Rating: Mature Audiences (M/M sexual content! And themes)
***Warnings: D/s, Major character death, slavery***
Don’t own the characters etc and bow down to their original creators Joss, et al., plus all the wonderful online writers who continue to give them life.
It’s an AU!..... The Premise: A hundred and fifty years after the final battle with the Senior Partners… Demons rule the world. The luckier humans are pets…. Some simply taken for food. Spike survived, and in the early days found Xander on the docks, purchased him and did what Spike does best…. Made a life.
The elderly human Pet leaned quietly against his Master’s thigh. His knees were calloused from nearly a hundred and fifty years of kneeling at his Master’s feet. In private, he was always allowed on the couch or the bed with Master, and he had ‘Pet’s special chair’ to curl up on when Master’s friends were present, or Master was out.
Unless the event was significant, these days his Master allowed him to stay at home. The cold played havoc with old joints, and the continuing fashion of keeping slaves adorned in aught but jewels, chains and precious metal or leather restraints gave no protection in the winter months.
In earlier times, he had run proudly with the Master vampire, delighting in the pretense of hunting, sprinting competitively for the sheer joy of the feeling, and feeling satisfaction as his Master was congratulated on such an athletic and trustworthy Pet. Xander had always delighted in the golden eyes and fang filled grin as Spike inevitably pulled him to the ground for a ‘post hunt tussle’ if they were alone.
Xander used to walk easily. These days he simply tried to manage, concealing the pain his hips and knees brought him from his keeper. He swung the hip chains, particularly when they were with company, as adeptly as any old pro might, but at a cost. Spike dearly loved his now silver haired slave with a passion, and hurt along with his beloved charge, as the master vampire noted each wince and occasional undisguised look of pain as his pet moved to try yet again to please his Master.
Xander still ‘looked good’, though the skin had lost its elasticity, and he was obviously less muscular than he had been in his prime. The greatest worry was the bruising, and the fact that Spike’s bites were now taking almost a week to heal, even with the boost of vampire blood and delicately, lovingly applied saliva from the Master.
Xander knew a decision had to be made soon. There would come a day, in the not too distant future, when moving would no longer be an option… when even with the best of drugs and all possible surgery, his Master could no longer fix the mortal body. He wasn’t sad. Indeed he knew he’d been blessed. His Master had never failed to remind him how much he was loved. In word or deed, for one and a half centuries since he had been purchased, Spike, his beloved Master had reminded him that he had been chosen *specifically*; that he belonged; that he was owned and would always be cared for; and that above all, he was loved… deeply, dearly and unconditionally. And because of all that, they both knew. Soon it would be time. He’d had a ‘good innings’, as Master would put it…. and Master always knew best. Xander accepted, but in truth, it was Master who could not bear saying goodbye. Xander’s longevity was due to taking small amounts of the Master’s blood, but he was not immortal. And they had always known this would come, but Spike had refused to turn his beauty, no matter his age. Yet to be kind, Spike must, one day soon, provide his most treasured possession and dearest friend with the final gift…. Death.
Spike’s blood tinged tears flowed in private whenever this final decision was raised… Yet Xander knew that somehow his legacy would live on.
After some seventy years of non breeding, Spike had relented regards Xander and reproduction. Consequently the brunette had sired only eighty seven beautiful children that he knew of. Thirteen of them, out of five prize female slaves, Spike had kept for the Aurelian Stud. Xander never met the mothers. The Master vampire was uncomfortable with the whole breeding business, and indeed, had disallowed Xander from actually coupling with the human ‘brood mares’, only agreeing to have them clinically impregnated with his seed. It had been a relief for his Pet. Xan was not comfortable with partnering with females since his enslavement. Master was the only coupling he wished for… ever. He knew that after his death, his sons and grandsons would continue to breed, and they’d both had many years to become used to the idea that Master would monitor the number and care of his progeny.
Eleven of the thirteen offspring claimed for the household had thankfully remained in the ownership of the Spike to date. Nine were girls, and of those, four were natural witches, so there was a vested interest in keeping them as breeding stock… with appropriate training of course. The other ‘normal’ girls, all came from mothers with a history of multiple births, certainly seen as an economical advantage to the breeding program. He and his pet had been pleased by the apparent familial cohesion in the female enclosure.
Spike intended to ‘turn’ one of the girls at a later date if possible, though had good reason to wait, and it was beneficial that they matured and produced offspring first anyway. A pretty Vampire sired of the family stud stock would certainly bolster his standing in the demon community as he would take no other life partner after Xan ‘passed on’.
For all his bravado, Spike still preferred his female pets to express a desire to mate with a particular breeding male. He was reknowned for releasing several eligible individuals into the holding areas for weeks at a time. Fortunately with DNA identification, it was easy to determine the bloodline if there was any confusion. Whenever possible, Spike then purchased the preferred male partners from their owners and established breeding pairs. His radical methods and success rate as breeder in the latter years had become legendary.
Xander really had no idea of the number of his grandchildren now. He was sure Spike kept stud records but he’d never asked.
Sadly two of Xander’s male offspring had displayed tendencies toward aggression and rebellion early in their lives, exhibiting rash and dangerous behavior, and the urge for independent procreation, even with their female relatives. After consultation with one of the local Pet doctors, it was decided that they be removed from Spike’s ‘herd’ and were consequently sold to a local breeder. The demon had reportedly determined that the best course of action was that they be ‘fixed’. After the removal of their vocal chords and testes, the geldings were reportedly now far calmer, and Xander was told by one of Spike’s staff that his two silent sons were excellent eunuchs in the demon’s prize herd, and that he should be proud. Spike never spoke of them, appearing noticeably distressed if they were ever mentioned by visitors. Xander was touched by the depth of his Master’s concern.
The elderly pet had initially worried about his eldest, John. At six foot six, the athletic, sandy haired, quiet man, along with Xander’s youngest son, Daniel, were still fully capable of breeding and perfectly suited to their roles. Xander had observed them responding well to their training, holding form and moving with the grace he had once possessed. But as ‘stallion’ stock, he noted that his eldest was disinterested in the females he was required to ‘cover’, failing to engage with the partner if simply left to his own devices.
Spike’s staff had taken to habitually injecting the man immediately before any coupling activity to ‘enhance his performance’. They would then send in another male slave to stimulate his organ by hand or vibrator cuff and force him forward into the restrained female at the moment of ejaculation. Spike and Xander had been thrilled to learn when the boy had finally been paired with a gay stable mate. Two months ago Spike had casually mentioned to his Pet that the two were thriving more than ever and his eldest’s long term prospects as breeding male was secure.
Xander’s youngest boy was the real prize…. the pride of his Master’s stud. Handsome thighs, coupled with well developed, highly trained arms, taut torso and powerful back… and a libido to match. He was tall, with dark features like his father, and had been pampered and worked until at his peak from the very first day of puberty until now at nearing eighty (longevity inherited and condition enhanced by small amounts of Spike’s blood). Obedient to a fault in his actions, Daniel still maintained a fire in his gaze that implied his father’s keen intelligence and fine spirit. Other owners often asked Spike to allow Daniel to cover their prettiest breeders in the hope of creating a similar beauty. Spike was most discerning, however, and to date only one hundred and four progeny had been produced. But those were all reportedly exquisite.
Xander snapped from his reverie. The meeting was in full swing and he noted a young human male slave kneeling opposite. He smiled at him, a tiny sign of solidarity. When there was no response, Xander looked hard at the individual. He’d seen those eyes before. The other Master was a Kailiff demon, … It was obvious to Xander that the boy had not been born into servitude, he’d been broken. Unlike himself, and very sadly, it was now common practice for broken slaves to be drugged heavily to improve their sexual abilities. Xander recognized the signs. This boy sported a hard-on that could split stone, but eyes that spelt…. nothing. When the Kailiff master touched the boy lightly on the head, there was a reflex servicing (his gag reflex absent courtesy of the drugs and orgasm lacking due the heavy leather bindings). Xander cringed. Whenever the old pet serviced or was taken by Spike, no matter how often, in what position, or in what company, it was a joyous affair, one that they both participated in willingly, whether or not he was given the order to come. Regardless, *every* time was followed by a passionate kiss and quiet words of praise from his Master. Xander reminded himself again just how incredibly blessed his life had been.
Spike rose to move from the meeting. Despite the urge to groan at the effort, Xander stood silently, a pace and a half behind the right shoulder of his powerful and beautiful Master, head bowed, yet standing straight and exuding his own charisma as treasured elderly pet. The hundreds of diamonds adorning his chains, the rubies embedded in the collar circling his neck, and the elegant spirals of white gold and amber around his aging legs told of his Master’s devotion to his Pet. The fact that his Master reached back as he turned to leave the meeting and deliberately took the Pet’s hand rather than his lead, spelt an ancient bond of mutual trust.
All the demons present could easily see the age and frailty of the Pet, yet had also observed the same silver haired human servicing the vampire with a willing mouth during the meeting, unprompted and with great enthusiasm. The others were complimentary but it left the Kailiff particularly frustrated and confused. He thrust his large member into his drugged slave’s young mouth with jealous dissatisfaction, grunted as he completed and walked off leaving his pet to recover and ‘catch up’ as best he could.
The following afternoon, Spike had one of his staff move his Pet’s chair onto the sunny patio overlooking the estate’s vast grounds. Xander had protested mildly until Spike pointed out that he would be working at his desk but three steps away in the safety of the shady library, and that the elderly human was welcome to join him at any time.
Spike watched as Xander adjusted and luxuriated in the warmth of the afternoon sun, then delighted as his Pet realized the ‘little extra’ his Master had provided. Two of the breeding mothers, Xander’s youngest daughters, were lying comfortably on a blanket half way down the gently sloping and well manicured lawn. He noted that they were both heavily pregnant again and smiled, wondering idly wondering which males would sire Xander’s grandchildren next year.
Six pretty, dark children, all unmistakably of Xander’s line were playing ‘Tag’ in front of the mothers and a handler… who, like all Spike’s demon staff, gave no indication of his real role as ‘herder’. Instead, the massive blue individual seemed to relish his nominated role as the ‘safe’ spot to retreat to for any small humans not wishing to be tagged. Xander smiled sleepily as high pitched squeals of delight filtered up from the excited brood. He closed his eyes for a few minutes and simply enjoyed the sounds of childhood happiness. Was it any wonder Spike’s stud was so successful….
“Father?” Xander woke with a jolt. It was now late afternoon, he observed, and shivered a little. The women and children had obviously been returned to their quarters and before him stood… his youngest son.
“Daniel!” Xander smiled broadly and almost sighed as he noted the marvelous human form. His son stood tall, the leash loosely connecting him to his handler, though an unnecessary accessory, as here was a human stallion utterly confident of his place and satisfied with his role.
Daniel reached out to take his father’s hand, but dropped to his knees instantly, head bowed and hands clasped behind his back in a sign of respect, as Master Spike appeared at the door of the library.
In the safety of the now shadowed patio, Spike wandered over to toss the afghan rug he was holding across his Pet’s curled form, before claiming a kiss from the old man. Placing a gentle hand on Xander’s shoulder, he reached to take Daniel’s chin and lifted the handsome face until the young man was looking squarely at him. Despite his age and prowess as stallion, Daniel’s eyes sparkled with an innocence and trust in his Master that Spike adored and saw in all Xander’s progeny.
Spike smiled approvingly and caressed the man’s pretty forehead with the back of his hand.
“You’ve done well this month, Daniel.”
Xander smiled at his Master. There was no other feeling more wonderful than receiving praise from those beautiful lips, and the old Pet noted the sudden teary look in his son’s eyes as he stared adoringly at the Master.
“Thank you, Master.”
“It seems you will have three new offspring next year.” Spike paused for a moment, squeezing Xander’s shoulder as a small sign of his pleasure at letting his dear pet know of more grandchildren now to come.
“We have been asked that you service two more of Krevlorn’s brood females this week, but I intend to rest you after that… at least until Summer.”
“Yes Master, thank you Master.”
“Daniel, you know your father here, my beloved Pet, has not been well of late.” The young man looked up with genuine panic. Father had *always* been with Master… had *always* been well.
Xander also looked a little alarmed, though relaxed as Spike’s hand began to gently fondle the nape of his neck and stroke his silver locks.
“I would like you to deputy for your father as my Pet in meetings from hence forth. Your stud duties will, of course, continue, but you will travel with me when necessary, and kneel at my right in his stead.” Spike smiled as the young man took on the look of a deer caught in headlights.
“The meetings are too long and tedious for my dear old Luv.” Spike leaned down to give and receive a deep and loving kiss with Xander as Daniel looked on.
“You will of course be expected to perform the minimum duties.” This time the younger man let a tear of joy escape his pretty brown eyes. His emotions were in turmoil, he felt such pride at being asked to kneel at Master’s right side in public, and to be allowed to service Master was both terrifying and wonderful. He felt extreme distress at his father’s obvious frailty and Master’s worry, and was utterly in awe of the obvious depth of love and devotion he was currently witnessing between Master and his father. He resolved to request of his handlers, that he be taken to speak to his father some time during the coming week to discuss just how he might best please Master in the most delicate of his duties.
Daniel had been given all the right training and was adept at providing all the standard services required of a Pet. As stud stallion he was rarely required to perform the same, but over the last year he’d had discussions with John and his father regarding the finer points of providing a same sex partner with greater oral and anal pleasures. He quickly realized that now he also needed to know Spike’s public preferences and to learn the ‘deviations’ from societal standards of slave behavior that he would be expected to follow as Spike’s companion.
“I have arranged for you to have the status brand added tomorrow.” Daniel beamed his delight with a blinding smile, as Xander rubbed over his own status brand. Spike had demanded that it be placed on the patch of skin just below his navel, the most intimate place possible that still allowed others to see.
Xander and all his offspring bore the pretty Aurelian brand. The design was an adaptation of Master Spike’s grandsire, Angel’s, original griffin. Most breeders callously branded their stock with crude marks on the pectoral muscles of their slaves, but Spike always branded his stock with the elegant black Aurelian tattoo at the base of their spine. It was a rite of passage and a point of pride for any member of the Aurelian Stud. Theirs was a mark of beauty and denoted fine breeding, something to be proud of. But Xander had two other marks. The status brand marked him as his Master’s prize Pet, and the scar on his neck, constantly reopened over the past century and a half, marked him as his Master’s chosen life partner. So few vampires took Pets as life partners that the mark had always attracted awed attention when in public.
“Do you understand Daniel?”
“Yes Master. I am deeply honored, Master… thank you. I will do my best for you.” Xander had not been given leave to speak but smiled at his boy as Daniel gave a minute nod to his father, silently conveying his deep devotion and commitment to their household, and confirming it again with a loving look. The old Pet relaxed back into his chair as Spike nodded at the handler. Daniel stood, bowed to Spike, then departed with a fluid grace that the vampire suspected was now genetic.
Spike turned to his silver haired companion. They were alone, so Xander could speak freely, should he wish.
“I thought it best to ask Daniel. Do you agree?”
“…. Would be unhappy to leave his stable mate.”
“That’s what I figured.”
“Daniel will be good for you.”
“Still got you though haven’t I.”
“Not for much longer Master. We both know…”
“No!!” It was Spike’s turn on his knees. Taking his Pet’s hands, he gently stroked over the back of each hand, the tissue paper thin, wrinkled and near translucent skin moving easily with each pass of his thumb. “Can’t lose you Pet …. Won’t!”
Xander’s tone dropped to the level he might use for a frightened child, “You will have to Spike… we both know… Please Spike… Let me die in your arms…. Let me love you one last time, then end it for me…. Please?”
Spike was shaking his head so furiously that his human pet began to worry if he might do himself an injury. Xander stilled the move by lifting their joined hands to the defined, timelessly beautiful jawline. Then continued…..
“I’m so tired Master…. And I want so desperately to please you but everything is so hard these days…. I trust you Master and I have loved you forever… You are my all… but please let me go… Please? I would see the next two born, but take me on the solstice and sprinkle my ashes under our oak….You love that oak. That way I can always be with you when you sit under it to watch the moon….. Remember? How many times have we made love under that oak?….. You are always so beautiful in the moonlight… my glorious, my wonderful and extraordinary Master, my Lover… My Friend…. You must let go!…” Xander’s voice trailed off and Spike let out a grief stricken sob as azure eyes released a torrent of blood tinged tears that spelt the anticipation of devastating loss.
They had stayed on the balcony for a long time that night
It was Solstice…….
“Thank you Master…” Whispered gratitude from the pet as his Master guided the cloth over his Pet’s torso one more time.
The reply was barely audible “Oh god…… I love you Xan”, and with that, Spike peppered kisses anywhere he could manage to reach.
“And I you Master… with all my heart.”
Still sniffling, the vampire stood and carefully lifted the human from their warm bath. Xander was so light. He hardly ate more than a sparrow might these days….. Spike sat him gently on the toilet chair he had bought for the human many months ago. Xander had been struggling to relieve his ‘human needs’, the chair allowed it with a minimum of effort and at least the dignity of attending the toilet alone.
The vampire dried his partner and carried him to their huge bed. Xan….his Pet; his lover; his confidant and best friend; his companion for nearly three human lifetimes. Spike settled the frail figure on the luxurious silk sheets, then quickly divested himself of his own towel and eased down behind his beloved Pet, pulling the covers over them both as he spooned the old man’s figure for the last time.
Xander smiled with a sense of completeness and contentment, then whispered, “Do it Spike …. Please…”
Spike placed a shaky but loving kiss on the nape of the wrinkled neck, then carefully turned his companion so adoring blue eyes could meet brown.
“Good night pet.”
Tears streamed down both partners’ cheeks as a tentative pale hand caressed Xander’s face. Xander smiled back at his Master.
The near inaudible reply was devastating, “’Goodbye Spike…” The vampire suddenly tore his hand away with an anguished cry. But in a move at a speed that was wondrous given the circumstances, Xander grabbed the wrist of his Master and guided the hand back to his cheek.
“Nooo…. thank you Master….. I love you Master. Please… I’m ready …. Please!”
“I know Xan ….. But I’ve loved you forever…. Love you so much…. Oh gahh…. Love you … Love you” He stared into his beloved’s good eye and shifted into game face, looking at his living lover through pain filled golden eyes for one last time……. then bit down hard into the ancient mark and began to drink.
Following the pattern of more than a century, as the feeding began, Xander’s hand drifted to caress Spike’s hardness, but this time familiar fingers fell limp before bringing their master to completion.
Spike heard the final words… “Luvvv youuu Sspp…..” then the heart fluttered and died, and all went still.
Spike eased the love of his unlife down to his final repose. Tears of devastation and loss flowed freely as he keened and remembered…..
Half an hour later, Spike lay unmoving, arms locked around the figure of his now cold and lifeless Pet. He could still taste his beloved’s blood on his tongue. It was the flavor of unadulterated love and devotion and….Xander. He doubted if he would ever drink again.
When they took on the Black Thorn they all knew it could be bad but their final battle had been exactly that, final.
It had been dark as he crawled, literally, from under the belly of the beast. He’d watched in horror as his grandsire had dusted. He had still been fighting… however many demons, and was trying *so* hard to reach Angel… He almost did it too, but only in time to watch the dragon slain and then see his grandsire’s head sliced from his body by an unseen assassin. Moments later the headless dragon’s carcass collapsed over him and all went black. Had he been human he would have suffocated, instead the huge corpse saved him… though at the time, and for many months that followed he could not find any reason to be grateful.
When Spike clawed his way from under the putrid body of the beast twenty four hours later, Gunn was obviously dead. He never found Illyria, nor heard anything of her afterward. What he did discover very quickly was that the demons had kept coming. The Senior Partners at Wolfram and Hart had not planned on. The demons that won over Angel and his little band had been brought through a simple portal. Unfortunately the Partners had failed to notice the powerful M’gattar demon coming through the portal along with their demon army. Magically inclined the M’gattar widened the dimensional rift then held it open for long enough to change the balance of power on earth forever.
The demons had organized, recruited from their ranks already around the world and taken control. In the two years that followed every country fell to demon control. The wholesale slaughter of humans slowed once total power was gained. It was quickly determined that all who survived should be rounded up and sold as slaves or food. Trade in humans began.
Spike initially headed for England but found the new Watcher headquarters destroyed and all the slayers dead. He discovered that Willow and her coven had all been taken alive but Giles had been slaughtered along with his fellow watchers. Spike then sought out Buffy in Italy quickly learning she had been killed in the first wave of fighting. Dawn had been captured. Grieving and alone, he survived. He traversed Europe attending every slave auction he could, desperately searching for the girls. He initially bought as many humans as he could then released them, but stopped the practice when he learned that they were all consequently recaptured and sold again, or killed.
Ten years on he had all but given up but his luck changed one freezing night on the London docks.
Xander was captured in the eighth month of fighting. He had been in the back of a truck heading out of London with seven others when they came upon the demon road block. He was one of four that survived. He had spent all his money in a desperate effort to smuggle himself to England where Willow (via a miraculously still working internet) had assured him human forces were gathering for a last stand. By the time he arrived the last stand had been a last slaughter, and the ‘round up’ had begun in England as well.
Pulled from the truck and forced to his knees on the roadside gravel by a posse of Fyarl demons, Xander assumed he would die. Instead his hands and feet were bound tightly, then the three individuals who were obviously in their sixties or seventies, and the elderly driver of the truck, were separated off. The remaining humans listened helplessly to the sounds of them being killed and…. consumed.
The remaining group had been drugged for transport, Xander waking to find himself on his side in a stock vehicle, collared and chained.
He had been ‘passed over’ in two sales, probably due to his missing eye. He spent three months in the holding area for household slaves, and learned from the smatterings of English used by the handlers, that he would soon to be shifted to the ‘food stock’ pens. But he was saved from that.
One of the ‘handlers’ brought through a family friend and his tiny daughter. The demons were of a species Xander recalled from Sunnydale… they looked like Spike's card playing buddy Clem. All the humans in his pen had been forced to their knees, yet again, as the tiny girl with (at that stage) a toothless grin and bright red eyes wandered down the line with her father. When Xander did not attempt to move away or hurt the tiny demon when she reached out to touch him, he was privately sold as ‘child friendly’ household slave.
In the ensuing nine years, Xander learned to cope. His role in the household was essentially a combination of nanny and children’s pet. They were a well off family with all manner of human slaves, but his job was to care for and amuse the children. Why they chose a male human for the task was no doubt a foible of the species, but after less than a year, Xander learned that he should be grateful for his lot. Slaves talked. He was fed well, and after his initial ‘training’ by an outside handler, he had never really been severely disciplined. The children were easy to be around and growing up in the liberal household, treated Xander with respect and love.
In his fifth year with the family he heard that the demand for human blood, flesh and working slaves had driven the human population to a dangerously low point. The whole family worried, they were not flesh eaters but knew that short supply would cause trouble. The unrelated warring between demon factions that began in the eighth year only made things worse. In the tenth year it became so much worse. On a fateful day in October, the household became one of those targeted by the ruling clans of South England. Rich but peaceful, their holdings were now prime targets for the marauding rabble spilling in from the European wars. To date they had paid their way out of any trouble, apparently… not any more.
Within a month, a decision was made to move the whole extended family to New Zealand, a demon territory reknowned for its tolerance and willingness to accept peaceful refugees from other regions.
Five inconsolable, young, loose skinned children petted their ‘nanny’ for the last time and bade Xander farewell as he was loaded into the truck with the other household slaves. As before the others were sold quickly, but despite his ‘good record with children’, his marred countenance and age of thirty three meant that interested buyers were few.
Chained, starved and wreaking of his own excrement, he was in the process of being led onto a stock ship destined for the food lots in Germany, when his demon handler forced him to his knees and a familiar voice caused his breath to hitch.
“I want this one…. ‘ow much?”
Spike had been idly wandering through the docklands primarily seeking a few pints of animal blood, though it was almost as expensive as human these days. The Demon Sarantsi disease had all but wiped out the worlds domestic pig and cattle stock, leaving limited options for the vampire as taking forcibly extracted human blood was simply not an option for the ensouled Spike. He had simply happened to glance over at the line of chained humans as he wandered past, and saw the boy… well man now… but nevertheless…
As a Master Vampire he had the right to purchase any human he wished. The handlers saw it as a cash sale and easy money.
Xander never forgot to remind Spike of the first words he heard from his new master and soon to be life partner on that day. “You’re mine now pet.”
Tears streaked down the pale countenance as Spike began to rock slowly, “So glad I found you Pet …. So glad I found you! And you were mine…. you were always mine…. and oh gahhhh...." He inhaled again unnecessarily, ".... and I was yours…. was always yours....I still am Luv … always. ”
Unhooked from the rest of the group, Spike had led Xander away by the crude chain fixed to his steel collar, his arms had remained bound behind his back, weak from lack of food, and with his legs in still in shackles, his progress behind the vampire was labored.
Xander had no idea what to expect… Spike was supposed to be dust! More than a decade ago… dust and Sunnydale destruction…. As the blonde led him down a dark alleyway it suddenly occurred to him that the vampire might now be ‘without soul’. Spike had yet to say anything more to him and the clink of the shackles around his ankles and pad of his bare feet on asphalt were the only sounds made as followed the blonde obediently as society required.
Spike remembered his utter disbelief at finding the ex Scooby by chance after ten years. It was such an extraordinary coincidence… He recalled the look on Xander’s face as he pushed him up to the brick wall of the alley, dropped the lead and simply kissed him as a long lost relative might.
His lips released Xander had said, “God…. Spike? Um…. Thanks but um…. Just so’s we’re clear…. *so* not gay!”
...They had laughed over that line for years afterwards.
Spike stroked his beloved’s features again, giving a small smile as he remembered. He let out another hitched sob as he noted the new found stillness of the human’s chest.
In the privacy of the alley, Spike had continued to hold Xander with preternatural strength.
“I can’t free you Harris, you know that….”
Xander pulled away a little to stare at his old ally, then dropped his gaze out of habit, “Yeah I figured that.”
They had exchanged blood for the first time in that ally. Spike ‘marking’ Xander as his own by taking the man’s blood and under protest, feeding him some of his own. It was enough at the time to protect Xander as ‘Spike’s property’. They had no idea, at that moment, of their future together or the effect the vampire blood would have.……………………..
Spike was still rocking, it was impossible to stall the tears, so they continued unchecked as he stroked his beloved’s features as if willing him to respond but all the time knowing that his lover was no longer there…. But he stroked…. and cried….and stroked… and stroked….
He knew the beautiful face so much better than his own. The straight nose was as pretty as ever, though the scarred socket where the eye had been lost appeared more sunken than usual. But the mouth…. Oh that mouth, it had brought so much pleasure, but was now slack with a tinge of dark blue around the lips. That was perhaps the most distressing… Yet he could not help but reflect…. Oh what that mouth had been able to do to him… The pleasure was given and received from their third month together until in his final months, his partner had become too frail to enjoy that same act and they had forgone all manner of sexual pleasure in preference to the simple joy of lying together in a tangle of loving limbs…. An anguished cry ushered forth from the vampire unchecked as he remembered…..
Xander had been utterly confused on that first night as they approached Spike’s home. He remained bound for their trip back to the apartment, was slightly baffled by the kiss, utterly ‘wired’ by the blood exchange, and still unsure of what was to come. As they entered Spike’s home and the door slammed behind him, Xander’s chain, his lead, was immediately dropped. Confusion reigned for the human. After eleven years in ‘service’ Xander did the only thing he could think of. He fell to his knees in a full down position, forehead on the floor, and waited.
Spike had dropped all pretence of ‘master and slave’ behavior as they entered the apartment, not fully realizing the challenge that it caused for his new charge, “Oh geez! Harris!...Whelp! Xander! Get up you silly sod!”
Xander’s head remained bowed as he struggled to his feet, and he gasped as he recalled the old nickname he’d heard in Spike’s demand… His breath hitched again in desperate hope, but he no longer knew for what! Still suffering from the maltreatment of the past five months and the accumulated grief of being ‘let go’, and before that of losing Willow, and Sunnydale before that, and the slavery and being not acceptable… and … and… and… The combination of relief, confusion and grief, was simply overwhelming. Despite his best efforts, his legs began to falter and tears flowed. He almost collapsed to his knees again, desperately grasping a side board in an effort to remain on his feet.
The master vampire had quickly stripped every restraint from the human as he stood supported by the hallway furniture, all the while, patiently explaining that his intention was to keep Xander safe, and that he was *so* thrilled to find the former ally….
With the shock of being ‘rescued’, Spike’s stated innocent intentions, the removal of his slave bindings, and the whole idea that he was, at least somewhat,…. Safe… Xander had done the only thing his stressed system was capable of … it overloaded and began to shut down. His breathing sped and chest tightened with anxiety, as he struggled to comprehend….
In the early days (the first ten years or so of human enslavement), rules for the behavior of slaves in public had varied widely, though traders had a fairly pragmatic practice of ‘learn to submit and follow for instructions, or die’. Xander had been in a household where the codes of slave conduct had been simple and fare. His experience at the hands of the traders had been utterly the opposite.
Spike had watched the former Scooby with concern, he saw near amazement as he continued to explain his purpose for purchasing Xander, and his intentions. The blonde stopped the monologue momentarily after stripping the chattels of slavery, watching in alarm as Xander swayed in his attempt to stand tall for his ‘new master’, then reacted as the human started to fail. Spike remembered speeding forward to catch Xander as he collapsed in a dead faint.
The brunette had awoken in the early hours of that first morning surrounded by sweet smelling soap and a warm bath, his first in over a decade. Still half asleep, he had murmured a love filled thank you to Spike, who was spooning Xander from behind at the time. Spike remembered kissing the bronzed brow and simply rejoicing in the idea that he’d found one of ‘his own’.
From that wondrous first bath on, Xander understood that their roles would be defined in the outside world by the demon laws, but privately and in reality, things would be very different… Later they would fight to change those same laws but in the first hours together, there were no such thoughts, just relief. For the majority of their century and a half together, Xander walked two paces behind and slightly to the right when in public. In private, who walked behind whom generally reflected who was making the drinks for whom that night… and that (like all their intimate acts) had no hierarchy!
It had taken almost two months to nurse the human back to full health, and another four before Xander was back to what Spike considered ‘fighting fitness’ mentally. But that had been ‘OK’, and his convalescence had had the added bonus of the two gradually becoming lovers…
At the start of month number two, Xander admitted to his new protector, in passing…. (well strictly speaking there had been some alcohol and a long night of discussion involved!) that it was over twelve years since he had ‘relations’ with anyone, and more distressingly, as far as Spike was concerned, that it was almost a year since he had found any ‘relief’. His ‘Nanny’ role with the family to whom he had been sold had meant little contact with other humans. And despite their ‘unisex’ status, the sales pens were hardly conducive to any ‘activity’ as they were always observed closely. Anyway various demons had broad preferences, so the human concept of ‘gender’ was rather … silly… and providing the handlers with any reason to ‘observe’, or worse, participate had been terrifying. The most important factor in demon relationships was almost always procreation or power.
As Xander recovered, the political climate also continued to shift toward the more extreme as the fallout from the early Demon wars came to rest. Spike’s role as Master Vampire and Xander’s as human slave was unfortunate but would remain (at least externally) ever more defined. What the outside world remained happily oblivious of, was the shift within one vampire’s home, as Spike’s human ‘purchase’ went from ‘surprise find’ to ‘renewed friend’, to ‘lover’, and after only a few short months became ‘long term partner’.
In the effort to confirm at least the most basic of *non slave* relationships in the first few weeks of Xander’s recovery, Spike had tried to explain their possible future together in terms of some of his own human memories. In particular, his own mother quietly sewing suffragette colors into the hem of her over skirt, and deliberately teaching all her staff to read and write and the girls to sew…. In private the women had also been encouraged to read the newspapers and discussed philosophy, history and politics. In a world that banned women from the vote, it was the best she could do at the time. The lesson, however, bore profound dividends for some of those same individuals, and the central message did not go unnoticed by her sensitive son, after all, it had only been him and his mother, and aught was ever said outside the household.
By the end of the tale Xander was half snoozing, unaccustomed to being so physically comfortable curled up on a thick rug in front of a fire in late afternoon, but nevertheless did not fail to miss the message Spike was attempting to convey. His only confusion was caused by the fact that the same message came via recollections of Spike’s human days, something that he was never privy to in Sunnydale. Spike eventually saw the puzzled look on the human’s face.
“What’s up Luv?”
“Mast…. Spike…. Um… may I ask…?” They were alone, and Xander was only just getting used to dropping formalities, though it was still difficult.
“’S only us…. You’re welcome to speak Pet, told you that ….yeah?”
“Um…. Yes M…. Well, Thank you ...”
“No thankin’ necessary… What’s got your knickers in a twist?”
“Is there such a thing as a midlife crisis for a vampire?”
“Mid-life crisis. You know you remembering your Mom and all that. Just… I never thought….”
“You delirious again, pet…. ‘Course I had a Mum! What? You thought some silly bint just bonked, bore me and buggered off? Well I’m right insulted!”
“On so many levels can I just say Ewwww!” The statement blurted out before Xander could think and was so ‘Sunnydale Xander’ that the vampire could not contain his joy at hearing the familiar boy of old and roared with laughter.
“What’s the problem Luv…. I thought with your tauntin’ a vamp when ‘es just been candid ‘bout is ol’ mom is a definite sign of sickness…”
Xander suddenly felt embarrassed, terribly concerned, and instantly fell back on old training at least in word, though resisted the urge to move to a full down kneel, “No Master!!! I’m sorry M… Oh Gahhh It’s Just that …. Well you never told us about you as a human when we were… well you know before…."
Spike saw his friend starting to retreat in on himself again, "'S OK pet, what were you going to say just now?"
Xander looked almost sheepish.... "Mas... Well it just occurred to me ... Do vamp's have a middle age? 'cause how old are you now?”
Spike looked utterly taken aback for a moment then answered in a somewhat bemused tone, “Hundred an’ sixty one if your countin’ from birth… what you thinkin' of buyin me a walkin' cane?!”
Xander looked at him in awe, “God Spike …. That’s amazing! I never really….”
“You ever tell anyone!” Spike fell into game face though Xander did not hear any growling so relaxed a little. He grinned at his ‘Master’.
“Good then.” Spike adjusted his position and patted Xander on the arm
Much alcohol ensued as Xander told Spike a few of his own favorite family memories and of his wish to have more discussions of Spike’s ‘old days’. Their friendship continued to strengthen.
Publicly they were always the perfect master and pet. Privately, they had been lovers and equals from those very first weeks. Xander’s habit of calling Spike ‘Master’ and Spike’s of referring to Xander as ‘Pet’ slipped into their private lives but neither really minded. Slave laws in those days had been fairly simple and the pretence easy to maintain.
One night, a week after their ‘middle age’ discussion, they had been drinking a little and discussing freedom and talking wishes and desires, when Spike had pulled out some very old DVD’s of human porn he had managed to buy from a second hand dealer at the local market. His tastes varied widely and he had been less than careful about the orientation of the various movies. It proved to be a stroke of luck.
As a vampire, Spike’s sexual preferences were fairly ‘liberal’. But he had hardly been ‘pleasing himself’ in any fashion as soul, circumstance, then grief took their toll.
As they watched the second short, very average, ‘arthouse’ feature, they both giggled rather sheepishly as they noted each other’s erections. The film was in Italian, the plot obvious, so Spike turned down the sound and Xander dropped his guard and began to tell Spike some of his most private secrets.
Xander had not had a sexual encounter with a female since before the collapse of Sunnydale, when he and Anya had their final ‘relations’. As a household slave and a ‘non-breeder’ he had slept exclusively in the male living quarters. After eight or so years, a pretty young lad named Stephen and he had come to share a bed, initially for warmth and comfort, but eventually for satisfaction also. Xander had been very quick to add that it was only of the ‘handheld’ (and occasionally mouth) variety….. and vehemently protested his ‘straight’ status after Spike wiggled a scarred eyebrow at the statement. But as they watched a third movie, a definitely male on male feature, Spike saw evidence to the contrary and Xander dropped his guard a little and smiled as they both found their own ‘rhythm’ toward the end of the second scene.
Spike had been lying on the couch and Xander curled up in the old lounge chair for most of the evening. The film ended.
“What happened to him pet?”
“Master?” The auto response slipped out before Xander could check it.
“Stephen luv…. What happened to him?”
“Oh…. He was sold virtually the instant we first arrived at market – even before the auction. God Spike….. He was led away even before I had the chance to say goodbye!…. I prayed to any god I could think of that he went to a ‘good home’…. But……”
Spike saw his friend’s distress and took a calculated risk.
“Come here pet. ‘S OK I won’t bite without your permission.” Spike patted the broad section of cushions in front of him and wiggled his scarred eyebrow in an effort to lighten the mood. Xander complied thankfully. They both knew the biting was no longer much of a problem as Spike had been exchanging small amounts of blood with Xander since their first evening together, something they both (surprisingly for Xander) enjoyed. Initially it had been for Xander’s protection, then to assist his physical recovery, and now was simply one of the most pleasant parts of daily routine.
Xander stretched out next to the vampire, thankful of feeling safe and close to another being and finally realizing that he really wanted to be there. He had learned over the past few weeks that Spike craved and freely gave physical comfort. He had slept in Spike’s bed from the first night and become used to waking with the vampire wrapped around him, with or without a tangle of bedcovers that the blonde seemed to always procure for himself, despite Xander's repeated attempts to hold onto 'his half'. A few times he had awoken to Spike’s rock hard erection pressing against his person, nothing had been said to date, but the last time he had been surprised to note his own reciprocal hardness straining for some friction and almost touching Spike’s.
That night as they lay together on the couch watching the third movie, with Spike’s arm slung casually over his waist, Xander had not found it odd to feel the vampire slowly begin to caress his torso. As the action on screen heated up and Spike’s hand drifted to his groin, he had moved his leg slightly to give better access and the hand released his hardness from the confines of his shorts. By the time the two men on screen were half way through a torrid love scene, Xander had rolled over to face Spike and claimed a passionate kiss, opening his mouth and accepting an enthusiastically probing tongue to tangle with his own, then arching in ecstasy as an experienced hand brought him to completion.
In the days and weeks that followed Xander came to the conclusion that he may well not count himself a lover of men generally but there was no doubt is his mind, he was a lover of Spike…. And in a world as crazy as theirs had become, if that meant he was ‘gay’, then so be it.
Still keening and holding the still figure to his chest, Spike caressed his partner’s lifeless cheek yet again…. Who would he be able to debate politics with now? Who would ‘call him out’ when his own vampire nature warred with his soul…. But then his demon had always been weak… Who would William, the poet, turn to when the world was going to hell? Who now would take him in a warm hug and reassure him that their children, their part of the crazy world, everything…. would all be OK?
Another flood of tears ensued…. He hit the dead form of his lover on the arm and turned his head as if to tell a secret to a still conscious person.
Spike could not help himself…. He had lost too much this time, “You *bloody bastard*!!!”
Several unnecessary breaths were drawn….. “I was happy to turn you… I would have been… ahhh no F@#$ but we both decided didn’t we…. and then we….. but I don’t know how to go on now pet… not without you…. never without you….. ‘boys together’…. Remember? We promised remember? And you’re leaving me alone! You sodding bastard… you’re leaving me…. I know we agreed but …. Oh Xan….. I just can’t do this,,,, I just…. ” The vampire released another anguished cry, then hugged the inert torso to his own chest, and continued to keen anew.
He traced around the space where his Pet’s left eye once was. Xander had lost the eye so long ago, that by year twenty of their time together, they both suspected that Xander would have no idea what to do with an ‘extra’. Of course Spike had an ocular implant fitted for his Pet as soon as they had perfected the technology enough…. But in private Xander always removed it…. so it was just the two of them with all their flaws.
Sometimes it had been their flaws that saved them, indeed were the reasons they had found each other.
Spike had managed to access some of the Aurelian ‘family’ accounts in London around the time he had found Xander. Prior to that, he had simply ‘survived’. Demons had annexed all the human systems including trade, and once those systems stabilized again, he was able to trade and invest, quickly proving quite adept. Like a handful of other master vamps and intelligent demons who had already been ‘living in the human world’ and therefore comprehended the ‘adapted’ systems, he began to fare very well.
His growing fortune and established reputation as Master Vampire, allowed most other demons to ‘overlook’ his dreadful affliction, ‘that soul’. When he took on a personal human pet with only one eye, some of the ‘bitchier’ in his business circles had snarked that it was probably appropriate that the handicapped stuck together. In latter years however, few mentioned it, as his power and influence had Spike’s flaw’s and foibles reinterpreted as the natural eccentricities of the ruling class. It did not protect the household from all society’s ‘rules’ however…
As the warring of various demon clans petered out, and the intercontinental trade of slaves became standard practice, fairly consistent societal rules and regulations were established regards the care and treatment of humans. Europe was the first to define the standards of management and protocol for personal slaves in public, but it was the former USA east coast (now controlled by a cartel of seven demon families) that were instrumental in the drive to enforce standards of public etiquette for humans by punishing both owner and slave. The trend spread quickly around the world and though it generally meant a monetary penalty for the owner, and ‘witnessed’ mild beating of the slave; other measures such as ‘reeducation’ of errant slaves were common in many regions, and systematic drugging as a cheaper alternative became widespread.
Owners who were considered to be encouraging misbehavior in some way and prosecuted as human ‘sympathizers’, were more often than not killed as a warning to others, along with their pets. Some small remote communities made their own rules, becoming pockets of liberal resistance against the more draconian laws, though the dominant clans made every effort to wipe them out. Regions where humans were in particularly short supply and who were force to ‘fill the gap with weaker demons captured in various wars, made efforts to formulate first a demon, then eventually a non-demon (human and animal combined), slave rights manifesto. The demon section was ratified and enacted in most places, but the rest seen as too contentious and only spasmodically and inconsistently applied…..
As the public laws for humans tightened, Spike and Xander took to using some of the ‘required’ practices in private, for fear they might slip up in the wrong company. The requirement for Pets to kneel and the various acceptable positions when in public became more and more defined, and Xander became comfortable kneeling at Spike’s feet inevitably resting his cheek on the vampire’s muscular thigh as was permitted for personal pets. When at home, Spike always ensured his partner had an ample velvet cushion to kneel on whenever in the position and regardless of company. The then unusual practice of ‘the cushion’ later became a status symbol for any of the ‘in crowd’ in society.
Xander inevitably remained silent in any company, at most replying formally and succinctly to direct questions. But that had its advantages as his knowledge of Spike’s business activities improved. There was often a ‘meeting after the meeting’ to debrief with his Master and compare their impression of what had gone on.
Xander’s pleasuring of Spike in public did not bother him after the first couple of times, as the vampire never failed to reciprocate as soon as they were home again. And being fed by his Master’s hand had become a favorite part of any ‘event’ they were made to attend, and indeed even at home. Xander could pretty much guarantee evoking near painful arousal for the vampire by the third or fourth bite with his well practiced nibble… then lick… then suck the fingers clean with a nice thorough lave of a warm tongue (and repeat as needed). It always amused them both that other demons he associated with seemed to accept the fact that he nearly always excused himself for a ‘private smoke’ at parties immediately following the feeding of his pet. Xander accompanied him of course.
The branding laws for humans came in around their fifteenth year together. And though Xander already sported Spike’s claim mark on his neck, they were forced to comply. Spike discussed options with his partner for many weeks before deciding on the Aurelian Griffin to nestle at Xander’s tail bone. Twelve years later they added a pretty S with knot work surrounds below his naval to mark him as Prize Pet – but that was more a social status symbol and simple expectation by that stage, rather than law. It was made all the more welcome as it gave another point for Spike to ‘attend to’ during their lovemaking. They had both wished sometimes that the vampire could be marked but the ink simply would not take to skin that would not scar.
Spike reached down and caressed the mark on Xander’s stomach… noting that ink had spread and faded over the years and now… the spot was colder than even his touch. Xander was never cold. Even after the dress codes had changed for humans… his Xan had never been allowed to be cold…..
Spike pulled another rug over the inert body and wrapped his arms around his ancient lover even tighter, trying in vain to let him be warm, even in death…. His Xander had always hated the cold….
They had been sitting reading the new dress code for acceptable attire for humans, in particular when in public, but even the printed document from the ruling body stated that it could only be ‘recommended’ in private as they recognized it difficult to enforce (though both Spike and Xander noted the ‘right to prosecute on private property if deemed appropriate’ in the fine print at the bottom of the fourth page).
“You daft bugger Pet…. If I turn you, you won’t have to wear this rot, cause you’d be a bloody vampire! And you *wouldn’t* feel the cold.”
“Well Master… Spike…. that’s because I’ll f#%$ing well *be* cold permanently!”
“I’m never cold….”
“You…!!!! That is the biggest load of … of….. crap and you know it Mr Hogs-the-Covers-Every-Night alias Lover-Grabbing-Limpet!!!!” Xander huffed with mock frustration.
Spike could not help a smirk, they had had this conversation many times, though he did note that Xander’s ‘descriptors’ seemed to be getting better.
“Oi! I’m just bein’ amorous Luv!”
“*Amorous* happens when we’re awake! The Heat-Seeking-Missile behavior that I’m talking about Mister Master Vampire, happens when we’re unconscious!” Xander saw the azure eyes turn dark with lust and he knew that he’d won ‘the day’.
Spike leaned forward, licked around the shell of Xander’s ear and grabbed his partner’s hand, pushing it against his crotch to connect with (as the human suspected he would) an impossibly hard erection. “Don’t know Pet… Got a missile here that is seeking some heat right about now, and I seem to be well conscious at the moment!”
The remainder of the afternoon was spent finding and penetrating the ‘target’.
Spike brushed over the elegant ruby encrusted collar. The ancient leather was as soft as one of Xander’s velvet kneeling cushions. It had been so beautifully crafted that it had needed repair only once in the last eighty years. Spike wore a matching band around his wrist. It, like Xander’s adornment, had not been removed except for bathing since the day they obtained them. In his last days, Xander had asked that the collar be passed on to John upon his demise, and that instead he might wear Spike’s wrist band in death.
Spike slowly unbuckled the ornate clasp and slid the collar from the beloved neck, then tearfully removed his own band and encircled the aged wrist with it as they had agreed. He hugged the collar to his chest and returned his arm to its place over the body, lying down once more to rock then both gently and continue his vigil.
Collars were standard for all slaves even by the time Xander was first captured, as were shackles and lead chains. It was only later amongst the liberal and the elite, that they became yet another way of adorning their pets. Indeed, for prize pets in these latter years the fashion was that they be so slim and ornate, as to be useless if genuinely trying to ‘control’ a human.
When Spike publicly presented Xander with the exquisitely crafted collar at a party around winter solstice, his awed guests gasped at the obvious expense and beauty of the piece. Several of the wealthy females had immediately sought the name of the maker from Spike, while others were fascinated by the clever use of a tiny clasp on Spike’s matching wrist band as a way of relieving the vampire of the tedium of holding a lead chain. In reality Spike and his partner had decided upon the design to symbolize his very permanent connection to Xander, while still apparently adhering to the law when ‘out and about’.
The new clothing laws in year thirty were harsh, with original group of demons penning the legislation apparently overlooking the fact that humans were warm blooded and tended to die if too hypothermic. After initial objections from some of the powerful clans (particularly those in colder climates), the standards for public adornment of slaves came in with one concession. The new rulings meant that human slaves and pets were no longer permitted to be clothed from the waist up and were required to have their branding(s) visible at all times. The concession was permission to have them wear a cloaks for warmth and protection in inclement weather. Nevertheless, numerous uncaring masters still didn’t bother to cover their charges. Spike and Xander were ever amazed that many humans managed to survive as they regularly passed slaves kneeling in the pouring rain chained to a post outside some shop, and shivering violently as they waited in silence for their Master to finish their errand within.
Spike always made sure his charges had a variety of cloaks of different weights so they might select according to daily need, to the point where few of his humans were ever seen outdoors without them. There was little need for clothing inside their home as he made sure it was kept at a consistent twenty five degrees in all areas (and a little warmer in the nurseries). The children tended to use their cloaks for all sorts of ‘pretend games’ if given the opportunity, but generally had them removed or fastened down for convenience, if at playing outside.
Spike’s response to the increasing demand that humans wear chains on their uncovered upper body, was to present Xander with a series of feather light strands made of precious metal and diamonds designed to fit his form and sparkle with every shift of his body. When hip chains were insisted upon, he commissioned a number of different pieces, each one designed to decorate and highlight his partner’s strong thigh muscles, while still satisfying the societal standards.
In private, Xander loved ‘dressing up’ his Master in the leg pieces, though they always ended up in fits of giggles when Spike tried to get the hip chains to swing as he walked. Without the aid of a mirror to inform him, and chains designed specifically for Xander’s form, the term ‘Mata Hari on a bad day’ had been used more than once to describe the resulting exaggerated action. Although her seductive prowess could not compare to a certain blonde vampire despite his ‘challenged’ hip wiggle.
Spike smiled weakly as he remembered then carefully smoothed the long white curls, clearing them from the noble forehead. In the early days Xander had been a brunette but they both delighted the distinguished silver hair of the ‘mature’ Xander. His beautiful Pet had always joked that if only Spike had been turned later in life he might have saved a fortune in peroxide…. If only…. He continued to smooth the hair…and clutch the collar to his chest.. He would have to send word to John and Daniel soon… But then... that would make it real...
It was still dark when Spike finally pushed up from the bed, took a deep breath, then in with his best ‘British-stiff-upper-lip’ of his Victorian upbringing (apparently so well suited to these circumstances), he stood, rather than sat, to use the bedside telephone. Instead of voice activation he punched in the internal fast dial for Daniel’s room with just a little more pressure than normal then sucked in his cheeks further. It was the worst thing he could possibly have done.
With the slight grazing of inside his mouth, the residual flavor of his love and a trace of his own sent not only the soul but also his demon nature, into a lament for their loss that bordered on hopeless.
When the sleepy voice answered, Spike found he was utterly unable to speak.
“Hello?.... hello????....” Then Daniel must have seen the number on the display. “Oh God…… Master?.... Master?!”
Spike finally managed a whispered “Please…. He’s…. ‘n I….”
“It’s father, isn’t it.” It was a statement not a question. They had all expected this day would come sometime soon. But all Daniel heard was a crash on the other end, and guessed the Master must have collapsed. He then heard a barely audible sob spilled from the receiver.
The man knew the phone must still be off the hook so yelled, “John and I are on our way….”
The demon ‘handler’ who had been snoozing outside Daniel’s door heard the final panicked yell and suspected what had happened. When Daniel threw open the door the handler quickly stripped the man of all adornments then took his hand, an unusual act but a sign of solidarity and expression of his own sadness, and led him to his brother’s door.
John’s partner Carlos would come to help John when the girls and other partners were asked to attended. For now it had to be just the two sons who went to Master. The two walked tall as they approached Master and Father’s suite with a sense of dread, knowing that their world would never be the same.
Spike’ legs had given out. He collapsed onto the floor beside the bed and found that more tears really were possible after all.
He rested his forehead on the ground, even having the time to ponder how very many times his beautiful darling had been required to take that position…. He stayed there for a very long time…. then crawled back onto the bed with his beloved, just as they had always done.
His Pet had always slept with his ‘Master’, unheard of in most circles.
In around their fiftieth year Spike and his pet became targets of a vicious smear campaign in the demon presses accusing the Master vampire of being a human lover as he had only three other human slaves. That those slaves had been observed breaking protocol at a business meeting held at Spike’s home and that it apparently went unpunished. It was further alleged that that he had ‘always’ managed to escape prosecution for his Prize Pet’s bad public behavior by paying off the prosecutors.
The allegations received mixed reactions but with many of the audience coming down on the side of Spike and Xander. Few demons believed the comments regarding his Pet in particular. As a Master Vampire he was a prominent figure and seen in public so often with his picture perfect slave that the press was inundated with letters and comments from individuals wishing to defend him. Further support was gained it was discovered by a reporter writing a counter story, that the pictures used for the original stories were of Spike and Xander inside their home had been illegally taken and used. The Master Vampire’s privacy had been invaded, and it was pointed out by counter stories that the shots were irrelevant to the story anyway!
When the Human Behavior Board (prosecutors) also weighed in completely refuting the claims as their reputations were also sullied, the final blow to Spike and Xander’s accusers was struck. They commissioned a full investigation into the source of the stories that utterly vindicated the injured parties. The two reporters were consequently charged with maliciously damaging public confidence in the judiciary, and injuring the reputation of a private citizen, Spike litigated against the media company and won.
The fallout was twofold and lasted for the rest of their lives. They learned that the source of the ‘household’ pictures was actually a demon servant in Spike’s employ who happened to disagree with Spike’s politics. He was immediately dismissed, but all future demon employees (especially the ‘handlers’) were hand picked for their sympathies with Spike’s views and swore their allegiance to Spike. As Master Vampire, they did not do this lightly as breaking their word would have meant certain death. Their contracts always included a clause regarding confidentiality and expectations regarding the treatment of humans in the household. But they were rewarded handsomely for their services.
The other result had been to make Xander and Spike ever more careful. They later trained all their children impeccably in public human etiquette, and used the majority of practices in their home just like Xander and Spike did (though generally very liberally applied unless in company).
A final huge sob wracked the vampire’s frame and bloody tear dripped onto the bed covers below…. “Oh Pet……” He buried his face into the lifeless neck, remembering how very sensitive that mark had been, guaranteed to evoke a ‘girly giggle’ and mock battle if ever licked in the post coital bliss off their Sunday morning activities.
Their coupling was always a joyous affair though Xander took a while to get into the more ‘innovative’ ideas Spike came up with. He quickly learned, however, that the exchange of blood with Spike, not only gave him longevity but that it had a marvelous affect on his recovery time!
Initially he thought his ‘constant hardon’ was due to naturally lusting after his newly discovered lover. He mentioned it to Spike one lazy Sunday evening as they lay nude on the couch together watching yet another of Spike’s ‘adult movie’ purchases (they had gradually swapped all their library over to exclusively gay pictures). Spike had roared laughter then suggested that they do a series of little experiments …. Largely consisting of seeing just how many orgasms Spike could give Xander in under three hours… and timing the ‘down time’.
Much fun had ensued…. Spike initially pleasured Xander with his hand, taking leisurely feather light strokes up and down until his pet begged for ‘harder’ in frustration and he relented. Spike had then licked his had clean of his lover’s spunk with such a wicked expression on his face that Xander was sure there was no ‘down-time’ for his member! Spike had then rolled over him knelt up and taken the hard column of flesh to the back of his throat, and brought Xander off again in a matter of seconds…. He had followed this by spinning himself around without removing his mouth from it’s prize, grinning as Xander’s erection that had been softening rapidly instantly perked up again as Spike’s was engulfed in a warm mouth.
By the time the three hours were up, they had both topped and bottomed several times, they had taken and been taken in every position they could come up with, had a shower with accompanied by passionate kissing and final mutual hand job, after which they both collapsed on the bed exhausted and Spike called ‘time’.
“Bloody hell Pet! Bloody brilliant!”
“Hmmmmm,” Xander stroked slowly over Spike’s nipples, he was almost asleep. “Bloody brilliannn….”
Spike wiggled an eye brow then pushed his hand toward Xander’s groin, “Oi, let’s give it another hour… what do you say?”
His only reply was Xander beginning to snore.
Spike had calmed again after many minutes and picked up the hand that had tried so hard to serve his master that one last time, even as his Pet’s life blood was being drained. Spike stroked the long fingers… and gave another hitched sob. Oh what those fingers had been able to do…. and to be honest…. at this moment in time…. Spike would have given his unlife for them to simply interlock with his and squeeze their quiet adoration so he might return it in kind…. Just one more time….
“Don’t know if I can do this alone, Luv…. Don’t want this without you….. Never wanted to be without you…..” Spike buried his face in his beloved’s neck once more and waited for the boys to arrive.
Spike decided that he must have dozed off for a few minutes and his vampire senses told him that dawn was approaching…. He was waiting for the boys…. He desperately wanted the children around him right now… but…. desperately didn’t… He was still contemplating greeting the morning with his darling in his arms…. But they had agreed, and he had promised Xander…. He had given his word…. Given it years ago, and every day since, in word and deed. He would do his best for the children…. But it would be so much harder without Xan…. It was already *so* hard…..
The decision to establish the Aurelian stud was not an easy one, but in the end, the course of action that seemed most sensible. They both knew Xander would die eventually. Xander did not want Spike to be alone.
Xander had never considered being turned and was never asked to by Spike since the ensouling of demons had been outlawed after one or two resistance actions while he was still in servitude as ‘Nanny’ in the earliest years of demon rule. Whole communities of suspected magic users had been killed, and all known records and crucial ingredients for the ensoulment spells had been destroyed. The African Demon Trials had suffered a similar fate, something that many felt was harsh as the frequency of ensoulments by that method was a grand total of one in all their recorded history. Yet it went ahead, deemed an unfortunate necessity.
Spike shared his greatest fear with his lover almost as soon as they were together… that a demon Xander might turn on him as his own ‘turned’ mother had. At the time he had been soulless yet his newly turned mother had rejected him. Now it would be worse, since it would be an ensouled vampire with an unsouled demon fledgling. It would be even more than likely that Xander’s Sire/Childe feelings would be over ridden and someone would end up dusted. Spike wouldn’t survive that, and Xander wouldn’t ‘be there’. Without possible ensoulment, Spike had agreed with his Pet wholeheartedly and they resolved to simply have as many years together as they could possibly manage. But longevity through regular exchange of blood at least gave the pair….. more time.
Xander loved children and had always wanted his own. And Spike’s greatest desire had always been to have ‘family’ around him to love, cherish and protect. The Victorian William had enjoyed the thought that he might one day be patriarch to a large brood, and the demon in William the Bloody had always desired the opportunity to extend ‘his own’, and the power a large household would bring, foregoing it as he continued to care for the insane Drusilla. But still he’d yearned, and he knew Xander could… but they both resisted, the world for humans was too harsh to consider it, but circumstances finally led them to share the joy of a family…. A very *big* family.
Daniel and John slipped into the Master’s bedroom in the early dawn, flanked by their handlers who seemed almost as upset as the boys. The men were free of all traditional fetters, chains or adornments in a simple, but no less profound, sign of the entire household’s respect for their Master, and for their dearly departed father.
They both dropped to their knees beside the bed and folded into a full ‘down’ positions, their matching sets of tears flowing silently onto the carpet. Seeing the still body of their father and Master’s extreme distress left them bereft and uncertain of how they should act in such circumstances. Sometimes their training of old was a blessing.
Spike registered the men entering the room…. Xander’s beautiful boys…. Their boys…..
Close to fifty years after the demons taking control, the human population had been at a precariously low level. Maintaining breeding numbers required for food stock had proved so difficult in some areas, like Europe, that the balance in those regions had swung to breeding almost exclusively for domestic slaves and pets. It wasn’t a welcome trend for some in the demon community, but was strictly enforced after the shift of power in the International Federation, the flow-on effect of tight regulations on breeding and deliberate trading restrictions. Ever tightening laws regarding public slave behavior, and fashion trends did the rest.
Consequently, most demons in the middle and upper classes tried to have one or two human pets. Though exotic looking humans like those from Africa or India had been a ‘thing’ for a while, in most realms there was considered to be an ‘inconsistency’ in the product with frequent scandals regarding ‘true bloodlines’, and lack of ‘guaranteed satisfaction’ from even the best in those regions, finally shutting the trade down to a trickle. Most demons simply put up with the varied quality as supply tightened. But when the rich and powerful wanted a status symbol, it was always a prize personal pet from the specialized studs in southern Europe.
Xander had just turned seventy. They both knew that for Spike to be influential in the politics of the day, and make any difference to human rights or slavery laws, he had to move in the right circles, and these days that meant being either breeder or trader, most particularly in the prize pet arena.
To ‘fit the mold’, Spike (and his ‘silent partner’) had resolved to purchase an enormous, rambling estate just outside Nice in France. He grumped and grumbled for months as he (or in truth Xander) supervised its gutting and renovation. In the end, every possible luxury was provided for when any children might arrive. Externally, the building was little changed (though that of course only lasted fifteen years, after which a new wing became necessary), but the facilities provided for the future inhabitants included double and single adult accommodation with every suite boasting its own marble lined bathroom and elegant traditional balcony. There were fifty four bedrooms in total. In the East Wing, the ground floor housed a nursery, infirmary, and enormous play area; while the west, ‘tutor rooms’, kitchens and a dining hall, and of course the exercise facilities (including gym and heated pool) awaited the new residents.
The grounds were magnificent, sweeping hills and huge established trees, some formal gardens to the side surrounding an enormous ornate waterfall, a long sweeping gravel driveway lined by poplar trees. To Spike’s delight there was a hedge maze and Spike insisted that they also build a ‘secret’ garden right beside the nursery, just for the children (eventually boasting a few ‘free range’ bunnies bouncing around the walled space). The household market garden was a little further from the house and boasted fruit trees and all manner of herbs and vegetables. Xander discovered that Spike had always adored berry fruits, and never ceased to tease the vampire of his obsession with red things as he returned with rosy, stained lips after summertime midnight wanderings that were allegedly to “just check things are OK”.
They kept a few of their own sheep (largely for the children’s amusement, though Spike enjoyed very fresh Cheviot blood on occasion) and eventually also had chickens and ducks for the fresh eggs and the delight gained by their youngest children when given the task of ‘collecting them’.
The central section of the Chateau housed Xander and Spike’s quarters on the second floor while downstairs was for formal entertaining and only used when ‘guest’s were present, or for very private family ‘happy to you’(s). The, at that time, three year old (‘I’m-the-eldest-by-two-days’) daughter, had inadvertently renamed all consequent birthdays and celebrations for the family, as she ushered her father and Master in for *her* particular party that year.
The ‘theatre’ had been built by annexing a third of the original cellar, and furnished with the latest speakers, enormous screen and massive comfortable chairs and modular lounges (the latter much appreciated in ‘adult only viewings’) It was definitely the Master’s favourite room and was always kept up to date with the latest technology.
For all Spike’s complaints about the French culture and nancy boy French demons (complete with occasional heart felt quoted insults that Xander was certain came from the ancient human television series called ‘Black Adder’, as he referred to the French generically as ‘Weeds and whoopsies and Big girls blouses” ) Xander knew better, his Master loved the place. And spoke the native human language perfectly.
Chateau Aurelius was established just in time for the children to populate it. Xander had been close to seventy one years old the year his children were borne.
On the day of delivery of the children Spike the pleasure of taking the impressed owner and five mothers with handlers in tow, around the home where their children would be grow up, was only tempered by Spike and Xander wishing that the mothers could come too. But despite Spike’s influence it could not be done, the owner simply would not part with his breeding stock.
Spike recalled that first day and the look on Xander’s face as he held one of the minute daughters, only one week old. The wonder in his face as a tiny hand wrapped around his Pet’s thumb was simply marvelous. This was followed by years of shared delight as they watched the children learn to walk, talk and thrive…. They were Spike’s children just as much as Xander’s.
In the initiating of Xander’s ‘line’ and the establishment of the ‘stud’, Xander and Spike had made many errors, but two were always regretted. The first had occurred at the very beginning. They had resolved to keep all Xander’s children, the number of thirteen had been the reported successful impregnations of the five women chosen, but it seemed that his seed was potent and they did not ensure all remaining sperm was destroyed after the initial 'round'. It was consequently used to sire a further seventy four children after the initial batch. Spike litigated against the breeder but it was of little use. They kept note of as many as they could, and over the ensuing years Spike had spent a fortune tracking down the ‘others’. Sadly many had been dead long before he was able to make contact. Seven still remained unaccounted for, but the lucky ‘found few’ Spike ensured were moved to known ‘liberal’ households. It was simply impossible by that stage (nearly twenty years after the fact) to negotiate and bring them all home.
But conditions for humans the world over had continued to deteriorate.
Xander’s thirteen children were cherished and spoilt, though still technically human pets. They were educated in the classics by demon tutors and trained in social etiquette according to the law. Sadly as the children approached puberty, both Spike and Xander realized that having their lovely brood was all well and good, but if Spike were ever to have an influence in demon politics or keep Xander and their children safe, then a full breeding program in some form or other was needed. The debate had raged between them for nearly ten years as the children approached an age where procreation was ‘expected’. As usual Xander was perhaps the more pragmatic of the pair.
A well bred personal pet was highly valued, and inevitably lived a rather spoiled and privileged life, albeit still in servitude. Spike initially refused, but Xander reasoned that their options were becoming more limited as the living restrictions for humans became harsher by the day. The need to temper some trends before the most extreme practices became international law, was critical, with some experts even predicting the extinction of humans if nothing changed. That ‘tempering’ meant influential liberal thinkers like Spike needed to have the power to act.
Spike was now the oldest Master Vampire in Europe and last remaining of the original Aurelian line, but he had to involve himself in the International forums and at top levels. That meant being voted in as he had no ‘clan’ left and given that those demons owning and breeding prize pets were by far the most powerful individuals in the demon world and had a vested interest in the continued survival of humans, they were the ones to do it. For that Spike needed to be one of them. Both Xander and Spike reluctantly came to the same conclusion and the Master Vampire had eventually agreed for the sake of his Pet, his children and the ‘greater good’.
After that they contemplated numerous options… even the possibility of purchasing other progeny of the mothers who produced the original thirteen. But it was Xander who suggested their eventual solution after listening to endless meetings between Spike and breeder friends, the possibility of their own grandchildren. Spike and he both agreed, it could be contemplated only if and when the girls were happy to be mothers, and the boys fathers. Where possible permanent partners would be found and all their progeny would grow up on the estate and be educated before ‘moving on’. Xander’s offspring would only ever be ‘sold’ as prize pets to known liberal households that met Spike’s (and Xander’s) approval. They knew the children would inherit some of Xander’s longevity, and therefore long term considerations were critical. Any witches would be gifted with Master’s blood should it be judged necessary to strengthen their powers, and they would receive magical training and remain on the property until the treatment of wiccan sisters in the outside world improved.
Both men reached out without lifting their heads and rested large warm hands on Spike’s pale cool form attempting to convey their distress, support, and loyalty as they witnessed and shared his grief in the one simple move. Spike sat up, releasing his grasp of Xander’s body for the first time since they arrived and dismissed the handlers with a wordless gesture. The boys were still kneeling as was custom but Spike closed his fingers around one each of the boys’ hands and pulled them to his own unbreathing chest and forcing them to rise.
As the door clicked closed behind the handlers, all protocol was abandoned and Spike gave a husky whisper, “Can you…” Both men realized that they were alone and therefore welcome to express their grief and love, for their ‘master’, their protector, and their ‘father’ - the now lost patriarch of their clan… Daniel shot a worried look sideways to John as they lifted their gazes at Spike’s words and noted the Master’s distressed state and the way he was swaying as though about to fall even though seated. The two men rose instantly and seated themselves on the bed either side of their Master and in contact with the body of their deceased father. They silently enveloped Master in a warm and loving hug …. They included their deceased father by touching him with a hand each, whilst still covering their Master, surrounding him in their warmth and familial scent as best they could.
John’s baritone intoned at almost a whisper, “Master, have the girls been told?” He noted Spike’s glazed stare. “Master? I will tell them if you wish…. They must be told.”
Spike simply nodded replied a whispered, “Thank you.” followed by an almighty sob. The two brothers tightened the three way hug and all allowed tears to flow silently for a few minutes. Eventually John stood, bowed formally and departed.
Spike knew John would tell the girls as gently as he could. They had to be told…. Xander had always *so* adored his girls….
It was Solstice in the fifty fourth year of Chateau Aurelius. At just on a hundred and twenty five years young, Xander’s dark hair was now streaked liberally with distinguished lines of grey and white. He still stood tall and was known to the outside world as his Master’s pride and joy - the Stud’s prize human stallion, and the founding father of the now famous bloodline. Spike had a habit of introducing Xander that way to any other breeders or trainers, and every time, Xander was grateful for the standard requirement that humans keep their head bowed in public, since Spike and he used the title in private for quite a different reason…. and inevitably when they did Spike was the rider. Spike recalled that they had once played with the idea of the ‘mare’ given their positions… but it actually killed the mood for both participants so quickly that activity had to be abandoned for several hours.. It was never mentioned again.
Xander had smiled as he stood hand in hand with his magnificent Master surveying the estate from a shady balcony.
As the girls approached the age of breeding, Xander’s initial worry over the possible boredom amongst the permanent male partners when their ‘wives’ were otherwise occupied, had been quickly dispelled by Spike.
“You daft bugger! ‘s the life of the idle rich! Ridin’ and sports, games of billiards, time to read or pursue a hobby or two. Only restrictions are gonna be no peckin’ order amongst ‘em, and they only get to shag their own breedin’ partner… no takin’ the help!”
“Seems like you’ve thought a lot about this! You sound awfully confident.”
“Just usin’ recall pet….” Spike swiftly stood to face his Pet, one hand behind his back and the other outstretched as if to formally shake hands. He then reverted to his original upper-crust English accent, “Master William Bartlett esquire at your service sir. I assume you too are a patron of the arts?”
Xander couldn’t help but snigger and had hauled the vampire down by the outstretched hand and kissed him passionately. “Definitely, my good sir. The art of Sex with Master…. Fascinating.” Then much ‘patronizing’ of that particular art-form ensued.
The breeding males had all been borne into slavery and raised as brood stock, so the restriction of not being able to leave the property was not even thought about. Spike was occasionally asked for them to service other breeder’s female stock but refused. And passing on their semen was out of the question after their first artificial insemination disaster with Xander’s seed (even though the children would not be of the Aurelian direct line). Spike had *very* Victorian ideas of monogamy once committed and Xander agreed.
So the male breeding partners lived a life not too removed from Spike’s own human existence, with almost the same routines but for days when outsiders came to the property. The couples were always informed and the pattern the same. On normal occasions they would simply stay in their quarters or the breeding areas of the Chateau unless asked to be presented to the guests for some reason (which would always be done in the formal entertainment areas and in the company of their breeding partner). If an ‘inspection afternoon’ was announced they would spend the four hours ‘working out’ together in the recreation area. The visitors were always ushered through in groups so it was as stress free as possible. They would all work out with their leads held by handlers as would be expected by outside laws, and fall to a kneel position beside their handlers as the groups walked through. On regular days the ‘handlers’ would either relax or work out with them.
On inspection days young children were always in the nursery with handlers and mothers. A few occasionally mimicked their mothers’ formal kneeling positions as visitors came to the observation glass at the end of the room. But most simply stared with wide eyed innocence at the visitors and continued to play. Sometimes a particularly bold infant would toddle or crawl up to pat the glass, or give a shy wave to the demons on the other side, always evoking statements of how endearing it was, and what beautiful pets they would grow up to be. The tour guides inevitably found they spent more time at that ‘enclosure’ than anywhere else.
The older youngsters were in the schooling areas at tour times. Regardless of age, they spent the hours working on public etiquette, an hour or so theory and two and a bit of practice with two snack breaks in which they knew to kneel quietly on the floor while their handler fed them. In the room for ages three to six years the time for learning was shortened, and a nap time of an hour or so included at the end.
Visitors always remarked on the contented nature of the Aurelian stock.
As the door closed behind his brother, Daniel dropped to the Pet kneel position and placed his cheek against Spike’s thigh. He meant it as a familiar gesture of comfort and had done it many times over the last few months as he deputized for the Masters Pet at meetings. But he looked so much like his father from that angle that it was the final straw for Spike.
The hitched breath and wail had Daniel back seated on the bed virtually instantly. This time however he acted on pure instinct, foregoing all his training and pulled the grieving vampire into his lap, cradling him like a small child and rocking as Spike cried
They were a storey up from the ‘exercise pens’. Though the term was a silly one (and only used out of habit so as not to slip up in front of visitors) considering that the only indication of containment was the fact that there was a safety fence around the pool and a high classic hedge to disguise said fence’s all too ‘ridiculous modern look’. The only real security around the property was designed to keep outsiders…. Out. The Stud ‘stock’ were well looked after and content. They had no reason to ‘escape’, they all knew what the outside world held.
Spike and his Pet were standing under a huge grapevine that had been lovingly trained over a robust frame and covered the entire patio. Xander grinned as he watched six of his daughters enjoy the delights of weightlessness as they floated, chatted and idly kicked their legs, their heavily pregnant bodies enjoying the warmth of the sun and the heated pool. All now in their early fifties, they were without exception, all in perfect health courtesy of a ‘good life’ and their inherited longevity (bolstered by tiny amounts of Spike blood on occasion). All the women had become mothers in their early twenties. They would continue to breed until they felt the burden too much. It was likely that the next two years of little girls would be the ones asked to stay on the property for good and be the next generation of ‘stud mothers’.
The women were usually ‘impregnated’ by their breeding partners within a couple of months of each other as was the expected ‘practice’ in any given year. Though unlike other ‘breeders’ Spike insisted on the girls being ‘rested’ for up to two years before the next pregnancy so as to give their bodies a chance to recover. This was particularly important as it seemed multiple births were all the rage at the Chateau. This year one of the natural witches and two of her half sisters were all due to have triplets, while two others had bellies that looked tiny in comparison, being blessed with single births this time around. For Charlotte, the redhead, who was but days from delivering twins, this lazy afternoon of paddling was *such a relief*. She looked up to the covered balcony, and spying her father and the Master, grinned and waved.
Xander’s raven haired wiccan daughter, Desmonde, was luxuriating on a double lounge, her twins propped up with strategically placed pillows, one attached to each breast. The petite blonde, Monique (who always reminded Xander of the long dead Buffy) had her three week old male ‘David’ resting on her belly as she relaxed back in the shallows of the ‘kiddies pool’. Her older twins were playing at the feet of two female handlers, one of whom had been her own carer when she was young. She also noted Master and her father watching them, and gave a shy smile. She could think of no better way for her children to grow up. She knew they had already been promised to other Masters, but also knew that the human children of the Aurelian Stud were prized above all others, so always trusted Master to find the best placings when it came to the sale of her offspring.
Megan, the youngest, was the only one of Xander’s daughters absent. He was about to query her whereabouts when Spike nudged his elbow and passed him the hand monitor, a huge smile on the vampire’s face. On screen was a pair coupling enthusiastically on a movie theatre couch.
The male, Michael, was an ethereally beautiful blond and a natural warlock whom Spike had purchased on a whim at a recent auction. It was a unique thing to do on his part as their household human slaves to date had been, without exception, humans who were unable to ‘breed’ for some reason, with the greater proportion being female. Fortunately Megan had taken a shine to him the moment they were introduced and Spike was hopeful on many levels, as it seemed a shame not to reproduce from the beauty. Consequent to a word from Spike, the breeding coordinator had been trying to have Michael mate with Xander’s lovely wiccan daughter for months, providing all manner of opportunities for intimacy. To date she had been reluctant.
She had been separated permanently from her former breeding partner when he became increasing violent toward her. Initially it went unnoticed but would have killed her, had their two personal handlers not broken into the ‘breeding chamber’. She was badly beaten and had been violated against her will but thankfully was not pregnant. The man had been sold as a household slave to an owner who only kept males and Spike made sure the slave's tendency for violence was known. (They heard a year later that he had been castrated for safety reasons as his violent streak endangered his fellow slaves. Neither Xander nor Spike could feel sorry).
It had shaken Megan so badly that she was not asked to breed again, but after eight years, the Master and her father hoped she would pair and find happiness. Xander grinned as he observed that she was obviously over her ‘shy phase’. It would be six days before the stud doctor could give Spike a definitive answer regards impregnation. But it did look hopeful. Spike whispered to his Pet, “I will have him moved into her suite if it seems the mating is amenable and lasting.”
Xander knew this would mean a long term pairing and many children with the one partner. He smiled lovingly at Master. “He’ll be good for her.”
Spike was asleep having finally dozed off in Daniel’s arms. He was now stretched out beside Xander, Daniel returned to kneeling but kept petting the Master. They looked peaceful and Daniel almost smiled, but then noticed that his father’s chest was still like the Master’s, his own tears flowed again.
Almost an hour later the girls entered with their partners and Carlos a step behind John. They too fell to their knees in front of the death bed, children in a row in front of their partners.
Spike’s eyes fluttered open, turned to look at his beautiful children, he sighed but then remembered that there were two missing and he covered his face as tears came for their two lost boys. The idea that they had been but weeks away from bringing them home again only added to his grief.
Spike sat up visibly shaking and tried to stand, eye flicking to yellow with the effort. There was an envelope on the side table, one of the handlers noted what the Master was attempting to do and quickly moved to retrieve it. They were Xander’s funeral instructions.
Spike’s shaking hand reached out in gratitude to take it from the demon, but a wave of dizziness hit him and he indicated that the boys should take it, as he collapsed back onto the bed. There was no pretence of ‘Master’, just raw need for family. John, who continued to hold a full kneel, was the first to respond.
Eventually John whispered “I think this can wait.” The family understood. Instead they all took a turn in quietly and lovingly, saying goodbye and kissing the cool forehead of their dear Father. They then knelt in front of their Master who was still seated on the edge of the bed. Each person folding gracefully into a full down position, simply putting their hands out to touch Master’s feet, whisper ‘Beloved Master’ then stand and depart.
The room eventually cleared again but for Daniel. Alone, the man could see the toll the last hour had taken on Master, but there was one more thing right now.
“We will have to move him to the infirmary, Master, to prepare….” Spike began to rock and shake his head and whispered, “Can’t… can’t…. can’t…. dooo this” As before Daniel pulled his Master into his lap and dropped his tone even lower, addressing the vampire as though he were one of their youngest brood, “ Please Master you must come with me for a while… Please, just while they move him…. once he’s ready, we will go and say Goodbye… It will be OK…. It will be OK…. Here.” Daniel scratched his wrist as his father had taught him to do and pressed his bleeding wound to the vampire’s mouth. His master sighed a little, took but two tiny pulls of the fluid and simply passed out.
Daniel held his Master in his arms and waited. He was sure few humans would ever be this close to their Masters, though he knew his father had been closer. Now he and John were the Aurelian stud ‘stallion’ males. They would do their father and Master proud… they always had….
John and Daniel had both agreed in their late teens that they would be happy to start breeding at twenty. Master had suggested that age or soon after, as they would be mature enough to understand and respect their role, and father had thought it acceptable. But it was ultimately the boys’ decision exactly when they went into ‘service’. Daniel was younger with the brothers six days apart and they had always remained remarkably close.
Unfortunately their appointment was delayed by what would later become Spike and Xander’s greatest regret…..
Adrian and Simon were the fraternal twin brothers born in between John and Daniel. And had temperaments so dissimilar to the other two that it was obvious from infancy. They had always been mischievous, even as children. If there was a toad in one of the girl’s beds, a doll beheaded, or favorite Lego castle destroyed, they were inevitably behind it. Their early nannies and handlers fondly named them the ‘tandem tornado’ assuming that they would grow out of the behavioral ‘glitch’. Spike had remembered his own fledge days with Angelus and initially also took it all in his stride.
As they approached puberty, however, it seems hormones did them no favors. Their lessons were neglected most of the time, despite infinitely patient demon tutors and firm but fair handlers on hand. Both boys were highly intelligent and growing to be quite handsome. Their preference for huge levels of activity, and their continued misbehavior, saw Spike commission an obstacle course that circumnavigated almost the whole estate. He then employed two particularly fit ‘handlers’ of the boot camp variety. It worked as planned for a year or two, and certainly exhausted them enough so they caused minimum disruption in the vital human etiquette training.
They were such a contrast to John and Daniel in nature, that by the time they were all fifteen the four boys were rarely seen together in leisure periods and the physical fights became nearly daily. The taunting and snide remarks regarding the quieter two whenever the boys were in the same vicinity, became more and more vindictive. Eventually they were brought before first Xander then Spike for discipline.
They weren’t really afraid of father, but when their Master’s gameface emerged, as both boys smirked irreverently when the list of misdemeanors was read, they began to worry. It was followed by a display of lightening speed as he moved behind them, grabbed them by the back of their necks, with an almighty growl; then pushed them to a half down kneel, hands flat on the floor and chins on their chests. At that point they knew they were walking an extremely thin line. They apologized profusely, promised better behavior in writing to father and Master, then did it all over again. Punishment was inevitable though whippings were never condoned at the Chateau. Though the boys did not realize their good fortune as Spike was close to giving both a good thrashing!
By eighteen they were both extremely attractive and knew it. Tall with large brown eyes, Adrian with straight brown hair that was always worn a little long, giving him a roguish look, while Simon’s fell in ringlets. The two had taken to ‘noticing’ their sisters, never missing an opportunity to make some remark about their figure, or their female position in the life of the stud since the decision to breed eventually had been taken. The boys would also have a breeding role as Adrian so elegantly put it, “But we get to f@#$ ‘em and leave ‘em every time…. Perfect!”
But the pats on the backsides, suggestive remarks and occasional invitation to the humans in domestic help, led to one night six months later determining the rest of their lives.
They had been drinking a bit – a few beers as was allowed in the Chateau, and apparently decided to ‘visit’ their sister Monique’s quarters as a bit of a joke… let her know what being serviced was all about… well just give her a scare really. Visiting the room of another sibling was permitted so there was no big deal. She had always been openly proud of her coming role as breeder even telling Adrian that a man wasn’t even needed to procreate, they just needed his seed. She had earned a slap at the time but they figured on taking her down ‘a peg or two’. Both boys managed to slip away as their handlers slept.
They entered the pretty, petite blonde Monique’s room together. She was sitting on her bed braiding her hair with her back to the door. As she turned to see who it was, they pounced and threw her on her back. Simon placed one hand over her mouth and was tearing at her blouse with the other. Adrian pinned her legs by sitting on her thighs then proceeded in a parody of sex “Hey sis, your so proud of yourself… but this is gonna be you, for the rest of your life.. Just imagine it. This, then big as a house, then back to this!”. She was still fighting, hitting Simon with her small fists. He finally lifted a hand to grab her arms, and in error let her mouth free. She would have made a fine banshee. The entire household woke. Now realizing their trouble, the two boys panicked and ran out into the dark garden, hoping to sneak back in at a later time, after they had somehow figured out their ‘story’…. They had forgotten that Master was usually up and about in the night, had preternatural hearing, sight, speed and strength. He was upon them in seconds.
The following day was a series of dreadful meetings, horrible phonecalls, and trauma counseling for the distraught Monique.
Spike rang every friend and expert he could think of. The overwhelming advice (even from a specialist doctor in ‘bloodline breeding and behavioral risks’), was to simply move them to another stud. It seemed reasonable. Xander and Master had talked and worried through twenty four hours, until the decision was made. Both agreed, the boys had to stay together, despite everything. Spike found a well known Pet breeder who was willing to take them both. He came highly recommended as being sympathetic to the liberal views when it came to human treatment, and had a preference for ‘spirited’ males. Sadly, the stud was just north of Paris, but at least that was fairly close. Spike and Xander were hopeful.
Rather than being terribly upset at being told of the move, the two boys seemed to take it in their stride. The adventure of leaving the ‘family home’, coupled with the ‘still getting to breed’ aspect all sounded terrific.
The boys were packed quickly and departed a day later. Monique refused to see them off.
Initially things seemed to work out well and Spike received reports of how impressed the breeder was with the boys’ appearance, and that if kept active, they seemed to respond well. But their hijinx started anew at around the ninth month. Spike received a worrying phone call from the breeder detailing the boys’ general disrespect for the women they serviced, and an increasing antagonism toward handlers, who happened to use a tighter reign than under the Aurelian roof. He did assure the vampire that he was bringing in an expert from Brussels, as he wished to keep using them for breeding… at the time Spike was a little relieved.
When Spike was contacted two months later, he learned that the boys had been castrated and made mute. He listened in horror as a rather chirpy breeder went on, “The operation is done under anesthetic and has been a complete success. Within hours they were calm and compliant! Wonderful!” The breeder then guaranteed that they would now have ongoing roles as eunuchs in his stud, while their seed would continue to be used with his stock. He was obviously thrilled with the result and recommended it highly to the vampire. Spike had dropped the receiver, thrown himself onto his hands and knees, and threw up until he was dry retching.
Spike was inconsolable for days, and had always blamed himself for the loss then mutilation of their beautiful boys. Xander felt that they had both been responsible for the decision, and grieved along with him.
Spike awoke wrapped in the warm arms of a human.
Daniel felt his Master rouse and simply whispered, “Will you come for a walk to the Nursery Master?”
Master gave a tiny nod, uncurled himself, and managed to stand. Daniel made ready to leave also, but Spike first turned and kissing Xander’s forehead as though he were merely snoozing said, “Just popping down to see the grandkids, Pet, back in a while.”
Master sat and watched the Aurelian family’s small children all babbling, squealing and giggling. Daniel kneeled quietly at his feet. They were there for almost two hours in silence, sitting and watching.
When they returned to Master’s suite, the bed was empty.
John and Daniel had been summoned to meet with the Master in the formal sitting room. As usual behind closed doors, their father stood tall beside his Master’s chair.
The boys, or rather young men at almost twenty one, knelt side by side. They hoped to be told that their roles as stud sires were to begin after so many years of expectation.
They were still both in formal kneel positions when the Master commanded them, “Lift your eyes to mine, this is important.”
Two sets of pretty eyes (John’s hazel/green and Daniel’s chocolate) were raised and looked upon their Master slightly in awe and Spike kept his speech formal.
“Now, John, Daniel. I wish you to pack your possessions”
The two boys both looked panicked, Daniel almost let out a whimper. Why that? Were they to be sold suddenly? Or sent away? Nevertheless the two said in unison, “We understand Master.”
Spike saw the worried looks, “You clearly don’t. We must renovate your suites. You will both be given full double accommodation as full sires of the line, and take up your breeding duties as soon as the changes to your rooms are complete.”
Spike heard stereo sighs of relief and watched as broad smiles emerged.
“This is your coming of age. You have grown in to fine men, your Master and your Father, are proud of you.”
“It is rare to find such beauty as your father possessed. You carry his line. Be confident in your place here. We ask that you continue his line.”
“Yes Master.” They intoned solemnly in unison.
“And you both understand that you take the role of servicing for the bloodline, and the importance of this new role in our Aurelian Stud?”
“You represent stability and strength in this family, share it freely. Know you are loved and cherished.” With that Spike dropped into game face momentarily, and biting both wrists hard enough to just draw blood, then offered one each to the two men. They took them reverently and sucked over the fast closing wound until they sealed, “You are of your father, Xander’s blood and now also carry that of your Master’s. Congratulations new stud sires of Aurelius.”
With that Xander stepped forward and kissed each man on the forehead and whispered “Well done.”
Formal tone dropped, their Master smiled broadly at their lovely sons still buzzing a little with Spike’s blood, then he was all business. “We will need to discuss your program and needs with the stud coordinator in a week or so … but for now, your handlers will show you to some temporary accommodation.”
Spike gave the handlers a nod and the young men were ‘led’ away.
The two new sires took their work seriously and felt a weighty responsibility to Master and the Aurelian line.
They requested a special private meeting with their father after their first few discussions with the stud coordinator. Sitting on the enormous double bed in John’s new room, Xander smiled as he noted the décor. Dark wood everywhere, strategically placed lamps highlighting various art pieces and all in deep, rich burgundies, night blues with highlights of gold.
They had both sat awkwardly staring at their hands like a pigeon pair at one end of the bed while Xander sat halfway to the other and simply waited. Suddenly both started at once, blurting out their concerns in a babble of words and half finished thoughts worthy of Xander of Sunnydale on a bad day. Fortunately for them he’d had a Willow shaped friend way back when, so Xander spoke babble.
“Stop! stop!” Both men instantly silenced but their pink hue of embarrassment spoke volumes. “Let’s see if I got this right… You are both totally committed to the siring the Aurelian line…. You’ve both jacked off before… and you’ve even had a bit of a go as a duet of jacking… you’ve seen your sisters bits, you got the basic pet training in your last year of etiquette…. How am I going so far by the way?” Xander looked up and couldn’t resist a slight grin but spotted Daniel looking miserable so quashed his mirth and continued. “You’ve been kissed by your sisters and you appreciate how penetrate the woman…” Xander knew that he was now really just teasing…. “In summary: You’ve never been with a woman…. You’re virgins and you’re terrified you will do something wrong and bring shame on the line.”
Both men let out a huge sigh of relief, “Yes!” They spent the next three days in ‘sex school’ led by a lovely young slave named Joelene. She was voluptuous and engaging and very, very informative.
Xander grinned at his wide eyed sons as various models and aids were passed out to practice on. Her whole purpose was to have the Siring males couple successfully every time, stressing that sometimes problems will occur, but that a handler will likely be very close by. On the last day she guided them through a typical scenario, and they both filled a condom a piece while deep inside her. Daniel loved the whole thing from start to finish. John was simply glad he had been successful.
The sons’ seed was never taken for breeding, Spike would not hear of it. Fortunately it was not the custom amongst the elite breeders to artificially inseminate. Indeed some clients required photographic evidence of the copulation, as proof of sire. Spike flatly refused on the Aurelius Stud. Claiming that taking photos of his beautiful human stallions in action was obscene and insulting. They had his word as Master Vampire which was far more valuable. Strangely both the natural methods insistence, and issue of the photos simply made the offspring even more popular. The rate of success was close to one hundred percent and many put it down to the level of enjoyment and decorum throughout the days the women were present.
The boys were always approached prior to the day by the stud coordinator, who discussed any particular requirements. Spike only dealt with a handful of other elite breeders, and insisted on meeting any ‘new’ prospective mothers before he agreed to any interaction with his males. Of course the master’s Pet would always be by his side. The discussion after these ‘inspections’ were often bizarre and would have given any match maker a run for their money.
Happily the boys often saw the same women year after year, as they were there for up to six weeks at a time, Daniel did not mind this at all, and found himself enjoying the variety of casual companionship and the ‘breaks’ in between. And with only one or two women being treated to such a service per year for each of the boys, it was a lucky breeding female indeed who arrived to be serviced at the Chateau.
On one occasion it really didn’t work out. The female concerned was treated with respect and the reason given for returning her: the ‘stallion’ contracting influenza and being too low to perform. In truth, though she had seemed John’s type, but had a viscous streak and when he struggled to perform, she felt it quite reasonable to inform some of the other breeding women of his inadequacies. She *really* should have checked the whereabouts of his sisters. She was gone the next day to John’s great relief.
From a business perspective, Master Aurelius (and his Prize Pet) gained far more influence by playing the game of exclusivity, making the progeny of Chateau Aurelius so difficult to obtain and so highly prized that he moved in the highest circles of society and politics… and influence. It also gave any of the children produced an almost guaranteed pampered life. Daniel’s count for children produced was less than two children a year since his appointment. John’s less again.
John’s mild disinterest in copulating with females in the early days translated into something more worrying. His difficulties ‘performing’ gradually worsened until by the eighteenth year after the little ‘rejection incident’, he fell quietly into melancholy. He was confused by the fact that he genuinely enjoyed the company of women and was a charming host. He began to need stimulants to penetrate a female at all, and found even that was not solving the problem. He lost weight and began to engage in long walks around their property, sometimes returning well after dark.
It was on just such a night that he spied two, obviously male, bodies lying at the base of a huge oak – reputedly father’s favorite tree. Transfixed, he moved a little closer and watched in amazement as they kissed, passionately. He noted the hard muscles driving against each other forcing away from the friction then seeking it again. His own erection was harder than it had been in years, and he adjusted himself for the third time in as many seconds. He saw their hands intertwine, and the larger of the two figures, then pushed hands of the man under him to above his head. They continued to grind together speeding the tempo and biting, nibbling, until both came with a roar and John came also in his jeans, untouched.
He moved quickly back toward the Chateau. He was still confused. The two figures under the tree lay still in post coital bliss, until Spike’s snigger broke the mood.
“You know our Peeping John just came in ‘is jeans utterly untouched… so much for lack of erection! Bloody lack of interest is what it is…”
“He’s a bloody switch hitter pet…. Taken well and truly after is ol’ Da ‘e has! You should be proud.”
“God Spike, that’s *awful* and we’re asking him to….”
“You’re not gettin’ it Pet… we sort him out a pretty piece of ass, and get ‘im all happy and well fucked and things ‘ll get better. And thinking ‘is kink might be the good ol’ restraints…. C’mon pet, give us a smile and let’s us go find ‘im a friend.” Xander instantly had a very bouncy and totally naked vampire in his hands, but lost him again as they both sprinted back to the house.
In the ensuing weeks, Xander had several talks with John, accompanying him on his ramble. The discussion inevitably fell to the topic of gender preference… John relaxed as he found only love and support from his father and Master. Then Master found Carlos, a pretty young slave that had arrived to help with the grounds. As was his habit, Spike interviewed his new employee and Carlos freely admitted his gay status in the context of being no threat to the breeding mothers.
Carlos and John were introduced by Master, with the suggestion that Carlos might be a good assistant for the Breeding Sire. The pair was firm friends within a week and lovers before the month was out. And from all reports, were enthusiastically working out any ‘kinks’ in their relationship. Master had sent them a very long silk restraining rope and some chocolate body paint just for a little encouragement.
When it was time again to procreate on behalf of the family, John was much more relaxed knowing his lover was to assist. Still needing a little extra ‘boost’ where women were concerned, John habitually took a low level stimulant. It was actually the Master’s suggestion that Carlos provide the required lead up for successful copulation. Finding female breeding stock who enjoyed a little ‘floor show’, or being tied for the final event did not prove so difficult.
Surprisingly Carlos was instantly approved of by the outside world, as the Master introduced him as the ‘stable mate’ of his Stallion. The successful practice was well known to breeders of other species. The role of the stable mate simply to keep the stallion amused when not at his duties. Xander came *so* close to breaking his training whenever Spike gave that little lecture.
Daniel observed the change in his sibling and rejoiced in the coupling of Carlos and John.
It was sometime in late afternoon that the sons and daughters all gathered again. They were in the formal sitting room with Spike curled up on Xander’s favorite chair with the afghan throw he so loved, covering all but his face… it still smelled like his Pet, he scented it deeply, and was comforted a little.
The whole group had decided that leaving Spike alone even for a moment (especially during sunlit hours) was simply not an option. Charlotte had quickly organized the women to take turns sitting with him, even if it meant having to take an infant or two with them to give him some distraction. At the moment though Master seemed semi comatose.
John opened his father’s the letter containing last wishes.
The first words on the hand written note had been…
“My spectacular sons, and my magnificent daughters, You are the pride of our household and my greatest joy. I have adored you each since the day you came to us.
“There will be some changes with me gone, but you must look after my beloved Spike…” not ‘Master’, or ‘William the Bloody’ but the Master’s *private* name.
“I can’t read this…” John had simply let his tears stream utterly unchecked as he handed to note to his brother. Desmonde collapsed into the arms of her breeding partner and began to keen quietly. The other women simply managed.
Daniel took the note and continued to read aloud for the benefit of John and all present also in the hope that perhaps their Master would take in what was being said. After Xander’s body had been removed for funeral preparation, their Master had not moved at all from his fetal position under a mound of blankets. It had been almost twelve hours. Daniel had eventually gently coaxed him to move, then literally carried him to where the children were meeting and placed him in father's chair. The rug was a bonus.
“There will be a public event. You all know what to do there. It will be arranged by our breeding coordinator and one of Master’s closest business friends. Where possible all children in my direct line will be in attendance for that day. It will be extremely formal.
“But at the home celebration please let my passing be a joyous event, as I count myself one of the most blessed men in all history, for the life I have led. The children must know that I died in the arms of the being whom I have loved and who has loved me for a century and a half, despite the odds, and more than life itself. The legacy of that love is in your blood and the blood of all in our line. It is strength, love and loyalty that define our family line.
“I ask that I be cremated and that the ashes be spread around our favorite oak. At our private service please have the children sing a song or two and I would love you to have someone read the Wind in the Willows story … The death of badger… it will help them to understand. Bethany will know where it is.
“I am worried for Spike, he won’t have eaten, I know him too well. I know you will offer your wrists before the day begins, but I beg you to be insistent on my behalf. He must be strong. Daniel and John, you will be closest to him at the formal event. Press sure to press your head against his thigh and if his hands begin to shake, take them in yours without waiting for the order, some leeway will be granted even at the formal service. We have both worked hard to earn that.
“Please be aware that we recently found your two Aurelian brothers again, and Spike has made arrangements for them to come home at last. They will need everyone’s support, as their lives in the last fifty nine years have been sadly different to yours. I beg of you to all hug them lovingly and often, as I wish I might. Give them your advice and encouragement, and let their remaining years be happy.”
“Have beautiful children next year my daughters… and name one of them Alexander if you will…. Please let it be Master who chooses.
“I love you all …. So much… And my spirit travels with you always
“Chosen Life partner and Prize Pet of the Aurelian Master, William the Bloody.
Founding sire of the Aurelius Line…. You Proud Father.”
Master had given strict instructions that their father should be in an open coffin, unfettered but for the ruby arm band that was Master’s. He was to have only his favorite comfortable white sweat pants on. The unusual request was that he there be a rug tucked around him, Master *insisting* to Daniel that his Pet wouldn’t want to be cold! Matilda was Spike’s sitter that hour and it suddenly occurred to her that father was to be cremated which meant… too warm… She dismissed herself and swiftly made for the bathroom in time to grace a fluffy white towel with a flood of tears and muffled, grief stricken wail.
Daniel was leaning against the door frame when his red eyed sister looked up. “You OK?”
“Yes.. No! Oh Danny!…” She sniffed hard and composed herself, “K..I’ll be fine.”
“ K well I’ve gotta go, you know, fix this rug thing, then the kids can come through. We better get things moving, ‘cause once the others start arriving tomorrow evening, it’ll be bedlam”
“Just wish we could have a happier reason to get everyone together.” She replaced the towel on the rung and moved to the door, and noted how very tired Daniel looked. “Let me get the rug Danny. I’ll send up some food for you and Master, then you should both try to get a few hours sleep. And he might relax more if he knows it’s you in the room…. C’mon, you know I’m right.”
There was no protest, rather Daniel simply leaned down and kissed his sister on the forehead with a relieved, “Thanks… tell John where I am would you?”
The woman nodded and with a concerned look at Master, departed the suite.
Just on a half hour later, a long line of children, youngest to oldest and accompanied by nannies, handlers (who for the younger ones referred to themselves by the tongue in cheek term ‘herders’) and all the mothers, filed past the open casket, raised only slightly from the floor, so even the smallest could see. Each carried a flower from the Chateau gardens and was told that rather than everyone giving Grandfather a kiss, they should kiss their flower and make a wish for the future. Each child then placed the flower beside the coffin and was allowed close enough to whisper their personal goodbye. It was a slow procession but important for many of the younger ones who, once ‘free’ again and outside playing, seemed quite impressed by the whole thing. Desmonde was seated on a swing under one of the large trees, feeding her latest daughter, and couldn’t help but smile a little at some of the snatches of conversation drifting toward her:
“He looked really comfortable. I’ll bet that’s why vampires sleep in coffins”
“But he’s a *Master* Vampire stupid so he’s special… *all* the normal ones do.”
“Did you see the Master’s ruby cuff on his wrist? … And Master must have his collar… Oh that’s *so* romantic!”
“D’ya think the soul leaves right away?… ‘Cause it looked like Grandfather but like it really was just his body there. Weird”
“Imagine what he’s done in a hundred and eighty five years! You know he used to fight demons when he was our age… you know before the Rise.”
“Yeah but did *you* know that Master and Grandfather fought together back then too, that’s kinda cool.”
“Everyone knows they did dumbass.”
“Not outside the family they wouldn’t.”
Desmonde felt a pang of pride in the last exchange… Outsiders wouldn’t know, but they admired anyway …
It was late in the fifty first year of the Chateau Aurelius Stud’s existence when they received the news. The Master of Aurelius, William the Bloody had been successfully voted onto the Alliance of Ruling Regions as the representative of all the southern European clans eligible to be present. Established twenty years after the demon wars, its purpose was to set and enforce standards of production and trade (this covered the treatment and rights of humans), plus settle the occasional territorial dispute. With only sixteen regions around the globe given a vote, it allowed Spike and his liberal followers an opportunity to change the draconian ‘human breeding and behavior’ laws still plaguing the world.
Spike and his fellow breeders, plus many of the liberal thinkers in the demon world celebrated the appointment with a lavish dinner party in the front of the house. While the members of the Aurelian Stud Line and their handlers celebrated in the rear. The handlers also had a vested interest in the laws shifting, as it was not unheard of to have a handler severely punished for failing to control an ‘errant human’… and it did not matter that human’s life role. In many establishments the handlers were treated little better than the slaves they controlled. The Master was known for being firm but fair with his staff, and they all took their sworn allegiance too him very seriously. Few had seen his game face, those that did would never forget ‘the lesson’. Spike was nearing three hundred years since his turning, if he was angry, a dark and terrifying power flowed from him in waves. He had but to growl at that point and compliance was absolute.
The first week long meeting of the year for the Alliance was to be held in the former Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) and hosted by the controlling Clans whose territory covered the whole of the old Middle East. It may have been only Xander, Spike, and a handful of others, who were old enough to see the irony in the fact that it was now the most peaceful of the large demon ‘nations’ on the planet.
The travel had been easy. A personal jet landed vertically on the front lawn of the Chateau, much to the delight of the children who had been allowed to watch from the safety of the enclosed playground. The interior of the plane was plush but simple, with two seats and two kneeling pads, one at each chair, and a lounge area with bar at the rear. The copilot politely took the luggage then indicated that Spike with Xander at heel, should enter. He then busied himself showing Spike how to secure his pet beside him in the down kneel position, ready for the takeoff. When Xander was in position, one harness passed comfortably around his upper back from anchor points under Spike’s seat and provided padded and adjustable cuffs for the arms to rest in. The other was similar to the usual lap belt. With shoulders and head resting on a purpose built cushion, and Spike stroking his hair the entire journey, it really was a comfortable ride. In fact he slept a fair part of the way. Xander woke when the copilot flipped open the tiny door and announced that their ETA was two hours.
“Waddya say Pet…. Shall we join the mile high club?”
“What if we hit turbulence? I might you know….accidentally bite it off.”
“Weren’t thinkin’ of that luv… There’s a perfectly fine lounge suite back there goin’ beggin’.”
“Are you sure you can get this thing back on me for landing?”
“Thinkin’ of buyin’ one for home pet … you look right pretty all trussed up…”
“Are we gonna talk or do.”
“Gonna do you …. Then we get there ‘n you do me… deal?”
Xander grinned and looked up batting his eyelashes dramatically, “Hi I’m Xander, I’ll be your steward for the duration of the flight …. How do you like your ass served sir?”
The remainder of the flight was rather a bumpy one, but the bumping was of balls against backsides not of wind currents on fuselage.
The hotel was exclusive and all gold and marble… and more slaves than there were jobs to do. It seemed that the remainder were being used as hallway decoration, as most did not move from their down kneel for many hours at a time. After the cosseted environment of the Chateau, it was always hard to observe, yet these were in fact some of the lucky ones … but then that’s why Spike was here, they were here, to make it better.
The night before the meeting, the cocktail party would have been better called a ‘pissing contest’, as the experienced delegates sized up their fellow Alliance members and spoke loudly of the various marvelous things that were being achieved in their region, and how instrumental they were in the process. The bullies on the block were easily recognizable as the cartel that now controlled almost half the former North American continent. Though it was well known that their methods of enforcement and control were becoming so extreme that the dissent was growing from within their ‘nation’, and the outcry from without was beginning to tell on their control.
Spike was introduced, Xander listened and analyzed. Several times left kneeling in a corner, he was able to discern conversations amongst demons from the not so known regions… quickly sorting them into categories according to their stated politics. By a stroke of luck, ‘the Yan-kees’ (he had no hope of pronouncing their full title!) were standing behind him as he knelt in a formal down position, ‘waiting’ for Master to return from discussions with the Russo/Northern emissary. (And how often they had used that tactic, and won out). The demons were in a huddle discussing the ‘newcomers’, who was a threat, who was most powerful, and who most vulnerable. Obviously unused to ‘slaves’ listening in, or being versed in several demon languages, or being the other half of a very influential Master Vampire’s team, they discussed their chosen targets and possible methods of ‘persuasion’ freely.
The Vampire with the Soul was the softest target they decided. His elderly, grey-haired, pampered breeding slave, was representative of everything they hated. They had heard that the Vampire no longer hunted, so would be weak, and his slave would be no trouble. The only difficulty was the when and how… They were about power and control… and public displays of the same. It was still not resolved as the group wandered out of earshot.
If Xander of Sunnydale was often underestimated, then Xander, Prize Pet of Ensouled Master, was almost entirely ignored. With his ageing locks, priceless body adornments, and newly acquired silver streaked moustache and goatee, he would of course be thought of as a mere accessory. Xander suddenly became extremely grateful that despite his age, he and Spike had kept up training and sparring in all forms of martial arts. And although the vampire had to be careful not to hurt his lovely human, the activity was always exhilarating and inevitably finished with a post spar spa (with underwater activities of course… Spike remained champion of the longest time spent underwater blowing his friend… Xander never had a hope of winning that contest!) . The teaching of fighting and weapon use techniques were – as to be expected – banned for all slaves, so practice was conducted in the gym or the movie theatre – Spike insistent that it was the darkness factor, Xander aware it was the lovely couches that were the attraction, making the transition from sparring to shagging spectacularly swift.
Back in their hotel room, Master and Pet continued to play their parts. The high pitched whine of electrical equipment made them ever mindful that their every move would be monitored. It was as much for their protection as for spying purposes, nevertheless, they had done this before. Master led the Pet to the bedroom by the rarely used lead.
“Undress me, Pet, then I would have you prepare yourself.”
This was old territory for them. Xander and Spike had (over the years) watched so much B grade porn, that it was a challenge to see who could outdo the other in corny lines for their ‘spy’ camera. While at a similar (though lower level) meeting in Venice, Spike almost gave the game away by describing, in amorous Italian, the delights of his Pet’s ass, accompanied by kisses of such melodrama, that the silent film actresses of old would have been outdone. By the time he was half way through, Xander burst into a fit of giggles and was only silenced by a single thrust to full penetration and passionate kiss.
This night however, much needed to be discussed, so noises would only be of the ‘usual’ variety. Well timed loud panting, grunts, begging and groans confounded the sound reception as equipment attempted to adjust to the variation from yelling to near silence. But vampire hearing was *made* for picking up the whispered information given, as the Pet apparently nibbled his Master’s ear while being ‘well shagged’.
Their next opportunity was in the huge spa in their suite, with bubbles on the Yan-kee challenge was discussed amidst a series of lazy kisses. They didn’t know when or where, but Spike knew it would be soon.
In the first day, the opening speeches over, each delegation was given five minutes to table particular issues concerning their region. Spike spoke of the concessions in existing laws being sought for humans in their region for the sake of economic growth and tourism in the ever popular Southern Europe Stud areas. The Yan-kee delegation guffawed rudely at the suggestion, and as Spike attempted to continue, interjected loudly that a decent torture chamber would bring a bigger crowd. This brought sniggers from some at the table. Xander, his head bowed and ears tuned to the positions around the conference table, quickly noted who. Spike attempted to continue with some other trade concerns regards the ongoing lack of standard pricing for raw materials and simply paused politely, as the larger Groxlar Beast agreed. Adding that the increasing shortages of some staple products in their region was compounding the pricing issue. He too, was rudely interrupted, this time by the demon to the right of the Yan-kees who was obviously a little slow when it came to the ‘art’ of heckling, yelled ‘What like bagged sheep’s blood and false fangs for the oldies.’
Spike’s polite silence and lack of reaction to any of this, gave him the air of authority rather than weakness, something that made his pet immensely proud, and the Yan-kees and their supporters livid. Eventually the meeting proceeded and some progress made, so a food break was called.
They were ushered into a lavish hall with two long tables heaving with all manner of foods. The diets of all present were catered for, and there was enough fruit for pets to also be fed. Xander preferred not to eat, and was so close at heel to his Master that they were almost touching.
They were at the back of the queue as the demons processed around the tables, selecting various tidbits. Spike took his time collecting an odd variety of blood, fried items and a sticky chunk of fresh honeycomb. The last choice puzzled Xander a little, but then he saw why. The rest of the group was busy gorging themselves and talking loudly as Spike ordered his Pet to get him a napkin. Apparently “The honey is dripping all over me hand here”.
In order to comply, Xander had to lean across a section of meats where several short carving knives lay. As he stood back, the knives were gone.
Head bowed as protocol dictated, the Pet announced, “Master, I picked up two.”
“Well give one here! Quick. No second thoughts, you do it, just… while I’ve got my hand up. Well come on!”
Xander wiped his Master’s hand and as he did so, the folds of the napkin concealed the knife sliding down Spike’s sleeve, handle first.
Without a sideways glance Spike simply said, “And you’d better hold on to the other one for later, case I need it.” And began to suck the honey from the wax, this time apparently he was surprisingly less awkward.
Xander dropped into a formal kneel again, large starched serviette with its enclosed prize held ready should Master need it. They were both on standby, if nothing happened then all well and good. They didn’t have to wait long for the something.
The leader of the Yan-kee cartel was a huge, grey-brown Yh’nkeelie demon, and whose face was a parody of a warthog, marched up to Spike attempting to intimidate with his size. Spike had been smaller than most male humans and vampires all of his life and unlife, so was utterly unimpressed. And that managed to further anger the Yh’nkeelie, “Look…It’s our new friend from the Land-of-Too-Much with his [snigger] Pet. You know, the other bloke from your place, what was his name… anyway, sad that he met with an accident at one of these. But you’re already dead so I’d personally be more worried about that old breeding slave of yours while you’re here.”
“That right mate…. Well why don’t you run on back to your little boot lickers over there and find someone who might give a toss about your threats. I’m here to do business, sustainable trade. You seem to be here for the food and some childish posturing. So if ya don’t understand the concepts of ruling clans, honor, and carin for, and feedin’ the bloody population on your side of the pond, then I can’t see how you’ll be around here for much longer anyway. Ever heard of the French Revolution mate?” Spike had done his homework. The point was made and the whole room knew that they had had to deal with the bullies before, while their support across their regional clans was solid. But if Yan-kee control was waning, it would no doubt mean a split, and two or three new regions to consider for membership of the Alliance. The other delegates stopped to consider carefully the need to continue to ally themselves with a ruling group that had made nothing but trouble for the Alliance to date.
The huge demon realized his error, and roared his frustration and anger, then made a lunge for Spike and missed. Spike and Xander knew the others of the Yan-kee delegation (allegedly ‘body guards’), and the ‘happy heckler’ from the morning meeting, had moved to surround them while they were ‘otherwise occupied’. The rest of the room froze. The fight for power was a familiar one, this one just happened to be physical.
Spike turned to face his assailant as he dropped into game face and slid the knife into his hand. What shocked the audience was the Aurelian Master’s old Pet. The grey haired human (complete with glittering body jewelry) was instantly on his feet and back to back with his Master in identical fighting stance. The Pet was also armed with a knife. Both held their short weapons blade out for slicing, and to keep a punch with that hand an option.
The attacking demons seemed unsure for a moment, until their leader roared and went for Spike. He met Xander’s blade instead, his demon neck sliced almost clean through. Their reversing positions startled the incoming three demons, who faltered. The two closest taken out by the lightening fast round house kick that came with Spike’s change of position. The kick broke the first one’s neck and knocked the demon next to him half way across the room. Xander had seen the ‘heckler’ heading for him but it was on his blind side as he turned, and he knew he needed help. It came swiftly in the form of Spike’s thrown knife severing his attacker’s spine. Xander tossed his own knife deftly to Spike as the last remaining attacker began to move… but the assailant must have thought the better of it. The demon stopped and knelt in supplication.
The Aurelian Master moved over to the food table, ceremonially picking up a napkin and wiped the blade. He then placed the knife with particular precision, back in its original position. His Pet, was still panting but fairly pleased with himself, had dropped to his knees in a formal position leaning lightly against his Master’s thigh. Spike bent down, cupped his Pet’s face with both hands, and very publicly kissed him on the forehead. “Nicely done Pet. Nicely done.”
Xander knew that there would be many kisses in other places shortly, but even Spike’s small public gesture brought gasps from a few of the conservatives.
The fallout was extraordinary. The remaining cartel delegation was ejected from the meeting for their conduct. Spike and Xander were a little concerned that there might be retaliation from the cartel but the roll on effect was one of accelerating the complete downfall of their rule and an end to their stranglehold on the region. There was an immediate emergence of new more moderate clusters of Clans willing to participate in the Alliance.
Spike was hailed the hero of the moment, and demand for the Aurelian Stud Stock trebled with most of the world’s leaders and elite now wanting their Pets from the line and so trained. The Aurelian Founding Stud Sire became legend, and as the story was retold, descriptions of ‘the diamond back chains sparkling as he moved to defend his Master’ became more and more exaggerated… The numbers attending the open days at the Chateau bordered on the ridiculous, until Spike put a ceiling limit on visitor numbers and demanded that priority be given to those with more than a passing desire to see the offspring of the famous Aurelian Founding Sire. The vampire community was perhaps the only group unimpressed, grumbling that any claimed human life partner was bound by blood to react the way he did, though still gave a nod to the odds and the outcome.
Progress was still altogether too slow for Spike’s liking, but he persevered, and over the next twenty eight years as the two of them began to turn the tide in meetings, Xander always had a special cushion for him to kneel on as a sign of respect. In January of the thirtieth year of Spike’s membership, Daniel followed his Master into the room. Some of the older delegates were sad not to see the, by then white haired, genteel human, and felt a pang of nostalgia as an era passed.
The stud coordinator Marcus, and Spike’s closest business associate, a mild mannered Marsett demon, Master Janni (whom Xander had taken a liking to instantly – he had ‘Clem features’) were the organizers of the ‘formal’ funeral. They had invited all members of the Alliance as protocol demanded, but as expected, some still opposed to the reforms Spike and his supporters had enacted, declined the invitation to a *human’s* funeral. They would not be missed.
Janni suggested the political and business leaders to invite while the breeders and buyers were invited, as they were also requested that they bring any of the direct Aurelian line in their possession. Others on the guest list were selected from a few prominent members of the local and regional community, and of course the press.
Marcus discussed the arrangements for the offspring with Daniel and John, behind closed doors. And the many minor details that might make the day for the Master just that much easier. The demon was a remarkable support and comfort to the two sons and where possible preempted their wishes. This meant that a tired “Yes that’s wonderful”, was all that was gratefully required of them on this occasion.
As they walked down back toward their quarters, John slung a friendly arm around his brother’s shoulders. “We’ve gotta take him to see the casket soon.”
“Yeah I know… You been?”
“Yeah… twice… needed to.. um.. well just…”
“You want a drink?”
“You have no idea.”
“C’mon then, don’t think Master will mind a little scotch on the breath.”
“My rooms, drinks, then we’ll take him together.”
Xander’s two stallion sons proved themselves worthy leaders of their line as the funeral day approached. Their focus was primarily the family funeral, but still had a minor roll in the public one. Despite their own mourning, instructions were followed and arrangements made, their ‘handlers’ serving as more than willing assistants where society did not allow the boys to order or express their wishes. The complicity and support of the whole Aurelian staff was absolute, but then it had really always been so. Daniel had never been more grateful for the calm Kreptard demon who was his ‘handler’, and who quietly and efficiently organized all manner of small details for his ‘charge’.
Meals were still made, laundry done and cleaning completed…. But there was no joy in any of it. Extra staff were engaged for the daughters whose breeding partners were absent for some reason. Every human in the household was now in full length black capes, unadorned… and silence reigned.
Three of the carers in the nursery were so distraught at the news of Xander’s passing that replacements were brought in for two days. The thirty or so children too young to understand what was occurring were occupied with happy excursions on the property and with special treat events as best the new carers could manage. Xander’s grandchild Bethany would later be praised for arranging all that… but for now it was simply survival.
Once the ‘breeding’ aspect of the Chateau was in full swing and numbers stabilized, the number of newborns any one year was around seven. This equated to somewhere between a hundred, and hundred and twenty children between the ages of zero and seventeen ‘at home’ in any one year. Spike had nine full time tutors on staff, and of late had rejoiced when Charlotte’s eldest proffered a formal request (via her handler) that the Master might consider that she take the role of teacher.
Bethany was sixteen, fine featured and blindingly intelligent. Spike and Xander had already discussed her future. They had decided that, given her other talents and interests, it would be five to eight years before they would seriously discuss breeding with her, but she would stay on the property like many of her line around her age. Xander’s daughters needed a rest from reproducing now and the next generation of mothers needed to be found. Only those expressing a desire to do so were considered, many preferring the prized pet option, some simply wanting to forge out on their own (as pets of course… but away from the family), others were simply unsure so were given time to decide.
Spike and Xander had always been adamant that all the children from his Stud would be schooled appropriately prior to their handover to new Masters. Their lives after Chateau Aurelius would be in some of the most elite demon households on the planet. Virtually all were destined to be Prize pets. So the schooling was not simply to be Etiquette for pets or slaves. All were given a solid grounding in the classics, languages (demon and human), music and fine arts. Of course any with magical tendencies were secretly given additional classes.
They were encouraged to enjoy exercise, just games and fun initially, but for the older ones, it meant learning some basic skills in sports popular to the elite. Sailing, tennis, golf, horse riding, and swimming were all on the agenda, as they would likely accompany their masters and may be required to actively participate. Skiing was difficult to arrange but a week was spent each year at a private chalet and skills were honed under their own instructor. Other skills they might need were less predictable so a smattering of all manner of activities was engaged in over their lives at the stud. They all trained in at least two disciplines of martial arts, and after the incident at the Alliance were allowed to be seen doing it… even on inspection days.
The older ones were instructed in current culture and some excursions were made into Nice as none of the children had been off the property since birth. The excursions were still tricky to arrange as it would be difficult to explain why a large group of humans and their handlers was wandering around the city together. So each of the children on the field trip was dropped off with their handler in a different locations around the city, all to follow the same circuit but beginning from a different starting point. Like a bizarre treasure hunt, they were required to go shopping, collect things from certain sites, make observational notes, generally practice their etiquette in public, and debriefing on return. They did a similar trip to Venice and another to Rome – the latter two being three day ventures. Inevitably, seeing first hand the situation of most other humans lived in, brought home just how very fortunate their lives had been and a new found respect for their Master and grandfather.
Master would not let them ‘go’ until they turned seventeen of course, so there was now a lengthy waiting list of hand picked owners as well as constant requests for his Pet’s line. All owners were thoroughly vetted beforehand but were generally already known to the Master. Contact with the children following their departure from the Chateau was varied but it was a requirement of ‘sale’, that regular updates of their well being be supplied, and that the Aurelian pet be given permission to contact the Stud Master at least once at the end of their first year. Some owners allowed their pampered pets far more contact, and the thrill of receiving news from their now grown children, a delight for all Xander’s offspring still at the stud.
Some children were special, however, showing a talent or a calling in addition to their accepted role in life. Where possible it too was indulged. The lovely Bethany had been a case in point.
It was late afternoon and a business associate of the Master’s was being ushered out of the Master’s study as the young girl knelt and waited nervously by her handler. Bethany immediately realized that they were with ‘company’ and fell to a full down position as was societal custom and waited.
Guest dispatched, the Master had invited her in.
She dropped carefully to a formal kneel in the middle of the floor, around a body length from the Master as was proper.
“You asked to see me, Bethany?”
Head still bowed, she swallowed hard, then replied, “Yes Master, I wish to request something of Master.”
“Of course you may… and the something would be?”
She took a deep breath then spoke at a speed that would have made the Willow of old proud, and Xander smiled a little. “I wish to become one of our tutors here at the Chateau, and I think I will make a really good teacher because I am good at my lessons, and I’m already kind of helping everyone, and I like helping everyone ‘cause it makes them happy too. And I promise I’ll still bear children for the line master, I want to do that too, but I think I can do both, and I really want to do both and…. Please Master will you allow me to teach?” She broke her training for a second to look up with pleading eyes, then dropped them again, hoping that little act hadn’t compromised her chances.
“I would be delighted if you would do me the honor of being one of the Chateau’s permanent tutors, but you will need to study further yourself. I will arrange that you have the finest instruction in all aspects of your studies and in learning theory for the next two years. Then you may start.” Spike squeezed Xander’s shoulder, knowing this would please his dear Pet immensely. “Pet, you look like you need a bit of a stretch, would you mind fetching me a snack from the kitchens? Thank you.”
Her grandfather excused himself, then the Master smiled at the female ‘handler’ who had brought her in, knowing that in private, the family could take liberties. The female demon returned a knowing look and left the room leaving the Master to enjoy a private moment with the grandchild.
The slightly teary, extremely nervous teenager met her Master, truly alone for the first time in her life. Now by herself, she simply opted for the ‘proper’ behavior and continued to hold a formal kneel position. She flinched noticeably as the Master leaned forward and lifted her chin, his blue eyes sparkling with affection. Her breath hitched. “Come kneel beside me, you are the granddaughter of my honored Pet. You are welcome at my side.” Bethany stared at the vampire wide eyed as he took her hand and moved her to settle as he suggested. He still looked around the same age as her birth father, even though she knew he must be hundreds of years old.
The Master smiled sweetly at her, asked her about her lessons, then held her hands in his and told her how very proud he was of her. He told her of his hope that she would love her role and pass on her passion for learning. He had then kissed her forehead, told her how very blessed she was to be one of the Aurelian household and added that he and his Prize Pet, her grandfather, hoped she would eventually honor his line with many of her children as she was *very* special. She was *so* pleased that she thought she might burst, and knew, in that instant, why their line was so extraordinary.
Not sure of the protocol for ending the audience with the Master, she remained still until Master took her right hand and kissed the back of it, “I am *so* very, very proud of you. Be well.” At that moment Grandfather reentered the room with her handler. She saw him smile directly at Master, and stared for a moment, then gasped and fell back into a full down kneel, afraid that she may have been rude. Luckily her own handler tapped her lightly and smiled. She was led back to the children’s quarters without comment. At that moment Bethany decided, no matter when her own children were conceived or with whom, she would honor the legacy of her grandfather and Master. She would work hard to deliver every one of the offspring with a good education and rejoice in being a member of the Aurelian Line. After all … she was special…. Master had said so.
Bethany was heavily pregnant, but still tireless as she organized the children for the formal funeral, the replacement carers’ tasks, and supervised the final ‘coaching’ of the younger children for the private event. It had been decided that only children of seven years or older should be at the formal funeral. It would be a longer event, and a full down position had to be held for the entire ceremony regardless of itches, need to go to the toilet, or a simple ‘case of the wriggles’.
At the end of the day before the funeral, there was still the gathering of the Aurelian breeding line to attend in the evening. But there were a few hours to rest.
She relaxed into the warm bath and leaned back against the broad chest of her breeding partner, Nikki, a tall blonde from a stud just north of the former Oslo. He picked up some liquid soap and proceeded to massage the drum tight skin of her bump, feeling one or perhaps both of their children move within, responding to the strong loving touch of their father through the barrier.
“It won’t be long now my love.”
“I know… I just wish grandfather could have seen them… I just… Oh Nikki.”
He enveloped her in a warm hug, one arm between her ample bosom and belly, and the other resting on the soon to be children, while she cried.
“He’ll know love…. Somehow he’ll know.”
Xander’s role was very much that of loving father then grandfather, playing with the children, taking the children fishing, teaching them to ride and throw, taking the ‘littlies’ down to collect the eggs, and helping to catch bunnies in the secret garden when they were less than keen on being petted. But unless Spike specifically instructed, he only ever went out in the day when Spike was sleeping or engaged in business matters that really did not need to done by the two of them.
Without discussion, Spike took on the role of benevolent Master of Chateau Aurelius. To keep the children safe, to keep their behavior close to ‘normal’, to keep the house in order and to keep their business interests in check. And as time went by and the push for human rights began, he was away more frequently. In a strange quirk of fate, Spike had ended up in much the same role as his own Victorian father, a somewhat formidable figure only by virtue of infrequency of contact, and the societal behavioral codes they all followed for the sake of the family safety.
When Master did have contact, the children were always well behaved rather than boisterous as they were with Xander. Nevertheless, as soon as given permission, many a small person was thrilled to find Master was excellent at hugs and more than happy to listen. If the children particularly wanted to see Master during ‘business hours’ they made a formal request through their handlers or tutor. This was not designed to hold the children at arms’ length but rather it allowed Master to ensure that no business or outside visitors would interrupt. When the children were injured, the Aurelian elixir contained a little of Master’s blood mixed in with the cherry syrup and paracetamol, sped their recovery.
In the early days (pre breeding) Master and Father always celebrated special events with all the children. However, in a household as big as the Aurelian Stud was at full capacity, ‘formal’ occasions meals, ‘happy to you’s’, solstice celebrations, partnering ceremonies, farewells, and birth welcomes, equated to once or twice a week affairs. Most of these events had become direct breeding pair family events (with favorite cousins of course). Master would always make an appearance to toast the guest(s) of honor and spend a little time. Sadly for Master, as patterns of conduct were established, he found that his presence, particularly at the birthdays, sometimes made the event more formal than it needed to be.
In the eleventh month of having the children, Xander really saw the pain caused by Spike’s inability to walk in the sun. They were still simply bringing up children together at that stage… no thought of breeding… and yet one of them missed so much by being trapped in the shadows.
It was a late summer’s afternoon. Spike was watching Xander playing with children in the swimming pool area from their shaded balcony. The ‘baby’ pool and associated sandpit was attached to the side of the main pool, though around four feet lower down as it was situated at the base of the natural slope. The side of the main pool created a natural barrier and, along with a regular pool fence, kept all the little people from venturing to the ‘big pool’ should any of the curious brood ‘escape’ the eye of their nannies (or later … mothers). The water graded from three inches to around two feet at the deep end where a cascade of water flowed in from the main pool. The constant waterfall was a source of great amusement.
Xander was sitting in shallow end, his legs spread wide, the tiny Desmonde in between splashing furiously (with encouragement); a little blonde John using his father’s body as a living climbing frame; while Simon and Charlotte took turns tipping water from a plastic cup onto Xander’s feet. Four nannies, also in swimsuits, were supervising the others. When Xander lay back in the shallow water propped up by his elbows, Spike was reminded of a Serengeti lion with cubs crawling all over it. Squirming little bodies scrambled over the larger figure for no reason other than fun. Xander had looked up at that moment and seen the look of extreme pain and longing on Spike’s face, and resolved to make every effort to include Spike in children’s lives whilst not risking the family.
It began with Master reading bedtime stories to them every night while the children were little and in their communal bedroom. This went to a ‘roster’ system when the children were given rooms sharing with only one or two other siblings. Master was an excellent reader with a ‘liquid honey’, baritone voice and perfect diction. Xander always knelt with his head on Master’s knee during the readings, Master with one hand petting him, the other holding up the book. The favorite was always Christopher Robin by AA Milne, the readings directly responsible for one of the most enduring family traditions… Night time Pooh Sticks
The suggestion was Xander’s who knew an ideal spot for it. The day after Master read the chapter of Christopher Robin to the children, Xander arranged for solar flood lights to be fixed to an ancient stone footbridge that spanned the stream at the bottom of the ‘market garden slope’. It was perfect. That evening a trail of six year olds all holding hands, made their way to the bridge along with their special guest, Master. Xander switched on the lights and looked over to see Spike’s face …. He was grinning like a madman…. Spike then hugged his partner so hard it hurt!
Getting his breath back Xander handed over the evening’s proceedings to his vampire, “You’re the boss Master.”
Spike slapped his hands together and instantly became both starter and finishing judge. “Right you lot Pooh Sticks at the ready?”
Adrian and Simon were still arguing over the same stick, the girls were all ready having selected mostly leaves. Xander finally managed to line the children up on the upstream side of the bridge. “Right on the count of three, over the they go, got it? I’ll be there to judge, but if you just want watch whose stick emerges first you’ll have to run to the other side of the bridge.” There was no question of the latter!
Every Aurelian child had a firm grounding in Pooh sticks and a nighttime ‘initiation ceremony for six year olds’ run by Master Spike… a momentous occasion at that age. The game itself was oft played in the sunshine, but that night was always special
Other activities were arranged to involve Master (by his beautiful partner and later by the daughters), included the children giving a special music or dance performances for their Master. Night time walks to ‘catch smells and listen to things’ (Master and Pet always together on these) and Master’s role instructing the older students in some aspects of Vampire Law and discussing current politics. Children were sent to Master for being especially ‘good’, and were rewarded with an audience with Master and given ample praise when their lessons were particularly well done. And an awards night was instigated so each year the children might be recognized. It was run like a Christmas party ‘with accolades’, each child coming away with something special that was theirs alone.
The rite of passage in their fifteenth year became a ‘Spooky Party’. Arranged at the maze and complete with candles, props and Master under one ghost sheet and his Pet under the other. The aim was to make it to the food and drink at the centre of the Maze without the ghost catching you. Normally an easy exercise, but in the dark with all the mock panic and the chasing it usually took a fun filled hour. After which Master and his Pet traditionally ‘worked off’ a little of their own adrenalin from the evening with some serious ghost coupling.
Spike sat in his Pet’s chair in the late afternoon shade on the day before the funeral. Everyone would arrive soon.
He watched the children in the enclosed playground and heard the excited sounds of little children at play... Who would look out for him now? Who would include him? Would they leave their Master to do ‘what Masters do’ and forget he was as much their grandfather as his Xan? Who would wander up behind him, wrap him in a hug and help him feel the love when he was trapped by the shadows and the role he had to play to keep them all safe?
Caught up in his own worries and contemplating again…. how much easier it would be to simply to walk into the sun, the family could have a joint funeral. He was prevented from following those thoughts to their natural conclusion, when a tiny figure crawled up his pant leg to greet him. The vampire lifted the eager visitor onto his lap. Once there the child insisted on pushing up further, gesturing with a tiny finger pointing skyward and looking hopeful. Spike lifted him until he was standing on his Master’s strong thighs and holding his balance by resting hands wherever he could get purchase. The little boy grinned at Spike in triumph and patted his face. With the white blonde curly locks and crystal blue eyes, twelve month old Nathaniel could easily have been Spike’s own progeny, rather than one of Xander’s line.
The little lad leaned forward , Spike responded as most adult relatives might, leaning forward too, growling a little then pulling back with a look of mock surprise. Nathaniel squealed with delight. Spike did it again screwing up his face a little as he growled. This time he received bouncing as well as the happy noises in return, so did it again. But in his fragile emotional state, he accidentally dropped into game face without realizing, yet the giggles and squeaks continued and Nathaniel began to pat Spike’s ridges as he bounced for the sheer fun of it. Spike was torn between being horrified at his lack of control and overjoyed that the little fellow cared not a jot. He pulled the lad to him to give and receive a warm hug as the tiny head of curls relaxed onto Spike’s shoulder for an instant of complete acceptance and love. The vampire felt the tingle of tears threatening again, so lifted the lad high then sat him on the knee of one leg and, holding both Nathaniel’s hands, began to bounce him.
Kathryn was minding Master this hour. She watched from the doorway, her eyes awash with tears, as Master let his own tears of sadness and joy mix as he succumbed to the charms of the little boy. The bouncing continued and squeals of glee rang out like a bell of hope from the balcony of Master’s suite, and the vampire allowed a grief tempered, yet no less genuine, smile. Bringing Nathaniel was all Kathryn could think of to do for Master, but it seemed to have been enough for now.
The humans out of the direct Aurelian line began arriving with their handlers or owners around six in the evening. Arrangements had been made that only Aurelian handlers would be present in the grand hall so the behavior might be as true to everyday in the private quarters of the Chateau. Many of the handlers were familiar faces to the returning family and once the door closed, there were numerous a fond reunions between handler and human.
As the door opened for what seemed like the hundredth time in ten minutes, John leaned over and whispered tearfully to Daniel… “They were returned early as a sign of respect.”
Daniel looked a little puzzled then looked in the direction of John’s gaze and he gasped. At the door of the chateau’s ballroom where the family was gathering, two tall, gray haired figures could be seen standing quietly heads bowed behind their handler. Their leads were being handed over along with the papers, formally transferring their ownership and control to the senior handler of the Aurelian stud. Words were exchanged then the door closed as the two were led toward the more private room where Spike was ensconced.
Daniel felt a sense of dread. “Master will…. F#$% John! C’mon… He’ll need us. *They’ll* need us!” But John stayed his brother with a gentle hand on his arm.
“They will all need us and soon, Dan, and for many years hence. But the girls are with Master. Simon and Adrian deserve the audience without the Aurelian stud sires present.”
Daniel paused and understood John’s quiet wisdom. Their time for reunion would come, and he returned to attending a new wave of family members arriving.
All Spike could say as two silent men fell to their knees in a full down position and reached to touch their Master’s feet, was a feeble “Oh…”
Desmonda and Octavia had appointed themselves Master’s carers for the evening and were kneeling to the side of the ‘Pet’s chair’ that Master had refused to leave for more than a few minutes at a time over the past twenty four hours. They watched with concern as Spike all but fell forward, and Octavia was halfway to her feet before she realized what was happening. Spike took a hand of each of the men and tugged until they rose to a formal kneel heads still bowed.
He whispered a command, “Look at me.” The men complied. Spike noting the grey hair and wrinkled skin of ageing humans. As their faces lifted, he saw sadness and confusion in their eyes but was encouraged to see that the eyes still revealed a keen intelligence.
“Welcome home.” Then Master pulled them both forward on a slight angle until they could do nothing but to kneel either side and rest their heads on his lap. He stroked the straight hair of Adrian, and ran his fingers through Simon’s grey curls, continuing the simple action until the two lost sons relaxed against their Master. He noted the evidence of whipping, ancient scars now but there nevertheless. He also knew that other more enduring scars went unseen.
Spike continued to pet the men as he began speaking in a tearful whisper, “We never wanted … We never knew…. We tried so hard to bring you back…. I’m so sorry… so sorry…. We always loved you… you were always loved…. Still are …. And now you’re home… now you’re here… and you’re safe.”
Spike felt the warm damp of tears permeating the material of each thigh. He leant down further and lifting Simon’s face kissed the wrinkled forehead, and repeated the action with Adrian.
He then stood slowly, muscles reluctant after so many inert hours.
He began to move but Simon dropped his gaze and lifted the lead for his Master to take. His Master simply placed a pale hand over the man’s and shook his head, “Not with me, Pet, not today,… not ever.” So the two men walked solemnly behind their Master, one to each side and a step behind, their leads dangling free for time in nearly six decades.
At the end of the hallway, they entered a small room at that had been converted temporarily. There was an elegant mahogany open casket on a stand. Master reached back and took the men’s hands as he walked forward, preventing them from kneeling by lifting their joined hands to the edge of the coffin.
“We’ve got the boys home pet, just needed you to know…. So now you can rest, ‘cause everyone’s home and we’ve got our boys back….” The Master was visibly shaking and a flood of blood tinged tears began anew, but he still managed a few words “they’re here … so you….” With that, he simply folded down to kneel before the coffin and let the two men look on their father for the first and last time since they’d left.
Adrian stroked his father’s hair, placed his hand first over his own heart then his father’s and finally kissed his father’s forehead gently, then stood back as Simon did the same. Their Master struggled up as they stepped back, and stood staring at the coffin for many minutes as the sons waited heads down.
Spike eventually moved forward and caressed the beautiful face of his beloved for the very last time. He then kissed him fully on the lips and whispered “Goodbye my love.” then closed the casket, turned, and walked shakily but proudly to the door. The sons exited as they had entered, leads hanging free.
Master only remained with the reuniting Aurelian line for two hours or so after his trip to the casket room, enough time for each Aurelian to come and pay their respects. In all cases, formal posture began the greeting as a sign of absolute respect, followed by a statement of their name. Spike repeated the same conversations, asking the individual or group of handsome humans to stand and complimented them on how good they looked, asked how they were, and anything else he could think of at the time. This was generally followed by a personal gesture of love and loyalty on their part then it would happen all over again.
Octavia was still kneeling by the side of her Master’s chair when she noted how very grey he had begun to look, the skin translucent but dull, his lips white and bloodless. She briskly rounded up four of her sisters and they helped Master up to his bedroom suite. She was relieved that someone had thought to turn on the electric blanket, installed in her father’s twilight years to warm both he and Master. Lisbeth (another of the wiccan daughters) walked over to the cupboard and pulled out an old sweater of her fathers. She put it to her own nose and sniffed deeply, even to her senses it smelt of him. She noted that her Master was now in the warm bed and had just modestly pushed the pants he’d been wearing from under the covers and onto the floor.
Octavia located a small scalpel in the bathroom and antiseptic. She sliced across her wrist leaving a thin line of red beading up she moved to sit on her Master’s bed. A bold move but these were unusual times.
“Please Master, please drink…” Master acted like a tired child and simply turned away, but he was dealing with a room of mothers who had, over the past fifty seven years, produced and raised close to two hundred and forty children between them. He didn’t stand a chance.
“Oh no you don’t!”
Desmonda flanked him on the other side and Octavia passing her the scalpel. Lisbeth meanwhile, leaned over her sister and pushed the sweater smelling of father into Master’s arms. She saw Spike’s senses respond as his eye’s widened to give a truly childlike appearance of confusion, so treated him as such, “You can keep it with you, but only if you drink.”
Assailed from all sides by the smell and sight of blood, the pulses of five healthy women, the warmth from the bed, the scent of Xander, and the firm motherly tones… he had no choice but to comply. One after another, the women fed him. No more than a hospital blood bag each, but rich, warm and full of family, and two laced with magic. As he released each wrist, he whispered his thanks. Finally he squeezed Octavia’s hand and snuggled down into the warmth, pulling the old sweater to his face and began to drift toward slumber at last. The other women departed, leaving Octavia to simply stroke his forehead until he was fully asleep, then she too left. She sent in one of the Master’s favorite handlers, a lovely blue demon named Stan, to sit with him in case he woke. If this occurred Stan need only ring Daniel at the meeting room and one of the children would come immediately to assist.
He sat watching Master and amused himself by trying to count the tassels on the pelmet cover for the curtains. His eyes drifted to the elegant, small leather bound book on the side table. It had ‘Master’s writings’ embossed in gold on the front. He idly wondered what Master wrote and why.
It was their 100th anniversary as partners. Partners in every possible way one could use that word, as long as love and devotion was in the mix. What do you get someone you’ve loved for a hundred years? Someone whom you knew for eighteen years before that; who you’ve fought with and against; who has saved you from monsters; and, post the Rise, from certain death. How do you represent that love in a single gift?
The consistency of their love for each other was an endless source of fascination for Xander, who had watched his own parents bicker and fight until their alienation was so complete and miserable, that it was all they knew. Perhaps for Xander and Spike, it was the harshness of the world in which they met again that affected it. Perhaps finding a friend in the midst of the death and hatred was a sign of better things to come… or perhaps it was just Spike. Spike for all his protestations to the contrary, was learned, intelligent, and creative. He noticed things others didn’t and read people easily. It was Xander’s and Spike’s saving grace in the early days of the Rise, that and his Master Vampire status, hard earned reputation, and a fair wad of cash.
His vampire was passionate in a larger than life way; affectionate to a fault (something Xander knew made the Stud years of ‘Master of Chateau Aurelius’ even harder on Spike); and protective of his own, to the death needs be. His demon strengthened him, allowed the zero to one hundred, harmless kitten to enraged tiger, fighting response to occur before the opposition had even realized the fight was on. And once it was on, he was clever, vicious, merciless and deadly. Letting loose a blood lust and fearlessness that caused even the largest demon to pause. And at the end of the day, regardless if the tussle was a physical one on the street or psychological in the boardroom Spike was nearly always the victor.
Spike taught Xander too… over the years, the donut boy grew into the matured warrior at Spike’s side. Always the ‘side kick’, Xander never felt that a problem. His position at Spike’s side was an exalted not a diminished one, particularly odd in view of the rest of the world. And in private, they each had a side, of the same bed, the same bath, the same couch, the same kiss. He had never really understood before, when older couples talked of their ‘other half’ or their ‘better half’. But after one hundred years together they were two parts of a whole, so much so that it was inconceivable that there would be any other way to be.
Their love making had changed little over the years in that it was always changing, always interesting, sometimes hilarious, sometimes hard and desperate, sometimes so slow and passionate that it made Xander’s chest ache with the love it engendered. Some of the more subtle changes came about over time as they realized the love was deepening not waning, their commitment to each other strengthening not weakening, and their trust and reliance upon each other becoming absolute.
The first few years were about passionate exchanges, proving love and willingness to commit and explore…. Rimming was new for Xander so it was explored thoroughly until the next ‘thing’ came along. Yet strangely, as things deteriorated around them their relationship became the calm in the eye of the storm. Lovemaking became stronger less frantic as time went on.
Lovemaking could be a hug and passionate kiss, comfort after seeing a public flogging, a slave auction, or the evidence of the human flesh trade.
Lovemaking could be a massage or a bath together, reassurance after watching a child torn from his mother’s grip as they were separated at a sale, or Master and slave killed for breaking public protocol.
Lovemaking could be a hard powerful near hurtful coupling, defiance and strength in the face of ridiculous odds as new laws brought new miseries to the human, and now some of the demon population.
Lovemaking could be frantic, searching, erratic and wild, full of bites and pinches, feral growls and grunted penetration with no mind to who is on top, defying the dictates of a demon society that is now delivering the first humans bred specifically for food… a ‘triumph’ of genetic modification and selective breeding… (They had seen ‘the produce’ by chance coming off a cargo ship, huge muscular buttocks and thighs, with broad backs and barrel chests. Hirsute and placid, it appeared they had been ‘gelded’ and bred knowing nothing but feeding and cruelty.)
Lovemaking could be excruciatingly slow and beautiful as they formulated their plans for the future and their life together, after seeing a sunset then meeting with a group of influential demons who also did not agree the high handedness of the US cartels in all aspects of human trade and treatment.
Their early passion had to evolve for it to survive, for them to survive. As Spike so beautifully put it in his journal years later, “Our love is as an enormous red and white glowing log on an open fire, all the detritus burned away hours ago in the fast flames of early passion, leaving a white hot burn of love at the core and heat that is far more sustainable. And those red hot coals will continue to burn hot and true until all that is left is ash.”
Once the Chateau was established and their children arrived, their lovemaking was already part of a relationship of seventy years, yet Xander appeared as a healthy and attractive human in his early fifties and they had both just had their first children. The outside world still existed and they were fighting to change things, just from an angle they had never tried before, one of political muscle rather than physical. Inside their fenced corner of the world however, peace (relative to 13 small children) reigned. And their lovemaking reflected it. Lazy Sunday mornings lying after a good shag were gone as it was the only morning the children were allowed to ‘visit’. They learned very early that no bed was big enough for thirteen squirming four year olds and two adults… but it was rather fun trying.
Xander discovered that his hip flexibility, maintained over the years by various partner ‘exercises’, had advantages when setting a ‘bear trap’ ( i.e. legs under blankets, drop knees wide, ‘unsuspecting’ four year old pretending to be a … something.. wanders in and *snap* got ‘em in the trap… then it is the next person’s turn). The lovemaking was now Spike leaning against the headboard, while the wild animals had their trapped turn, and whispering lewd remarks to the trapper, largely pertaining to what else might be trapped and how lovely he looked on his back spread wide…. More often than not Xander ended up with a ‘landing pillow’ strategically placed over the part of his anatomy that seemed oblivious to the age or activities of those present!
As the children grew and the couple’s hand was forced yet again, their lovemaking was everything from the brush of hands as they went for a moonlit walk, to the exquisitely leisurely, face to face slide of his lover’s lubed erection as it slipped in to fill whoever was on their back that night, or that time on that night…. Their lovemaking was hugging for comfort after the trauma with the two boys. Lovemaking was the quiet hand resting on the other’s shoulder as he asked for the children’s opinion and support in what they were trying to do, and giving them permission to say no. Lovemaking was Master wiping Xander’s tears of joy away as he held his first grandchild. Lovemaking was arguing and desperately wishing there were other way than to follow their breeding premise to its conclusion. Lovemaking was a lovely little ‘frottage’ onder their oak for the benefit of son John, to let him see just how beautiful two men could really be together. Lovemaking was knowing every inch of the partner’s body and using that to tease during a poetry reading…
What could one get, but a blank journal so the thoughts of his extraordinary vampire, his adored one, his Spike, might be recorded for all time.
The women reentered the meeting room where groups of siblings and cousins from various generations were still catching up. Most of the children under fifteen had headed for the movie theatre with handlers to enjoy an evening of entertainment then be organized to bed, indeed some of the older ones chose this option also. But for the adults the excitement of being together was almost too much.
Many had been living overseas so the attire, though still within ‘the laws’, varied widely… as did their acquired accents, hair cuts and skin markings. Several bore claim marks or partnering tokens indicating that their Masters had other reasons for supporting Master of Aurelius in having the laws eased. Some had been lucky enough to have a second member of the family purchased so enjoyed some measure of continuity. A number of the women were pregnant (including some of the daughters and granddaughters from the Chateau).
The physical state of the humans varied widely also… Some demons liked fat Pets. Kathryn was terribly embarrassed to hardly recognize her own daughter as she wrapped enormous soft arms around her mother. Kaila (and eventually two other cousins) was sold into the Western African kingdom where large happened to be the preferred mark of beauty. And a Prize Pet was beholden to do nothing but relax and stay soft and get as big as humanly possible while still being mobile and able to perform as expected. She told her mother that the first six months had been the worst as she was fed constantly and prevented from doing anything, weighed daily to ensure a steady gain…. Though conceded that the being massaged four or five times a day to assist skin stretch was rather nice. After that it was easier as exercise was simply too difficult and her appetite adjusted to her size… She was large and ‘loved large’ by her Master who rejoiced in her folds, and delighted far more in bringing his Pet pleasure than the other way around. Kathryn – who had been initially quite distressed at her daughter’s size, realized the twinkle in Kaila’s eye, and felt a wave of relief … her daughter loved her life and was an adored Pet, what more could a mother ask for.
More concerning were a few of the women and men who were waif thin…. Kept starved and petit… again not considered cruelty by the culture in which they lived. Jessica’s son, Jason, who was pet to a prominent world leader in the south Asian region, appeared as though a feather could knock him over. But when she looked again she realized that he had the physique of someone who ran marathons on the sporting movies in Master’s vintage collection. His legs weren’t wasted, rather they were very, very thin and muscular, as was the rest of his body. She brushed down his sinewy arms and noted, there was no fat to be found anywhere…. Indeed it was so with the girls also. They were constantly trained and kept in peak condition for display. But with a cultural preference for no fat and slim lines, Jason did note that they were particularly lucky since in the Clan region where he lived, it was far more common to simply starve the human pets for the effect, to the point where few survived more than ten years regardless of duties, and normal slaves fared worse.
Various other parameters were discussed: tasks, rules, diets, the culture around them, the households to whom they belonged, the politics, and many others. Surprisingly there was very little jealousy, merely curiosity and much fascination as the family traits were so obvious as to be in some cases… rather worrying. Mother Charlotte stood next to thirty three year old daughter, Rowena, and twenty five year old Rachel, and the three ‘sisters’ giggled – they even stood the same curious way when not thinking , right toe pointed inward. There were reminiscences of their growing up at the Chateau and giggles at some old anecdotes and ‘class secrets’ of old. Finally, when the hubbub died down a little, and the drinks table was replenished with late night snacks, coffees and a variety of liquors, the subject turned to the reason they were together.
Daniel clinked a spoon on his scotch glass and the room fell quiet.
He and John stood shoulder to shoulder as Daniel ran through the various details of the following day … assembly area, order, time, expectations, attire, and finally an invitation to all to the family service afterwards, and the welcome news that all owners and handlers had agreed to a nighttime jaunt to an exclusive winery come theatre (no pets allowed) courtesy of the Aurelian Master, leaving all present, free to attend. (In truth Spike abhorred the ‘no pets’ rule and refused to patronize the place but in this case it had its advantages). He added, that the Master was devastated by the loss of his life partner of a hundred and fifty years, and that they must all be strong for him, just as he had protected them for so many years.
Daniel concluded by welcoming them all, particularly his brothers Adrian and Simon, and asking for a minute’s silence, not for his father in this case, but for the children of the line who had preceded their grandfather to the grave. There weren’t many but those who had died, whether by illness or mishap, were remembered and missed.
Finally he wished them all a good night, welcoming them to stay on and enjoy the evening but requesting the original generation of children and their partners meet in the smaller formal lounge room down the hall.
John had already moved by the time the announcement was made. He and Carlos walked hand in hand, Carlos noting the tension and lifting his partner’s hand to kiss the back hard in silent support. They entered first and cranked up the ‘false’ log fire a little. Carlos pulled open the drinks cabinet and noting the general lack of glasses, took a tray to retrieve the same and some of the food from the main hall.
The other siblings and breeding partners filed in, Monique came in last and kept her head down. She had carried the guilt of her brothers’ removal for years, despite the counseling at the time. And when the mutilation had occurred, there was no counselor on Earth that could have assuaged her sense of anguish. Now she was to face them.
Carlos returned and distributed glasses to everyone and filling them with the drink of choice, even if needs be it was water with some decorative mint and lemon slices.
“I have asked that we have this time together because our brothers are returned to us. In all our sadness, nothing could have shone more light on the departure of father than its resulting in expediting their return. So, would you all please raise your glasses… To Simon and Adrian… welcome home our beloved brothers…. May your remaining days be many, and surrounded by love and family.” The group responded “To Simon and Adrian.”
Formalities done with the group relaxed and began chatting, the two men were somewhat overwhelmed by the warm hugs, caressed cheeks and loving kisses they received in the space of a short 10 minutes. Simon noticed Monique near the door head still down, but shaking it furiously, her breeding partner quietly trying to persuade her of something. Simon touched his twin on the hand and held up his other as a means of staying the conversation they were in. He then led his brother over to where Monique stood, touched her partner on the shoulder, and asked with begging eyes if they might take his place in front of the woman. Both men knelt in front of their sister as Simon took her hand, put the back of it to his forehead and waited for a few seconds, then kissed it and placed it over his heart. Adrian then did the same.
Monique dropped to her knees flinging herself into their arms for a three way hug while she repeatedly asked for forgiveness. Adrian pulled out of the hug and cupped her fine jawline with his large hand. Holding her still and shook his head then carefully mouthed the words “Wasn’t You”. After years of not moving lips or tongue for speaking the action felt odd, but was necessary. When they pulled her back into the hug there was a more relaxed feel to it.
Eventually however she stood, as did they, and as her partner rejoined her. The twins both noted her small ‘bump’. Simon put a tentative hand on it and there was a wriggle beneath his fingers, he pulled back with surprise. “Yeah better be careful there brother of mine…. Jason here reckons it bites…” She leaned back into her lover and turned her head to receive a kiss. Simon put his hand back for a moment, then looked up at Monique quizzically. “It’s number 41… and this time a loner (thank goodness) usually have twins it seems!” Both mute brothers were wide eyed with wonder…. “Oh hey Desmonde’s the champ. Hey Desi… what’s your count now kids wise?”
The dark woman turned with a look of triumph, “Had numbers forty nine and fifty last spring. Might stop there don’t you think…. Nice round half century.” The woman grinned then squeezed her breeding partner’s hand, “Then we can have some *real* fun.”
A mere half hour later, the evening concluded with all present aware of the day ahead. As the couples began to leave, the two newly returned brothers looked confused and worried. They hung back near the fire with Simon rolling and unrolling his lead chain around his fingers as an obvious sign of distress. Finally Adrian simply fell into a down kneel by the fire and waited. His twin followed suit. At least if they were here all night they would be warm.
John was been busy making last minute arrangements with two of the breeding partners, as they would not be taking part in the formal ceremony, John was relying on them for some final preparations for the family event. He saw his brothers drop to their knees. He finished his conversation instantly and rushed over to kneel in front of them knees touching. Looking at the lost expressions John stated with shock, “You don’t think we’d leave you here do you!! Oh heck you did! I’m *so* sorry!” He put a gentle hand on a knee each and stated, “Daniel is sleeping in Master’s room to keep watch and help him to the funeral. You can have Dan’s room, until we sort you one when all the dust settles here. We’re pretty much all doubling up anyway with all the extras. I mean we’ve got as many as we can inside, the rest have just had to roughit with camp beds in the marquee. He left the key for you… here.” John pushed the key into Simon’s palm and led them to their abode. Noting the men were still uncomfortable about something, and noting Simon’s nervous habit, he took a punt. “Look, would you like my handler to help you tomorrow? He’ll be more than happy to take the leads and let you feel a bit more ‘normal’ yeah?”
Both men almost did themselves an injury they nodded with such enthusiasm. At some level deep within himself, Simon knew it was ridiculous to need such a person, but after so long being told what to do and being led, of knowing when to kneel and accept what was dealt, the idea of decision making or simply walking without someone in front was utterly terrifying. To do be expected to decide and deal for themselves when they were emotional as well, would be most unwise.
Daniel ascended the steps to his Master’s bedroom slowly. He was exhausted and it was only the wee hours of funeral day.
Entering the suite, he nodded to Stan, allowing the gentle demon to also get some rest (he was on duty with the seven to ten year old children at the funeral, that would test the patience of a saint let alone a demon…!).
Master was finally asleep, he noted the sweater, whose it had been and also that the electric blanket was still on ‘one’. He longed to crawl into the bed with Master, but it was *not* his place and certainly not tonight. He tugged a huge extra blanket from the cupboard and took the cushions from the chairs then settled down on the rug before the heater for a few hours’ rest.
There were nearly two thousand people in the circus tent sized marquee, including attending media. This was the death of a Prize Pet, Founding Sire of the famous Aurelius line, and human life partner of a world leader - no matter how private that Master Vampire might prefer it to be – this was an ‘event’ to be reported. Most of the demons attending were Spike’s political and business associates, others simply friends, many were the proud owners Aurelian humans. And there were many demons in the congregation that silently endorsed Spike’s choice of *human* life partner and more importantly the right to choose.
Spike had requested that every one of Xander’s offspring be present and had arranged accommodation in the surrounding area, a full day of entertainment for owners and their partners in appreciation for them agreeing to come and dinner out on the night after the family funeral.
As the audience entered the Chateau’s enormous marquee, all the humans of Xander’s immediate bloodline (but for the small children) were kneeling, clad in plain black capes and unfettered other than the usual collar – though that too was plain black leather. They were all touching shoulder to shoulder, facing the coffin, heads bowed and silent. They made twelve neat rows around fifty deep spanning the very front of the ‘hall’. For the demon audience attending it was an impressive sight.
John and Daniel flanked their Master as the tiny figure clad in an ancient leather duster and docs entered the marquee last as the slowly retreating strains of the Howe-Steffe’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic” ushered them to their seats… triumphant to the last… the organizers had let the sons choose. Forgoing all societal protocol, Xander’s two boys took a hand each and wrapped their free arm around the back of their father’s grieving partner. The three walked painfully slowly but proudly into the service. They settled Spike in the front row seat then both dropped to a kneel on either side of their Master and rested their cheeks on his thigh.
Master hadn’t eaten properly (but for the night before with his daughters) or slept restfully since Xander died. He was uncertain he could ever do so again…. The boys had decided… if he was to survive this without walking into the sun the next morning… he needed something… They both sported raw bite marks to their wrists so did two more of the daughters. As instructed in their father’s last note, they had all but force fed their Master after they gave him a drug the stud’s nurse guaranteed would take the ‘edge off’ the trauma of the funeral. The blood of family was still singing through his system, but even that didn’t really help.
Spike felt empty and detached as he sat. The cremation had taken place mere minutes after Master had closed the casket, as they had agreed some time the previous day. So there was a beautiful silver urn seated at the centre of an enormous wreath of white and pale yellow roses, gardenias, carnations and lilies, with a single blood red rose at its centre. Spike barely registered the walk to his seat but as he settled saw the sea of black before him, all Xander’s beautiful children, their children.
He began to shake again and Daniel snaked the hand furthest from the audience across his own body to grab his Master’s hand and squeezed. Concealed by his cloak John’s arm closest to Master wound around the strong calf, wrapping it in the closest thing to a hug he could manage under the circumstances.
Once the demon audience was settled, the master of ceremonies gave a flick of his hand. All the human offspring folded to a full down position, with the exception of around twenty heavily pregnant breeding females including Bethany, who were kneeling at the ends of each row and simply held a comfortable half down position. It signaled the beginning of the service.
The master of ceremonies was Spike’s good friend Janni. He welcomed everyone and began to speak, giving a little of the history of Alexander Aurelius (nee Harris) born on the Hellmouth in Sunnydale twenty four years before the Rise. Janni had carefully edited the details, knowing that the press would have a field day if they tied Spike to the Slayer somehow. The audience gasped as they realized the age to which Xander had lived. Janni went on to mention Xander’s role as nanny/carer for the Ralotisch family prior to their move to the south, then accelerated through Spike and Xander’s early years together. The focus was on the establishment of the bloodline and the extraordinary qualities of the Prize Pet and life partner. Janni extolled the quiet strength and support the Pet afforded his Master, Spike, and the devotion to his role as the Stud’s founding sire.
It all washed over Spike, his ears were ringing in an odd sort of way, and the room seemed like it was filled with fog. All their beautiful children, perfectly in rows and all theirs…. He *wished* it was Xander holding his hand… why couldn’t it be Xander… maybe it was, he thought he could see him… it was his hair resting against his thigh… The room began to spin. Daniel felt the grip relax and squeezed hard, jolting his Master back to the present.
The stud coordinator spoke next, praising the Founding Sire of the line for his consistent support, his excellent bloodline, and his calm approach to all things… Spike drifted again… It had never been calm… There was never a day when they both had not questioned what they were doing… Not a moment when the children who had left their care were forgotten… and many nights of holding and grieving and reassuring, worrying that what they were doing might all go belly up. There was always a taint of sadness when watching the children growing up… not really knowing what would happen to them once they were beyond the Chateau gates… It fueled the fierce resolve of Xander to make the youngsters’ lives even more joyful for the first seventeen years, a resolve matched by Spike’s own… They had mused once … what if … what if all this had not happened… what if there had been no Rise… or if they had chosen to simply go on with no family despite all the indicators that they should act… It would have meant none of the joy of each other if there had been no Rise, or joy of a family had they decided to stay as they were... In both cases Xander would likely be dead and Spike dusted years ago… the muse of that train of thought died that night, and they thanked a variety of deities for their lot, then reaffirmed their vow to improve the lot of others.
He realized Daniel was trying to extract his hand from the vice like grip of his Master and had clipped a lead to his collar. Spike shook himself a little and let go, allowing Daniel to be led to the front of the room by Marcus, as public protocol dictated, to speak on behalf of the Aurelian line. He knelt in a formal position with Marcus behind him, still holding the lead. He was thankful of the head down position as it allowed him the luxury of simply reading a prepared statement.
“Members of the Alliance of Ruling Regions, Head of the Clans of the South East, Esteemed guests and members of the press. Many thanks for attending this service for the Founding Sire of the Aurelian line, my Master’s life partner and prize pet. I speak on behalf of his many offspring. I wish to pay tribute to our Master and founding sire for the gift of life and for their tireless efforts on the behalf of all Aurelian offspring. We of the breeding line consider ourselves fortunate indeed to have been borne into such an esteemed stud. On behalf of my Master, I also wish to publicly acknowledge all the owners in the audience for agreeing to allow a gathering of the line here today, it is much appreciated. Establishing a breeding line such as the Aurelian Stud requires a fine founding Sire and a commitment to excellence from both stallion and Master. It also requires outside support and advice, Master wishes to thank the many owners, breeders, business and political leaders who had supported the Aurelian Stud over the years.” (The latter as close to a political statement as Janni dared make, but those in the know would understand). Daniel then turned to face the urn, “Goodbye dear father, Sire of our line and partner to our beloved Master. You will be sorely missed.” Daniel then followed Marcus back to his place at Spike’s feet.
Daniel had arranged Taps as the music to conclude the short service. It was played by a sole bugler standing on the sweeping steps of the Chateau just behind the marquee. For Spike, there was no amount of drugs that could blot out the gut wrenching message… He’d lived in the human world and listened to it, he knew its meaning. The tribute to those who’d fallen seemed fitting, if anyone had been a warrior for good, it had been his Xander. All the children had been told the meaning of the ancient, rarely heard tune, and as it sounded, the ground under the group became awash with the silent tears of grief for the fallen father of their line.
Master squeezed his hand so hard that Daniel felt a finger snap when the music started. But as it concluded and the long clear note rang out, his Master began to fall forward. He was tempted to break protocol but knew that would have longer term repercussions for the whole family with press present. Instead, without breaking his kneel he tore his wrist open on a bolt under the chair and pressed it against the vampire’s mouth. He was pleased to feel Spike latch on and muffle an anguished cry then take some blood. John squeezed the leg he was holding even tighter and as the audience stood to leave, he too offered his wrist.
Fortified, Spike stood with assistance and slowly but proudly exited into the waiting crowd. John had dutifully attached a lead also but they both took the trouble of sliding the loop over Spike’s wrist so he did not have to hold them. Protocol and press demanded that they be perfectly behaved today of all days, so the leads were essential. Spike was inundated with well wishers and the flash of bulbs. The reporters interviewing all and sundry, commenting on the service, the attendees, the exquisite house, the impeccable behavior of the offspring, and threw in an occasional passing of mention of the actual reason they were there. Spike made an effort to thank the members of the Alliance who attended, plus a number of other leaders who had no other reason to be there than a genuine concern for human rights and respect for Spike and his pet. Spike found Janni and Marcus, and thanked them sincerely as the cameras shone upon them. He was sure they would not use the footage but was pleased to do it anyway. He stayed for almost three quarters of an hour, being pleasant, grateful, charming, polite, noble, and survived… just….survived.
The gardens were well lit and the Chateau ballroom open and with snacks and drinks for guests who wished to partake. Some people were returning home but for those going to the evening of entertainment arranged, the buses provided were beginning to fill. Spike took his leave and flanked by John and Daniel, ascended the steps of their home to ready themselves for the private service.
The family funeral was held outside under Master and Grandfather’s favorite oak tree. The gentle slope down from the house and the oak a little way up the opposing slope provided a perfectly natural amphitheatre. Brasseries and outdoor oil lamps had been placed around the area for light and some warmth, rows of picnic blankets had been placed on the ground to sit on, and neatly folded blankets were piled here and there in case further protection was desired. The urn was front and centre under the oak along with its beautiful flower arrangement but this time, all the flowers the children had kissed and placed by the coffin the previous day were strewn around it too.
The family members with a role in the proceedings sat close to the front while the remaining took their places quietly. Someone – probably one of the lovely grounds staff, had thought to bring a chair down for Master.
Petros, John’s huge, gentle personal handler, wandered down the slope with his two silent charges. He had heard of the brutality they had lived with and knew, from experiences outside the Chateau, that these two men were going to need more than a little help to ease out of the training of nearly sixty years. He resolved to speak to Master as he felt he would like to be a part of the process if he could help. He also felt that Carlos, who was also assigned to him, would be a good influence on the twins. Arriving at the venue he touched them both lightly on the shoulder and they folded to a kneel instantly. “I am going to let John take your leads for the part with the brothers. Are you OK with that?” The two men nodded heads that were already down.
Petros moved to crouch in front of them, “You’re with only those of the household now. Especially when there is only offspring you keep those chins high, Master will want that. Can you remember to keep your chins high when there is just family?” The two nodded a little slowly, but lifted their heads and nodded again. Petros smiled, a pointy toothed grin and patted them both on the arm, “Well done… Very well done.” Adrian breathed a sigh of relief at having definitely done something right, and was grateful for the kind handler’s understanding and praise.
Eventually everyone was settled and this time it was Octavia who did the honors as MC.
“Thank you all for coming to honor father and join with us in giving thanks for a life well lived and well loved. I would ask that we begin as father would, by paying tribute to the Master, his life partner, and as he told us so many times, the light and the love of his life, his friend and protector.” The entire group faced their Master and went into full down position touched the ground then returned to whatever sitting position they started in. “ Thank you Master for all you have done for us, please let us ease your burden in the days and weeks to come.”
“Father’s life was unique as was stated in the formal service, he was borne on the Hellmouth in Sunnydale at the very beginning of the nineteen eighties. His home life was not happy, something that spurred him on, with the support of Master, to make ours such a joy later. He was friends with the Slayer … the only one of her time… even resuscitating her and bringing her back from death twice. He lost his eye in their final fight with the First Evil. Master fought alongside Father for at least three of the final years of Sunnydale but they lost track of each other. After the Rise, father was captured in England, he survived because of his experiences in Sunnydale where he had learned that not all demons are ‘evil’ – as all of us here are aware.” She paused for effect and looked around all the handlers and household staff not of the human species.
“After ten years of loyal service the family was caught in the madness following the demon wars and had to sell all their slaves. Master found father on the docks by chance. And the rest is history. Their love affair began that very day.” (Octavia knew from a private discussion with father that it was a week or two but … poetic license!) “Initially part of the resistance movement, then beginning to work in the business sector to gain influence, Master and father have worked tirelessly over their years together to fundamentally change the laws for the treatment of humans and other slaves across the world.
“Father was never limited by his status. He reveled in the challenge. But that was true of Master also. Father was often heard to say that he was so loved by Master that to serve him in any way was his greatest joy and that he received tenfold any love he gave. Father was a warrior for good for the whole of his one hundred and eighty four years.
“Today we, his children say goodbye to his mortal body but not to his spirit, that lives on with all of us. We are his legacy and we honor him by continuing his bloodline and its traditions; by considering the moral code we were all raised with and by loving our children as he did us; and by performing our duties while working toward a better tomorrow as best we are able.”
“Thank you father for all you have given us…. We will not forget.” Octavia’s voice broke and she moved to the side letting John and the two silent brothers join Daniel and turn to address the group.
It was John who spoke while the other brothers simply stood behind. John and Daniel deciding that it was necessary that only one of them speak rather than highlighting the other men’s limitations.
“I am speaking on behalf of my three brothers and myself. We wanted to celebrate father’s sense of fun. He was able to make any activity a special event. The best of those of course were the ones with Master… but sometimes it was just father. Rather than a lot of descriptions we have chosen to give you a bit of a list from our early memories of him – and you can add your own… so here goes…
“- Rolling races (how many of you remember lying at the top of the north sheep hill and seeing if you could beat father to the bottom rolling …)
- Pooh Sticks (a rite of passage for the sixes - and father *always* cheated!)
- Bombing the pool (he could always make the *biggest* splash!)
- Fishing (he was dreadful at it and we don’t think he really liked it but he took us anyway)
- Sneaking donuts and snacks from the kitchen (who’s done that with father?)” Virtually every hand went up and Simon smiled a little it was one of his favorite memories.
“You add your own…. Father has shown us how to be loyal, courageous and fair, and not to lose the child inside. And he taught us by word and deed how to love – and not just by his generous hugs and kisses for us, but by allowing us to see his deep, mature love for our wonderful Master.
“Thank you father. Thank you for giving us all such very happy memories.” The four men took their places again, Petros took the leads from John and whispered, “You did fine,” to the two men as they knelt.
A pair of blonde, curly haired twin boys with saucer wide brown eyes stepped forward holding hands. The one on the left began, “This is a poem by A.A. Milne called “When I was Six”.”
The second little boy all but interrupted, “We were going to read the one about Alexander beetle because grandfather used to like that one, but we all know this one by heart so Bethany said we should do this one.”
The first little lad butted back in, “And anyway grandfather said you have to know this one or you can’t play Pooh Sticks.” There were many smiles and a few chuckles at the last statement, but the audience all hushed again as the second little boy continued. “We would like you not to clap at the end because this is for grandfather.”
And after that, their two little leaders turned to the group of eight little children behind him and whispered (loudly!), “ Ready, set, Go!”, and they recited in unison.
“When I was One
I had just begun
When I was Two
I was nearly new
When I was Three
I was hardly Me
When I was Four
I was not much more
When I was Five
I was just alive
But now I am Six, I’m as clever as clever.
So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.”
One little fellow on the end of the row beamed widely at the conclusion of the poem, and the little girl next to him nudged him, and was heard to whisper… “Sposed ta be serious!” to which he shrugged but toned down his grin.
Bethany moved forward as they finished, quietly thanked them, and led them from the central area, leaving the central area for Xander’s daughters.
Desmonde was spokesperson this time. “Father we pay tribute to your role as advisor and friend. You were the hug when a hug we needed, you were the shoulder to cry on, the advisor when wise words were needed, our silent support always.
“You allowed us to become who we are today… yet every day you grieved that all your children could not stay with you. If only you could see us all together father… we are many and strong… and we are all still your children… we always will be… ” Desmonde trailed off but had finished.
A ten year old Kathryn then stepped forward ready to read the “Badger’s Parting Gifts” - a much loved ancient piece by Susan Varley telling of the very old Badger’s peaceful death and his friends fond memories of him - as per Xander’s instructions. He had thought it would “help the littlies to understand”. The young brunette knelt in front of the tree dutifully turning the book so each page could be seen by the children gathered in the front. The crowd at the back could not see but she spoke with a cultured clarity and confidence that paid honor to her heritage, and the moment. She inadvertently looked up once and her eyes locked with the crystal blue orbs of her Master. Tears were streaming down his cheeks yet he stared at her with such adoration and gratitude that she almost faltered. But only ‘almost’, this was her ‘job’ and it was for Grandfather.
Bethany was so proud of her grand niece… The many children present had been read the story two or three times in the days leading up to the event so that they enjoyed it all the more on the day. And Bethany had asked the temporary staff to have the children draw pictures of their favorite things about their family to leave at Grandfather’s oak tree on the day of the funeral.
She signaled the smaller children to stand and move to the ancient oak as the last line of the story was read…. “"Thank you Badger," he said softly, believing that Badger would hear him. And…somehow…Badger did."” Kathryn closed the book and the line of fifty or so girls and boys continued to solemnly place their pictures beside the enormous bunch of flowers surrounding the urn of ashes. Some were mere scratches on a page from the enthusiastic two year olds, others intricate pictures happy memories including many showing Grandfather and Master hand-in-hand, or Grandfather at kneeling at Master’s side.
Next, a tall twelve year old boy with crystal blue eyes and near black straight hair, stood to speak as the choir of teenage children lined themselves up with a little instruction from their handlers and tutors.
“We chose Eidel Weiss because grandfather used to love musicals and we have the Sound of Music in our library here (as you all probably know). We also chose it because it is about family, and about love, and about a world outside their home that is not very nice. This is a song about loving your homeland and for us that means Chateau Aurelius.” The boy stopped nodded at Master, then turned to conduct the accapella rendition of the famous tune. The initial round was sung by the younger children but when the trained voices of the boys and girls in their late teens were added, the depth of harmony and base, and associated crescendo had the music soaring … a performance worthy of their grandfather’s memory (and one that left few dry eyes in their audience).
It was nearing the end of the service. Finally Spike stood in his place and turned to the group and leaned heavily on the back of chair he had been sitting on.
He took quite some time to compose himself. The family waited in patient silence.
“You are all of the Aurelian line, you are all our beautiful children.” Spike paused again and took a deep unnecessary breath. “He… Xander… my Xan… my darling…pet…. my love… he” Spike took another breath and let it out slowly. “He was so proud of you all as am I… um….” Spike looked up through the leaves of their beautiful oak… as they had done so often in the past while lovemaking under the stars. Two tears tracked down Master’s features. “He… um…. We must carry on… He was…. the love of my un-life, and now he’s gone.”
Out of the corner of her eye Bethany saw Daniel move with near lightening speed, jumping to his feet and catching Master as his knees gave out.
He took the paper Master was clutching and handed it to Octavia, as he continued to hold Master with as much dignity as he could. Octavia read out the familiar poem:
“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach…
when feeling out of sight, for the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use in my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose with my lost saints.
I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears, of all my life.
And, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.”
John led the other brothers to the front again and Bethany wordlessly moved to replace Daniel at Spike’s side. Each of the original 13 children took a handful of ash from the urn, said their own blessing and sprinkled it on the ground at the base of the ancient oak. Then Master stood with effort, took a handful of ash and dropped to his knees again. He tearfully sprinkled it, but no words would come.
He slowly took the urn and tipped the remaining ash onto the ground spreading it out lovingly, and mixing it with the soil until none could be seen. He then sat motionless kneeling at the foot of the tree. Desmonde folded to a kneel behind Master and waited, as did Daniel, who also nodded to his brother. John turned and indicated that the service had concluded then ushered the group up the hill.
Daniel said in a low voice. I think they’ve all gone Master.” At which their Master immediately folded into a full down position. Something that should have shocked them but both children understood. They could see the evidence of hitched sobs easily but the words were only just decipherable if listening very, very closely. “Never… another… luv… you’re it… ‘fraid… I’m yours… member… I’m yours… Love you…. love you….”
The family members and all the staff made their way back to the ballroom again. The food was plentiful and the drinks flowed freely…. All the children were present including the very tiniest. Daniel and Desmonde knew this and made it their business to ensure Master attended albeit a little later than planned. This was his *and* father’s family regardless of the external dictates of the world….and he needed to feel that now more than ever.
About to enter the ballroom, the Master instead, stood at the doorway and tried to take it all in. There were over seven hundred people and all but the staff, were related *directly* to Xander and by proxy, to him.
Kathryn wandered over with Nathaniel in her arms, bowed her head politely rather than dropping to a kneel as was custom, then almost fell as the little boy twisted and reached out for Master. “I think you have a friend wanting to visit, Master. Is it…” Before she had finished the sentence the boy was in Master’s arms and his bloodshot blue eyes seemed to sparkle a little as the boy squeaked and patted his face, as if to bring on the game face again.
The daughters had thought to bring in Pet’s chair and Spike sat with relief, Nathaniel still holding on limpet like, unwilling to get down. Seeing a child with Master, a number of other young ones also made their way over for a ‘cuddle’. Apart from anything else, Master was seated and therefore easier to play with than the other adults… and he was theirs!
Daniel went to fetch Master (and himself) a drink but returned to find Master utterly covered in little folks and thoroughly engaged. Daniel breathed a sigh of relief and downed his scotch in a single gulp. He watched as a shy five year old explained her daisy chain to Master, while another told him what he drew as his picture for grandfather. Another little fellow, around eighteen months old, simply got up onto the vampire’s lap, tucked himself into the duster under Master’s free arm (the other still ‘owned by Nathaniel) and promptly fell asleep. After Nathaniel was collected (under protest), a tiny red head with stuffed ‘Peter Rabbit’ trailing along behind her, put her arms up to be lifted. She too settled into Master’s lap, and with thumb in mouth and rabbit pulled to her face, also fell asleep.
The two little bodies radiated heat, warm breaths and fast beating hearts pulsing in counter rhythms. It was a blessing beyond anything else Spike could imagine at that moment. It grounded him and let him simply relax for the children’s sake. He allowed himself to listen to the conversations around him… and permitted himself to smile a little. His Xan, a father and grandfather extraordinaire…. The little bodies continued to snuggle and Spike drifted off to sleep.
The children were eventually ushered to bed in reverse age order… the eldest allowed to stay if they wished, but it was nearing three in the morning so all eventually disappeared. The adults too reluctantly took their leave hugging tight and promising to try to get word through should they not see each other again in the near future.
Daniel was grey with exhaustion as the last stragglers moved off to their sleeping quarters. Master was fast asleep with the two little people still curled up around him. Daniel simply eased Pet’s chair back into a full recline then threw the afghan rug over all the sleeping bodies on the chair. The fire was still on high and he left it that way, rather than the floor though, he pulled a chais lounge closer, fell onto it curling into a fetal position and tugged two small throw rugs over himself. At least he was here if one of the littlies were stirring or if Master was distressed.
Desmonde woke early and decided to check on Daniel. She was worried, he was looking so exhausted the previous evening and had been a tower of strength through this whole awful period, as had John, but John had Carlos. In fact they all had someone else but for Daniel, and though he had chosen that status and was happy with it, at times like these, he too needed support. She knocked quietly, but there was no one in Master’s rooms.
Wandering along the hall, she tapped gently on the door of Daniel’s suite and eased it open. In Daniel’s bed, wrapped in each other, were the twin brothers. The tangle of limbs was clearly for comfort not sex, and had obviously been developed over years of taking solace in each other. Simon spooned Adrian from the back and both men were facing the door. She was embarrassed to realize that she had been standing wide eyed for a little too long as Adrian opened his eyes and focused on her. She whispered “Oh, hey sorry, sorry! I was looking for Danny.” Adrian gave a small nod then paused and patted the patch of bed in front of him.
Desmonde wandered across and sat on the edge. Her brother took her hand, squeezed it gently, then kissed it. “Oh sweetie…” She stroked a stray grey lock from his forehead, “You OK after the last couple of days?” She kept stroking the soft skin near his hairline. Adrian locked eyes with hers, his was a haunted look but tinged with trust and love. “You take your time getting used to all this. I know Petros is going to help you, I overheard John and he talking.” Adrian looked puzzled so Desmonde continued, “He’s John and Carlos’ handler – he took your leads yesterday. He really is rather a lovely individual.” Adrian’s eyes brightened with a flicker of understanding and hope. He took his sister’s hand and touched the back of it to his forehead, then pushed it to his hairless chest. Neither brother had much body hair at all, and both were very slender compared to John and Daniel. The daughters had been informed that the loss of muscle mass and body hair were typical side effects of their castration though strangely it also prevented baldness.
She smiled warmly, “Come down to the nursery later… it’s the best spot in the house at the moment….” She squeezed his hand, “Hey…. I’d better go.” She kissed his forehead then returned downstairs, fairly certain that Daniel would be found in the party room of last night.
The wiccan sister tiptoed into the still rather messy room, noting the sleeping bodies with a rueful smile. Spike with his two little human heaters on the Pet chair, and Daniel curled in a ball on the narrow lounge near the fire. She was worried about both her relatives. Her brother looked cold, tense and tired even in his sleep. She touched him gently on the shoulder. He woke with a start. “Shhhh, hey… it’s just Desi…” He visibly relaxed. “Why don’t you go use our bed for a few hours, you look like you need the sleep! Neil is up with the twins already, and I’ll stay here in case the kids wake, door’s not locked.”
Daniel didn’t say a word, just nodded, sat up with an obvious effort and padded out of the room to find some much needed sleep in a soft bed.
Desmonde smiled as she noticed the little girl stirring merely enough that Master instinctively rubbed her back where his hand was resting and she settle again. The tiny female form now lay draped across his belly button area, face toward Master and thumb still firmly planted in her mouth. The little boy was still mostly in Master’s armpit but had also migrated a little higher and had twisted until he was hugging the vampire’s neck. Master woke slowly as the boy began to nuzzle and make small squeaks as he roused. “Hey my lovely, grandson of master vampire….” Master smiled as he registered the warmth and the small bodies and put a hand on each child, conveying his love as best he could with the simple touch. He then lifted the little fellow to sit beside him as a few high pitched whimpers and snuffles came from the tiny waking female.
Desmonde moved to kneel beside her Master’s chair. “Shall I take them for you Master?”
“No ‘s fine Pet. Cherubs kept me right cosy last night… least I can do is carry ‘em home… Daniel?..”
“….Is in Neil’s and my bed. He was exhausted poor love. He was concerned for you, so stayed the night on the lounge over there until I came in.”
“Daft bugger, ‘m not an invalid…” The woman gave Master such a motherly look of incredulity mixed with genuine concern that the vampire ceased his protestations and simply sat up, placed a little person each side of him before turning to make a seat out of each arm. He then carried his little sleeping partners back to the nursery facing forward and swinging their legs happily with each of Master’s strides. He lowered them to the ground, accepted a hug from each, then let them join the group of under fives for breakfast.
From around midday to late evening, Spike did what the Master of Aurelius was expected to do following the funeral day as guests and friends departed. He was engaging and charming to a fault as the grieving but staunchly proud Master of the Chateau. He thanked them all politely for their support and promised to be in touch when ‘things settled down’. If one of the Aurelian line accompanied a demon guest (their owner), the Master of Aurelius placed a cool hand on their shoulder, kissed their forehead, and whispered, ‘Family, always’.
As his friend the extraordinary Janni approached him to take his leave, Spike opened his arms and took him into a hug, and as the floppy arms reciprocated, said “There are no words….”
The crimson eyes twinkled with affection and concern, “Then don’t say any, ‘cause there are none needed. I’ll be in touch in the next couple of days. You take it easy OK?” Spike simply nodded. Janni was the last to leave.
As Master turned to go inside,his ears began to ring, the world spun and his knees gave out again. He was caught on the way down by John. Master leant against the solid, warm form for some time before he felt the vibrations through the chest rather than heard John talking to him.
“How long since you have eaten, Master?”
“You… yesterday… service.” Master was looking particularly pale, and had the blue tinge to his lips again.
“Let’s get you inside, fed and rested.”
The daughters resumed their vigilant ‘minding’ of Master, but this time the roster was extended to include the twins and several of the granddaughters. A week or so later he had the pleasant distraction of the birth of Bethany’s twins. There were other babies due soon but these two were the first since Xander’s death … so, special.
Spike wandered down to the breeding pair’s room to congratulate them, only to be confronted with a frantic Nikki who dropped instantly to his knees and begged master to attend his partner. The placenta had not come away properly, she had been bleeding severely, and then it transpired had suffered a prolapse. Luckily, the stud’s wonderful nurse had identified the issues quickly and the obstetrician for humans was still on hand, so had performed the relevant surgery immediately.
It didn’t help Nikki however. Nothing had ever gone wrong before, and these were only Beth’s fifth and sixth children from her three pregnancies…. Admittedly the doctor had commented that the large size of the newborn twin girls, the stress leading up to delivery (regards the funeral), and the fact that she had produced triplets in her last pregnancy, all likely contributing factors to the immediate problem. Nevertheless, Nikki was terrified of losing the mother of his children and his best friend. The Master stepped up to his usual role as protector. He hugged the man close head to his chest – even kneeling, Nikki was three quarters his Master’s height.
Master slipped into the sick room. Bethany was propped up a little on pillows looking pale and drawn but peaceful in slumber. Her eyes fluttered open as Master entered the room. He smiled at her, said nothing but dropped his fangs without falling into game face, and tore his wrist open. She took two long drafts of the ambrosial fluid then fell asleep again. Spike licked his wound closed, kissed the pale forehead, then departed. Her partner was still kneeling by the door as Master exited the suite. “She’ll be fine Nikki…”
“Thank you Master… thank you!”
“Are the newborn’s well?”
“Oh yes Master… they are beautiful, Master.” Spike saw Nikki’s eyes fill with tears of fatherly pride.
“It would seem so master….” Nikki smiled and let one tear escape.
Spike pulled the man to his feet and they wandered down to the newborns nursery… normally the children were with their mothers in the first days, but with Bethany so poorly they were taken out for a few hours at a time to let her sleep.
Despite the distraction of Bethany and various little ones who seemed to have taken it upon themselves to bestow the ‘grandfather proportion’ of their attention and affection on Master, two months later still saw Master generally listless when at home, and increasingly less willing to eat, let alone communicate unless with youngsters, or when unavoidable.
At first the depth of his fugue went unnoticed as his political duties did not ease up, indeed there was virtually no respite in the ensuing six months as the climate became more volatile after the loss of his life partner and the public funeral service for the human Pet of an Alliance representative.
The press, already stunned by the age and devotion apparent in the beloved Pet of the Master Vampire, did not have to dig too deep to discover the deceased had possessed skills and attributes respected amongst the most elite of the demon world. This flew in the face of conservative arguments that humans were in no way worthy of the respect of demons. The fight in Abu Dhabi twenty five years earlier was reported for the first time and tributes flowed in from the clans in the former USA that had benefited directly from its fallout at the time.
The human rights debate was quite suddenly raging in the open, and Spike’s allies reveled in it. The leverage was wonderful as the press cited the Aurelian Stud as ‘one of the best examples’ of what was possible regards human breeding and training. Others in Spike’s circle played up the importance of harmonious relationships between handlers and humans, and handlers and masters (though some had come to practicing what they preached quite late!). The whole public fuss coincided with a World Forum on Slaving Practices. The forum was to particularly focus on regulations pertaining to food farms, selective breeding, transport and living circumstances; and the less savory public practices of flogging, execution, and public ‘servicing’ of Masters in food halls and areas where young demons might observe.
Xander had done in death what Spike and he had tried to do in life for the last twenty five years… He had shaken the very foundations of the slavers’ codes of practice and swung public opinion firmly toward the liberal thinkers and their reforms.
The Master was constantly in demand. Press interviews, feature stories, keynote speeches, travel and meetings, and all the while Daniel worried. Master had always been slim, now Daniel watched helplessly as his Master became positively gaunt. He made sure the bed was always warm; that there was always fresh body temperature blood on hand; that the bath was run without asking; that clothes were laundered and the coming day’s schedule understood. Yet night after night the vampire ignored the food and often even the pleasure of a bath, choosing instead to bury himself under a pile of blankets and curl up around a pillow apparently instantly asleep. But Master’s problem wasn’t sleeping it was waking.
Spike knew he was there, so he reached into the shadows, always blue shadows of late, that was odd… why blue? And there he was … and he could feel him again, touch him, but it felt wrong and Spike was puzzled … his Xan was restored this time, young skin and taut muscles, but his eye still missing? And the white hair remained? Odd. Xander was grinning broadly but wouldn’t talk to Spike… His Xan always talked to him when they were by themselves. Spike called out to him but the beloved face simply smiled at him, not a sound, just sending love through that joyous look. His love’s hand caressed Spike’s cheek and he tried to get closer, to kiss the beautiful mouth but Xander kept drifting away… his legs becoming a swirl of cloud, and the eyes suddenly tinged with sadness… and then he was vapor… and then he was gone. Spike called and cried and called… but to no avail…
Master woke on his side with a strangled cry and to the sensation of tears running across his nose to join those already falling to the pillow on the other side. Daniel was at his bedside gently rubbing his arm, a look of concern tinged with a measure of desperation firmly in place.
This was a mild one… twice in the last week, Master had woken in game face growling fiercely at some unseen assailant who was taking his Pet away. Daniel had backed off both times until consciousness and control returned, along with the usual haunted look and the tears. The dreams always seemed worse when they were away.
This time the Alliance was meeting in London to coincide with the Global forum. The dreams were worse, too many memories of Xander around every corner of the old city. Vampire and claimed life partner had spent almost fifteen years in and around the city during their early times.
Daniel and Master had only been gone for ten days but Daniel yearned for home. He spoke perfect English but preferred the lilt of spoken French, not to mention the company of his siblings and family, and the Chateau’s relaxed atmosphere. But above all, he really did not know how to help Master. He was coming to the same conclusion as Desmonde and Monique, they needed to find Master a reason to go on, beyond the frantic work pace he was currently maintaining and beyond the ‘global change’ agenda. Master needed family, they all knew that and were ready to give, but only when he was ready to accept.
By the end of the second week, all signatories to the Alliance (as well as four new regions yet to be admitted to the group) had ratified the new global standards and committed their regions to
adopting the changes within the next twenty four months. Penalties for non compliance were to include a boycott on trade and exclusion from the Alliance. Some concessions were made for the clans of the very northern regions where food sources other than human had all but dried up, but these would only mean an extra eighteen months to adopt all standards.
In every region there was an immediate ban on ‘battery farms’ and the use of hormones to accelerate growth in the feed humans. Free range farming would be tolerated but strictly monitored by the new Human Protection Committee established in every region, with a recommendation that the modified humans (now considered a true subspecies) be the only ones bred for food. Flesh farms were banned altogether (these had specialized in ‘harvesting’ living flesh, organs or body fluids from humans repeatedly until the individuals inevitably succumbed).
It was felt that a two year period was reasonable to phase out food farms as there was an ever increasing demand for the artificially produced products. Far cheaper and with more reliable quality, the factory produced tissue and synthetically manufactured fluids had grown exponentially in popularity over the past eight or nine years. The Alliance agreed to fund poorer regions to increase production in the factories to cover any shortfalls.
For Pet humans and working slaves, the Human Protection Committee also gave hope. Servicing Masters in public was banned. It was a demon equity issue, with a number of the committee pointing out that their own very different methods of attaining sexual pleasure did not allow public satisfaction, and that they found the preferred use of humans by some of their demon compatriots quite repugnant. Leads were to remain, but the laws regarding compulsory wearing of body chains were rescinded.
The greatest change came with the reinstating of the right to practice magic, with Wiccan’s and Warlocks assigned to a newly created ‘special category’ of human. All magical humans now had to be registered by their owners, but were able to practice if their Master obtained a license to do so. The debate had raged for three days straight, with the turning point coming as the success of Pets learning martial arts in order to defend their Masters was cited (Xander’s defense of his master at the Alliance meeting again mentioned as the catalyst).
Daniel and Master returned home exhausted but with a sense of victory. The next Alliance meeting was to occur in the former Beijing in five months’ time. He hoped it would give Master time to work through his grief properly and heal a little.
After seeing Master’s dreadful state upon his return, Megan and Kathryn made it their business to ensure he fed, employing any method they could think of to have him consume adequate amounts. They were both newly pregnant and free of newborns to care for, so if feeding took an hour or two twice a day it was still acceptable. Daniel was infinitely grateful to his sisters and Master’s physical condition improved.
Master still insisted on spending the first part of every evening under the favorite oak, even in the winter months when the chill wind threatened to freeze him in place, an undead statue paying tribute to his lost love. Daniel had a bench seat placed at the base facing the west keeping him in shadow should the sun come up before Master realized.
Spike now sat on the seat wrapped in a large sleeping bag, enjoying the warmth and taking in its familiar smell.
It was nearing year seventy eight of their time at the Chateau. Xander was becoming frail but they still decided to lie under their tree. They took supplies these days, a large warming mat for the ground and double sleeping bag stuffed with two layers of warmth – one duck down and the other wool. Monique had made the bag for them after seeing her father return from one of their ‘evenings at the tree’ looking decidedly blue and shivering.
They had been lying on their backs for over an hour, nude inside their warm bed, staring up through the bare branches at the full moon. They watched as the wintry breeze tugged the last brown leaf from its hold and whisked it away. Both caught in their own thoughts, they were happy just to lie together without saying anything. No words need be pass between them to enjoy each other’s company these days. They both knew calm, and felt cherished and loved… silence was always comfortable after so many years. Finally Xander had rolled onto his side and slid his hand down to Spike’s soft member, stroking it gently until he felt it tweak a little and begin to ‘pay attention’ to his ministrations.
“You needin’ somethin’ pet.”
“Uh huh… and figured I’d help myself… OK by you?”
Spike grinned at his partner, “Always luv… have at it… I’m all yours…” The wicked twinkle and slight smirk on Xander’s face upon hearing these words, were worthy of the vampire himself.
Xander’s head disappeared immediately, the hand was replaced by a hot mouth and an experienced tongue that not only pulled the erection to full strength with one pass, but had the attached body arching off the ground and groaning with instant need for more.
As the mouth continued, Spike pushed down under the covers also, turning to a diagonal and hauling his partner over the top of him accepting his partner’s still somewhat flaccid flesh into his own mouth and laving it to stiffness. Pleasure was drawn out by many years’ worth of intimate knowledge of the other partner’s preferences. Spike tickled along Xander’s perineum and breached the waiting entrance with one finger then two. Xander rolled Spike’s balls in his hand and tugged gently on the scrotum just enough to feel tension but not enough to hurt. Finally Spike released his mouth and whispered hoarsely… “C’mon luv, spin around and let me fix you up good and proper.. hey?”
Xander released his mouth and turned until he was head at the entrance to the sleeping bag again.
“On your side luv. Let me do this for you.” Xander heard the snick of a tube of lube as he rolled then felt himself breached and filled in one swift action.
They continued at a leisurely pace for almost three quarters of an hour… Spike gently caressing Xander’s hardness as he slid in and out ever so slowly…. Finally they both needed more and Spike sped them to completion.
The remainder of the evening was spent reading poetry, kissing, and talking. That night they talked of ‘after Xander’ at length for the first time… and Spike promised… he had promised to go on.
Deep in his memories, Master did not see the little girl approach. Aged seven or eight with pale skin, huge, dark chocolate eyes, and long black hair, she silently joined him on the seat amongst the shadows. She sat quietly for some time, but when not acknowledged, she finally spoke.
“Do you come here to talk to grandfather?”
Spike frowned at her and looked puzzled, obviously surprised to realize he was not alone. “Wha..?”
“You know, ‘cause the tree will hear and maybe pass the message on.”
Spike simply grunted in semi agreement, “Hhmmm.”
“You’re still sad aren’t you.” The little girl began to swing her legs. “Mother says it’s OK to be sad, but not forever.” She looked hard at Master then spoke again, “You can have my wish flower if you want. If you kiss it and make a wish, grandfather will hear… I’ve done it every Tuesday since he died.” She thrust a large blood red rose into his hand the thorns had been carefully removed.
Spike accepted the flower, held it thoughtfully for a moment, and stared at its dark perfection.
The little girl all but bounced in anticipation, “Well? Come on…. Kiss it!”
Spike obliged and stood to place it carefully under the tiny brass plaque marking Xander’s final resting place.
The little girl had spun to kneel on the seat and was looking carefully at her Master. “You know I’m Esther right?”
“Of course…. What are you doing wandering around in the dark all by yourself, niblet.”
“I like the dark…. and I just love the moon,” She stared up as if to illustrate the point. “It’s so pretty, besides I’ve got magic abilities, and I’m going to be a really powerful wiccan one day….”
She paused to stare hard at him, “I don’t have to breed if I don’t want to right?”
“Them’s the rules.”
Another calculating look, “But what if I don’t want to be a pet either?…. Could I stay on the property if I didn’t breed? You know, if I was like the protector or something.. If I help run things…. I’m good at running things…. and if my magic was strong… that is, if you…. If umm …. if….” She trailed off but noticed that Master looked somewhat bemused by her outburst. She plucked up her courage again and added, “Can I come out here with you again… you know… to sit? I promise I can be quiet if you want.”
Spike simply opened his arms that had been holding the cover tightly around his body in an invitation for the tiny wiccan to join him in the warmth. As the warm little body settled by his side and he wrapped them both in the soft covers, he suddenly felt a little less lonely.
It was the first night of many sitting with his extraordinary raven haired grandchild.
Weeks merged into months and months into years… And every night Master was seen going to the tree, and every night Esther joined him. Whether they spoke or sat in silence, the pattern was always the same. He would sit, she would wander up, he would open up the now tattered old folds of the sleeping bag, and they would just… be.
Esther was indeed magically gifted. Her powers grew as she did. As she turned twenty there was a ‘blossoming’ of her ability, tapping into the mystical forces of dark and light…. At twenty one her simple entrance of a room had it rippling with her power and energy. The only person who was un-phased by the extraordinary being was her Master. Spike marveled at his protégé…. He knew that in times of old, Esther would have stood toe to toe with ‘Red’ or any of the leading Wiccans in terms of power, sadly she was denied that, she was alone.
In times of old she would also, no doubt, have been surrounded by the wisdom and kind attention of her sister wiccans. Now, at only twenty one, she was alone, and from all accounts, by far the most powerful witch on the planet… her saving grace was Master. Thankfully she was of the Aurelian line so specialist tutors were a given, and the fact that she was being coached in magical practice… tolerated.
There were other Aurelian children so gifted but for one parameter that differentiated Esther from the others… she tapped into the energy of both sides, light and dark, drawing on the power of her grandfather *and* his life partner, Master … The dark energy coupled with the gentle soul had been her guiding light, her silent strength since she could remember... Master had promised… they had talked, he needed her and they had agreed….
It was twenty years after Xander’s death and despite his own grief, Spike was no fool, Daniel had been his strength and his keeper through the hardest period of his own and Danny’s life… So Master called for the now grey headed human on the night before the twentieth anniversary of his father’s death….
“Are you happy Daniel?”
“Of course Master.”
“I believe you have need of a companion.”
“I want you to take a partner.”
“But Master… the rules…”
“Are defunct once you cease your stud duties…”
“You have been loyal to the stud for seventy eight years Daniel…. I have it on good authority that The Gish stud is retiring Emily this year…. I thought that I might….”
Daniel’s face lit up, and his chest tightened as tears began to fall, “Oh Master!”
Emily had been the mother of sixteen of his children and was a real favorite. Her stays at the Chateau during the servicing period were always joyous events and had become longer and longer as time went on, with Daniel dearly sorry to see her returned to her own breeding stud at the end of the two or near three months… And Master finding all sorts of reasons to extend the stay.
“I can’t… thank you ….” Daniel fell to a full down position, something he did so rarely these days but appropriate now.
“Consider it done. You will no longer be required at stud after this coming summer, but will remain as head of the household and assist John and myself in selecting the next two or three stud sires. I have my eye on Alexander and Thomas… but we have need of one more.”
Daniel remained down, his feeling of joy overwhelming any ability to speak…
Emily arrived at the Chateau in late summer … She had resigned herself to being driven to the feed lots, having had her last offspring in spring… she was close to fifty eight. As they neared the destination in the windowless van, she was stunned to have her chains undone, and despite her full down position, was witness to handlers passing over her papers to the Aurelian Master. She was confused but stood in compliance, then was led down a familiar corridor. As Spike stopped in front of a door, she dropped to her knees in a formal down position at her new Master’s feet and waited patiently for her fate. The door opened and a familiar figure dropped to his knees in front of her. Master was there but simply gave his blessing and wandered off, leaving them to embrace… Daniel rejoiced in the warm hug from the very special mother of so many of his children. He found her mouth and kissed her passionately. There was no imperative to procreate… it made their coupling all the sweeter. Master had decided… they were to be allowed grow old together… Emily buried her face in her lover’s neck and cried silently for the blessing they had been given. They would have one more child together as Daniel turned one hundred and seventeen… Timothy… Much loved, he remained on the Stud to become the third and by far the youngest original grandchild and stallion….
Three years after Esther and Spike’s first ‘encounter’ under the tree, the laws preventing ‘ensoulment’ were withdrawn provided the party being ensouled requested it of their own free will. An early issue in the Alliance due to Spike’s own ‘condition’, the debate both for and against ensoulment had initially been quite fierce. As the argument went back and forth however, quite valid philosophical questions arose regarding the ‘nature of the soul’ as it pertained to demons, and with few answers apparent, the whole issue to became so muddled and obscure that the entire debate was thrown out of top level dialogue. The result was in some ways… inevitable, shortly after Xander’s death, a test case came in front of the Alliance leaders.
A pretty young vampire had fallen in love with a Kassini demon but their relationship could not be ratified unless she was ensouled. An empassioned speech and well constructed argument, and the obvious devotion of the young couple swayed the opinion of the Alliance group and the law was rescinded. Since no-one could clearly define what a soul would mean to a pure demon (if it meant anything at all!)…. The ensouling (if voluntary) was no longer considered an issue and provided the right paperwork was filled out, the few individuals to whom souls were installed had no more hassles with authorities.
Esther was a godsend for Spike. Extraordinarily bright, deliciously irreverent, and darkly beautiful… even after twenty four years, she caused his unbeating heart to skip whenever she approached…. She was a delightful combination of Xander’s wit and nervous affection, strength determination and pragmatism, along with her Master’s ‘bloody mindedness’ and learned ways.
Spike taught her demon languages, vampire lore, and mystical ways…. And when she outstripped his abilities, he brought in tutors. Xander would have been *so* proud!
From day one, however, Esther challenged Spike. She purported to hate the light, consistently venturing out in the dark and avoiding daytime activities. From the moment she hit puberty until the day he finally relented, she demanded to be turned, begged, cajoled and pleaded…. Her logic was flawless. By having another Aurelian Master vampire onsite, and one of the genetic family, there was a firm legacy that could not be challenged. Despite all the gains made at international level, the status of humans was still that of protected pets, with a family member, a powerful wiccan and now vampire, the family would be safer. She had only to take the dark choice. She had repeatedly prostrated herself at his feet to beg to be turned, eventually even her mother appealed. Spike relented and located the three remaining Orbs of Thessula. It took twelve years and the equivalent of half a million dollars to find them. The Master’s purchase of the orbs was utterly necessary. The third orb pushed the limits of six figures, by then Spike did not care. The day following its purchase Esther was turned and ensouled.
He had never made a childe before. Spike spent forty hours after her turning and ensoulment at her side, waiting for her to rise. She woke surrounded by warmth, familiar smells and the sounds of the family settling for the evening. Her first meal was from her Sire’s bloodstream, as were all her meals, exclusively, for the next six months and then on and off for the rest of their time together. Fed in such a way by her Sire, her move toward status as Master was accelerated, and by year thirty she was second only to her Sire as the strongest vampire on the planet. After sixty years on the Alliance, Spike suggested Esther, Mistress Aurelian Vampire, take his place. There was not even a ripple of dissent as the Aurelian Master stepped down in deference to his Childe. There was a passing comment in the press, but more space devoted to her choice of attire than political agenda, and barely a comment regarding the excellence of her inaugural speech. Spike communed with the oak that night, letting Xander know just what a wonderful woman they had produced.
Four years after her turning, Esther’s mother Octavia had begged Master, on her death bed, something Spike was not able to deal with…. was never ‘built for’. Riddled with cancer Esther’s mother had pleaded with Spike to take her, to end the pain, her sisters had also appealed… promising to look after her children, but begging Master to care for Esther… to let her magic abilities flourish. Octavia accepted that Esther had become a vampire, indeed parents and daughter had agreed…. It was a given, a way of keeping the family safe.. and she was honored at her daughter’s role…
Octavia was the first of the original children to die…. And in such pain… Spike was again asked to ‘finish it’ but only agreed after being berated by his Childe for three months. He kissed Octavia for the final time and started….but simply could not drain her, she was his daughter. The woman was so drugged with morphine that her system was shutting down anyway, yet Esther had to do what he could not… She adored her mother, loved her and gave her the relief and love only a child might… she drained her… Spike was there to catch Esther as she fell…. They cried together… Octavia was gone. Her mother had lost Jason, her life partner, seven months previously, and had lived on for the children. Were it not for Esther, Spike would have walked into the sun the next morning. Outliving a partner was one thing, outliving a child… no one should outlive their children.. his mother had said that, now he understood.
He took Xander’s old collar that John had returned on his death bed, and fastened it slowly around his pale neck. He was naked but for Xander’s favourite hip chains, they still didn’t fit.
Spike was three hundred and seventy five years ‘young’. But one could only tell that from the power that rolled off the master vampire in ‘waves’ these days, and detected through the dull ache of loss and fatigue that could be seen in his eyes. He looked physically unchanged since the day of his turning more than three centuries ago, but it was sixty years today that Xander had died and Spike had pined for his lovely Pet every day since.
The family had lost individuals from unpredictable sickness on the property for the first time ever…. two of their grandchildren, both merely infants, four years previously, and then John just seven months ago, all succumbing to the deadly Embarrian virus, allegedly a mutation of the long forgotten tuberculosis. If that were true, Spike had, in reality, lost four relatives to its ravages including his own mother. Of late it seemed a vaccine was well on the way, something that was a relief for all who still owned humans. But it gave no relief to the grieving family. Carlos was inconsolable, stopped eating and died within seven weeks of his dear partner. Doctors could give no reason for his waning…. a broken heart apparently a reality.
In year thirty after Xander’s demise the Chateau purchased the two adjacent properties, one initially established as a training facility for human breeding practices, but later as a medical centre specializing in the treatment of humans with demon diseases. The other property became the place to retire elderly pets and breeding stock from the Aurelian line (the alternative normally to simply ‘put them down’). The second facility also allowed the Aurelian children an opportunity to engage with the extended family. The closeness and outside experience was something all the family benefited from.
One would think that after sixty years, the pain would ease, but it did not. He carefully placed the envelope for Daniel and Esther on the mantel piece.
Three years after Xander’s death, Spike found a doctor who could restore the larynx of their beautiful boys… but Simon and Adrian refused. After sixty two years of silence, neither aging twin could think of a reason they would wish to speak. With family it was not needed, the love they were constantly given and the joy of being ‘home’ was all they required. Both men simply hugged their Master in gratitude, and politely declined.
Spike learned of their horror at waking in dual beds in the ‘hospital wing’ of their stud home, feeling ‘different’ and slowly realizing what had happened. Attempting to cry out and to move, the former now no longer possible, the latter prevented by leather restraints. The desperation when they learned of their ‘adjustment’, the eventual feeling of the area now devoid of scrotum. Deep depression was chemically treated as they were retrained. The loss of muscle mass and body hair over the months of training, indicative of their changed status. Beaten into submission, time and time again, compliance became a survival strategy, that they were still together, their only solace.
Their greatest punishment was their designated role as the minders for the mothers of all their children. Powerless to act and devoid of voice, they watched as the females in their care were impregnated again and again with their seed, and the children they knew to be their own, sold and lost to them at fifteen or sixteen never knowing that their silent impotent protectors were in fact their fathers.
Daniel quietly told Spike one evening. The master had walked to the tree and cried as he conveyed his distress to Xander… begging forgiveness. The twins had joined Master there, Daniel having let them know of his discussion. They all held and rocked and cried.
Simon and Adrian had aged faster than the other siblings, having been without Master’s blood for nearly sixty years. But their last thirty plus years were wonderful. Surrounded by children of their own line, they slid into their roles as the ‘loved elderly uncles’ and were virtually never seen without at least one or two small people in tow.
Simon died of a heart attack aged one hundred and seventeen, Adrian died six weeks later refusing food, he simply took to his bed and died. It was a sunny spring day, Bethany had visited her uncle with her latest two little boys. They had played at Adrian’s feet as the aged gent sat in his chair on the balcony. He had smiled and held her hand. She thought he looked happy for the first time since the funeral. She left promising a visit in the morning, but Adrian joined his beloved brother, dying quietly twenty minutes after she departed.
The whole family had grieved… their ashes were mixed together and spread at the base of the family tree.
He straightened the bed and placed the old Panda proudly at the centre of the pillows. The memories of first lovemaking flooded in.
It had only been a month after their first encounter and Spike ‘purchasing’ him.
There had been mutual ‘relief’ and discussions of orientation… but on that one evening… after some sixty-nine activity that Spike had offered and Xander accepted, with the promise of reciprocal rights. Much reciprocated. Xander was filled and filled him. Their ecstatic joining like nothing either had experienced or expected. In one single evening their coupling was complete and absolute.
As Spike’s slow strokes edged his partner toward completion, and the tongue took away the expressions of joy so appropriate for the moment, he pledged his own devotion. There would be no other. At the time, a mere few months since their meeting, neither could conceive of the years that would truly entail. Neither had a clue as to the length of time their partnership would span or the joy they might be privy to.
He turned the lights off and pulled the door to their much loved bedroom closed for the last time. He had only taken a few small items that were precious, and he wandered down to the old knarled oak. He had left the sleeping bag behind with the note for Esther. He would attend his love without encumbrance.
For the last sixty years he had endured constant dreams of Xander, but in the last six months, it had translated to not sleeping and in the last two months… not eating. Daniel in his fading years was frantic, yet sadly Esther knew. Her taking of Master’s blood allowed her to see that he had been merely surviving to keep the family safe. In truth he had died with his life partner. He needed to join Xander.
One evening in late spring, Master had invited Daniel and his beautiful Emily, and Esther and her new partner Davina to dinner. The dialogue was finite, the instructions clear. Typical of Master, he couched his reasons in the text of his childhood studies… neither Daniel nor Esther missed the meaning…. He took them to the tree, they both knelt at his feet as he spoke…
“I take it you have studied Hamlet….” His son and Childe both nodded. “Good… Well…”
“I have of late--but wherefore I know not—
lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises;
and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition
that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory,
this most excellent canopy, the air, look you,
this brave o'erhanging firmament,
this majestical roof fretted with golden fire,
why, it appears no other thing to me than
a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.
What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!
how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how
express and admirable! in action how like an angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me,
what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not
me: no, nor woman neither, though by your smiling
you seem to say so.”
And indeed son and granddaughter gave rueful smiles, countered by their own tears as they knew the decision had been made and was out of their control.
It had been a long while in coming, but Spike knew the family would now be safe and the outside world was getting better for his children. Esther had replaced him at the Alliance. The next generation of children was safe under Esther’s protection, and given an esteemed position with Timothy, Alexander and Thomas’s bloodlines.
Around six in the morning, Spike kissed the old photo of his Pet. He had clutched it to his chest so many times over the last sixty years. And now simply whispered, “Be with you soon my love”. He then stood at the base of their favorite oak and stepped into the ‘warmth’ of a glorious sunrise for the first and very last time in three and a quarter centuries. His ashes joined those of his lover at last, lying together in final repose.
Spike had been careful as he collated the estate information and ‘handover documents’ for his beautiful wiccan daughter Esther, in every way now the Mistress of Aurelius. She had known his intentions for some time and understood… tried to understand… he was her sire and her grandfather… the hurt to her would be real, yet she understood.
Daniel and Esther entered Master’s rooms, but already suspected what they would find. The thick package contained specific messages for each of the surviving siblings and for his business and political associates. It also had particular family related instructions for Daniel and Esther and a poem to have engraved and placed as a marker at the bottom of ‘their tree’ so the children might read it and pause to think.
"Heav'n forming each on other to depend,
A master, or a servant, or a friend,
Bids each on other for assistance call,
'Till one man's weakness grows the strength of all.
Wants, frailties, passions, closer still ally
The common int'rest, or endear the tie.
To these we owe true friendship, love sincere,
Each home-felt joy that life inherits here..."
The package he left included a special ‘present’ containing a full pint of his own blood for the upcoming sire of their clan.
Timothy was Daniel’s youngest son, and the spitting image of his grandfather at the same age. Spike knew that the packet of blood (bolstered by Esther’s at regular intervals in the future) would mean a far longer and healthier existence than his great uncle John…. John’s offspring would continue his line, their family so extended now, that the children had honestly abandoned all pretence of trying to explain to outsiders who was who…. ‘Family was Family’; ‘Blood was Blood’. Master had said so, Grandfather agreed, they all knew.
Only twenty five years old, and with an expected role in the family, Timothy was solemnly handed the package with the enclosed loving note and the precious gift… He knew he was the youngest and the favorite…. But it didn’t help…. He retreated to his Master’s rooms.
He tugged an ancient, now rather worn soft toy in the shape of the long extinct Panda from the bed. Master had apparently given it to his Pet some in their first year together. It was noted as particularly special because Great-grandfather Xander had always wanted just such a toy Panda as a child. It had always had pride of place in front of the pillows when Master’s bed was unoccupied. Yet now it would come with him to his quarters… Master had sent him to fetch it in his very last letter… Somehow that made it all the more poignant… He knew… Master and the Grandfather he never met had survived to keep them safe …. To keep them all safe… and now…. Aunt Esther had lost her sire, they had lost their Master but they could not deny him this last respect… Every day for sixty years he had missed his love… and all he wanted was to be with grandfather….
Timothy clutched the black and white fuzz to his face and cried like the abandoned and distraught little boy he felt he was at that moment…..And grieved for Master.
Over the ensuing three decades after Master’s demise, all the remaining sons and daughters and their partners died… inevitably surrounded by loving relatives and with the hope that their species – humans – were to be dealt a better lot in the future.
Yet Chateau Aurelius went on.
Eight decades later, Timothy stood tall and proud, the dark haired, stunning, the Supreme Aurelian Sire in his late prime… the Panda and his grand father’s diamond strings of outdated torso chains, along with an odd little leather clad book of rather ordinary poetry, always managed to have pride of place somewhere in the private quarters of the Chateau. The now bejeweled, ‘literary’ Panda was the very simple, yet no less profound celebration of just far the Aurelian line had come in the past two hundred years since its establishment, and the legacy of their old Master, Spike, and his Pet, Xander, their bloodline sire. Esther remained an esteemed member of the Global government, his own daughter Farah had recently been voted to local government and his warlock nephew Jonathon was the new head of the council of clans in Nice.
It was eighty years today. He pulled the Panda from the shelf, and flicked on an old fashioned MP3 that he remembered Master playing*. It was a favorite of grandfather’s, recorded nearly two hundred and forty years ago. He stood on the balcony overlooking the south of the estate absently caressing the ancient glass eye of the toy. As the music started, an ancient song from grandfather and Master’s early times together. Timothy idly wondered which one of the many extraordinary children that carried the Aurelian bloodline would prove worthy of inheriting ‘Panda’ in the future….
“Just lay it all down. Put your face into my neck and let it fall out.
I knew before you got home.
This world you're in now,
it doesn't have to be alone,
I'll get there somehow, 'cos
I know I know I know
when, even springtime feels cold.
But I will learn to breathe this ugliness you see,
so we can both be there and we can both share the dark.
And in our honesty, together we will rise,
out of our nightminds, and into the light
at the end of the fight...
You were blessed by a different kind of inner view: it's all magnified.
The highs would make you fly, but the lows make you want to die.
And I was once there, hanging from that very ledge where you are standing.
So I know
it's easier to let go.
But I will learn to breathe this ugliness you see,
so we can both be there and we can both share the dark.
And in our honesty, together we will rise out of our nightminds
and into the light at the end of the fight.
...and in our honesty, together we will rise out of our nightminds
and into the light... at the end of the fight...”
* Nightminds - Missy Higgins… www.missyhiggins.com
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