Never Time Enough
The meeting was arranged for two days after Spike finally agreed, and was to be held in the ball room of their home.
Angel was contacted and his arrival pushed forward four days so he too could be present.
A temporary carpet was laid down and assortment of chairs from all over the mansion, plus some hired for the purpose, set up with a clear isle down the middle leading to a large table with three chairs behind a long table draped in a black with a gold embossed Aurelian ‘Arms’ (a huge ‘A’ with Angel’s griffin alongside with a railroad spike in its claws) in clear view at the front. It had not been on display since they were first in residence almost a hundred years previous.
Angel’s arrival was low key this time. Collected from Heathrow around midnight, he was tired and forewent the usual niceties, politely asking Adrian’s PA where he might find William and Xander, before retiring. Most of the information needed for the following day’s meeting had already been emailed, but he did need to speak with his Childe as to any other details that could not be sent securely.
Spike and Xander were poring over some document in the study when Angel was announced by Adrian, who was also consequently ushered in to ensure his full knowledge of what was to conspire the following evening.
Both Master and Consort offered their wrists in succession to the obviously ‘strung out’ Angel, and both were gratefully taken, though only a sip from each. Adrian busied himself while the family reunited by pouring a good ‘snifter’ of brandy for all in elegant glasses and at the appropriate moment took one for himself, then proffered the other three to the Aurelians before quietly taking a seat in the corner of the room.
The matters at hand were primarily focused on how to manage the territory *if* William the Bloody was to become High Master. In addition, Angel’s blessing as Spike’s Grandsire was essential. Any mention of souls or any other impediments were to be avoided, and the fact that Spike’s chip was apparently no longer an issue (or ever had been) also not to be spoken of. It was the Consort Alexander that many would be coming to see, and if challenged, needed to be ready.
At the suggestion of a challenge, Xander simply let his small fangs drop, and before even Spike could realize, had whipped out a hand whittled stake from his coat with his left hand, and had a silver dagger in the other, then said with a wicked grin, “No problems here. Bring it on!”
The strong link between the three felt Xander’s nervous thrill at the thought of a fight and brought their demons to the fore also. Adrian almost inhaled his brandy at the sight, and unwittingly, his own demon emerged in its full glory. He quickly stood and released his tail, which flicked at the end as a large cat’s might prior to a kill.
Angel listened carefully and knew what might transpire on the night, but was also aware of the need for him to be present. William was an ‘old’ Master with a Consort, and despite Spike’s reluctance, Angel knew that having the full line present was critical for all to go well. He was reassured by Xander’s show of confidence and had no doubt that all would be well. He also enjoyed the prospect of ridding the Aurelian vault, post meeting, of contents he would rather not keep.
The influx of funds to his own enterprise in LA had indeed been a blessing, and he thanked the Powers and ‘whoever else’ for the astute business acumen of Spike and put in a plea that the following day was a success before retiring to bed and an exhausted sleep just before dawn.
The meeting began around an hour after sundown. Various Masters, Childer, and their minions (who generally stood to the side of the designated rows of chairs) filed in and sat with nervous intent, some not able to forego their true face. This was to be a momentous event and word had got out that the great Angelus, Grandsire, was also to be present.
Spike, Xander and Angel waited in the study until Adrian indicated all were seated, before making an entrance that had many of the younger Masters gasp. The three were all dressed in formal clothing with long black leather coats, claiming and turning marks clear for all to see. The ripple of power and age of the two vampires had the majority of the Masters in the crowd falling into game-face without intent.
Adrian was in his element, letting his full demon to the fore as he announced the three to the gathered crowd. “Behold the Line of Aurelius, Angelus, his Grandchilde, William the Bloody, and Master William’s Consort, Alexander. You are all here for a single purpose as has been your repeated correspondence over the last month. That is to consolidate the Courts of Southern England under one capable High Master. This will not happen without appropriate petition and pledges of fealty. Does anyone at this meeting object to us proceeding?”
A dark figure draped (rather dramatically) in a hooded black cape and hood stepped from the back row, threw off his shroud and strode confidently down the centre aisle. “I object. *I* am the High Master of this region and directly challenge the line of Aurelius and the upstart William the Bloody, his *ensouled* Grandsire, and (he spat on the floor before continuing) the human Consort.”
Spike grabbed Xander’s arm as he felt his Consort ready for a fight, then remembered Spain. “Only if you want to Pet, he’s young but obviously dangerous.”
Xander gave Spike and then Angel a wicked grin, and said quietly, “Wouldn’t have it any other way, besides, it’s family. Let me take care of this, I know you’ll have my back if it’s needed.”
The cocky young Master vampire who had made the challenge grinned as it was Xander who stood, rounded the table and moved to meet the challenge.
‘High Master’ Simon grinned in triumph, “I see you cannot fight your own battles and would rather let your Consort meet my challenge. How quaint.” He advanced closer with a swagger that indicated his confidence that the Consort would be no match.
Few in the room even saw the well thrown dagger that pierced the approaching vampire’s right thigh, though the pause by the High Master Simon was only momentary as he launched himself at the Consort’s neck, only to be met by a well placed stake drawn from Xander’s belt apparently effortlessly and with deadly accuracy. The end was swift and dusty, and Xander brushed himself off as he returned to his Master’s right hand side behind the table.
The room was deadly silent and many stared in wonder at the *human* who had just bested a most unpopular (yet most thought unbeatable) High Master.
Angel was the first to speak after the dust literally settled, “I take it that there are no other challengers? Minions of the former High Master will be dealt with anon as I see he underestimated all of you and particularly our Aurelian line.
“Most of you here are at least fifty years my Childe’s junior and I congratulate you on establishing your Master status and ably managing your territory, and yes we are well aware of your grievances which will be addressed shortly. However, you also need to realize that swearing fealty to William the Bloody as High Master also means it is to our line and demands you will adhere to any dictates your new High Master invokes. I, as his Grandsire, endorse his position and will be present in Court regarding serious matters as required, though I have my own interests in the Colony of the USA.
“You have elected to petition my Grandchilde to be your High Master, an act I applaud. Now is your opportunity to stand and pledge your commitment to the new leader of the Southern English Court, William the Bloody and his Consort Alexander.”
All who were seated immediately stood and with all present simply announced as one, “All hail the new High Master of Southern England, we pledge our fealty and obedience to the House of Aurelius, William the Bloody, Consort Alexander, and to you Grandsire of the line, Angelus.”
The remainder of the meeting proceeded swiftly. Several of the Masters from various regions petitioned for a number of requests that had apparently been ignored by Spike’s predecessor. Spike was both gracious and attentive, while Adrian’s PA furiously took notes on her laptop for later review.
True to the Crent’ath’s and Aurelian hospitality (and with no small effort on Mavis Smith, her staff, and the slim yet most capable downstairs man, Leon) the Masters and all attending were ushered into a second room following proceedings and plied with all manner of drinks and (as appropriate) aperitifs. Angel, William, Alexander and Adrian all mingled with ease, quietly assessing each Master in the more casual setting and displaying a grace and presence that was not lost on any with whom they encountered. Consequently it was almost four in the morning before the last contingent (the London Master, his fledges and minions) toppled into their waiting limousine and departed.
Spike turned to Angel, with a wink to Xander and Adrian as the front door finally closed. “Well that seemed to go well Grandsire. Got a day to sort the bits and pieces for this Court rot, so you can rest up. We’ll leave for the continent for that visit as promised… And thank you… for coming here early for this, it made all the difference.”
Angel was rather stunned by the acknowledgement of his role and the gratitude from *his* William,
“Thank you also, William, but I think much of the credit should also go to your Consort regards the outcome, and to Adrian Crent’ath for all the arrangements.” Angel then turned to the rather stunned Adrian, “Sir, I speak for the Aurelians present, we are both honored and grateful to you and your household for hosting such a momentous event with such apparent ease. I suspect William will wish to speak to you of extending our lease on the property in perpetuity, and assume you will be able to focus more on your own extensive business interests in our short absence.”
Two days later, as the three Aurelians alighted a *private* jet, apparently the previous property of the High Master of Southern England, and manned by a number of *very happy* ex Childer. They had heard the details and both were excellent pilots. To assure their complete compliance Spike tore open his wrist and gave a little to both vampire pilots. The two hardly had time to recover before the Consort also offered his wrist – opened by his own small fangs.
Angel was also willing to contribute, but Spike stayed his move, indicating the left side broad lounge in the private plane, he and Xander took the opposing slightly longer couch, and all buckled in.
It would only be an hour or so flight, and Adrian had made sure they were met and swiftly transported to a private *six* star hotel in Geneva, ironically one Angelus and William had favored in the day. Xander too recognized the venue though the memories were hazy.
Calls were made immediately they entered their suite: to Adrian with a thank you; to A.I. L.A. to reassure Cordelia that all was well; to the Swiss bank they were to visit in the morning, it had already been arranged, but Spike had a Sire and Consort in tow. Consequently he left a rather curt message with the rather unfortunate overnight receptionist that they would need wake-up calls and transport the following evening.
The late afternoon call was taken by Xander who had extracted himself from Spike’s strong embrace around two in the afternoon and had eaten some of the fruit platter provided, drank several cups of coffee then paced the luxury suite for a time before settling to watch a Formula One race on the oversized flat screen television.
He thanked the concierge, then strode into Spike and his shared bedroom, then Angel’s, turning the lights on and quietly, and insistently, demanding that both vampires wake and dress.
Angel rose immediately, but Spike was still luxuriating in the left over warmth of his partner.
Xander’s open wrist, dribbling a small offering of blood, brought him to full awareness swiftly.
Ruffled blonde locks of hair and a growl led to, “Bloody hell, Pet! Do that and we’ll have to see to things afore I get up!”
Xander grinned down at his game-faced master and grinned unrepentantly, “Promises, promises. Come on we need to go do this. Bank apparently closes at five, and they’re staying around just for the Aurelians to arrive so hop to it. Shower, dress… I’ve been up for…”
He didn’t get to finish the sentence, “Hours… I know Pet… and if that…” Spike looked pointedly at Xander’s erection tenting his elegant Armani suit pants, then to the rather obvious bump in the covers of their shared bed, “… is for me, well, p’rhaps we should just stay in.” Spike wiggled his eyebrow and gave his best ‘come hither’ look, only to find the covers pulled off with a flick of Xander’s hand, a furious kiss and the order, “Only after we do what we came to do… Now come on! Angel is no doubt fussing about his hair, time for a shower and dress. We can play later.”
Spike grumbled his way to the elaborate, modern bathroom to shower, “Bloody tease is what you are… an’ you better bloody well stick to the ‘play later’!”
A mere thirty minutes later, with Angel and Spike both having bathed, dressed and consumed a couple of perfect temperature bags of A-pos, the three were alighting a large black Mercedes and on their way to the bank.
They were met at the door of the headquarters of Credit Suisse bank on Paradeplatz in Zurich. An impressive old façade, though they were swiftly led to a modern private office by a rather young looking, though obviously, senior banker.
Rather than leading them to sit at the large mahogany desk in the corner, he ushered them to the far more comfortable leather lounge chairs, and settled himself opposite, laptop on the low table.
The Banker addressed them in perfect French, something Xander was not expecting, as he knew Spike’s German, and Spanish and … well just too many languages to count – both human and demon, were just as good.
Spike winked at Xander then leaned over and whispered, “Sire’s OK with French – bloody Micks – banker’s no doubt been briefed.” winked and then added conspiratorially, “Thank goodness for an Oxford university education then 100+ years hey Pet. Can hold my own in a bunch of tongues… just wait ‘til we finish and promise to smile… Me ol’ Sire will be left wondering a little, and I know you could hold your own too back in the day.” The wicked smile left Xander in no doubt it was Spike’s intention to have a little fun with his Sire and see Xander’s sojourn in limbo had stripped him of his ability to understand the discussion. As soon as it started he realized it hadn’t.
‘Back in the day’, they had made many visits to Paris, and William had been a *good* tutor, spending many patient hours teaching his Pet then Consort to speak the language. Lessons done well rewarded in the most wonderfully wicked, and horizontal of ways.
Xander flashed Spike a grin of pure admiration. He was in his element again and though Spike would still let his Sire take the lead, Xander knew it was Spike who would end up finalizing any transactions so he politely sat and waited for the rest of the visit to transpire.
The banker settled, smiled then introduced himself, “Bonsoir Messieurs. Je suis Jean-Paul Ettreci, votre conseiller traditionnel de compte dans des investissements à long terme, et vous aiderai de quelque façon que je peux.” (Sirs, good evening. I am Jean-Paul Ettreci, your traditional account adviser in long-term investments, and will help you in any way which I can.)
Jean- Paul sat opposite the three very handsome men and wondered at their youth and obvious wealth. His CEO had been most adamant that they be treated with the utmost care and discretion.
Looking at the three now, he surmised they were some kind of royalty or at the very least, ‘Old money’? He decided on casual but respectful so as they settled, quietly expressed, “Est-ce que je peux t'offrir une boisson avant que nous commencions ? Café peut-être?” (May I offer you a drink before we start? Coffee perhaps?)
Angel looked across to Spike and Xander – who had moved their chairs a little closer to each other and were holding hands. “Merci non, Nous seulement ont juste diné. Mais peut-être l'eau serait appréciée.” (Thank you no. We have only just dined. But perhaps water would be appreciated?)
Jean-Paul what appeared as an old fashioned brass button on the wall, then spoke into the modern communicator, and in less than thirty seconds a silver tray with iced water and four elegant crystal glasses were silently delivered to the central table and served within reaching distance. All took a sip of their water and relaxed a little, before Angel eyed Monsieur Ettreci with intent.
“Et, bonsoir à vous M. Ettreci. Votre banque est la plus généreuse de votre banque pour nous permettre cette visite tellement en retard. Nous apprécions tout votre service à notre famille pendant les nombreuses années où nous avons investies avec vous. Je suis Angelus Aurelius. C'est William Aurelius, et son associé, Alexandre.” …(“And, good evening to you Mr Ettreci. Your bank was most generous of your bank to allow us this visit so late. We appreciate all your service to our family during the many years we have invested with you. I am Angelus Aurelius. This is William Aurelius, and his partner, Alexandre.”)
Angel toasted the banker with his glass of water then announced, “Nous souhaitons accéder à notre chambre forte cette soirée, car nous avons l' intention de vendre une partie du contenu et de la réinvestir. Elle sera à votre banque naturellement. Je demanderais à William pour continuer des négociations car il a été un excellent directeur de nos investissements pendant beaucoup d'années.” …(“We wish to access our safe deposit vault this evening, as we have l' intention to sell part of the contents and to reinvest it. It will be at your bank naturally. I would ask William to continue negotiations as he has been an excellent manager of our investments for many years.”)
Angel looked to Spike at this point, who merely nodded and gave a blinding, azure eyed smile to the almost stunned banker – who definitely decided on royalty and old money combined.
Angel leaned across and whispered to Spike, “This one is yours to manage now.”
“Has been for years now, Sire.”
“I know. So… let’s just do this.”
Spike smiled at the banker and recited the fifteen digit code without hesitation, the eight digit ‘additional’ number and then answered two further security questions while Monsieur Ettreci typed furiously.
Monsieur Ettreci then checked his laptop, smiled and immediately arose from his place on the comfortable lounge chairs, tapped in a code on the keypad beside a very lovely original Monet painting on the wall above the inoperative, ornate fireplace. The painting swung open revealing a hidden safe, typed in a code, and as the secure place opened, proceeded to seek the key that would open their vault.
“Messieurs, si vous me suivrez…” (Gentlemen, if you will follow me...)
Xander was left to wonder at the ‘many years’ part of Spike’s management of funds while he was ‘away’. If so, why had he been in such a desperate state in Sunnydale when he had arrived back? Scrounging for money by doing the slayer and ex Watcher favors? Living in a crypt from what he could gather, when he could have just accessed the money and run? And how had Angel afforded to own the Hyperion, if not by accessing the accounts? They were all questions that he needed answers for, but stayed quiet as they walked three abreast down a long wide, ornately adorned corridor, turning right before following the banker down another. Spike quietly taking Xander’s hand and squeezed, a little concerned at the quiet and the rather worried expression on his Consort’s face.
They stopped a few meters from an enormous metal door with no apparent handle.
Monsieur Ettreci, keyed in yet another code then placed his eye over a small camera, a mere second later the door swung silently open, lights turned on automatically revealing a long line around sixty identical floor to ceiling doors each with its own keypad and led them to one second to the end on the left of the corridor.
Monsieur Ettreci, smiled nodded then retreated, simply stating, “Vous pouvez prendre du temps, pour autant que vous souhaitez. Quand vous avez accompli, simplement la presse sur le bouton bleu sur l'intérieur de la porte principale de la chambre forte et de moi sera présente immédiatement.” (You can take time, in so far as you wish. When you have completed, simply press on the blue button on the interior of the principal door of the vault and I will be present immediately.)
Spike stepped forward, keyed in the eight digit ‘additional number’ and the door swung open, and like before the lights came on immediately. The vault was at least 5m by 10m and the ceiling as high as the ballroom at their home in Surrey.
All three stood for a moment, rather stunned before Spike broke the silence, “Bloody Hell… never thought I’d see all this lot again… and certainly not like this. Reckon I had been too crazed to be this organized back then.” He shrugged, squeezed Xander’s hand a little tighter and looked toward Angel who simply retorted, “You were always one for order William, even if you denied it.”
Spike huffed at the comment but returned Angel’s smile and commented under his breath, “Yeah well, a bloke’s got ‘is pride.”
There were paintings of all sizes in purpose made holders as per gallery storage; small bronze and porcelain statuettes and random objects (obviously of value) neatly positioned on several shelves; boxes and old fashioned chests stacked high on well arranged shelves. A number of pieces of expensive antique furniture were placed at the rear, all carefully covered, and where possible, also stacked high.
The fading labels on the boxes and chests indicated their contents - almost. “Precious books”; “jewelry – various”; “crystal – various”; “gems and all sorts”; and then there were other labels more intriguing. “Demon gains”; “Russia”; “Post 1945”; and so it went on.
Xander wondered where on earth it all came from, but not only that… where were they to start, and how would they sell the pieces chosen… legitimately! His attention was immediately drawn to Spike who strode across to two old fashioned, dark mahogany, four tiered filing cabinets set side by side.
“Right Sire, what’s first? Not gettin’ rid of everything, but it’s your call on the paintings, do fancy a few hanging in the Surrey house, but some will have to go. Most have papers of authenticity in here, others will need to be valued ”
Angel immediately fell into game face and mumbled around his fangs, “Spoils of War first, then we can decide on the other.”
Spike had returned to Europe after his brief sojourn under the sea at the hands of the Nazis and being pushed from the submarine by his traitor of a Grandsire, seeking out and finding his dark plumb with all the determination and abilities of a vampire at his best.
He found Drusilla in Italy, ensconced in a former nunnery and protected by the local vampire master, Mistress Lucia, in Pisa, as the country at war (on the losing side apparently) was in meltdown, late 1944. Reclaiming her, he had paid Mistress Lucia in fresh blood and a number of ‘baubles’ for her trouble, then dragged Dru into the melee that was the end of the war. The ‘pickings’ were easy, and the dying on various battlefields lying in the dark, generally grateful and submitting willingly to a swift death.
He had tracked down several of the senior German officers who had been the cause of his brief, though eventful, stay under the sea at their behest, killed them easily and ‘requisitioned’ their stash of stolen treasures.
Crossing borders was easy enough, all German occupied, and having no papers simply meant an evening feast for Spike and his paramour, as he drove a stolen baker’s van full of the loot to Switzerland.
As he entered the vault, he had been somewhat surprised at the time that the vault was so full, but didn’t question the welcome additions, not realizing that Angel too had returned to Europe briefly, via a second forced mission courtesy of the US forces.
Angel had fulfilled what was expected without effort, parachuting to the ground in the middle of the night, only to find that the experimental laboratories focusing on vampires and other demons had already been destroyed by the bombings in Berlin. Though he reported all were dead to his ‘bosses’ in covert operations, he had managed to rescue a number of the demons still trapped and then apparently disappeared off his ‘boss’s’ dial.
After a number of attempts to contact him, and with the Pacific on their dial, they assumed he was dust in the wind, giving it no more than a passing note on his file. Nobody would miss a non-person.
Like Spike, Angel found it was easy move about amid the confusion that was the end of WWII, when all around him were either fighting or fleeing, so along with a number of his sun-allergic charges, took what they could in blood and in possessions from the perpetrators of the horror.
His soul justified the elimination of a number of high ranked officers, either by his hand or his ‘colleagues for now’ easy. Killing for food or sport was one thing his demon agreed with, but to do it for no better reason than genocide and the requisitioning of the riches of the Jewish community, his soul found beyond deplorable.
Gradually their little group of rescued demons had dispersed and despite his soul, or perhaps because of it, Angel deliberately charmed his way into a number of remaining rich Nazi loyal houses across Europe, either eliminating the perpetrators of the horror, or anonymously placing them ‘in harm’s way’ as the Allies swept to victory.
Consequently, Angel too, had driven to Switzerland and deposited a significant quantity of the German ruling classes’ stolen items in the Aurelian vault, before accessing some of said General’s and Colonel’s own hidden, ill begotten treasures kept at the very same bank courtesy of one of his rescued demon’s ability to thrall.
The young, rescued vampire, Mishka was thrilled. He had been rescued by the great Angelus and so was more than happy to oblige his services when it came to retrieving the spoils of war, and was richly rewarded as a consequence. His intention to return to Hungary after the war met with a smile and a grand gesture (a bite to the neck) by the legendary Angelus (soul not an issue as far as he was concerned). Therefore two vaults on the left were designated as his. Its owner dead, there was more than enough to fund the foundation of Mishka’s court upon his return (once the human fighting had diminished to nothing. He was fifty years turned, and as Angelus pointed out at the time… He had the time to wait out the outcome and access it all later.
They had parted company at that point, Angel returning to the USA, Miscka to his beloved Hungary… never to be heard of again… apparently. Circa 1946.
Spike identified the items according to the itinerary in the cabinet and the dates so carefully itemized, then watched, in sadness for all they had won and lost, causing his Grandsire to back up to the vault opening and slide down the wall.
Spike looked over with concern
Spike turned to Angel with a flash of yellow hinting his demon was more than a little incensed. “You were here too? You bloody bastard! Why didn’t you stay? I mean Dru ‘n me…” He wasn’t allowed to finish.
“I was *ensouled* Spike. I just couldn’t… couldn’t admit what I had done *again* and…” Angel stared at his shoes for a moment, “I so needed to… just get back to…”
“You really are a prize wanker *Sire*… could’ve tracked Dru ‘n me ‘n spent the fifties like we did – on the ‘A list’ for humans and demons alike. More parties ‘n I can count and not too many bodies – blood given willingly, ‘though must admit Dru needed someone to watch her. Nearly bloody well drained one of our human hosts (not that he minded at the time apparently!) But you could have stayed…”
Xander sensed his partner’s angst and held tight to the hand then gave him a soft, gentle kiss on his turning mark, mumbling, “Let’s leave the past, just let’s let it all go and do what we have to do.”
Angel had been careful to identify the misbegotten treasures in the vault on the right and took what he felt right. He knew the heritage, the angst at the time, protesting that if some of the families should have them returned if any of said offspring/survivors still existed, vowing to do the same. And if not, at least he could respect the dead by keeping their precious possessions within Aurleian care. It was as though a moment ago in Spike and Angel’s lives. So stark, and confronting, and the older vampire moved to the front of the vault and slid down the wall.
Spike raised an eyebrow, but nodded in agreement. It would take some time to track down said relatives, but his sense of ‘right’ was as strong as his Grandsire's.
“So we take what we know are from them’s what are dead ‘n gone then we track down the families for the other. That OK with you Sire?”
Angel nodded from his position on the floor, then stood with fluid grace and began to sort through the paintings, while Spike sorted through the files – particularly focusing on families who had been ‘wiped out’ in the ‘ethnic cleansing that was the Third Reich.
Angel had returned to the USA by boat with the first wave of refugees fleeing the war ravaged continent just after 1945, not penniless, and certainly in a position to survive for some time on the healthy sum he took from the Aurelian account at the Credit Suisse. But at the same time, felt his Grand-Childe’s pain and knew he could do nothing. So simply left, again without contact.
There was little for Xander to do but to sort through to drawers (and drawers) of precious gems and jewelry that was part of the contents of the security vault. Once he had sorted through various unset jewels, he began to refer to Spike again. “This one is…”, only to find that the majority were now without owners to return said treasures to, but occasionally Spike was able to ask him to put them aside. Xander never happier for the internet link on his phone that allowed Spike to track down survivors, and not in a moment missing that the two vampires had souls, and consciences that compelled them to return ill begotten goods.
In the end they had a trolley load of artifacts and jewels that they were happy to auction, and some that would adorn their home(s), mostly pre WWI. Plus at least forty names to track down, survivors of the WWII Nazi purges, that all the Aurelians all vowed would have precious heirlooms returned to the existing families if possible.
Yet what remained in the vault was still a veritable treasure trove, and as the vault closed, Xander was the one to point out, “We could have sold the lot.”
Spike sent a pointed look to his Grandsire then sighed, “’M now the High Master of the South East, Pet. Who knows when we might have a need for it sometime in the future. ‘N if not, then it’s the Grandsire and our ‘retirement fund’... And us vampires (‘n consorts) we tend to last a long while...
Xander let his gaze wander to the now secured door and the approach of their attentive banker, and simply stated, “With your management of accounts and investments, I figure that will be a dark day in Hell we’ll ever need it.”
Spike smirked a little, preened himself at the compliment and turned to Angel. “You OK with all this now?”
Angel’s reply was simple and genuine, “Always trusted you William, even in the bad days, and always will. Let’s go home, rid ourselves of the cursed lot, return what we can and decorate that house of ours in the style of… ”
Spike turned azure eyes sparkling, and intoned, “…St Petersburg! Thought it was odd with some of your choices. I always thought you had forgotten? Especially after Xan…” Spike trailed off as he pushed the door closed only to find Angel in full game face, holding him tight from behind and scraping fangs over Spike’s original turning mark. Xander smiled a little, the act did not threaten him in the least, rather he felt the joy flooding from Spike, his William, through the consort link. Something had occurred in St Petersburg between Angelus and William… yet another question for another day.
Instead of interrupting the moment he simply pushed the blue button just outside their vault and summoned Monsieur Ettreci – who seemed to appear instantaneously with a number of assistants to relieve Xander of the task of pushing the trolley of goods they had decided upon from the vault.
Spike had been ensconced in Monsier Ettreci’s office for at least an hour.
After they returned to the main part of the bank building, Angel forewent any attempt to be involved in disposing of their ‘curs-ed possessions’ by giving a knowing look, slight smile, and nod to Spike. He had then taken Xander’s arm, whispered, “This is Spike’s to do, I trust him. Perhaps it’s best we return to the hotel”, after which he lead the Consort to the waiting limousine, instructing the driver to deliver them home and return for Spike as promptly as possible.
Late morning the three Aurelians reunited at the door of their suite, Spike with a knowing grin on his face.
“What you great ponce?”
The words belied the affection and Xander grinned at him from behind the stony-faced Aurelian Grandsire.
“Did as we agreed, auction’s on the morrow, done deal. Sotherby’s ain’t the only ones as can turn a bloke a profit! ‘Specially with notes of authenticity… oh bugger it all, put the game face away Sire! Ettreci reckons seventeen to eighteen million for the lot… Pounds Sterling by the way – none of that Euro rubbish. Already has buyers for the stones, so that’s at least twelve in the bag accounted for. The art he’s pretty sure will sell to private collections, avoid that rubbish of an auction and whatnot. So only things under the hammer are some of the antiques.”
Xander gasped, whispered, “Ghod I never realized… that much??”, then stared at his partner and appreciated once more, the business acumen of the man/vampire he was Consort to. At the same time old memories warred with the current, and he smiled, knowing exactly who Spike really was, who had kept the Aurelian fortunes at pace with modernity, who had funded Angelus’s follies in the past, and who had kept the Aurelian vampires (and household) in the manner to which they preferred.
Grandsire and Childe were both still asleep when the courtesy call came from the concierge. Xander thanked the kind gent in rather heavily accented (but his best) French, ordered breakfast and wandered into the kitchenette to heat two large mugs of O+ for his partner and their Grandsire.
The warm mugs were delivered with a kiss to both vampires, for Spike, on the lips, and for Angel, on the wrist. He smiled as Angel untangled himself from Spike’s limpet-like grasp, whispering conspiratorially, “I know, he always did love a good cuddle.” Angel had the decency to look a little abashed then gave a genuine smile… “And don’t I know it… I’m so glad you are back, Xander, Alex. I still can’t believe this is all true. You. Him. Family… Even after all these months I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.” Angel took a sip of his blood and they both grinned as a certain blonde chose the moment to roll over with a grunt before burying his head under the pillow with mumbles of “Bloody hell… Leave a bloke to sleep you lot!”
Xander grinned, sipped his coffee and simply said, “I had no control over what happened, neither did you, but now we do have a life… OK an unlife or a plus-life, and I’m really glad you can be part of it. He deserves that.”
Xander nodded toward the again sleeping undead on the bed with a smile before having the decency to look a little abashed at the last blurted out statement of truth, before Angel grabbed his hand with preternatural speed and stared into the matching dark eyes with an unusually warm smile that made the senior Aurelian look his twenty something original self. “I am glad too… More than you can ever know. And thank *you* Alexander. You *are*, were, always loved and wanted, and I could wish no one else but you for my dear Grandchilde, or for our line.”
Angel paused for a moment, drained the rest of his breakfast, then grinned conspiratorially and changed to gameface hissing, “He’s *very* ticklish…”
What ensued was a rather wild flurry of sheets, swear words that would ‘make a sailor blush’ and a general free for all tussle on the floor with accompanying gleeful giggles as an incensed (and unceremoniously woken) Spike finally shook the shock of his awakening and got the upper hand.
Stilling for a moment, Xander and co-conspirator Angel (now pinned under a game-faced, annoyed looking, nude and adorably disheveled blonde) couldn’t help it. They shared a look, then burst out laughing again, all the tension, the memories, the angst, and the worry of the last days, and well… forever, evaporating with the moment of sheer… fun.
“Right that’s it! You lot have officially gone daft! A bloke can’t even have a decent kip without…”
At Spike’s exasperated look, Xander and Angel, now both lying on the floor limbs akimbo, simply began giggling again. Spike stood, slapping both silly relatives for good measure, before stomping back to retrieve his now cooling mug of ‘red’ from the side table. It was only the quiet knock at the door and a nervous “Room service for Alex Aurelius” that pulled them all back to something of control.
Xander coughed a last little laugh from his tone, yelled, “Coming… Hang on, just…” and hurriedly threw on the hotel provided long white robe as he made for the door of their suite.
The pretty young woman, Isabella according to her name tag, delivered freshly made pancakes, juice and coffee and was flattered by the beautiful smile of the man with long shaggy near black hair and a happy (if a little stilted) greeting in french.
She blushed profusely and lowered her eyes as two other similarly clad, stunning men entered the room. She focused on setting about placing the table as instructed by her insistent boss. The Aurelians were apparently *very special* guests at the hotel. One of her coworkers had whispered ‘f#@ing royalty… pretty rich boys… watch yourself’ as she had set off on her duty.
Now she had no doubt, either of her safety, or their status, as Xander pushed a more than generous tip into her right hand then lifted it to kiss the back and gave her a wink… *she* felt like the princess in the room and departed to ‘float’ downstairs to the kitchen. Her fellow workers were more than a little too keen to know what had happened. She smiled shyly, pushed the 100Euro note into her side pocket and assured them that the three were *wonderful*, *generous* and *definitely* royalty.
Their final day and a half in Switzerland were… blissful. They took in a ballet, wandered amidst the rich and famous and Spike was privy to his Grandsire smiling too often to be real, not since St Petersburg had he seen Angel so in his element, and indeed, when they visited a modern art gallery in the last few hours of their visit, had he seen him so happy (but not *too* happy) On the second last night, then (to Xander’s embarrassment and joy) were invited to a solstice ball which initially Spike declined, but, checked out, bags packed and already delivered to the airport, they graced the Swiss Master’s court with their presence. The first time since coming to Switzerland that they were able to reveal their true identities.
They were dressed for the occasion in fashionable, understated European chic as to Angel *not* Spike’s taste, but it worked apparently. They waltzed a number of ladies around the floor, finally giving in to a wonderful polka that (and to Xander’s amazement as he was always Mr two left feet) all were able to endear themselves to all present. Shortly after, they took their leave of the High Master with promises of returning in spring. It was enough.
They alighted at Heathrow, the private jet refueling to return Sire to LA. A nighttime journey a given, but promises to return for the Christmas solstice also made.
The car was waiting, blood was exchanged and a rather tearful farewell saw Xander with head dipped and neck exposed, giving to his lover on the way home.
Adrian was again in his element.
It was Christmas, a human celebration, but so *much* fun! And there was to be a Ball on the eve… and the Masters were as excited as he.
The household (and the whole of the Southern England Court) had benefitted from Spike’s sound leadership, with a few disgruntled complaints re their ‘books’ being reviewed, nonetheless the Ball was a one come one come all event. A masked ball! Adrian could not be happier, nor his PA more distressed.
In the months following their return from Switzerland, Spike had divested himself of all the luxury cars so prized by the former Master, signing them over to all the Masters of the region, other than the Bugatti, they had never taken it to its limits, but it didn’t matter. It was luxury embodied and a small part of Xander couldn’t help but smile every time the car fired up… the sound of so much power making him groan just as every time his Master Vampire ‘fired up’.
So it was Christmas and just as the party began, Adrian silenced the orchestra to announce, “Master, Consort Xander, please welcome Angelus, and his seer Cordelia.”
Xander’s breath hitched and Spike grabbed his hand then smiled, as planned Sire had come – the perfect Christmas present.
Cordelia was amazing in an original Jean Paul Gaultie dress that simply flowed with every movement. She smiled, curtsied gracefully in front of the High Master Spike, and winked conspiratorially at Xander with a mouthed “Talk later buddy!”
Xander relaxed back and let a little tear fall as the Grandsire danced the now Master of Southern England around the floor to a lively polka with obvious joy
Cordelia took his hand and curtseyed with a definite glint in her eye, “C’mon mister, we’ll out polka them and then swap partners! Both need their Christmas to be perfect after all… And by the way… Yeah you… and you know who…And thanks for the extra cash.” She looked down at her dress and gave Xander a blinding smile. “Yup, could get used to this, and he really is…happy.”
Xander pulled her around into a spin then pushed her hand to his lips obviously staring at Spike, “So am I.”
He barely heard the “Happy holidays” message from his dance partner as his Master, his all blew a kiss across the room, just for him.
In that moment he knew they had all the love and the time in the world, but that it would also, be never time enough.