Snippits from the Long Time Gone Verse





Long Time Gone Snippits


by
Yin Again



Seis Banderas

A vampire at a theme park, Spike thinks to himself - I just couldn't sink any lower. He can't hold the bad humor, though. Not with Sara clinging to him with one cotton-candy-sticky hand and gesturing wildly as she begs him to take her on the carousel just one more time, please, oh please, Uncle Will with the endless enthusiasm native to six-year-olds everywhere. Not with the glorious sight of his love walking just ahead, trim and tanned in tailored shorts and a shirt of emerald green, over-long hair brushing his shoulders. Xander ambles slowly, hunched to let little Joey hold his hand and walk on her own two feet because, as she says, she's a big girl now.

It's been two years since the day they held her in the hospital, two years since Spike made his promise, "We'll find a way." They've talked about it on occasion - times when they're alone, drowsing sated in the big, soft bed; puttering around the house, making the near-constant repairs the old Victorian requires; doing all the little things that keep the dojo running - paperwork, cleaning the carpet, polishing weapons, fighting good-naturedly about whether or not to summon Angel to touch up the murals. Sometimes the lulls lead to wondering what it would be like - to have a little someone of their own.

They aren't starved for the affection of children. Sara is as much Spike's darling as she ever was, and Joey has entangled Xander in a web just as light and strong. They spend plenty of their time knee-deep in Barbies and Candyland and sidewalk chalk and bubble soap. Spike's rarely seen Xander happier than the first times he's experienced with Joey - the first time she smiled at him or raised her chubby arms to be picked up, or when she toddled some of her first steps into his arms.

Lucky for him, she's a tough little thing. Her sister is prissy, girly - a delicate flower who's become an early reader and a dreamer. It works for Spike, and Joey's budding tomboyishness works for Xander. It also makes Spike yearn to give him a son - one to open up new places in Xander's heart, while not displacing the never-forgotten Lex.

Their family has grown; first with the addition of Joey, and the unexpectedly close bond formed between Spike and Xander and his parents-in-law, Lee and Lily. The older couple has meshed seamlessly into the group, and become grandparents to the little girls, who call them Sobo and Sofu. Willow has returned to California, teaching at UCLA, and Oz is around almost all the time. Cordelia's twins join them sometimes, along with their mother and Brooks. Some of the younger Slayers have started their own families, and holidays are boisterous and wild and they wouldn't have it any other way.

Up ahead there's an intricate dance happening of parents and children and sodas and wet-wipes and lines and when it all clears, Spike and Xander find themselves alone. They don't waste time on wondering what happened. After each taking that instinctive glance to see that their charges are safe with their parents, in line for the Monster Plantation, they come together.

Xander's hand goes to its favorite place - OK, its second favorite - and cups the back of Spike's neck to pull him close for a chaste kiss before slumping tiredly against him.

"Hot," Xander says, looking up at the stars dotting the summer sky.

"'S not the heat, it's the humidity," Spike quips, and he's glad Xander's too tired to pinch him. He takes the opportunity to kiss Xander's strong throat, tasting sunshine and sweat and sugar.

They've been in Atlanta for nearly a week; in this steaming park all day. Spike joined them after the late sunset, trading himself for Lee, who had headed home with much relief for a few quiet moments with his wife. Dawn and Jase have made the most of their smitten babysitters and ridden every roller coaster three times. Tomorrow night they'll return to California.

A couple walks by, a blue-clad baby sleeping against the mother's shoulder. Spike elbows Xander a little to make sure he notices, selfishly wanting to see the soft smile he knows will come, the one that always does. He isn't disappointed, but he is surprised when that same smile is turned on him.

Xander leans in close and lets his lips trace the edge of Spike's ear. "Not just yet," he murmurs.

"No?" Spike says, surprised.

"No," Xander says. "Sometimes I think it's time, but then we spend a Sunday morning lazing in bed, or we fuck in the kitchen or we decide to go somewhere on a whim and I think, nah, not yet. Not quite ready to share you yet."

That simple phrase makes Spike happy in ways that words haven't yet been invented to explain. Sure, he wants to make a family with Xander, but the mathematics of love - that it doesn't divide, it multiplies - haven't been easy for him to learn. There will always be a part of him that longs to be enough. His throat is tight, and his voice is thick when he drags Xander's head down and whispers in his ear.

"Gonna take you home and not share until you pass out," he growls. "The rest of the family'll just have to turn a deaf ear."

Xander shivers and makes that little noise that means he's ready, willing. It's Spike's favorite sound ever, and he traces the tendons of Xander's neck with his tongue until he gets to hear it again.

Xander turns Spike and presses them tight together, front to back, his arms encircling that slim waist, hands finding their accustomed spots on hipbones made to fit, and Spike leans back, letting it all wash over him. Love and family and heat and starlight and that damned annoying song from the stupid fake antebellum plantation and the knowledge that he is, in this moment, enough.





Family

Character Interviews:



For the Spike and Xander in LTG: How did Spike resolve his feelings for Drusilla and what she did to Xander's family. And, Xander, are you still close to your late wife's parents?

*****

An airport bar really isn't the place for an epiphany, Spike thought, but the location was probably appropriate for an existence as strange as his. He'd left Xander at the gate; the other man's bouncy excitement had grated on his own grim nervousness, and retreat seemed wise.

Lee and Lily were on a flight currently box-stepping its way through the holding pattern over LA. Xander was pacing the gate area and Spike was sucking up JD and secondhand smoke like they held all the answers. In the six months since Xander had come crashing back into his life, the vampire had spent a fair amount of time ruminating on the concept of family. Not nearly as much time as he'd spent trying to find new ways to make Xander scream, but still.


"I want to invite Lee and Lily to come visit." Xander still had sawdust in his hair and a smear of blue chalk on one cheek, remnants of his day spent outfitting the new dojo. Spike licked his thumb and wiped the chalk away, smiling as the human aimed a careless kiss at the retreating digit and missed.

"OK by me," the vampire replied, with bravado he didn't quite feel. "Anything special we need to do?"

"Change the guest room sheets and get the extra lube out of the night table in there and we should be set," Xander grinned.

Spike hadn't realized that he'd been holding a breath until he let it out in a rush. A hand had curved around his to pull him into a gentle embrace.

"It will be fine. They love you," Xander said. "I love you."


Xander stood at the door of the lounge and waved a hand. Spike stood and threw a twenty onto the table. Hand in hand the two men headed to the gate. Moments later, the doors opened and people began to stream off of the aircraft. Spike spotted Lee and Lily easily and released Xander's hand so that the human could greet his parents with a hug.

Lee broke away, leaving Xander and Lily clinging together. The smaller man approached the vampire with an unreadable expression.

"William," he said, holding out a hand.

"Lee," Spike replied and shook it. He was surprised when Lee pulled him in close for a brief, hard hug. Lee stepped back and laughed.

"Don't be so shocked, son. You love him. We love him. Is it so hard to believe that we do not begrudge you that happiness?"

Spike was saved from answering by a fierce hug from Lily, who also added a resounding kiss on the cheek. She kept hold of one of Spike's arms and threaded her other through Xander's. She beamed alternately at the two men as they walked the corridor.

Spike caught Xander's smile over her head, and just then realized that the love he had felt for Drusilla had turned to dust long before her body had, and that he had been given a gift of inestimable value for the simple act of opening his door.


He cried the first time he held Joey. The tiny girl was less than ten minutes old when Jase carried her from Dawn's bedside and placed he gently into Xander's arms, jokingly calling him "Da Godfathuh" in a horrendous accent. His small laugh had turned into a gasp as Joey's sleepy blue eyes had opened and tried to focus on his. One gentle touch of Spike's hand on his back and he suddenly couldn't see her sweet face for the tears.

Xander lifted one hand to dash the tears away, and gave Dawn a watery smile at the same time. She looked tired and worried and ecstatic all at the same time and even he could see that the drugs were wearing off and the pain was creeping in. They would need to go soon. Besides, the sunrise wasn't far away.

Spike ran one pale hand over the baby's fuzzy little head, and Xander thought it was like a benediction. Cool lips touched his neck then, and an arm went around his shoulders and squeezed. Buffy joined them, and Xander couldn't resist the pleading in her eyes, so he handed Joey over carefully before turning into Spike's embrace. The lips moved against his neck again, and Xander could barely make out the words, murmured as if in prayer.

"We'll find a way."





Family 2



For Xander from Long Time Gone: Would he ever want to try to have children again? Or maybe adopt? I know how much he really wanted his child, and I can't even begin to imagine how devastated he was when he found out that not only his wife, but unborn child was dead.

*****

He cried the first time he held Joey. The tiny girl was less than ten minutes old when Jase carried her from Dawn's bedside and placed he gently into Xander's arms, jokingly calling him "Da Godfathuh" in a horrendous accent. His small laugh had turned into a gasp as Joey's sleepy blue eyes had opened and tried to focus on his. One gentle touch of Spike's hand on his back and he suddenly couldn't see her sweet face for the tears.

Xander lifted one hand to dash the tears away, and gave Dawn a watery smile at the same time. She looked tired and worried and ecstatic all at the same time and even he could see that the drugs were wearing off and the pain was creeping in. They would need to go soon. Besides, the sunrise wasn't far away.

Spike ran one pale hand over the baby's fuzzy little head, and Xander thought it was like a benediction. Cool lips touched his neck then, and an arm went around his shoulders and squeezed. Buffy joined them, and Xander couldn't resist the pleading in her eyes, so he handed Joey over carefully before turning into Spike's embrace. The lips moved against his neck again, and Xander could barely make out the words, murmured as if in prayer.





Claim

For LTG Xander -- The idea of claiming seems important to you, although perhaps for reasons it's hard for you to articulate. Did you and Spike ever do the claiming ritual? Who "proposed"? Did you do it in conjunction with a analogous human ceremony, like a wedding?

*****

The trip to L.A. was completed mostly in a comfortable silence. Xander drove with one elbow propped on the window, letting his hand ride the currents of air like the wing of an airplane. The night breeze flowed over his skin and raised the fine hairs on his arm. Spike sprawled in the passenger seat, rousing himself only to switch CDs or run a teasing finger over Xander's bare knee. The Clash. The Jam. The Clash again and they were there.

Greetings were exchanged, drinks were sipped, dinner was served, and small talk was talked. Silence descended and a complicated series of meaningful looks darted around the table. Spike to Xander; Angel to Buffy; Xander to Angel; Spike to Buffy. The two couples split and mixed, and with a minimum of fuss the two vampires retreated to Angel's study, leaving the humans at the kitchen table.

"I need to know about Claiming," Xander blurted out.

"I know I wasn't ever much for learning the Lore..." Spike's voice trailed off and he studied the scuffed toes of his boots.

"Um," Buffy said, blushing. "It was...well, it was intense."

Angel's smile was gentle, as was his touch on Spike's arm. "Sit down, I'll get us a whiskey."

"I mean, I don't know if Spike..."

"...even wants to, but he's said a couple of things...Xan likes to mull things over, you know? He's not as impulsive as he used to be."

"...but I think he's considering it. I know I am."

Buffy laid her hand on Xander's arm. "Well," she said, "one of you is going to have to bring it up."

"I know, I know. But what if I'm wrong?" Spike's blue eyes were anguished as he sipped his drink.

"He won't refuse you. He loves you." Angel leaned forward and clasped the back of the other vampire's neck with one large hand.

"So you approve?" Xander's eyes were bright with a film of tears.

"Oh, God, yes Xan - Spike and I settled our differences eons ago. Besides, you're talking about joining my family now. You're the one I have to approve of."

"So, you'll be my - what - mother in law? Grandmother in law?" It was hard to say whose smile was wider.

"Let's just call it family, OK?" Buffy said.

"Take this." Angel handed Spike a small, leather-bound book. "It'll tell you what you need to know. The gist of it is the usual - sex, blood, ritual words. You can make up your own if you want."

Spike took the book and slipped it into his pocket. "Did you and Buffy plan..."

"God, no! It was very heat-of-the-momenty! That's why it took us so long to get married - we were all wacky." Buffy grinned and flushed at the same time. "The claiming just sort of happened. I mean, he'd marked me back in high school, but the actual Claiming - you know, the mutualness - just happened."

"We didn't mean to, but I'm glad we did," Angel smiled, remembering his and Buffy's thrilling, unexpected joining and the spontaneous declarations that had bound them. "You're right to think it through, though - smarter."

"Ooooh - do you think you guys will get married? Or have a commitment thingy? And rings, maybe?" Buffy was giddy at the idea of shopping.

"I don't know," Xander said, and she could hear the relief in his voice; his fears eased, if not put to rest.

Spike and Angel entered the kitchen, laughing quietly. Xander stood and crossed the room, sliding an arm around Spike's waist.

"You ready?" he asked. "It's getting late."

Spike leaned against his partner and smiled at his grand-sire as Angel pulled Buffy to him, resting his chin on top of her head.

"See you guys next time," he said, nodding to Angel.

Buffy and Xander shared a smile, and the two men left.

The trip back to Sunnydale was completed mostly in silence. The Claiming...was not.





1825

Spike dreads the dog days of summer. The sun shines until past nine, and he has to stay inside. It's harder this year, because Xander has brought his scribblings and drawings to life, creating the promised sand and water-scape at the old Summers' house. No Summers lives there anymore. There's always someone there, but it's more command post than anything. The yard is large and it's a favorite place for the horde of children that gather, and their splashes and shrieks draw Spike to the window, wishing that he could join Xander - seal-wet and sun-bronzed.

They spend most of the time they aren't at the dojo here - the covered portico makes it safe, and summer seems to be a time to be surrounded by their raucous family. The wading pools and sandboxes are separated by a low tiered wall that makes a perfect spot for parents to sit and have a drink and watch the little ones play. Spike often sees Dawn or Jase or Willow or Oz perched out there, refereeing a water fight or kissing an injury better or just soaking up the California sunshine - peaceful amidst the cacophony of children.

The sun's not the only part of summer that Spike dreads. Every year as the days grow longer, he has to watch Xander's face change. It's not a sea change, more like a tiny tide - the washing away of carefree happiness, a washing in of wistful sadness. It's worse this year, this fifth year. It seems like a milestone of sorts, in the way that short-lived humans like to count by fives and tens. Xander rarely says anything about it, but his sadness is alive, and everyone notices. Late summer is a time when things that are Xander's special favorites start to appear - his favorite meals and desserts, his favorite DVDs and little gifts - all offered by the people who love him, from Spike all the way down to little Joey.

The sun sets and the little ones go home, trailing colorful towels and asking for just a few minutes more. Xander gathers the toys and floats and pails and shovels and secures them inside the purpose-made storage benches, then he wanders to the wall and sinks down, head tilted back, looking at the sky. Spike watches from the awning's shade, every sense on alert for the instant the last rays slip over the horizon. He knows what Xander's doing, tipping his head back to keep the tears from falling. He's seen it before, and it hurts him no less to see it again.

Finally, the sun is down, and Spike walks across the yard. Xander turns and looks at him, and, in the darkness, Spike sees the first tears fall. Xander stands, and meets Spike in the middle - the two men coming together slowly, inexorably; drawn together like they are laced that way, each pull forward intertwining them more, sealing them to one another. Spike waits as Xander sheds tears for lost loves and lost possibilities, waits for the storm to pass, waits for Xander's surface calm to return. It does - it always does. In his heart, Xander is a creature of equilibrium; he always comes back into true.

"You okay?" Spike asks, knowing it's a dumb question, handing over the handkerchief he'd carried out with him.

"Yes. No. The usual." Xander tries to grin, then wipes his face and blows his nose. He makes as if to hand the handkerchief back, laughing a little when Spike recoils.

Xander tucks the cloth into his pocket and reaches out to cup Spike's face in one warm, rough hand. He shapes his palm to Spike's sharp chin and lets his fingers hook around the hinge of his jaw, the pad of his thumb tracing the indentation in Spike's upper lip.

"Do you remember when we first talked about losing people?" Xander asks, and Spike remembers...

Xander took several more deep breaths. When he spoke again, his voice was thick with unshed tears. "When does it stop hurting so much?" he asked miserably.

Spike gently rubbed the back of Xander's neck in soothing circles. "Hell, Xan, I don't know." He gave a short, bitter laugh. "I'm still hurting for people dead a hundred years." He paused. "You don't ever forget, luv, not if they were important to you. But, after a while, the pain gets...tempered with all of the good memories, so it's more bittersweet." Spike leaned forward and wrapped his arm around Xander's neck, resting his chin on the warm shoulder. "You're not wrong to grieve."

He leans into Xander's hand and murmurs the word "bittersweet."

"Yeah," Xander says. "I'm still waiting for that."

"I know." Spike's voice is soft as an ocean breeze, but as strong as the tide. "I'll wait with you."





Part Five


Xander and Tim are buddies. Not that Tim's had any trouble making friends with the other kids - Xander's made sure of that. He hates to see a child left out, and will often intercede if it looks like someone's being excluded. Tim is interested in how things go together, and he'll follow Xander around while he fixes things, ask about the tools and listen raptly as Xander describes their uses.





Tuesday

Tuesdays were good. Daytime classes and the late afternoon free, doing paperwork in the dojo's small, spare office. Or, doing paperwork if you had to. Like, if a whole box of shiny, new weapons hadn't just been delivered. From China, complete with funky stamps and weird tape and nifty recloseable plastic baggies. Oh, and weapons.

"Whatcha got?" Dawn seemed to have a sixth sense for shiny and new.

"Box of danger," Xander intoned.

Dawn squealed.

Xander dragged the box out of the office and onto the main workout floor, bowing awkwardly as he stepped up, watching Dawn to make sure she did the same thing, laughing inside at her pregnant waddle, marveling at her innate grace as she settled, cross-legged on the floor.

He rummaged in the box and came up with a smaller box. "Here, be careful," he said, weathering the petulant glance she sent his way.

"Oooooh," she said. "Knives." She sorted them onto the floor into piles - British commando knives and double-edged daggers, a pair of dirks and three sets of sai and way, way down at the bottom, a wickedly curved blade with a short, leather wrapped handle. "You ordered it!" she squealed, turning it over and over in her hands, pulling it out of the sheath for a closer look.

"Don't tell Spike," he said with a fake frown.

"Don't have to tell me, I faxed the order, you git."

Xander looked up to see Spike in the doorway. He didn't glance back at the mirrors - it was still too disconcerting to not see a reflection.

Spike walked into the room and held out a hand. Dawn handed over the knife reluctantly, and he twirled it through his fingers in what Xander thought was an infuriating display of preternatural skill. He got over it when Spike handed the knife back and slumped to the floor, pushing a sword and a bunch of plastic aside to rest his head in Xander's lap.





Space Between

Sara is six and Joey is two, and there's a space in between. Spike's not stupid - he can do the math. That's the space that Lex would fill. Four. It's what parents call a "good age." A four-year-old doesn't need diapers; can feed and pretty much dress themselves. A four-year-old has a sense of humor and a personality and they laugh and play with that special sort of fearless abandon.

At six, Sara is finding fear for the first time. She's learning about social groups and has felt the sting of childhood rejection. She's had her moments of first-grade hysteria over assignments or friendships gone sour. She's had her first crush - on a teacher - and been let down so easily that even Spike forgave the man, though Jase may never manage to.

At two, Joey still depends on them for so much, and she can be a holy terror. She's demanding and fussy and balky and stubborn and, well...two. They look at each other and roll their eyes and hop to get what she needs, muttering "this too shall pass" and smiling ruefully at the way she owns them all.

But Lex would have been four this year. Spike imagines him tall, but slim. Dark hair would be a given, as well as dark eyes. He thinks that Lex would have looked exotic, with Shari's almond eyes but Xander's olive skin and wavy hair - a devastating combination. He imagines that he'd be a wild child, rough-and-tumble, with scabbed knees and a wide smile. He hopes that Lex would have been carefree and confident, bold and loving like his father.

Spike watches Xander. Dawn and Jase have formed a regular playgroup - their girls and neighbor kids and the sons and daughters of the local Slayers and schoolmates. Xander designed and built a massive swing set in the back yard of the Summers' house. It's made of strong timbers and resembles a castle, with ramparts and a turret playhouse. It has slides and swings and bridges and a trapeze, and the whole thing is set in an oasis of soft cedar chips almost a foot deep to cushion the inevitable falls. He's got sketches going for a wading pool-and-sandbox extravaganza for next summer.

Spike watches from the house. Xander watches from the patio. He often gets in there and plays with the kids, but today is different. A new child has joined the fray, and as soon as Xander saw him, he folded into a chair and hasn't moved since. The child is a boy. He looks to be around four, and when Spike sees him, he, too, folds into a chair. Tall, yet slim. Olive skin and wavy dark hair. Wide, happy smile and a particular liking for the monkey bars. Spike can see that the boy's eyes are green, and they're as round as any American child's, but there's just something about him. He's got Xander's devil-may-care look, but there's a grace to his movements that reminds Spike of Naomi - Shari's friend who had sparred with them in LA. And, true or not, Naomi is Spike's internal vision of Shari.

Spike watches Xander. He knows the look on the other man's face. It's coming around more often these days - regret and want and longing and pain, and it tears at Spike. He knows in his heart that Xander doesn't blame him, but he blames himself. He relives the moment, so long ago, when he was a hair's breadth away from dusting Dru, long before she ever got the idea of destroying Xander's life and then destroying Xander. Regret is nothing new for Spike - it came with the soul, and he's learned to deal, but this particular regret cuts deep and wide. It's all mixed up, because, had things not happened the way they did, he would never have had Xander and the happiness they've forged. He feels as if Lex and Shari's deaths have given him a gift he never deserved, and it makes his heart ache.

Spike looks up as Xander levers himself out of his chair and walks toward the house. They meet at the sliding glass door, and Xander pulls Spike to his side, making sure they are shaded by the broad awning. Spike presses close as a warm arm comes around his shoulders.

"New kid," Xander whispers, nuzzling into Spike's hair. Spike can smell the faint salt of unshed tears, a drop in the ocean.

"Yeah," Spike says, looking out at the boy. "Saw him."

"His name's Tim," Xander says.

They stand together, the sounds of laughing children washing over and around them. After a few minutes, the boy they are both watching moves off to the side, looking at the clusters of other children with a wistful expression. Xander straightens, and Spike gives him a kiss on the cheek and a gentle push forward. He doesn't have to strain to hear the quiet exchange when Xander kneels in front of the boy, holding out a hand that is solemnly shaken.

"Hi, Tim. I'm Xander."

"Hello, Xander - do you like the monkey bars?"





A Question

"Bi, Willow - I'm bi. I didn't pull a 'gay now,' not really. And realize? I don't know if I ever just woke up and slapped my hand to my forehead and said, 'I am so gay'. Bi, whatever. OK, I may have said that this morning, but it was more about what Spike was...oops, sorry, TMI, right?

Anyway, I kind of always had an appreciation for guys. I mean, I looked, I thought...stuff. I'm pretty sure I probably let a comment or two about Angel or Spike slip through in the old days. But I guess I really knew when I met Danny. In Phoenix, after I left here. He was...nice, you know? He looked at me like I was...hell, he looked at me like I look at Twinkies, and I just fell. I think I would have followed him anywhere.

The first kiss was like licking an ice cream cone. You know, you start out with just a taste, and it's so good that you move faster and faster, trying to get more and before you know it you're naked in the backseat of a Geo Metro getting your...mind...blown. TMI again? Sorry. But yeah, that's when I knew."




Series Index



Feed the Author

 Visit the Author's Live Journal Visit the Author's Website

The Spander Files