*Sound: eerie silence of falling snow.  Word: sacrifice.*


When the presents had been unwrapped and the booze sucked down and the turkey - legs up and eviscerated like some pagan sacrifice - was picked down to bone and gristle, Xander made his way outside, standing on the back porch and breathing deep, slow breaths.


The air was like iced champagne in his nose, cold and utterly still.  Snow was falling - snow - and he was still enough of a SoCal boy still to find that...utterly magical.  He stood with his arms wrapped around his ribs, insulated from the party-noise by the sliding glass door.  A deep calm came to him as he listened to the sound of the snow falling.  It was like the brush of feathers over skin - a muted hiss, a muffled crystal chime as ice impacted ice.


He closed his eyes, just breathing, and then opened them again in shock as strong, fuzzy arms wrapped around him from behind.  Spike and his cashmere sweater and his whiskey-smoke-clove scent and his lips, tender and cool on the back of Xander's neck. 


"Happy New Year, love," Spike whispered, and Xander smiled.




*Sound:  ice as it cracks on a thawing lake.  Word: shimmer.*


*Maine is a weird place* Xander thought.  It was beautiful, and it was so open compared to life in Sunnydale.  Miles and miles of forest and lakes, cranberry bogs and seashore where there were no people at all.  And your neighbors would help you out of a ditch or give you the shirt off their back, but they wouldn't just come around.  No walking through the front door at all hours like they'd done to Giles. 


But Xander liked it - liked being alone with Spike.  So, tonight, the two of them out behind their house.  Mid-February and they were in shirt-sleeves, jeans, and old, old sneakers, sliding on the ice of their own little lake.  A weird, unseasonable warm-up and they'd both been restless and wanting to just be out, after three months of cold and ice and snow.  And naked cuddling by the fire under a down comforter, but after awhile you just wanted to run.


So they were running and sliding and Xander was laughing like a loon until he heard that dry-twig snap and glassine chime of breaking ice.  He lurched, losing his footing as icy water swirled over his shoe-top, but then he was flying - falling - and Spike had him on his back in the snow, shaking him gently and growling.  


"Xander, you bastard, are you all right, pet?  Stupid human, should know better, love, you hurt?"  The sky shimmered behind Spike - pale green Aurora Borealis and Xander wrapped his arms tight around Spike and smiled up at the dancing sky.


"I'm fine, Spike - I'm just fine."




*Sound: Creak of old leather.  Word: sunset. Color: tarnished brass.*


Sunset and Xander stretched lazily, looking at the windows that lined the entire western side of the room.  Necro-tempered, something they'd seen once in L.A. and gotten for themselves.  Clouds were bulking along the horizon and the sun itself was drowning in them - deeply-scarlet ball of fire swaddled and sinking in skeins of lavender and bruise-blue, poppy-red and the rich gold of marigolds.  Winter sunset, Xander's favorite. 


He sat up and slid to his knees, picking up the poker and jostling the logs in the fireplace for a moment - stirring coals and settling them.  The greenish-black of the tarnished brass andirons winked and gleamed, and the blue and white tiles around the hearth were stacked with cloth-bound and leather-bound journals, old books, new paperbacks, and three days worth of newspapers.  Xander put another log on the fire - cherrywood, fragrant and heavy - and smiled to himself at the soft creak of leather as something slid into the club chair behind him.  He moved backwards, reversing himself and settling with a happy sigh onto Spike.  Warm from the electric blanket, bed-tousled hair and sleepy eyes like old lapis, welcoming smile, soft kiss.  Winter sunsets, the best of all times.






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