Characters: Xander, Spike, Buffy
Rating: PG overall
Warnings: Brief moment of boy kissing
Disclaimer: Joss and Mutant Enemy et al own everything. I own nothing
Summary: Spike has made plans for the future. It’s possible not everyone will be happy with them
Beta extraordinaire as always: thismaz
Written for the spook_me ficathon
Prompts – at the end of the story....
Comments are cuddled and called George

This is my first year doing spook_me. I had intended to write something entirely different, but then I had a thought and my first plan got derailed in favour of this....*g*



No Lodging


by
Sparrow2000


The clock on the mantelpiece ticked down towards midnight. The big hand moved steadily around. The small hand inched forward and the cogs on the mechanism clicked from tooth to tooth, counting the seconds and minutes, just as it had done in the days before, and would do in the days to come.

If there were days to come.

Spike settled in the battered winged back chair by the fire and sipped his tea. There was white china with a proper cup and saucer and a teaspoon on the side. A tea pot and slices of lemon in a delicate Chinese bowl which took pride of place on the table at his elbow. Such a proper gentleman these days - no JD for him. If only they knew, this little gang. They thought he was so tame, so safe. A sheep in wolf’s clothing, drinking Earl Grey and reading selections from old English folk songs.

But Xander knew. He knew the black thoughts and the temptations and the siren song of blood. That was the thing about Xander – he never forgot what he was dealing with. The difference was, Xander didn’t care.

More fool him.

More fool both of them.

***

That’s the thing about love. Where does it end? Where does real emotion stop and obsession start? Was it with the first touch, or the first kiss? Or perhaps with the first intake of breath, when a lover takes your hand and your heart and your head? Spike doesn’t know. He’s not the poet in this family, despite what history says. But Xander, Xander whispers to him. Sometimes nonsense. Sometimes sweetness. And sometimes, words of heat and lust and want. Such want.

Then Spike wants.

And when he wants, he wants forever.

***

He leafed through the book on his lap, pages rustling in the silence and his fingers tracing the lines of the song. If he closed his eyes he knew he’d hear Dru crooning the verses in his head, weaving her spell with the cadence and tone, and the echo of longing and heartache and desire. But Spike kept his eyes open and he murmured the words to himself.

“Go from my window, my love, my dove.
Go from my window, my dear.
For the wind is in the west, and the cuckoo’s in his nest
And you can’t find a lodging here.”



“What was that?” The voice cut through his reverie and he looked up. Buffy stood on the other side of the fireplace. “What were you whispering?”

“Nothing,” he said. “Just some words from an old song I knew, years ago.”

“Cuckoos are the ones that kick other birds out of their nests, aren’t they? I never understood that. How the parent birds couldn’t know they were raising an imposter.”

He settled back into his chair, fingers smoothing over the binding on the spine of the book. “I suppose they just see what they expect to see. Why wouldn’t you?”

“I guess,” she said. “I’m going to make some coffee. Do you want some?”

“No, ta. I’ll stick with the good stuff.” He stretched out, picked up the teapot and poured himself another cup.

“You’re as bad as Giles ever was,” she said. Her smile dimmed and disappeared.

He took a sip of his tea, the heat echoing on his tongue like an accusation.

“I’ll get that coffee,” she said and turned abruptly.

He could feel the rush of air as she opened the far door into the kitchen, but he kept his eyes fixed on the firelight, the fine bone china gripped in his hand. If she’d still been there, she would have heard him humming.

The mullioned windows of the old cottage rattled in the wind and the flames in the fireplace flickered and danced. Putting the cup and saucer down, he stood, the book still clasped loosely in his hand and walked steadily towards the narrow door in the corner, hidden by the thick velvet curtain. It had been the front door to the cottage a long time ago, before modernisation took hold. The idea of a hidden entrance appealed to him somewhere deep inside. As if it was a secret only he possessed. Drawing the curtain aside, he peered out through the glass panes in the top half of the door. The rain was coming in from the east, the wind whipped the yellow broom back from the garden path and he could hear the crash of waves on the seashore at the bottom of the cliff. The air felt charged, as if the promise of thunder was only a heartbeat away.

He nodded to himself, even as a voice somewhere in the back of his brain told him, ‘no’. Told him he didn’t want to do it. That he couldn’t do it. But the other voice - the one that had been at the forefront of his mind as he read the words of the old song told him different. That it was right. That it needed to be done.

He’d been putting it off for hours, and as the minutes ticked by, the pendulum swung and the hands on the mantle clock marched on, the voices in his head murmured and muttered and finally fell silent. The clock struck midnight and he could only hear one voice now – telling him it was time. Telling him the moment for debate was passed. Telling him there was no way back.

He hoped one day he would be forgiven. He hoped one day he would forgive himself.

The key in the lock turned easily and his wrist twisted, hand almost slipping with surprise. He hadn’t used the door in forever and there was only one person who would have taken the time and the care to oil a lock that no one used. His fingers slid off the handle as if the brass was too hot to touch and his nails curled into his palm, digging in, grounding and reassuring him with the momentary pain. Palm now open, he curled it back around the handle and this time the brass was cold to the touch, the heat of seconds before just a fleeting fancy. He turned it and the door clicked open, swinging back on its hinges. They had been oiled too.

Did Xander know they’d be doing this dance, he wondered? Did he stand with the oil can in his hand in the days before and imagine walking up the cliff path from the beach below, the rain and the wind buffeting him as he approached the house? Did he know that Spike would come to the door that nobody used and stand, framed in the firelight, waiting for him? Had he imagined it? Had he dreamed of it?

There was a thump, thump, thump of heavy boots on stone. The wooden fence at the bottom of the small garden was outlined in the moonlight and Spike’s eyes were fixed on the black gap, like a gaping mouth, where the gate stood open to the steps that were cut into the cliff face below. The boots thumped, and the wind blew, and Spike’s eyes flickered from yellow to blue again, showing one face, then the other to the night sky.

The shadow of a head and shoulders appeared above the line of the cliff and then the rest of the body came into view. Spike’s eyes flashed back to yellow and he could see Xander, hair plastered to his head from the rain, woollen work jacket soaked through and his jeans sticking to his legs as if they were fused to his skin. His hands were shoved in his pockets, his shoulders were hunched against the wind and he strode forward, ignoring the overgrown lavender on the garden path and the way the gravel crunched and slid under his boots.

His eyes were fixed forward. Fixed on Spike. And he smiled as he stepped into the light pooling from the doorway. But Spike didn’t smile, and he didn’t move, and Xander faltered, his smile fading as he came to a halt under the overhang of the outside porch. “Spike,” he said, and for a second the hesitation in his voice reminded Spike of the boy he’d been when they’d first met and not the man he’d become in the years that followed.

Spike took half a step forward, the tips of his boots just grazing the edge of the crumbling stone flag on the threshold. He gripped the old book in left hand while his other hung loosely, hovering near the pocket of his jeans. “I’ve been waiting for you,” he said.

Xander smiled again. “I hope I didn’t keep you up.”

“You’re worth waiting for,” Spike replied.

“Glad you think so.”

Spike’s fingers twitched at his side, then he watched his right hand come up, almost of its own volition, and reach out towards Xander. It stopped just inches away, hovering in the space between them, as if it wasn’t quite sure what it was doing.

Xander pulled his hands out of his pockets and mirrored the move – left hand rising and his fingertips ghosted over Spike’s, not quite touching, but Spike could feel the pressure, like opposing magnets, as Xander flattened his palm and pressed forward until his hand was a hairsbreath away. He did it again, but the distance remained, unbridged and unbroken. Xander let his hand fall back to his side. “Spike?” he repeated.

“I’m sorry,” Spike curled his fingers to his palm and lowered his arm before he could be tempted to reach out a second time.

“Why? What’s to be sorry about? This is what we agreed. So we could be together. So we couldn’t lose.”

“I know. But not like this.”

“It’s what we wanted. Remember? Nothing’s changed.”

“You’ve changed, love.”

“But only in the way we wanted. I’m still me. Still Xander. Still yours.”

Spike glanced down at the book in his hand. The bookmark ribbon was still in the page of the song he’d been reading earlier.

“Xander wouldn’t kill. Not for sport. Not someone he loved.”

“I’m a vampire, Spike. It’s what we do.”

“It’s not what we do,” Spike shouted. “It proves the spell didn’t take. Xander wouldn’t have killed.” He closed his eyes as if the action could make things go away, but when he opened them again, Xander still stood in the shadow of the porch, his head cocked to the side. “Xander wouldn’t have killed Giles,” he finished and he felt the old book creak under the pressure of his grip.

“I don’t suppose I get points for a Watcher? You know the way you did with your slayers. But baby steps, right? Come out, Spike. If I can’t come in, come out.”

Spike shook his head, but he could feel a bubble in his chest, like something was breaking, and he stepped forward, breaching the barrier, and his hand was in Xander’s hair, his mouth against Xander’s mouth and he could smell the wet wool of his coat and the spice of his aftershave from days before. His lips were moist and Spike licked and nipped and tasted. His hand slipped down, cradling at the back of Xander’s neck and he whispered into Xander’s mouth, “Love you.”

Then there was just the taste of ashes and dust and Buffy stood in the rain, tears running down her face and a stake upraised in her hand.

“I couldn’t do it.” He shook his head. “I saw him and I just –“

“I know,” she interrupted. “I knew.”

“But it’s my fault. I did this to him. It was meant to be for us.”

She lowered the stake and leaned heavily against the wooden upright of the porch. “It’s not your fault. It’s not Xander’s fault. It’s not anyone’s fault. The spell should have worked. I don’t know why it didn’t.”

“And Giles isn’t here to ask.”

“No, no he isn’t.” She wiped a tear away with the back of her hand and he watched her visibly straighten her spine, a fleeting glimpse of Buffy the leader, before her shoulders slumped and she was just a girl with too many burdens to bear. “We can’t hide behind him anymore,” she said. “Now it’s just us.” She glanced down at the stake still clutched in her hand and she let it go, watching as it tumbled to the ground and lay on the wet gravel. “Don’t stay out here too long. You’ll get soaked. He wouldn’t have wanted that.”

“Giles?”

“Xander.” Her voice cracked as she said his name and before he could reply she turned on her heel and fled along the path that bordered the house towards the front door. Spike didn’t need to see her face to know the tears hadn’t stopped. That they wouldn’t stop for a long time to come.

He watched her until she disappeared around the corner, then he slid down the door frame until he was slumped half in and half out of the light. His hand skirted around the stake, as if it would bite him if he got too close. His fingertips hovered over the ashes scattered on the wet ground and he trembled. He thought of the hours and days and months that he’d had with Xander – of the tentative friendship that had grown into something that neither of them could have ever predicated. Of the plans they had made in love and passion, and the hubris of wishing for a future together that wouldn’t end.

He wanted to close his eyes and drown in the memories and the battering rain, but a rustle in the trees made him look up. He scanned the darkness at the bottom of the garden, hoping that Xander would appear from the steps on the cliff path as if the last minutes hadn’t happened. As if he could wind back the clock on the mantelpiece before it had struck twelve. The trees rustled again and the shadows coalesced and stepped forward, almost dancing on the wet gravel.

“Dru,” he whispered.

She stood, draped in a long black cloak that seemed to float on the wind. Her hair hung in two long braids that reached almost to her waist and her skin was as pale as the china tea cup he’d abandoned on the side table what felt like centuries before. Miss Edith hung from one hand and in the other she held a crystal orb.

“Dru,” he repeated, rising to his knees. The book of folk songs slipped from his fingers and tumbled to the ground. “Why are you here?” He paused. “What did you do?”

“Didn’t you hear the song, my Spike? Didn’t you realise how it ends?” She lifted her hand and the orb sparkled and shimmered in the moonlight.

“Oh the devil’s in the man,” she crooned. “That he will not understand. That he can’t have a lodging here.”

“No,” His eyes were fixed on the orb. “No.”

But she just smiled and stepped back. “Silly Spike. No tea and cakes for you. No bright eyed kitten playing with your heart string.” She brought the orb to her lips and kissed it and Spike could see the stain of her lipstick shining on its surface like corruption. She smiled again. “Don’t keep me waiting, my pet,” she said and before he could scramble to his feet she disappeared into the shadows. There was a final glint of the moonlight reflecting on the crystal and then, in the space where one breath would have followed another, it was gone.

All that remained was a stake lying on the ground, the sodden pages of an old book of folksongs, the memory of the orb held hostage in her hand and Xander turning to ashes in the rain.




The End



A/N: 1 - Prompts
Obviously the creature prompt was vampire, because really, what else was it going to be. However, my visual prompt was this piece of art work by Mike Penn:

When I saw this picture, the teddy bear and the knife made me think of Dru (even if the figure looked nothing like her), and suddenly the story took a turn that I wasn’t expecting.

A/N: 2 - Song
I was also going to originally write a completely different story with a different creature prompt but then this song was going around my head and became insistent, so I had to switch tack to accommodate its demands. If you want to hear the full song, here’s a link to a brilliant version of it by June Tabor - Go From My Window

Thanks to the mods of spook_me for all their hard work putting the ficathon together.





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