There was no whooping for joy. He felt for a heartbeat, but none was present. He breathed, then found it was as unnecessary as ever, though broken ribs seemed to demand he… not.

He was aware enough to register a figure appearing in his peripheral vision, felt strong arms lifting him, then blissful black.

Part 2

Connor cradled the badly broken Spike to his chest, amazed that he was apparently not dust, given his body was in direct sunlight.

The young Aurelian had felt his father’s passing, as had Spike, but also registered a familial tug that demanded he return to the blast location that was previously Wolfram and Hart L.A. Branch.

On arrival in the alley, he saw little beyond an enormous pile of rubble, a number of obviously dead individuals, puddles of ooze and a decent covering of dust across the vista. Then, just as he was about to retreat, he heard a faint, “Oh God.”

Pushing aside large chunks of concrete and twisted metal stays, he eventually found his vampire ‘brother’. Not dust, despite the sun falling on exposed legs and part of his back.

Connor felt for a pulse, having been versed with the Shanshu prophecy from birth.

There was none, which was odd. But then everything about his life was odd.

So, shrugging off obvious questions, he swallowed hard, shoved aside the detritus and lifted the limp and broken body of his only (un)living relative, then continued back to the main road where he hailed a cab. En route to the Good Samaritan he rang his temporary ‘house mate’, Matthias, the brother of one of his fellow Stanford buddies who agreed to put him up for a week or two after Connor made mention of some family crisis in L.A.

The instructions to the cab driver were brisk and urgent, the good natured cab driver assuming Connor to be a do-gooder university friend simply collecting a mate after a too heavy night on the booze.

With some juggling of the inert vampire’s form he managed to let himself in to his shared apartment just off the main road near the Good Samaritan and contacted Matthias again, this time the young resident doctor answered, who was just finishing up his shift at Mount Saini Hospital.

“Hey man, can you um… I’ve kind of got a situation here… It’s kind of urgent.”

Matthias had heard about some of Connor’s ‘situations’ from his brother, and sighed audibly before answering, “OK, who is she and do I have to…”

Connor settled Spike on the rather lumpy couch in the front room whilst juggling the phone and cut Matthias off, “Just listen. I need a few bags of human blood. I’m happy to pay.”

“Jeez Connor! What’s…”

“I’ll pay for it! And before you ask? No, it’s not for me! It’s a… well… It’s for my… half brother I guess. He’s been badly hurt and I…”

“So call 911 man! Or do you want me to?” Matthias was beyond tired after a shift of eleven hours and really didn’t feel ‘the love’.

“I can’t. You’ll understand when you get home… Can you do it? The blood? Like I said.. I’ll pay!”

Matthias gave a heavy sigh. He was used to dealing with some pretty odd requests but this was well and truly outside ‘the box’.

In the two weeks Connor had been staying he had been utterly focused on his studies, and spoke lovingly of his sisters and parents, though recently had opened up that he had discovered he was adopted and made contact with his birth father here in L.A. If this was indeed a birth brother in need of blood then there must be something seriously wrong.

“Fine. No problem. As long as you’re sure? F@#k Connor? Why don’t you just bring him in here?”

“Trust me Matt, you’ll understand when you get here… Just?”

“I’ll be out of here in ten. And you owe me OK?”

The quiet response was all he needed to confirm that Connor was serious.

Matthias divested himself of his ‘scrubs’ twenty minutes later, having ordered up three bags of ‘O-pos’ at the end of his shift (feeling like the most ungainly felon). No-one called him on it as he hailed a taxi and took the quickest way home.

_____________________________________________________

Xander was aware he was heading home, handed over his passport, answered all the questions asked of him at the border check and customs, and sat in his seat dispassionately as the plane took off.

It was as always. He had collected tens of… hundreds of girls… slayers… in the past just like this… it was no different this time… collect deliver and then back out to find another. But this was different… this was the end of a too long journey. Something within him had broken, he knew that, and yet could not feel … that was the kicker, he couldn’t feel… there was nothing left to feel…

Like a robot, going through a program, he was answering questions then directed to collect his bags and push through the line on the green direction, “Nothing to declare.”

There was plenty to ‘declare’, like “Oh by the way I’ve just watched twenty three individuals die”, or “Do you know what a dying individual smells like?”, or “How do you kill a Groxlar beast after it has just killed the young slayer you were charged with counseling?”

None seemed appropriate, so Xander stayed silent.

Giles, true to his word, collected Farah and Xander as they exited the ‘Green Line’ at Heathrow.

The drive back to the Watchers’ Council buildings was disturbingly silent, Farah unwilling to make commentary or ask questions.

_________________________________________________

Matthias arrived home with the promised bounty of blood.

He had expected, well he wasn’t sure what… but the physician quickly took over.

Connor was more pragmatic.

“Matti… Oh! Thank the Gods you’re home!”

Matthias was almost jetlagged due to the starting time and length of his shift, but immediately snapped out of his stupor as he took in the broken figure on their shared couch.

“F@#k!!! Connor!!! We should be…”

“NO!!!”

“But….”

“Matt, just trust me on this one. O.K.? Feel for a pulse and then I’ll… Well I’ll kind of, try to explain.”

Some hour and a half later Matt had managed to reset Spike’s various broken bones, feed him the purchased blood (with difficulty) and witnessed Connor opening his own wrist to feed the individual that was currently mending on their couch.

Matthias had finally given in to sleep, not really believing anything he had witnessed, rather putting it down to sleep depravation, and would no doubt sort itself out in the morning.

 

Spike was in a haze.

He was aware his body had been lifted and moved. He knew that technically he should be dust. He knew, on a visceral level, that Angel had dusted. He *thought* he had felt the sun on his legs and back. He had felt himself lfted, then travel then the agony of bones being pulled straight and realigned. He knew he’d been fed, recently, and human, which made no sense!

And there were just too many… there was too much ‘blessed black’

Spike struggled to consciousness in a sunlit lounge room.

Several things were immediately apparent. He was alive (well ‘undead’). His breaks and wounds had been treated. He had been fed... obviously, and he was lying in a direct sunlight with someone staring down at him.

Injuries notwithstanding he made an effort to at least thank someone before he was dust.

“Hmmph… Guess this is.. whatever… hmmph jus… thanks Pet… thanks.”

Connor held on to the broken figure and whispered rather brokenly, “He pretty much said goodbye to me.”

With a voice scratchy due to injury, Spike ground out, “ I felt him pass too… I’m sorr… n’ thank y…”

Unable to finish before the darkness took him, in his last conscious moments Spike hoped Connor understood.

Connor laid Spike on his own bed, initially lending his own heat to the inert figure, and woke to a sobbing, muttering Spike.

“Kill me too… Just… Sire is dead… Kill me too please… I should be dead! Everyone is dead… Me too… just take me… I can’t… no more… I just…”

 Connor did the only thing he could think of, he grabbed a blade from his desk and sliced his wrist diagonally, shoved his arm against the form of the thrashing lips of the only living vampire family he had left, and hoped…                                 Account

Part 3

He had been back at HQ for almost a month. Everything seemed strangely normal.

If he was a little ‘jumpy’, no-one commented. Giles had done the usual debrief though this time the replies were by rote and delivered with none of the usual jovial commentary.

Xander’s old apartment was there, and if he spent more time incommunicado, no one mentioned it, but those who knew him ‘before’ noticed, and Giles acted.

Giles and he had had a conversation regards Farah when he first came back, twice they had even cordially chatted about old times in Sunnydale, nothing unusual there, but Giles agreed with the intuitive Farah, there was something out of sorts, something definitely wrong.

Despite his natural instincts to intervene immediately, Giles was left waiting and watching as the boy, now man he saw as almost his son, Xander, slowly implode.

Giles had initially made it a point of ‘checking in’ daily with Xander, if only to set his own mind at rest, but after a month, deferred the task to John and Madeline, qualified clinical and post-trauma psychologists.

They had initially engaged Xander in conversations about his role as watcher, then his Sunnydale days, and finally about family, trying to glean his status as best as was possible in both formal and informal discussions but despite their efforts, and perhaps due to them, not knowing the Xander of Sunnydale, they came up with nothing unusual, though both recognized the signs of PTSD. They had dialogue with those who knew Xander prior to Algiers, all of whom described a jovial individual, infinitely dedicated and supportive of others, ‘chatty and warm’ individual. But none of that was evident now.

Now there was a quiet, rather morose individual who barely met their eyes when in discussion, and abjectly refused to discuss the deaths he had witnessed most recently. Stating simply, “Par for the course innit, as Spike used to say.”

They had no idea who ‘Spike’ was, but the observations and evidence confirmed their diagnosis, PTSD. They both came to the same conclusion, psychiatric advice and treatment was desperately needed.

It was ‘Bank Holiday Weekend’ and fearful of leaving Xander alone, Giles had suggested he stay at Giles’ own family home in Oxford for the duration, with the premise that Giles would rather like the company, a suggestion Xander complied with, apparently without objection. The “I’ll go wherever you send me”, delivered with no evident emotion to his tone, worrying both Giles and the two attending counselors.

“I’ll be leaving shortly. Perhaps you would like to gather your things from upstairs.”

“Yeah, sure.” Xander stood, stared into space for just a little too long then exited Giles’ office.

Seconds later, John and Madeline were ushered in to give the Head of the Council their weekly report.

John removed his glasses and began to polish them, much in the manner of Giles himself when faced with breaking bad news to the Sunnydale crew of old.

“Mr Giles, Xander does seem to be doing a little better. He is showing an interest in local events and…”

Giles removed his own glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose in an act of frustration. “If you don’t mind I would rather you were out with it man.”

“Yes, indeed Sir. I fear this may be beyond our capacity to assist. Xander is most definitely suffering post traumatic stress, Sir. Both Madeline and I consider that he needs the services of a psychiatrist, indeed may need time in an appropriate facility.”

“I see.”

“We can recommend a private hospital…”

“Yes. Quite. And thank you. I will see to the arrangements as a matter of urgency. Do you consider that post weekend would be a possible timeframe?”

“I can’t imagine it would hurt, but be aware that the longer Xander is allowed to languor in this state, the longer his recovery.”

“I see. Thank you. If you could provide a few names and numbers to my secretary it would be most appreciated.”

Giles stood and offered his hand to both attending physicians, took the proffered hand and shook it soundly.

Half an hour later, Giles pulled out of the parking bay at Council Headquarters and turned his BMW sports car, with its cargo of silent Sunnydale ex-resident toward the M1.

_________________

Xander woke suddenly.

The room was unfamiliar, though the snoring emanating from the bedroom next door confirmed he was ensconced at Giles’ family home as promised.

His ears felt ‘funny’, but the light through the window indicated it was sometime past ten.

Padding down the cold hallway in his pajama bottoms, he found the loo, relieved himself, and returned to his bedroom to dress for the day.

Coffee… coffee was of the good. But apparently no one had thought to provide milk, so he garnered the keys from the fridge top and ventured to the front of the house, letting himself out with a stealth he thought he had lost years ago (read basement and drunken parents).

The local petrol station was only a mile or so away and had all the ‘emergency’ produce one could need.

He noted that he was shaking as the key went into ignition but thought nothing of it, but as a car pulled out and passed him, his ears seemed to augment the sound, then the shaking became worse, and his focus was blurry.

He slowed the car, but the shaking was getting worse and his hearing… it just wouldn’t stop, and the shaking… and that buzzing was confusing… and his missing eye seemed to be sending sparks… and he couldn’t breathe… he knew he had to breathe… but it wouldn’t come!

He didn’t dare stop the car, kept repeating “Just get home… Just get home” and at a snails pace directed the vehicle onto side streets and back routes, terrified he might see another vehicle. Finally pulling up to Giles’ home he burst out of the vehicle, stumbled up the walkway and burst into the lounge room screaming at the top of his voice “Giles!!!! Oh God! Giles!!! Please… Help me!!”

Giles stumbled out of slumber in response to the ruckus and was faced with a hyperventilating, violently shaking Xander, sobbing on the floor.

He did the only thing he could think of, fell to the floor and pulled Xander into his lap, grabbing the violently shaking individual tight and repeating “Just breathe with me… Just breathe… breathe… breathe!!!!”

_________________________________________________________

Matthias took a time to come to terms with the revelations Connor had been forced to divulge regarding his very injured ‘relative’.

Not the least of which was that the man he had been ‘sharing with’ was apparently ‘super-powered’, and vampires were real, and the guy on their couch was apparently close to one hundred and seventy years old – or possibly more?!

But to his credit, Matti pulled in some favors regards blood supply and seemed willing to monitor Spike’s progress.

Connor was attentive to a fault. Both wrists bore constant bandages over the ensuing weeks and Spike healed.

It was late afternoon and Spike had been lifted and placed on an old lounge piece in direct sunlight when he came to consciousness.

Connor was in a chair opposite, reading when Spike finally surfaced and spoke.

“Figured I was dust… all things being considered.”

“Spike!”

“Yeah… apparently that would be me. Still not very chipper, mind, but will give it me best anon.”

“Do you know who I am?”

“Little brother if I’m not mistaken… though my taste buds may have lost a little in the translation. But push comes to shove, reckon there's some thanks needs to come your way... so thanks... for.. everything I guess.”

Connor reached out and squeezed Spike’s left deltoid gently.

“It’s cool. I felt him pass too… I… I kind of need you to meet someone…”

“Friend of yours?”

“He kind of helped save you.”

Part 4

Spike smiled weakly at the ginger headed Matthias, “Right grateful then mate. Figure the lad here has filled you in on what I am, least as much as he knows.”

Matthias smiled back then gave Connor a quizzical look, “Well some. You’re his half brother to his birth father and have been working with Angel at Wolfram and Hart law firm for the past year or so. There was some sort of terrorist attack. Connor went back to look for his Dad but the emergency crews wouldn’t let him near the place, then he found you in an alley practically dead. He rang me and brought you back here, though he didn’t tell me the full story until we got back here, all I knew at the time was that you don’t have insurance and I since I work in the ER anyway...”

Connor had the wherewithal to look a little guilty at that point and picked up the story, “Matti here has been looking after you, sewed up the worst of your wounds, set both your legs and left arm, brought enough blood for the first few days, and changed your drip…”

Spike’s eyebrows went up at that and belatedly he realized that indeed he did have an IV line taped down on his lower right arm.

Connor gave Spike a small nod noting some confusion, “We couldn’t get you to drink too well and Matti figured painkillers and well...”

“So I must have been pretty bad…”

“As close to really dead as it comes.”

“How long since…?”

“Two weeks, and either I’m a great doc, or you have the best healing time on the planet, or both. Still Connor told me that it was kind of normal for your family.” Matti grinned at that, “Now you’re awake we can probably get rid of the IV in a day or two, see how you go. Anyway, I’ll leave you two to catch up I guess. I’m… I’m sorry about your dad.”

Spike felt a stabbing pain in his chest and tears instantly threatened, he still managed a quiet, “Yeah, thanks.” Before Matti moved to his bedroom door and disappeared from view.

Spike moved slightly but the sun was clearly shining on his very pale forearm. The strange part was that there was heat to the rays, unlike the necrotinted windows at Wolfram and Hart which was strange, but when Connor stood and moved to apparently open the window, he pulled said appendage back immediately with a rather panicked, “Oi! Don’t fancy frying!”

Connor simply smiled and said, “No necrotinting Spike. You seem to… well just trust me on this one.” With that he pulled up the window and swept the blinds aside fully until the entire room and Spike’s nude torso was in bright sunlight.

The look of wonder on his face was priceless, Connor grinning even wider.

He moved slowly, as if in a dream wiggling fingers and let his eye fall closed as he faced the sun directly. Suddenly Spike had no control over his emotions and did the only thing left to him… accepted the proferred from Connor and held fast to the strong male form beginning to cry in earnest. His distress was marked not by the quiet sobs of the upset adult, but rather the bone shaking cries of a lost child, screams of a bereft lover, the ultimate distress of parent losing a child… He didn’t need to breathe but it seemed his body not only wanted to, but also struggled as his sobs alternated with attempts to speak to vale lost ones then tried to whoop large gasps of unnecessary air.

Connor simply held on…

After long minutes, he opened his eyes again, pulled away a little, cleared his throat and wiped his face roughly with the palm of his right hand causing the IV line to tug a little. When he looked at Connor again it was with true puzzlement and a not so small amount of embarrassment. “Sorry ‘bout that. But… not human cause no heartbeat so far as I can tell, ‘n can hear yours clear as a bell, so how??”

The young man sat down on the couch near Spike’s splinted legs placing a gentle hand on the plaster, “I figure you’re a day walker now, you know like in that movie Blade. I guess when Illyria went all postal it must have done something to you…” He shrugged and looked down at his hand on Spike’s plaster. “She wasn’t there when I found you, but I figured it must have been her that caused the blast.”

“Yeah, I guess that makes sense, she was standing over me is the last thing I remember. Came to for a moment or two but figured the bright light was just all part of it, never figured it for the sun proper. Passed out after that, ‘n you know the rest.” Spike stared thoughtfully at the younger Aurelian for a moment before continuing, “So why’d you…?”

“You’re family Spike, and you fought the good fight along with Angel, our well… Sire, and I figure he loved you and would want me to keep you safe, plus you’re the only one who really knows me now – you know the vampire part and that makes you important to me, really important.”

Spike ducked his head, then looked up to stare into Connor’s pale blue eyes and saw the truth of what the boy was saying, breaking into a shy smile, “Your Da loved you, was right proud as punch when he knew you were at Stanford. Yeah the ol’ bugger was right proud.” He couldn’t continue past the lump that had suddenly formed in his throat and he could see Connor struggling to hold back tears also.

They sat in silence for a long time after that, not quite sure what else to say, but sharing the grief was somehow comforting in itself as both remembered Angel’s part in their turbulent and unusual existence.

Finally Spike yawned a little and Connor stood and stretched, “You need to rest some more. I guess I’ll just go heat you some blood now that you’re awake. You need some more pain killers too?”

“Nah, much as it hurts still I figure that’s just the bits pullin’ together, plus not all to keen on the floaty feelin’ that comes with, and I’m sure you’d rather not I be sick on the bedding if I’m eating proper again.” Connor screwed up his face a little at that and made for the door to the kitchenette in the small apartment, but paused when Spike asked, “We still in L.A. then? Last I heard Stanford was a good eight hours away.”

“Yeah, I had to come here for one of my uni assignments – was supposed to be doing some hands on experience at Universal, looking at the changes they’ve made to their Studios, the financing and promoting that sort of thing. I kind of caught up with dad before the big showdown, and during. Saw him kill some tall guy in a flash suit – we kind of fought him together for a bit until dad worked out that he could drain him. He told me to go after that, so I ran. The building had started to shake really badly, I saw dad heading in the opposite direction. It was the last time I saw him.” Connor’s voice trailed off for a minute.

“When I found you, you know, after, Matti said I could extend my stay. I’ll still have to do the study but that’s OK, I’ve done all the research already. When you’re up to it you can, well if you want to that is, you can come with me when I head back. I was going to move out of the frat house anyway ‘cause there’s just too many distractions, and I’m sure Mum and Dad will agree if I put it like that. I’m on scholarship so money’s not such a big deal.”

“Money won’t be a problem pet, got my own stash from back in the day, haven’t touched it in a long while, all safe ‘n sound in good ol’ neutral Schweiz. I’ll pay my way so long as I’m welcome. No doubt Angel has some squirrelled away for you too.”

The ensuing days saw the former vampire healing (at least on the surface), physically and emotionally. The casts came off and though he was still a bit shaky if he stood for too long, Spike doing what he did best, adapting and shifting his focus to the ‘day at hand’.

As soon as he was able, he made himself useful. He cooked for Matthias and Connor, lay out in the sun on days that were warm, and even cleaned for the two boys. Anything that would take his mind away from his grief, the loss that when he allowed himself, had him on the floor of the kitchen holding his knees and crying like the bereft childe he truly was.

It was late Connor had retired to bed early, claiming the next day they had to do the drive back to Stanford and he wanted to be rested. Spike was reading and Matthias was bent over his computer at the main table, apparently focused on some article or other online.

He had become used to the presence of the quiet young man who was apparently a half brother to his friend Connor, though he was still a little unsure of why or how.

“What’s the study?”

Matthias startled then turned to smile at their erstwhile ‘houseboy’.

“Not sure it would interest you, but it’s a history paper on the British Legal system, specifically looking at the history of the Queen’s Counsel and rule changes applying to them over the twentieth century.”

Spike took a seat opposite as he snorted an “Oh, general knowledge or hobby?”

“General knowledge actually, one of my patients is a retired lawyer. He was talking to me about how different our system is in the states versus UK. It just kind of… well I figured it would be nice to learn a bit more.” He went back to his reading so very nearly missed the murmured, “Studied Law at Oxford back in the day.”

Matthias looked up surprised, “You don’t look…” He was about to say old enough but then remembered what Connor had told him about vampires being really old. “So that was what mid twentieth century or something?”

Spike laughed out loud at that, “Nah mate, finished me articles in ’73.”

“That still would have been interesting, all that flower power stuff and Vietnam…”

“1873 mate. Women still to get the vote n’ all that.”

Matthias’ eyes went wide, “So you’re what? One hundred and something?!”

“A hundred and fifty five at last count, turned vamp in 1880.”

“I… Wow! All the changes you must’ve seen?! All the progress - just amazing!!”

“Yeah, guess it’s one of the perks. C’n be bloody frustratin’ ‘n lonely at times too, ‘specially after Dru left.”

When Matti simply sat and waited looking like he wanted to ask a million questions, Spike added, “C’mon mate, I know you want to ask sommit or other. Fire away an’ I’ll do me best at an answer or three.”

They ended up talking until the early hours of the morning about all manner of things. Matthias drifted off to bed eventually with his head full of images of women in bustles, horse drawn carriages and lavish décor of Victorian England. He would be genuinely sad to farewell his guests and return to solo life, but was buoyed up a little when he learned that Spike (or William as he had established his human name to be) was quite web savvy and promised to reply to emails should Matthias be so inclined.

----------------------------------

Giles wrapped Xander in a blanket as the terrified young man continued to shake violently despite being curled up in a fetal position on the lounge suite, hands over his ears to try to stop all noise input, and eye squeezed shut tight.

Giles kept Xander in plain sight as he reached for the phone and rang the number for an after hours visiting doctors’ service. Twenty minutes later a young medic knocked on the door and Giles ushered him in.

“Is he on any medication already?”

“No.”

“Are you allergic to anything Mr Harris?”

“Not that I’m aware of.”

“Has this happened before, the panic I mean.”

“Never. Not even in the middle of a fight, not even after I lost my eye.”

“Well, I’ll give you a light sedative for now, but you really would be best to see someone pretty much immediately.”

“I… I’ve been seeing a couple of counselors since I came back, but…”

“I would recommend attending a psychiatrist, he or she can take it from there. I’ll write a referral to a Dr Hokin. He’s a young guy, pretty up with folks who’ve seen active duty, kind of his specialty.”

The doctor injected Xander in the arm and handed a script for valium to Giles then rose to leave. Walking to the front door and just out of earshot of Xander the doctor turned to Giles. “I really think you should contact the psychiatrist today. If you tell Hokin I sent you and the circumstances he might even be able to fit you in this week.”

“Yes, indeed. Thank you for all your help and candor. I’ll do what I can.” He shook the young man’s hand and the doctor departed.

Two days later Xander was seated outside Dr Hokin’s office looking miserable, picking at a loose cotton on his light summer sweater and staring at nothing in particular. Giles was worried again as, since his panic attack Xander had not said more than three words in a row, eaten nothing, and had obviously not slept more than a few hours, even then crying out in his sleep tp the point Giles himself was feeling rather stressed.

Xander had returned from Africa obviously thin, but now was positively haggard and had been wandering Giles’ small back garden incessantly during the day for the past two, apparently trying to find some balance. None seemed to come and the shaking was still apparent.

Admitted to Dr Hokin’s rooms he was ushered in to a warm modern style consulting room and invited to sit.

Dr Hokin with his long hair pulled back in a ponytail and wide Hollywood smile did not immediately put Xander at ease, but in the ensuing hour, as the ex-Scoobie and recently returned Watcher answered all manner of questions, he eventually relaxed, his shaking hands stilling for a moment or two before the crux of the matter was tackled head on.

“So… are you sleeping?”

“Well, yeah. Not always at once.”

“Meaning?”

“I wake up… but everyone does that… you know to pee.”

“And you remember what wakes you?”

“No! Yes! And No… sort of. Giles says I call out and cry, but I don’t really remember.”

“ How much sleep do you get – you know… straight through before you have to ‘get up’?”

“Two maybe three hours.”

“So how much sleep do you get in a day?

“I figure four is OK and six a bonus. Why?”

“No matter, Xander do you wake up to noise or movement in the house where you reside?”

“Well of course! Doesn’t everyone… I mean if there’s a burglar or…”

How long have your sleep patterns been disturbed… and by that I mean compromising, giving headaches or exhaustive feelings?”

“I…. Forever.” Xander slumped down into his chair at the last admission. It was as if a balloon that had held him just above water had burst and much to his shame, he covered his face with his hands and cried.

Dr Hokin said nothing until he calmed, handed him the tissue box then made a suggestion that caused Xander’s heart to skip several beats. “I really think you would benefit from a short stay in the Delmont. It’s a private hospital, you’ll have your own room and en suite. Just until your sleep is sorted, and we can sort some antianxiety and anti depressants while under supervision. I’m fairly sure there’s a bed coming up tomorrow or the next day.”

Xander sat stock still for a moment then stated flatly, “So I am officially insane. Just… please, can I talk to Giles because if you guys are going to do something that involves being strapped down or, I don’t know, bars? There’s gonna have to be a court order.”

Dr Hokin simply smiled and handed Xander a card. “Mr Harris, the Council of Watchers is fully insured for their employees so your stay will be in our private facility. You can sign yourself out at any time.”

Giles delivered him to the door two days later, Xander signed his name in a rather shakey hand, and he was directed to his new abode for the next four or so weeks.

And strangely enough, despite all his worry about stigma or horror stories of mental hospitals of bygone eras, he relaxed on the first night after sleeping meds prescribed by his doctor (the first of seven days of sleeping tablets as agreed to), and the second sleeping a fitful ten hours without worry of attack or dire consequences for charges. Dreamless and comfortable, and utterly surprised, he realized on the second morning that he had almost missed breakfast sleeping twelve hours straight. Xander nodded to the male nurse on his wing and headed to consume a hearty cooked breakfast before confronting his first day of official ‘therapy’ sessions.

Signing up for art therapy and a more worrying stress understanding and management session before lunch, he still felt relaxed for the first time in what seemed like… forever. Still he knew, he was in a private hospital, the people around him were struggling with their own ‘demons’, he just hoped his would be found to be neuro-chemical rather than ‘real’ insanity.

 



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