Pairing(s): Spike/Xander, Willow/Tara
Warnings: Slash, violence, possible misuse of Latin words, possible historical inaccuracies.
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Distribution: Nummy Treats archive, Wolfwing's site, everyone else, ask first.
Summary: Willow's spell goes wrong and it blasts the boys back in time to the Roman empire, where they are sold as slaves and trained to be gladiators, fighting for their freedom to get back home.
Disclaimer: No Buffy characters are mine. All hail the mighty Joss, even though he won't let Spike and Xander snog in public. Set in early Seas. 6. The whole B/S thing never happened, seeing as how I would love to erase it from my mind.
The phone on the bedside table rang. It took Xander Harris a moment to actually realize what the ringing was, as he was busy trying to figure out why he couldn't feel his legs. Putting the matter of his legs aside, he reached over and put the receiver to his ear.
"Xander! Hey, you finally woke up." It was Buffy, who sounded way too cheerful in Xander's sleep-addled mind.
"Time's it?" Xander murmured groggily, brushing his long sable hair out of his eyes.
"Nine p.m. on Wednesday. Last time I saw you was this time yesterday," Buffy replied, amusement evident in her voice. Xander just blinked. "How's Spike?"
Spike. That would explain why he couldn't feel his legs and why there was a corpse in his bed. "Uh, sleeping... I think. Kinda hard to tell with the lack of breathing, an' all."
"I can imagine. Do you think you guys can be at the Magic Box by nine-thirty?"
"Make it ten," Spike muttered into Xander's neck, still not moving. Xander raised an eyebrow at the older man, then nodded.
"How about ten?"
"Nine-forty-five. No way I'm giving you two more time to have sex." Buffy paused. "And I did not just say that."
Spike snickered and Xander whapped him lightly on his shoulder. "Noted. See you later." He hung up the phone and glared at his lover. "I'm beginning to hate vampire hearing."
"S'not like I screen your calls, pet. Can only hear if I'm really close to you." The vampire leered and snuggled closer to the human, purring softly.
Xander laid his head back against the pillows, running a hand through Spike's platinum blonde hair, the other making small circles on the vampire's bare back. He was tempted to just lie like that for forty-five minutes, but he still needed to shower and get dressed. Sighing, the young man sat up. Or at least attempted to; Spike continued to cling to him like a leech.
"William, come on. We need to get up."
"No, we don't. Scoobies dont really need us anyway. I personally see no reason why we can't just stay in bed all bloody week," the vampire drawled. He folded his arms across Xander's chest and rested his chin on them. "Stay 'ere?"
Xander felt a dopey smile appear on his face as he ran the back of his hand down his boyfriend's angular cheekbone. Spike closed his eyes and leaned into the touch, resuming his purring. "Sorry. You don't have to go, you know the only thing you'll do is fight with Buffy and have Dawn paint your nails some godawful colour." He reluctantly levered himself out from under a protesting Spike and sat up, pulling on a pair of worn sweatpants. "I'm gonna go take a shower, then grab some cereal." He paused, then grinned at his boyfriend. "Join me?"
"Xander, Spike, so good of you to join us," Giles said as the bell above the Magic Box door chimed, announcing the boys' arrival.
Buffy glanced at her watch and grinned. "Ten minutes late. Pay up, Wills." The Slayer held out her hand and Willow reluctantly handed over a twenty.
Xander raised an eyebrow as he took a seat at the table, Spike having opted to sit on the counter. "What now?"
Anya made a face at Spike before answering. "Buffy bet Willow that you two would end up having loud, obnoxious gay sex and be late," the ex-demoness explained with her usual bluntness.
Both Buffy and Willow blushed. "That wasn't what I said!" the Slayer sputtered.
"It was what you meant."
"Actually, the whelp 'ere nearly burned the bleedin' apartment down trying to make a bowl of soddin' cereal," Spike said with a smirk.
"I thought we agreed not to bring that up," Xander said, glaring at his lover. Spike's smirk widened. The mortal sighed and tucked a strand of his long hair behind an ear. "So, what's with the meeting? Some demons trying to end the world again?"
"Good guess," Anya replied. She picked up a pile of books from behind the counter and dropped them on the table, throwing one to Spike.
Willow distributed the books to the rest of the Scoobies, then took her seat next to Tara. "So, what are we looking for?"
"Big, hairy caveman type," Buffy said, opening her book. "There were three of them, all wearing weird armour."
"Armour?" Giles repeated.
The Slayer nodded. "Yeah. I think it was made of bronze. They also had weird helmets on. Kinda reminded me of that Russell Crowe movie we saw the other night."
"Gladiator," Spike said without looking up.
"Roman demons," Xander said, grinning. "Think they wore togas when they weren't trying to kill you, Buff?" Dawn giggled.
Spike hopped off the counter and handed Buffy his book. "There. That your beastie?" The vampire pointed to a picture on the page. Dark hair covered the demon's body, and it was hunched over, adding to its apelike appearance.
"That's it," Buffy said. "A Mortuus demon." She put the book down. "Isn't that Latin?"
Giles nodded and looked over Buffy's shoulder. "Yes, it means 'death', I believe." He frowned suddenly, picking up the book to get a closer look. "How very odd."
"Huh?" Buffy asked, confused. "What do you mean?"
Giles took his glasses off and polished them on his shirt. "It says here that the entire Mortuus race lived around Mt. Vesuvius. When it erupted, they were all wiped out."
"So, how did they get here" Tara asked quietly.
"By magick, I'll bet," Willow said. "And we can probably send them back to their own time, too." She jumped up, tugging on her girlfriend's hand. "We've got the supplies at home."
Buffy nodded, suddenly all business. "Meet us at Restfield Cemetery in a half an hour. Spike, I want you to track down the demons and have them chase you there. Xander, Giles and Anya, get yourselves armed and come with me. As soon as Spike arrives, we'll ambush them."
"What about me?" Dawn asked.
"Call your friend Janice. See if you can stay with her and her parents," Buffy replied, walking into the training room.
Willow stuffed a list into her pocket and she and Tara headed for the door. "Xander, when you guys get to the cemetery, find an open spot and make a circle of stones. We'll use that as a portal to send the demons back." Xander nodded and both Wiccans left with Dawn in tow.
Buffy strode back out of the back room with a sword strapped to her back. Tossing two more swords to Giles and Anya, and a battleaxe to Xander, she turned to Spike. "Will you need anything?"
The bleached blonde shifted into the ridged visage of a vampire and bared his fangs in a feral grin.. "Got all I'll need right 'ere, Slayer."
"Good, get moving. The rest of you, with me."
"Xander, stop pacing! I feel like I'm at a tennis match," Buffy said irritably, all trace of her former good mood gone. "He'll be here."
Xander stopped and shot Buffy a sheepish look. "Sorry, Buff. I just can't help worrying about him, you know?" He anxiously scanned the borders of the cemetery, wishing for Spike's vampiric eyesight.
Willow looked up from the spellbook she had been studying, closed it, and walked over to her best friend. "He's okay, Xan. I'm sure of it," she said, laying a hand on the young man's shoulder. He said nothing; merely gripped the axe shaft harder.
"They're coming!" Anya hissed, picking up her sword and moving into position behind Buffy. Willow darted back to Tara's side and took her girlfriend's hand, both witches beginning to chant quietly. Xander whirled around and faced the bushes where his vampire would appear.
With a roar, Spike leaped over the bushes with three armoured demons right on his tail. One of them lashed out with a curved short sword and it cut deep into the vampires side. Spike staggered, hissing in pain and rage.
"Get them into the circle!" Giles yelled, driving one of the Mortuus demons back with his sword. "We can't kill them with any weapon we have here!"
Xander swung his axe and severed the arm of the Mortuus who had stabbed Spike. He beat the one-armed demon with the butt-end of the axe, finally managing to knock it unconscious. Dragging it into the circle, he rushed over to his injured partner, who was swaying on his feet.
"Are you okay, Will?"
"Fan-bloody-tastic," Spike said through gritted teeth. An interesting sight, Xander observed, as Spike was still in gameface. Leaning on Xander for support, the Englishman steadied himself and picked up the short sword that the Mortuus had dropped. "Right, let's go then."
Two of the demons were already in the circle, stuck there by Willow and Tara's magick. Buffy had dropped her sword earlier and was manhandling the final Mortuus into the stone circle. Anya was amusing herself by hurling insults at the Mortui in Latin, a language Xander hadnt even realized she knew. Spike and Giles, both being able to speak Latin, were trying to contain their laughter.
Suddenly, Buffy gave a cry of pain, and the Mortuus broke free, charging at the others. It smacked Anya aside and did the same to Giles, leaving only Xander and a still-swaying Spike.
Spike struggled to stand without Xander's help, attempting to protect him from the enraged demon. He braced himself for the impact, knowing that he'd be sore for the next few days.
The Roman demon snarled, murder in its alarmingly blue eyes, and viciously backhanded Xander, causing Spike to fall back with his lover. The vampire barely registered the pain as his head smacked down hard on one of the stones; the only thing he could feel was Xander's fingers linked with his. The last thought he had before darkness claimed him was that everything would be all right as long as his mate was with him...
Xander groaned softly as consciousness slowly returned to him. No more alcohol, he thought grimly, trying to ignore the incessant pounding in his head. He slowly sat up, attempting to rub his aching head, only to discover heavy manacles and chains around his wrists and ankles. If this is some kinky game of Will's, I'm gonna skin him alive, the young man thought.
"Anglicus somno excitare." Xander looked up sharply, not understanding the words, but wondering who had spoken.
"Hello? Is anybody there?" he called, then coughed violently. His throat was raw and he couldn't remember the last time he had something to drink.
A tall, clean-shaven man turned at the sound of Xander's coughing and barked an order at someone. A shorter man ran forward with a bowl and handed it to the taller one.
He's a guard, Xander thought, noticing the short sword at his side and the elaborate tunic he wore.
The guard walked slowly toward Xander and knelt beside him, handing the Californian the bowl. "Mihi nomen est Decens," the man said, apparently not realizing Xander didn't understand him. "Quis est tu?"
Xander drank the water in the bowl greedily; his throat feeling a little better afterward. He looked up at the guard, who was still looking at him and waiting for an answer. The dark-haired man thought back to his high school Latin classes, trying desperately to remember something - anything- from them. "Nomen, nomen. Dammit, what is it!" Suddenly, he grinned triumphantly. "Name! That's what he wants." He looked at Decens, still grinning. "I'm Xander."
"Xander," Decens repeated slowly. "Alexander?"
"Uh, sure," Xander said with a slight nod. Decens smiled, obviously satisfied with his answer.
A loud angry roar cut through the air, startling both Xander and Decens. The younger man cursed himself for being so jumpy, especially since he recognized the roar.
Spike awoke to find chains around his ankles and wrists and a strange, yet familiar pounding in his ears. He looked around, taking stock of the situation, memorizing all possible exits. Voices from all around told the Brit that there were far more people in this place than he had originally thought. There was only one problem: he couldn't see Xander anywhere; couldn't even pick out his scent.
The blonde knew at once that Willow's spell had worked. Only instead of the demons being sent back, Spike realized that he and his mate had been sent instead. Now they were being held captive by Roman soldiers.
With a howl of rage, Spike pulled and thrashed against the chains, bringing his demon to the fore in an attempt to scare the guards into setting him free.
Except, Spike realized, there was no demon.
The Englishman sat down hard, numb with shock. At once, everything fell into place. Why he couldn't break the chains. Why he couldn't go into gameface. The strange pounding in his ears and his less-than-perfect senses.
Spike was human again.
"Sir! The other Englishman has awakened!"
Decens had given up trying to communicate with the long-haired Englishman when he heard the howl of rage coming from one of the other prisoners. The Roman slave-dealer stood and glared at Lucius, his apprentice.
"So I noticed!" he snapped. "Get him some water, bread, anything; just for Mercury's sake, shut him up!" Lucius nodded vigorously and ran off. Decens sighed. He did enjoy his job; it let him see different places and meet new people; however, it did stress him out a lot.
He glanced over to Lucius when the roaring abruptly ceased. The young Englishman sat on the deck, eyes blank, blood dripping from his wrists where the chains had cut into them. Lucius hovered uncertainly nearby with a bowl of water in his hands.
"What's wrong with him?"
"I'm not sure, sir," Lucius said. "He just stopped and sat down. Maybe the man we brought in with him knows something about it."
Decens nodded. "Good idea. Get me a translator; he doesn't speak our language."
He walked back over to Alexander, who was looking around fearfully. After a moment's thought, he undid the Englishman's chains and helped him to his feet. As he led Alexander over to the small blonde, Decens wondered if he'd make a mistake in taking these two onboard.
Of course, they would fetch a very good price at the forum in Rome. Both looked strong enough to be trained as gladiators.
As soon as Xander caught sight of Spike, he jerked away from Decens and gathered the blonde into his arms. Rocking slowly back and forth, he could feel Spike's violent trembling. "Shh, it's okay. I'm here, it's okay, it's alright," Xander whispered. He had never seen his lover like this, and it scared him. If Spike could be broken so easily, what could he do against their captors? He frowned and buried his face in his lover's wavy hair.
"You needed my services, dominus?" Decens looked away from the two men to face Cato, a young slave whose parents had been Greek. Cato had been born into slavery, and had developed a talent for learning foreign languages. Decens had instantly bought him once the young man had come of age.
"Aye. We just brought these two in from Britain, and they don't speak Latin," Decens replied. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but there was something off about the two men, the small, blue-eyed one in particular. At first, he had thought that the smaller one would only be good as a secretary or a cook, but once the Roman had seen the splintered wood around the chains, he instantly knew that the Englishman would become a prized gladiator.
Decens turned his attention back to Cato. "The larger one is Alexander; ask him what the other is called." The young slave nodded and repeated his master's question to Alexander.
Alexander kissed the top of the blonde's head before answering. Cato frowned and said something else, then smirked when the other slave answered.
"What?" Decens asked impatiently. I didn't tell him to start up a goddamn conversation! "Did you get the other one's name?" the Roman asked through gritted teeth when Cato didn't answer.
"My apologies, dominus," Cato said, lowering his gaze. "His name is just very unusual, and I was curious. He is called 'Spike.'"
Decens nodded once and, dismissing Cato, called Lucius over. They would be arriving in Ostia shortly, and the slave-dealer wanted the slaves rested for the trip from Ostia to Rome. After all, a worn-out slave would never sell...
"What did he say, Will?" Xander asked quietly to the blonde in his arms. He was really starting to regret not paying attention in high school.
Spike stirred, and one blue eye peered up at Xander. "He wants us to sleep. Gonna be a long hike tomorrow," he mumbled. Xander nodded and leaned back against the wall, adjusting Spike on his lap until both men were comfortable.
By now, he had figured out what had happened. What confused him was how Spike came to be human again. The deep, shuddering breaths and the pounding heartbeat Xander could feel against his chest didn't feel right; he was so used to his lover being dead. He hadn't realized that he had slowly been tightening his hold on Spike until the ex-vampire let out a tiny squeak of discomfort.
"Sorry, baby," Xander whispered, rubbing Spike's back gently. The Brit nodded and kissed the younger man's collarbone; unable to purr, Spike settled for humming a quiet tune.
"Go to sleep, luv. You're thinking too much." Spike shifted so that they were lying side by side on the deck, Xander's head on the Brit's chest. "We'll be fine. Red an' the others'll find some way to reverse the spell. For now, just sleep."
Xander groaned and automatically reached out to hit his alarm. There being no alarm to hit, his hand smacked painfully against the deck. Cursing softly, he opened his eyes, squinting in the bright sunlight that shone in.
After a brief moment of panic, the Californian remembered what had happened to Spike and kissed his lover's sun-warmed cheek.
"Blondie, hey. Time to get up," Xander said, nipping Spike's earlobe playfully.
Spike mumbled something sleepily and, reaching up, tangled his hand in Xander's long hair. Blue eyes opened and met brown, electricity seeming to spark between them. Xander leaned over and brushed his lips against Spike's.
Their lips had just met when Decens' apprentice came over, yelling in Latin and waving his arms around. Xander briefly noted that the entire scene would've been quite funny, had he not been so nervous.
"What's he saying?" he whispered, voice barely audible over Lucius' yelling and the other slaves getting up.
"He wants us to get up. We're startin' out early today," Spike whispered back. "Wonder where 'is boss is. I don't like this little ponce." The Brit shot Lucius a cold glare before rising to his feet.
"You don't like anybody."
Decens walked down from the top of the deck, hands raised for silence. The young slave who had translated for him the night before was also present. Decens barked out an order and the guards began chaining the slaves up in a line, two to a row.
"This morning, we leave for Rome. We will only stop at midday to eat. Water will be passed around every hour," Cato translated.
Xander felt the heavy iron manacles clamp once more around his wrists as he was chained next to Spike, and then chained to the pair of slaves in front of them. Cato announced that they would leave in twenty minutes, and bread and water was passed around.
Spike was unusually quiet and sipped at his water. Xander wolfed down his bread and drained his water bowl in a matter of minutes. Glancing over at Spike, he noticed that the ex-vampire hadn't touched his bread.
"Will, you have to eat. You'll never make the trip if you don't."
"Don't feel like it. M'not hungry." Xander was handed the bread. "You can 'ave it, luv."
Xander sighed and split the bread in half. "At least eat this. You're human now; you need to keep up your strength." Spike stared at the food for a moment before reluctantly taking it.
"How'd you sleep?"
"How do you think I slept? Soddin' nightmares all night. Memories, memories of people I've killed. Their cries of pain; the look on their faces. I can remember every one of 'em." Spike finished his bread and shut his eyes, guilt and grief clearly visible on his face.
"What? What're you- oh. Your soul," Xander realized.
Spike gave him a bitter smile. "Sort of comes with the human package, mate."
Xander tried to wrap the smaller man in his arms-not an easy task with your wrists bound-and settled for putting his hands over Spike's. Decens looked over at them and smiled faintly before issuing orders to his men.
Flanked by guards on both sides, the slaves started out for Rome.
At noon, Decens called a halt. The slaves sighed in relief and sat on the ground, taking water and bread from the guards.
"Nice day, eh Captain?" Lucius commented as he sat on a rock next to Decens. "Slaves even seem to like it, especially that little blonde one."
The older Roman looked up from his lunch and smiled at what he saw. The short Englishman, Spike, had his face turned up to the sky and was talking animatedly to Alexander, who just watched with a loving smile on his face.
"You're right," he said. "It's like he hasn't seen the sun in years, he's so happy."
Lucius nodded. "It's probably because we bandaged his wrists too. I can't believe how strong he is." Both men watched as Alexander said something and Spike, obviously in response to the comment, raised a scarred eyebrow and promptly tackled the larger man. The other slaves glared at them and scooted as far away as their chains would allow.
"Quite the couple, aren't they?" Decens laughed. Definitely not ordinary slaves, these two.
Although he was smaller than Alexander, Spike had managed to pin his lover to the ground and was sitting on his chest. Alexander had mock struggled for a moment, then gave up and laid his head against the grass, laughing.
Lucius drained his water. "How much longer?"
"Until we reach Rome."
"About another hour, I'd say." Decens replied, squinting slightly in the bright sunlight. He was anxious to get to Rome; his wife and two sons were there, waiting for him to come home. He would spend maybe two months at home, working as a banker before setting out again. The slave-dealer couldn't wait to get home.
"This is so cool!"
Spike glanced over at his young lover and smiled at his enthusiasm. Xander didn't even seem to care that they were about to become slaves; he just treated the whole thing like a big vacation.
The ex-vampire sighed and turned his face skyward, letting the sun shine down on him. He had forgotten what it was like. Well, except for that short time when he had the Gem of Amara, but that didn't count. He had been too focused on killing the Slayer to spend much time enjoying the sunlight.
He looked around, attempting to see how much Rome would change by the 1900s. Drusilla had insisted that they spend time in Italy, so Spike was familiar with his surroundings.
As he looked around, he noticed Decens' weasely apprentice, Lucius, shooting glances in his direction. Lucius' gaze flicked to Xander, then settled back on Spike, who glared coldly at the Roman. He was uneasy around the little bugger, and didn't like the looks Xander kept receiving.
Fortunately, the Brit understood Latin, so he recognized some of the words that Lucius whispered to his boss. He heard the word "Anglicus," so he knew that they were talking about either himself or Xander.
Suddenly, Decens called a halt. Spike looked around, noting that the forum would not change much in nearly two-thousand years. He growled softly at the guard who shoved him and Xander onto a large stage. Several wealthy looking Romans stood at the foot of the stage, talking quietly among themselves. One stood off to the side, dark brown eyes intently studying Xander.
Spike's eyes narrowed and he pulled against the chains, deliberately flaunting his supernatural strength. He had no idea why he still had his vampiric strength and healing ability, but he intended to use them to his advantage.
"What's going on?" Xander whispered, his unease evident in his soft voice.
Spike slipped his hand into his mate's larger one, intertwining their fingers. "The auction has begun."
After Xander asked Spike to translate the conversation Decens was having with the lone Roman for the eighth time, the ex-vampire started to get annoyed.
"That's it, Xan. I'm teaching you Latin," Spike growled quietly. "Lesson the first - v's are w's and c's are k's. Pronounce all letters and-"
"Silence back there!" one of the guards yelled. Spike glared and flipped him a two-fingered salute. Fortunately, the guard had no idea what the gesture meant.
Xander stifled a grin. "Good to see you're in a better mood."
Spike ignored him. All his attention was focussed on Decens and the solitary Roman. The stranger looked annoyed and kept gesturing wildly in Spike and Xander's direction. Decens looked tired and stressed.
"You're a good man, Decens," the Roman said in Latin. "I always get my best fighters from you, but I'm not understanding why you want me to buy one that looks like it'll break if it gets hit once!"
Decens sighed heavily and ran a hand through his hair. "I've already told you, Milo. If you wish to buy Alexander, then the small one goes with him. He's stronger than he looks, fast too. Now, do we have a deal?"
Spike's eyes widened in surprise as he heard that. The slave-dealer was trying his best to keep him and Xander together! Spike grinned and leaned against his mate, making a mental note to thank Decens later.
The stranger, Milo, scowled and walked over to the assembled slaves. He pointed to a big Egyptian man to Spike's left, and Lucius unchained him from the others. Milo's slaves took hold of the big man by the arms and chained his wrists loosely.
Milo glanced briefly at Xander, then intently studied Spike. The Englishman glared defiantly at the Roman, wishing he could go into gameface. Milo finally nodded. "Fine, Decens. I'll take them both," he said reluctantly. "The little one had better be at least twice the fighter the other one is, or I'll take my business elsewhere."
As Milo's slaves brought Spike and Xander over next to the Egyptian man, the blonde called out in Latin.
"Decens! A moment of your time, sir, please," he shouted, waving his chained arms. Instinctively, he dodged a rough blow from one of the slave guards.
Fortunately, Decens heard Spike's call. "Call off your guards, Milo!" he said angrily as another slave aimed a kick at the Brit. He hurried over to where Milo's three new slaves stood. "Yes? Spike, isn't it?"
Spike nodded. "I just wanted to thank you for keeping Xan and I together. I don't know what I'd do without 'im."
"In all my years, I've never seen anyone, Roman, slave, or otherwise, quite like you two. Good fortune go with you both," Decens said with a smile. He started to walk away, then hesitated and turned around. "Oh, and boys?"
The ex-vamp and his lover looked up.
Sunnydale, California: 2001-
"Willow? Honey, what's wrong?
Willow looked up from the spellbook as Tara entered the living room. Taking a seat beside the red-head, she reached over and closed the book. "You haven't slept in days. Come to bed."
"I can't, Tara. Not when Xander and even Spike are trapped in the past somewhere."
Tara wrapped an arm around her girlfriend, holding her close. "It's not your fault; the demon was the one that pushed them into the portal." Willow said nothing. Tara sighed. Time for Plan B, she thought. "You want some hot chocolate?"
Willow nodded vigorously into the other woman's shoulder.
The blonde Wiccan rose and walked into the kitchen. As she prepared the hot chocolate, she wondered why Willow would blame herself for the spell going wrong. Tara let her mind drift back to that night, trying to recall every detail...
She could feel the vast amounts of energy flowing through her and Willow's linked fingers. These moments with her lover were what she lived for.
As if from a distance, she heard the vampire's roar of pain. Tightening her grip on Willow's hand, she mentally scanned the situation, trying to time the command that would hold the Mortui in time just right. Through their bond, she could feel her lover doing the same.
There. Two of the demons were down and in the binding circle.
"Detinere," she whispered, capturing the demons in the circle. Buffy held the final one, shepherding it toward its companions as Anya made rude comments about their mothers.
Then things abruptly changed. A flash of pain burst through her mind and she felt Willow preparing for the final command. Stopping her chanting, she tried to stop the fiery-haired witch from completing the spell.
She was too late.
"Detinere!" Willow shouted, eyes turning black as blinding white light flashed through the cemetery. When it cleared, all three Mortui, Spike, and Xander were gone...
A gentle touch on her shoulder brought Tara out of her reverie. She turned to find Willow standing behind her looking slightly concerned.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah, sweetie, I'm fine."
Willow frowned. "Are you sure? 'Cause, that's not hot chocolate mix," she said, pointing to the mug that the blonde was about to put in the microwave. "It's Jell-O mix."
"It is?" Tara blinked and looked down into the green powder-filled mug. "Oh."
She washed out the mug and took out the correct mix. "You knew Spike and Xander were in the circle when you finished the spell," she said, carefully not meeting Willow's eyes.
There was silence as Tara filled the mug with water and put it in the microwave. Willow sighed and toyed with the chocolate mix. "Yeah, I did," she said quietly. "Some part of me did, at least. The rest of me was too caught up in the spell to stop myself from completing it." She hung her head sadly, tears forming in her soft green eyes. "It's my fault that my best friend is trapped in the past."
Tara felt her heart twist at the sight of her lover so upset. Gathering her close, the blonde Wiccan held Willow as she cried.
The steaming mug of hot chocolate lay forgotten on the counter.
Rome, Italy: Date Unknown -
Spike sneezed for the first time in one hundred twenty-one years. Under different circumstances he would've found it fascinating. With a bored sigh, the Englishman rolled over to face Xander, burying his face in the dark-eyed man's neck.
The three new gladiators had been brought to Milo's house after the auction. One of Milo's slaves had shown them to a small room with three cots set up and delivered them dinner. He explained to the trio that they would remain with Milo for the night, then begin training in the morning.
Against Xander's wishes, Spike remained awake. The memories of his past killings continued to flicker through his mind, and sleeping only made the images more vivid. Normally, Xander's scent and rhythmic breathing would send the blonde to sleep, but now he resisted it.
Xander stirred against him, eyes fluttering open. The younger male groaned softly, automatically shifting closer to his mate. "Will?"
"Here, Xan." Spike slipped a leg between Xander's, bringing his body flush against the other male's larger frame. He brushed his lips against Xander's in a loving kiss that grew more passionate as the Californian wakened.
A disgusted snort from the Egyptian interrupted the lovers' groping session. Spike reluctantly pulled away and glared at his fellow slave. He opened his mouth the challenge the other man when Xander bit down on his collarbone, turning any insults into a soft moan. With some effort, Spike managed to push the American away.
"Not here," the Brit panted. Xander pouted and reached for him again, but Spike firmly held the larger man back. "I know, luv; want you too, but not here. Not like this."
"When we're home?"
Spike smiled and trailed his fingertips down Xander's cheek. "When we're home," he agreed.
Morning came far too quickly for Xander. He wanted nothing more than to remain in the cot, to stay in the warm tangle of limbs. His arm tightened reflexively around Spike's waist as the blonde attempted to get up. It took a squeak of discomfort from his lover to make Xander remember just how much bigger than Spike he was. Back in Sunnydale, Xander's larger frame had never been an issue; Spike could easily take his mate's weight on top of him as they slept. Here, however...
The younger man blinked and loosened his grip. Spike sat up, narrow chest heaving as he panted. "You don't know your own strength, mate."
"Sorry. I forgot you weren't dead anymore."
Spike rolled his eyes. "Wanker," he muttered.
Xander grinned. "Captain Peroxide."
The Egyptian man looked at the other men, obviously confused by their good-natured raillery.
At that moment, a young Italian woman entered their room. She had long, curly, black hair and ice blue eyes. Even though she wore the plain tunic of a slave, she carried herself with an air of confidence.
"Salve," she said with a smile. "Ego sum Maria."
The Egyptian man said nothing and Spike glared at him. "Salve, Maria. Ego sum Spike. Hic," he gestured to Xander, "est Alexander."
"Potestne dicere Latina?"
Spike shook his head. "Minime." He turned to Xander "She wanted to know if you spoke Latin."
Xander relaxed and grinned at Maria. Leaning against Spike, he rested his head against his lover's shoulder. "You really need to teach me Latin." Spike smirked and ruffled Xander's hair.
As Xander spoke, Maria brightened. "You're from Britannia!" she exclaimed. "I speak Celtic, and I'm one of the only gladiators here who does."
The Californian looked up sharply. "You're a gladiator?!" Then, "wait, what do you mean, 'Celtic?' I don't know Celtic."
Spike chuckled. "That's what you're speakin', luv. English doesn't exist 'ere."
Maria grinned. "You two are gonna be interesting. And yes, Alexander, I'm a gladiator."
"Just 'Xander,' please. I thought only guys were gladiators."
The Italian shook her head. "Nope. Women are, too. We fight two men, each armed with a heavy sword and one arm tied behind their backs." She grinned. "It's a lot harder than it sounds."
An angry voice shouted from down the hall. "Ancilla!"
Maria glared in the voice's direction. "Istoc accede!" she shouted. "Apologies," she said as she turned back to the men. "Milo isn't exactly the most patient man in Rome, but he can be decent to good fighters."
"We can hold our own," Spike said wryly.
"I had a feeling you could. Here," Maria handed Xander and the Egyptian two tunics. "Wear these during your training. They're tight, but lightweight." She repeated herself in Latin for the Egyptian's benefit. Then she turned to Spike. "I couldn't find a tunic small enough for you, unless you wish to wear a woman's."
Spike scowled. "I'll pass, ducks. I'll just go without."
The woman nodded and turned to leave. "Oh, and Xander?" Xander looked up, tunic draped over his shoulder. "Plan on Spike and me teaching you Latin tonight after third meal." With that, the gladiator left.
Xander pulled his tunic over his head. Picking idly at the thin material, he spoke. "What do y'think of her, Will?"
Spike grinned and threw an arm around Xander's broad shoulders. "We might have some hope in gettin' outta 'ere alive after all. I think we just found a new ally."