flaming muse


"You've had some bloody stupid ideas in your life, mate," Spike muttered to himself as he tore off the top sheet from the notebook and crumpled it in his fist, "but this was the stupidest yet." He threw the ball of paper across the room to ricochet off of the stereo and the coffee table before coming to rest on a heap of similarly-battered projectiles.

He still wasn't sure what had possessed him to decide to celebrate Valentine's Day at all, nevertheless to give Xander a gift that wasn't something easy to procure, like a box of chocolates, a bouquet of roses, or a shiny new ax. Except that Spike
did know why he hadn't bought Xander chocolates; he wanted to give him something more permanent. Chocolate would be eaten in an hour, flowers would be dead in less than a week, and the ax's gleaming surface would be marred on their next patrol, but the feelings in his heart wouldn't fade. He wanted to find some way to memorialize them.

At least that had been his plan. He had been up writing all night, but by the time the sun had risen the only thing he had memorialized was how bad a poet he still was. Dozens of discarded verses littered the floor, and none of them came close to what he wanted to say to Xander. Spike wanted to describe how greatly he admired Xander's kindness and courage and how dearly he cherished his heart, but instead he had come up with countless terrible rhymes and trite phrases that didn't show how deep his love was.

He should have bought the chocolate. Or maybe the ax.

Spike could hear Xander stirring in the bedroom, and he knew with a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach that he had run out of time. Even if Xander stumbled to the bathroom and went directly back to bed, he'd only sleep for another hour or so. Since Spike hadn't been able to write a single line that he liked over the past eight hours, he certainly wouldn't be able to complete a poem in time.

He didn't even have that hour to hide the evidence of his efforts, since Xander opened the bedroom door a few minutes later.

"Why aren't you in bed?" Xander asked, blinking at the light.

"Been busy," Spike said. He set his notebook and pen on the table beside him and attempted to appear nonchalant instead of unhappy.

Xander looked around at the mess that had appeared in the living room overnight. "I guess so." He bent to retrieve a piece of paper by his feet. "What are all these? Really bad paper airplanes? You know, you've got to give them wings if you want them to fly."

Spike made an aborted move to stop him, but Xander opened up the page as he straightened. As terrible as the poetry was, Spike wasn't quite desperate enough to knock Xander over to grab it from his hands.

"'The fire in your eyes keeps me from getting cold./The smile on your lips makes me feel brave and bold,'" Xander read. He looked up at Spike. "This is poetry."

"Yeah," Spike said with a sigh.

Xander studied the paper he held. "Your poetry?"

"Yeah." Spike pushed himself out of the chair and began to gather his discarded writing before Xander could read any more of it. A few more of those terrible verses would kill the romantic mood of the holiday even before it began.

"Why are you writing poetry?"

"It's Valentine's Day, isn't it?"

"Yeah, but..." Xander paused and thought for a moment as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. "You're writing poetry for me?"

"I tried," Spike admitted, since he couldn't come up with a decent lie off of the top of his head, "but none of it was good."

"All of these are poems for me?" Xander gestured to the pieces of paper scattered around the room.

Spike grimaced and reached for a poem that had somehow ended up on top of the bookcase. "Bad poems."

"There have got to be at least fifty poems here."

"Fifty bad poems."

"You wrote me fifty poems."

"I tried, but they're not bloody good enough." Spike felt the weight of his failure settling heavily on his shoulders. He should have stuck with a present he knew Xander would like instead of trying to do something that Xander wouldn't have cared about even if Spike had succeeded. He knew what his plans - and his poetry - were like. "Fifty poems and not one that isn't utter rubbish," he said, his tone becoming more belligerent as he grew even more frustrated with himself. "Even a bunch of monkeys with typewriters could've come up with a better rhyme if they weren't too busy writing Hamlet..."

Xander caught Spike's arms from behind and gently turned him so that they were face-to-face.

"You wrote me fifty poems."

"I told you," Spike said. "They're rubbish. Guess a bloke can't be expected to do
everything perfectly -"


"- and I've mastered most everything else."

"Spike..." Xander's tone was a bit sharper.

"All right, besides cooking, and let's not bring up that sodding omelet incident again. I told you I don't know how the egg got on the -"


Pulled back to the present, Spike looked up from the papers clenched in his fist to see Xander smiling at him, his eyes warm.

"You wrote me fifty poems."

"Yeah," Spike said rather wearily.

You wrote me fifty poems," Xander said again, this time emphasizing the words. "Fifty. For me."

Spike gave a resigned nod, but he didn't look away. "It was supposed to be your present."

"They are."

"No, they're bloody terrible," Spike said. He tried to step back, but Xander kept a tight hold on his shoulders.

"It doesn't matter," Xander said softly.

"You're just saying that because you haven't read them." Spike held up a warning finger. "And you're
not going to."

"I won't, not if you don't want me to, but they're still my present."

"Yeah, some present. A bunch of awful poems you can't read." Spike crumpled the pages even further.

Xander shook his head. "It's the best present I've ever gotten."

"You're either forgetting the big box of comics Willow gave you for your birthday or you've completely lost it, pet."

"It's not the things that are important, though those comics
were great, weren't they? I mean, she got me the first seven... okay, I'm getting off topic. It's not the presents but the thought behind them, right? And you cared enough about me to try to write me a poem. Not only that, but you kept trying even when it wasn't going well."

"So? Just shows I'm too stupid to know when to quit. I should've gone out and got you something you'd like."

"I like this."

Spike's snort of disbelief was answer enough.

"That you kept trying shows you love me. It shows you think I'm worth the effort," Xander said, his smile growing even warmer as he pulled Spike into a proper hug. "It means a lot; you're not exactly Mr. Patience, you know."

Unable to resist a happy Xander, Spike let the papers fall from his hands and wrapped his arms around him. "You
are worth the effort. I love you."

"I know." Xander's voice was a hoarse whisper. "And that's all I want."

Spike nuzzled into Xander's neck, not yet relieved but well on his way. "Happy Valentine's Day, love."

"Happy Valentine's Day," Xander echoed. He caught Spike's mouth for a kiss, and there were no sounds for a little while but muffled exhalations of pleasure. When he finally pulled back he asked, "So, do you want
your present?"

"As long as it doesn't rhyme," Spike said warily. "Or try to."

Xander shook his head, his grin lighting up his face. "No, but it does make even strong men scream."

The clue was vague enough that it could be a weapon or a toy for the bedroom or a gory horror movie or maybe a really embarrassing picture of Buffy and Willow in mud masks, and any of those sounded great to Spike.

"What's the hold up?" he asked, taking a step back and shooting Xander a teasing grin. "You've already got your present. Don't be selfish. There are two of us in this relationship."

Laughing, Xander leaned in and kissed Spike again before tugging him toward the bedroom, leaving the discarded poetry behind but carrying the love it signified with them.





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