Disclaimer:Not mine. They belong to Joss. ::sad little sigh::.

A Winter's Tale


The nights are colder now
maybe I should close the door
and anyway the snow has covered all your footsteps
and I can follow you no more
the fire still burns at night
my memories are warm and clear
but everybody knows it's hard to be alone at this time of year

Xander sat in front of the fireplace with his back on the couch and his knees hugged close to his chest. He stared intently at the wooden trunk sitting innocently next to the fireplace. The trunk itself was nothing special, just a plain rectangle of stained wood with a flat top and a mildly striking latch to secure it closed.

A slight shiver shook his frame. He’d opened the window hours ago, when the sun was still shining. He’d felt stifled, and there was no reason to keep it closed anymore. He shivered once more. The nights were getting colder, the wind harsher and sharper than a few days ago. He should probably get up to close the window, not like he could see anything anymore.

The tree lights flickered, plunging the room into darkness for a second before they lit again. They’d been doing that for weeks, since Willow had cast a spell intended to make them twinkle in rhythm to “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas”. Instead they lit randomly, often staying lit for over ten minutes before flickering madly for another ten. Xander didn’t even turn to look. They’d laughed at that, he and Spike; they’d thought it amusing that Willow could still mess up even after her big Slayer-empowerment spell.

Xander flinched as happy voices fluttered into the room. Carol singers were making the rounds, singing in harmony. They sounded so damn happy, so fucking joyful that their saviour had been born. Their voices dragged Xander’s attention away from the trunk and he looked towards the open window. He noticed the snowflakes, dancing their way down to the ground.

He got up and stood by the window, looking down at the yard. It was slowly being covered in white as even more snow piled down. There were footprints on the path, but they were nearly covered now. It must have been snowing a while. Xander watched the footprints gradually disappear, holding completely still but for the movement of his chest as he fought to breathe.

He made an aborted movement towards the door, running about half a step before he stopped. The footprints had faded. They were gone. He couldn’t follow anymore, it was too late. Always too fucking late.

All too soon his eyes gravitated back to the trunk, and he returned to his previous position, leaning back on the couch with his knees hugged close to his chest. The trunk was the only connection he had to Spike.

The phone rang but he let the machine take it. Willow’s voice came through the speaker, urging him to pick up and begging him to go to her house for Christmas.

He didn’t move.

It was only a winter's tale
just another winter's tale
and why should the world take notice
of one more love that's failed
a love that could never be
though it meant a lot to you and me
on a world wide scale we're just another winter's tale

The phone was ringing again. It’d been doing that often lately. At some point the doorbell had rung too but Xander was still sitting in place, staring at the trunk. The machine picked up dozens of message from the girls. Apparently the apocalypse cared for no broken heart and was proceeding per schedule. Xander stared at the trunk. He didn’t really care about the apocalypse. The girls would get this one, he was busy.

They had been in love. No matter what everyone said, they had been in love. They still were. But sometimes, love isn’t enough. It hadn’t been enough for them, it had failed in the end, just when they needed it the most. It had failed and now Xander was alone here, and Spike was alone somewhere in the city.

Voices could be heard again, and this time there was nothing happy about them. This time they were strident, demanding his attention. Xander blinked confusedly and turned to face the door. Buffy sounded angry. He wondered why – there was no reason for her to be angry. After all, the world went on. That was part of the Slayer’s job, wasn’t it? To keep the world turning? He frowned, muscles moving slowly, as if wading through water. He felt like his face had been still…numb…for years.

The door shook and the wood cracked a little but it didn’t give. He should probably be proud of that. After all, he’d built that door himself, extra strong, extra thick to keep the monsters out. He’d had it vampire tested.

Willow was there now, sad and resigned, drawing Buffy away.

He didn’t move.

while I stand alone
a bell is ringing far away
I wonder if you hear, I wonder if you're listening
I wonder where you are today
good luck, I wish you well
for all that wishes may be worth
I hope that love and strength
are with you for the length of your time on Earth

He was once again sitting in front of the trunk, staring at it as if it could explain things to him. The reason behind Spike leaving, maybe. It had been his trunk, after all. At first Xander thought that Spike had left it just so he could come back but he was slowly coming to accept that he’d been wrong. It must be New Year’s Eve now; he could hear fireworks and music. General merriment and fun was being had by all.

Spike was probably out there. Or perhaps not, maybe he was inside, somewhere warm and comfortable. After all, what was another year for a vampire? Just one more moment in a lifetime spanning centuries. Someone was singing Auld Lang Syne. Maybe Spike could hear the same music, maybe they were both listening to the same man.

Warmth settled in his chest at the thought that maybe, just maybe they still had something in common. It soon died. There was no him and Spike anymore, no reason to care if they had something in common.

He was beginning to hate the trunk.

Wishes were expensive, he knew. There was always a price to pay, always something bad to balance the good. Anya had taught him that if nothing else. Still, he didn’t care and he wished Spike happiness, for as long as he was here and even after that. Spike deserved to be happy, Xander knew.

He didn’t move.

It was only a winter's tale
just another winter's tale
and why should the world take notice
of one more love that's failed
it's a love that could never be
though it meant a lot to you and me
on a world-wide scale we're just another winter's tale

He supposed the apocalypse was over. The world went on turning, so the girls must have won. His machine bleeped again, with another message from Willow. They were all okay, all his girls were fine. A little knot he hadn’t noticed in his heart loosened and dissolved at her words.

The trunk seemed smug to him now, taunting him with Spike’s absence. His stare gradually lost its apathetic edge, growing hotter and more hostile. They had failed, Spike and him. Failed at being together, failed at keeping each other. They could save the world but not them. Their relationship was one more thing they had magnificently destroyed and the world didn’t fucking care. It kept going on, kept being nearly destroyed on a regular basis, kept needing to be saved.

When he moved, it was with speed and passion. Before he knew what he was doing he was standing in front of the trunk, axe in hand. He didn’t remember the trip down the stairs to the storage room to grab it but it didn’t matter. What mattered was that Spike had left and the world didn’t give a shit and the fucking trunk was still there.

By the time he was still again, there was nothing left but splinters.

The End

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