Disclaimer: I don’t own any of the shows involved or any of the characters, and I’m not making any money out of them, I’m just doing this for the love of the shows and the love of Richie. All rights and ownership belong to whoever actually owns them, I’m just trying them on for size and I promise to return them good as new.
Warning: This story contains non-graphic same sex relationships, so don’t read it if that sort of thing offends. There’s also a bit of bad language.7. Leaving London
The dojo was closed for the evening; its only occupants Richie and Duncan, practising hard, sweat dripping from every pore. But for once the two Immortals were neither sparring nor fencing, nor were they practising kata. They were dancing. Richie had developed a passion for flamenco in Paris before the Ahriman business (as they both now referred to the incident if it came up), and despite his protests of two left feet, Duncan had convinced him to take lessons. Their passion for each other helped, overcoming Richie’s natural Generation X inhibitions. They both danced the male role, but with their own twist, choreographed by Duncan, crossing the flamenco with a paso doble, a fiery, passionate, duel. As the dance came to a climax, the two men lost themselves to the rhythm, coming within an inch of each other, but never touching. The tension was palpable. “Duende.” whispered Duncan. Richie smiled, staring at Duncan with an intensity that could have set the world ablaze.
The tension was broken by the presence of another Immortal. The two stepped back from each other and turned toward the door and were surprised as Xander walked in, supporting a badly bleeding Giles. They rushed forward to assist him, helping to carry Giles up to the apartment.
“What happened?” Richie enquired.
“We were taking out a nest of vamps that Joe had put us on to, but there were a hell of a lot more than our intelligence had reported. Too many for just the two of us to handle.” The lift started its journey to the top. “I went down fighting four of them. Giles managed to dust some more before dragging me out to safety. I guess he must have collapsed too. When I came round, we were both lying on the ground. I thought they’d turned me, but then I realised it was daylight. I started to get him to a hospital, but Giles came round and said to come here. He was so adamant, that I did.” Richie and Duncan exchanged a glance. “What the hell happened to me? I’ve had some strange experiences, but there isn’t a mark on me from last night. And what the hell was going on with my head when I walked in here? I am having a serious wiggins here.” They eased Giles onto the bed and turned to face their young friend.
“You go, you’ve more practise at it than me. I’ll go call Jesse, get him to come and look at Giles.” Duncan glowered at Richie, exasperated, as he strolled over to the phone. Mac turned to Xander and motioned for him to sit down, which Xander did, looking from Richie to Duncan, expectantly.
“You’re Immortal Xander.”
“I’ll heal from any injury?” Xander’s hand involuntarily moved toward his eye patch, but Duncan gently grabbed him and pulled his hand away.
“I’m sorry Xand, but no. Any scars from before will remain, and we can lose limbs if they aren’t reattached during the healing process.” A defeated look flashed across the young man’s face. “I’m so sorry.”
“Well hey, at least now I’ll have the sword to complete the whole pirate look right? In the Venn diagram of sexy pirates… me and Johnny Depp.” A thought suddenly struck him, “So my parents aren’t really my parents. That’s what you said, right? All Immortals are foundlings.” Duncan nodded, and started to comfort Xander but he was stopped by Xander’s huge grin, “Brilliant! Thank god for that!” He suddenly jumped up from his seat as he felt the Buzz again. “That’s the feeling isn’t it? There’s another Immortal coming.”
“Yeah, but it’s probably just Jesse.” Richie walked over to the front door and opened it, confirming what he had just said. “Hey, Jess, the patient is over on the bed.”
“Hey. I came as soon as I could. What happened to him?” Richie looked at the others for guidance. Well-practised in covering up vampire attacks, Xander took the lead.
“We were attacked by a street gang or something I guess. He’s lost a lot of blood.” Jesse moved to the bed and examined Giles’ limp form.
“There are several contusions here, he was badly beaten and from these marks, I’d say he was bitten at least twice. He was lucky though, nothing seems to be broken, and there isn’t that much blood loss, really. He just needs bed rest and plenty of fluids. I’ll prescribe some high strength iron tablets.” Jesse pulled a script pad from his bag and began filling it out. “By the way, gang attack? Couldn’t you be a little more original?”
Xander looked at Jesse, stunned. “But that’s what happened.”
“Yeah, a gang of vampires maybe. You can’t fool me, I lived in LA most of my life, and I lived for three years in Sunnydale when I was younger.”
“Sunnydale? You’re kidding me! I’m from Sunnydale!”
“Ahem, before we get into this whole six degrees moment,” Richie interrupted, “I think Xander and Duncan need to have a serious conversation?”
“Oh, right. I forgot for a second.” Xander turned to Jesse, “Giles will definitely be okay?” Jesse nodded. With a sigh of relief, Xander turned back to Duncan, who led him toward the elevator and back down to the dojo.
“What was all that about?” Jesse asked as he tended to Giles’ wounds.
“Giles wasn’t the only one attacked tonight. Xander was with him too. He died.”
“Oh. OH! You mean that was the first time?” Richie nodded, “Wow, it’s lucky he’s one of us then.” Something in the look on Richie’s face made him pause in his ministrations. “Isn’t it?” Richie shook his head.
“Giles and Xander are Watchers, but not the same as Joe. You lived in California so maybe you’ve heard of the Slayer?” Jesse shook his head, “Well she’s this girl with sort of super powers that make her able to fight vampires and demons. Giles was the Watcher of the most recent Slayer, but over the years he stopped Watching and started slaying. Xander has been fighting things that go bump in the night since he was in High School. That’s how he lost his eye. And now that he’s Immortal what do you think he’s going to do?”
“Carry on fighting evil.”
“That’s exactly what I feared might happen.” groaned Giles. The two Immortals rushed to help him as he tried to sit up.
“Glad to see you conscious, Rupert.”
“Take it easy, you’ve been badly injured.”
“Thank you, but it’s not exactly a sensation that’s unfamiliar to me. Richie, it’s good to see you too. Although I rather wish the circumstance were different. Where’s Xander?”
“He’s okay, he’s downstairs with Duncan, having the talk.” Giles nodded.
“I had hoped to avoid this. We weren’t supposed to attack them, we were on reconnaissance, waiting for backup, but Xander decided to rush in, the stupid reckless boy.”
“Yes, a couple of … associates, Spike and Angel. Damn, how long have we been here?”
“Not long, but I don’t know how long you were lying in the street. It’s dark now though.” Richie explained.
“Can I use your phone? I really should contact them, let them know where we are if that’s okay?” Richie nodded his assent and passed Giles the receiver.
Meanwhile, down in the gym, Duncan was explaining to Xander the intricacies of Immortality that he and Richie may not have mentioned on their trip to London. As he talked, the two fenced in order that Duncan could get a proper assessment of Xander’s ability. The young man showed promise, a natural ability, and he was well practised with a broadsword. Although lacking in finesse, he admirably compensated for his disability, and Duncan was sure that with a little training he should live a long life. Suddenly they felt another Immortal approaching, and not from above. Looking to the door, swords still crossed, Duncan sighed with relief as he saw it was only Amanda. Taking his cue from Duncan, Xander too relaxed and lowered his sword.
“I take it this isn’t for keeps?” Amanda drawled.
“No. Amanda Darieux, meet Xander Harris. Xander, this is Amanda, a very old” Amanda raised an eyebrow at him, “and very dear friend.” Xander shook Amanda’s hand and smiled at her. She threw back her most flirtatious grin and to his credit, Xander didn’t even blush. There was an awkward pause as everybody looked at each other.
“Well, I’m sure you two have things you need to catch up on, I’m just gonna mosey on up to check on Giles.” Duncan tossed Xander the key for the elevator and he did just that, leaving Duncan alone in the dojo with Amanda. He led her over to a bench and sat her down before fetching a couple of beers from the ice box he now kept in the office ready for any unexpected visits from Methos.
“Amanda, there’s something we need to discuss.” Duncan had known this conversation would have to come sooner or later, but thus far he and Richie had been ducking it. Richie would retreat to his apartment whenever Amanda hit town and stay away until she left. He knew how Duncan felt about her and wasn’t about to come between them, but Duncan wasn’t sure how Amanda was going to react to the information. “There’s no easy way to tell you this, but I’m in love with someone else. Another Immortal.”
“I understand Duncan. Hey, we’ve never exactly had a steady relationship. If you want me to stand aside that’s fine.” She stood up, but he grabbed her arm and pulled her back down, gently but firmly.
“No, no that’s not what I’m trying to say. Why don’t you ever let me finish? This other Immortal knows about you and that I love you too, and accepts it. We’ve been together for quite a while now, but we didn’t know how to tell you.” He paused to take in a breath. “It’s Richie.” Amanda blinked, in that wide-eyed manner she had that could convey intense anger or innocence or amusement depending on her mood. Duncan wasn’t sure what it was at this moment but with a flicker of hope he thought it was amusement. Then she grinned and chuckled before saying,
“I know.” Duncan stared at her incredulously. “The way you are around him, it’s always been obvious how you feel. Since you’ve been back from Paris he’s been avoiding me, which was a little strange considering I’m the one who nursed him. I put two and two together. It wasn’t difficult.”
“You knew. But we didn’t know.” Duncan had that confused puppy look that always made him look so adorable and difficult for Amanda to resist.
“Yes, but you are men. And stubborn, narrow-minded men at that. Women have a sixth sense about these things.” She leaned over and kissed him. “I’m fine with it. You can tell Richie he can stop avoiding me. Besides, it’s not like I should be jealous. I’ve already had both of you.” Duncan choked on the beer he was sipping.
“You and Richie? When?” Amanda smirked.
“You’re cute when you’re jealous. It was a few years ago, we were drunk, we were both missing you. It was nothing. I’m not even sure he remembers it to be honest.”
“And when are you ever honest?” Amanda gave her best wounded look at that as she sat on Duncan’s lap and began to kiss his neck. He took the bait and kissed her back, putting the bottle on the floor and picking her up, carrying her into the office and closing the door.
The following evening, the little group were sat in an empty Joe’s to meet with Giles’ associates. Jesse had advised that Giles shouldn’t be out of bed for another two days, but the Englishman was having none of it, saying that being injured around Immortals made him feel embarrassed. He added that he didn’t think that Duncan would want to invite his associates into his home, which struck them all (except Xander) as a little odd, but they didn’t press the subject further. They were all seated around a table, chatting amiably, Richie and Amanda having had a little heart to heart earlier where they set things straight between them. Giles and Joe were catching up on old times and Xander and Jesse were swapping Sunnydale stories. Everyone fell silent as the door opened and in walked two men, one brunette, and the other blonde. If it weren’t for the lack of Buzz the three more experienced Immortals might have sworn they were Immortal too, as they were both wearing long coats and had the air of men who were older than they looked. Joe got up and went into the back to brew some coffee for everyone as he had a feeling this could be a long night. The two newcomers came toward the table and then stopped a few paces from them, looking suddenly confused. They looked at each other, then at Xander and the other Immortals before throwing a questioning look toward Giles. He alone seemed unsurprised by their reaction as even Xander didn’t know why they had reacted this way. He motioned for them to take a seat, which they did, although it was obvious to all that they were on guard. The darker one leaned forward and whispered to Giles.
“What’s going on? They all smell like Him. Even Xander. They all smell like the Immortal”
“That’s because they are all like him Angel. Even Xander.”
“Bollocks.” It was the blonde’s turn to speak, “I’ve seen him get hurt tons of times. Even done it meself a few of them. And he lost an eye.”
“The epitome of tact as ever Spike. Xander wasn’t Immortal then. He became Immortal last night, when he acted like a damned fool and got himself killed and me nearly with him.” Xander looked abashed at this but before the conversation could continue Duncan interrupted.
“Excuse me, but it seems that your associates are already aware of our kind. They’re clearly not Watchers or they would have known the answer to that question so who the hell are they?” Spike put on his game face and turned towards Duncan, making him, Jesse, Amanda and Richie all leap to their feet and reach for their swords. Xander and Angel simply covered their faces as Giles tried to intervene and explain. After ten minutes or so, once he was convinced no blood was about to be spilled, Angel got Xander’s attention and indicated they should go outside. Xander followed him out to an alley. They both stood for a minute, assessing each other.
“So I guess I can’t really call you dead boy any more.” Xander said. Angel chuckled.
“No, I guess not. Look, I know you and me haven’t exactly got on in the past…”
“No I’d say mutual loathing would be about right.”
“Well, yes I guess so. I was always jealous of how close you were to Buffy and I’m guessing that was the problem for you too.”
“Well that and you being a blood sucking demon.” Xander had meant it as a joke, but there was a little too much venom in the statement and it stung Angel, more than he’d care to admit, but he shrugged it off.
“Look, as I was saying, we’ve never exactly been friends, but well, immortality is a kicker to get your head round, and while these guys seem okay, they’re strangers and well I’m not. Oh look I’m never very good at this stuff, but if you need someone to talk to, you can talk to me, okay?” Xander was taken aback by this. Angel had never been one to open up like this; in fact he was usually pretty much all brood all the time.
“Thanks, man. It’s a strange offer, but appreciated. Look, I think we better head back…” he was interrupted by the presence of another Immortal. Looking around he spotted a young woman dressed in punk Goth clothing and he idly thought that she and Spike might get on well. “Aw crap.” Angel followed Xander’s gaze.
“Is she?” Xander nodded. “Is there anything I can do?”
“Thanks, but this is my problem.”
“Actually, she’s my problem, not yours.” Xander turned to see Richie step out of the bar, “An old girlfriend. Go inside and tell Mac that Felice Martins is here and that I’m taking care of it.”
“Richie Ryan.” Felice snarled, “Well, I came for the Highlander’s head, but you’ll do for a warm-up.”
“And what makes you think it will be that easy? I may look the same as when we last met, but I’m not a naïve teenager anymore, Felice.” Richie spat her real name at her like an insult, “You can’t trick me or Mac this time. You only have your head because of me. Walk away now and it ends here.”
“No chance. I’ve been practising, learning from lots of different teachers. And then I took their heads. I’m here for MacLeod and I’m not leaving without his head.”
“Then you have to come through me.” Felice lunged at Richie, an awkward clumsy thrust that Richie easily parried. He noted with distaste that she was using a katana like the one Mac had given her. “I thought you had been practising?” he mocked. She screamed and lunged at him again. This time she was better, but Richie again parried before attacking and driving her down the alley, away from the door to the bar and the street. Richie knew that her anger was her weakness fifteen years ago and it was obvious that was still the case. He used some of the moves Teal’c had shown him to trip Felice and make her fall onto her backside. “You never were particularly graceful were you?” he taunted. This had the desired effect and the now furious Felice scrabbled to her feet and charged at Richie. Richie spun out of the way of her sword, bringing his own around in an arc, and delivering the fatal blow. As he finished turning, to end up facing the entrance to the bar, he saw Duncan stood watching. He grinned at him, “Heh, talk about symmetry.” And then the Quickening overwhelmed him. Afterwards, once Richie had recovered sufficiently, they headed back toward the bar. “That night on the beach, would she have taken my head?” he asked, “I would have died before I even had a chance.”
“No. I don’t think she ever picked up on the fact you were one of us. She was a twisted head hunter, not interested in being a teacher, and my presence would have drowned out anything she might have got from you back then. But if I’d been a few minutes later, you might have become Immortal a year earlier.” Richie silently pondered what that might have meant for his life as they walked into Joe’s. Then he dismissed the silly thoughts, “If ifs and ands were pots and pans…” he muttered. Duncan smiled at him.
“…then who would need a tinker.” He finished. “Where’d you pick that up from? That’s an old British proverb.”
“Jack and Daniel like playing this game, where they try to outdo each other with proverbs. I guess that one just stuck in my head.” He grinned at Duncan, who grinned right back.
“Nice moves by the way. Where did you learn to do that?” Richie laughed.
“Trust me Mac, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
It was decided that as Giles was still in no fit state, and there were such a large number of vampires, Duncan and Richie would accompany Xander, Angel and Spike to the nest and clean them out. They arrived a few hours before sunup and waited in an adjoining warehouse until sunrise to make sure that none could escape. They passed into the occupied warehouse through a hole in the wall on an upper floor and cautiously they fanned out to search the building. There was nothing to be seen or heard for a few minutes until Spike’s voice echoed through the building.
“Bugger it! There isn’t any bloody one here is there? You scared them all off when you and Rupert crashed their little party. You wanker!”
“Hey it wasn’t my fault, Captain Peroxide! If you and tall dark and broody had arrived on time, we wouldn’t have gone in alone.”
“Oh right, that’s nice isn’t it, blame the vampires. It’s not our bloody fault you nearly got yourselves killed.”
“I did get killed!”
“You’re still here aren’t you?” By this time the others had arrived to find Spike and Xander toe to toe in the middle of the floor. Richie rushed forward to intervene, but both Duncan and Angel held out an arm to stop him.
“Wait.” Angel said, “I think Xander needs to do this, work out some issues. Besides, they can’t really hurt each other and we can’t go anywhere until after dark.” Richie looked to Duncan who nodded his agreement. Richie just shrugged his shoulders and the three watched as the Immortal and the vampire launched into an impressive bout of fisticuffs.
It was Xander who had thrown the first punch, and whilst it didn’t have the supernatural strength of a Slayer or vampire blow, it left a sizeable bruise on Spike’s cheek.
“You little…” Spike threw back a punch, holding back a little, but still splitting Xander’s cheek. Xander staggered back a little, and put his hand to his cheek, but it was already healing. “Oh yeah. Come here you little bugger, I’ve wanted to do this for bloody ages.”
The two went at it for hours, knocking each other senseless, then waiting while they healed a bit, and then going again. At one point Xander had Spike on the floor and was kicking him mercilessly.
“This is for Buffy you bastard.” Angel knew what that was about and whilst he knew that it was the soulless Spike that had committed that atrocity, the very act of which had compelled him to seek his redemption, he couldn’t help secretly wishing he could join in the kicking. He nearly intervened when it looked like Xander might stake Spike, but Spike managed to wrestle it away from him and instead drove it into Xander’s chest.
“Let’s see how you bloody well like it.” Spike said, as he collapsed onto the floor, finally exhausted, letting the stake roll from his hand and across the floor. The three spectators crossed the floor to the combatants as Xander came back to life with the customary gasp for air. Angel strolled over to Spike and offered him a hand which was rudely batted away before Spike changed his mind and accepted the help. Richie and Duncan helped Xander onto his feet and began to walk towards the door.
“It’s still light out.” Spike called after them. The three Immortals paused.
“We’re going.” Duncan said, “Come to DeSalvo’s Gym, it’s my dojo, I’ll leave the door unlocked for you. You’ll be able to come in because it’s the public area.” Angel noticed the implication in what Duncan said, but let it go. After all he barely knew them, why should he invite them into his home? Spike had obviously noticed too so Angel threw him a look to tell him to leave it. To his credit, Spike for once decided on discretion, and the three Immortals walked into the sunlight.
“Bloody great. Now what?”
“Well, there are still several hours till sunset, I suggest sleep, unless you have a thermos of blood on you?”
“I can do better than that mate.” Spike pulled a hip flask from his pocket and shook it, assessing the contents. He frowned. “Bollocks. Just isn’t my day today. Guess sleep it is.” With that Angel lay down on the floor and within minutes was fast asleep. Spike lay down as well, but sleep wouldn’t come for him. He lay there thinking about how confident Xander had seemed in the fight. Part of it was the knowledge that he couldn’t be injured, but there was more to it than that. He was no longer the cock-sure wiseacre high school student, rather a mature, seasoned demon hunter. A grown man, Spike thought idly, and quite an attractive one at that, added a tiny little voice in the back of his mind. Which is exactly where such thoughts should remain, he thought to himself as he rolled into a different position to try to get to sleep.
After a week, Giles was recuperating nicely, and Jesse declared him fit to travel. Both Giles and Xander had been staying at Richie’s apartment, and the Englishman was secretly glad to be returning to the land of tea and Marmite and his own cosy little flat where he could have some privacy again. Xander, on the other hand, wasn’t exactly sure what his future held, so he went to see Duncan at the dojo. He found him and Amanda up in the apartment and joined them for a drink.
“Um, so Giles is ready to go back to England and Jesse thinks its okay. But I guess you think I should stay here to train with you right?” Duncan looked at Xander and smiled.
“Well, I thought you would rather stay nearer to London, am I right?” Xander nodded, “We’ve been discussing your situation, and Amanda has agreed to teach you. She lives in Paris so I’m sure you can come to some arrangement that allows you to learn the Game and continue fighting evil.” Xander visibly brightened.
“Really? That’s fantastic! All my life, I’ve been this ordinary guy, you know, surrounded by extraordinary people with all these cool powers, and I felt so useless. All I ever did was fix furniture. And now I’m like them, now I can kick ass.”
“Hey, slow down there!” Duncan exclaimed, “A well trained Immortal is better in a fight than a mortal, but you’re not Superman. And you’re not like Buffy or Spike or Angel. Yes you heal faster than they do and you die harder, but you can still get killed. All it takes is a demon with an axe and it’s good night Xander and no encore.”
“Yeah, I know. It’s not like I’m going to go out looking for a fight, but now I don’t have to run and hide when the big bad comes knocking.” Amanda looked at him coolly.
“I can see we are going to have a lot to discuss young man.”
Xander looked up and noticed it was getting dark.
“I’d better vamoose, G man wanted to cook a farewell dinner and I promised I’d pick up a few ingredients for him. I’ll swing by tomorrow and we can discuss my French Exchange program.” He went downstairs to the dark dojo and headed to the door, but there was a man standing in front of it. “Spike? What are you doing here?”
“I was looking for you. Rupert said you might be here.” He started to walk slowly toward Xander, looking directly into his eyes as he spoke. “I was really impressed with the way you handled yourself the other day. Even though I was on the other end of it. It’s clear that you’ve become a first-class demon hunter.”
“Thanks, but I’ve just had lots of practise. Usually on dates.” Spike chuckled, but then he looked uncomfortable.
“I shouldn’t have come. This was stupid. I’ll go.” He turned, but Xander grabbed his arm.
“What is it?” Spike turned back, his vampire face showing, and Xander took a step backward.
“Is this all I’ll ever be to you Xander? Another demon? Are you just waiting for excuse to stake me?”
“Is this about the other day? If so, I’m sorry. It was nothing personal; I just had a lot of issues I needed to work out. It’s true I haven’t always exactly been your biggest fan, but that was a long time ago. Feelings change. People change.”
“Not people like us.”
“Maybe not outside, but inside we can change like anyone else. You certainly have. You went looking for redemption, you went to extreme measures to get your soul, to become worthy of the person you loved.” He took a step toward Spike, “I think that was an amazingly brave thing to do.” He reached out his hand to stroke Spike’s cheek and he changed back to his human face. Spike grabbed Xander’s hand and pulled it away from his face.
“Don’t make one of your bloody jokes. Not about this.” Xander looked Spike directly in the eyes.
“I’m not joking.” he whispered, as he leaned toward Spike and kissed him. They broke apart, then Spike kissed him back, wrapping his arms around him. Slowly, gently, Xander pulled back from him. “I need to go. Giles needs groceries.” Spike nodded and kissed him once more before breaking their embrace. Then, arm in arm, the two of them walked out into the night.The L World Will continue in Part 8: Learning Curve