A Spander Christmas Stocking
Singular. Small and brown. Three points on its tips.
The breeze was swift as it rushed through the narrow cobbled walkway, hitting the stone walls on either side and bouncing off them, swishing upwards, ever upwards until bursting free, up on the rooftops where the last of the sun still warmed the slate tiles.
The leaf held tight to its vine and whipped back and forth as the breeze rushed past again. Brothers and sisters lost to the wind, the leaf held on.
Spike had watched the leaf in its dance for three days. Three points on the leaf. Three cuts on the palm of his hand.
The window was small and round, with a pane of glass that swung inwards on a latch. A space big enough to crawl through, opening into a room big enough to hold him.
Spike’s gaze slid from the leaf and flicked into the room with a turning of his head. Hands held loosely across folded knees, he saw wooden beams in a supporting A-frame above his head, the underside of the roof tiles musty and dark with water seepage. Three walls the height of a stooped man, and a little piece of wall holding his window. The same view for three days. Three nights. When did he start counting in days?
The last cut stung, and Spike fisted his fingers, running a tip across the open skin, feeling the sand rub further into his flesh. Blue magic sand. Smelt like gunpowder, itched like mad, made the cuts stay, said a trader in the South, and who’s Spike to disbelieve him when the knife he’d also traded Spike kept the pain nice and sharp and real? So far the sand held up to the boasts, and the cuts were healing slowly with blue fire lines on his palm to stay. Slashes across the life line and into the heart line.
Spike opened his palm flat, ran the fingers of his other hand across the cuts, and up onto the tips of the fingers, murmuring,
“Three cuts of steel on his soul, made with iron sold to a fool.”
The train on the working track clacked by his room, the boards in the A frame creaking and the tiles jiggling in their hold. Dust fell and swayed and landed on the floorboards, settling over footprints, which tracked once to the door on the far side of the room, and then back to the window. Spike would have known the time by the train if he’d wanted to. Carrying Christmas travellers, it ran every hour on the hour, past and through the small town, on into the city. For three days Spike had leaned against the wooden sill and felt the thrum of the train vibrations, every hour on the hour.
The dust stopped moving, the train sped away and Spike turned his head and his eyes back to watching the leaf hold on to its vine.
Footsteps. Coming up the inside staircase.
Could the sound of a step convey the inner emotions of the person stepping? Spike wondered. Strong. Unsure. Determined. Heavy. Weighing. Would these be attributed to the man walking up the stairs, coming to find him he knew, or more akin to him? Each step carried far more than just the weight of a man. The man who Spike was suddenly desperate to see, yet so very afraid to face.
He stood, swung the glass panel inside and stopped, his hand on the edge, one leg already hitched to squirm through. A drop and a push off from the wall, and he’d be on the next building, away. He was still, watching the roof below him.
A blue light flittered its way, unseen, under the door and over to Spike. Its glow around his foot on the floor, made him turn, and the door, having never been locked or barred in any way, opened smoothly as it was pushed from the other side.
Xander dismissed the tracking light while Spike settled both feet together, and his hands came up and folded across his chest.
Xander sighed. Spike waited.
“Christmas Eve, Spike.” Spike’s chin came up an inch. As if to collaborate Xander’s words as truth, to dare Spike to disagree, the faint sound of carollers singing down on the side street, came through the still-open window, brought up on the breeze which came in and swirled around the room, causing Xander to shiver.
“Come home, Spike.”
“You still see it as home then,” this was said more to himself than to Spike, and Xander swept a hand over his face up into his hair, stopping the movement to rub the palm under his eye patch. A move Spike knew meant weariness. Had Xander been sleeping?
“Fool on a fool’s errand,” Spike said. Both of them fools then, for different reasons.
“How so? I came. Staying away would have been the fool’s thing to do.”
Xander looked interested in Spike’s answer, but didn’t he always? Isn’t that how it started? Someone to talk to. Someone who listened? Reeling him in, with his eye acknowledging Spike, his hands touching him, his mouth welcoming...
“Come home, Spike.”
“What would make you come home? I’m sorrys? I’m not. We did what we did. And yeah, things screwed up..”
“She died because we were too busy fucking each other to keep an eye on her!” Spike’s words hit the walls and reverberated in the following stillness.
Xander’s answer was slow in coming, and soft. The look in his eye one of compassion. It threatened to undo Spike, to unravel him like a spool of dropped thread. He looked away.
“I will not apologise for loving you.”
Spike felt the wooden frame of the window against his back and heard the soft click as the glass pane swung closed with his step backwards, and the latch fell into place. Spike shut his eyes.
“She died when we were supposed to be keeping an eye on her, yes. We fucked up in that, yes. A truly momentous fuck up, I grant you that. But, Spike, I thought we’d deal with that together. That’s what people who are in love, do. Instead you ran away! Spike! Look at me, dammit!!!”
Spike opened his eyes, and there was Xander.
Standing under a creaking unsafe roof, where the tiles may fall on him with the next brush of wind. On rotting floorboards, shivering in the cold and dust of a long forgotten house attic, in a small wayside town. Saying he loved him.
“Say that again,” he whispered.
Xander frowned and Spike had to smile a little as he watched Xander think back. Knowing he’d get it right, Spike moved forward as Xander did, meeting him in the middle of the room,
“I won’t apologise for loving you,” Xander’s arms felt good and right around his back, the hand cradling his head, large and warm and welcome. Spike sighed. Xander continued, “I know you have times when things come crashing down on you.” Spike leant his forehead onto Xander’s chest, “We did do something really stupid, and a girl died because of it. A poor sad little girl, who should have known better than to become involved in that Racket. It’s her choices and our actions that put her in her grave, Spike.” Spike shuddered, “I will always carry guilt about that, I know you will too. But please,” Xander pulled away a little and Spike looked into Xander’s face, saw tears gathering and felt his own in answer, “Please. Do not turn away from me, do not blame us being together for her death.”
“If we hadn’t, if we weren’t..” Spike was ashamed at the croak in his voice.
“Being with you is not wrong. It is not,” Xander pulled Spike into a hard embrace, and Spike held on. Xander started crying, and Spike felt his heart hurting for him. He’d caused so much pain.
“Do not leave me,” was said into his shoulder.
Truth. Hard and blinding and tight. Winding around him and pulling him further into something he was so afraid would end badly. But when it felt so right to be standing in the arms of this person, rubbing a soothing hand down their back, making calming noises and affirmations of love to each other, what to do then?
“Come home with me, Spike. For Christmas? Then...we’ll see? Stay for now?” Xander was not looking at Spike, and Spike did not mind.
“Okay, Xander. I’ll come home,” Spike took a deep needed breath, “Take me home with you, Love.”
In the walkway below the small circular window, the breeze whipped up, and the leaf, tired of hanging on all alone, let go.