Stumbling In



Here's what my 'Secret Valentine' requested:

Xander/Lindsey or  Xander/Giles and would love it if you somehow were able to incorporate some schmoop along with Great Big Sea lyrics (, or neat layers into the story.



Another raw, cold February day and Lindsey slammed through the entry, shivering and stomping his boots clear of snow.  He'd thought Missouri and Oklahoma were pretty much the same, weather-wise, but up here in St. Louis it always seemed a little colder, to him.   Or maybe that was just his time spent in California - first Hastings and then Wolfram and Hart.  Thinned his blood, maybe. 

Only six o'clock but it was already dark outside, snow coming down thick and fast.  He was glad he didn't work anymore this week - traffic would be hellish.  And glad, too, that it was a Friday and Xander was in for the weekend - the whole family was.  He grinned, thinking about that.  Family.  He hung his coat up and put gloves, scarf and hat on the radiator to dry - put his boots on the old piece of carpet lying there and hopped over melting snow to the inner door, doing his best to keep his socks dry.

The downstairs was lit up, as usual; Spike's way of keeping it from being depressing.  Living room lights glowing, TV on as always.  And the good smell of something cooking in the kitchen - Xander's doing, since Spike could barely make toast, let alone a decent meal.  If it wasn't for Xander, Dawn'd live off take-out.

"Hey!" Lindsey called, walking down the short hall to the kitchen.

"Hey!" Dawn yelled back.  She and Spike were at the kitchen table, books spread out.  Homework time at Casa Undead.

"All in for the night, then," Spike said, glancing up with a small smile and Lindsey smiled back - touched Spike's shoulder as he walked past to the stove.  He lifted a pot-lid and grinned, sniffing up warm steam.

"All right!   He made chili.  Damn, that smells good!"

"He says it has to cook for another half hour and then we'll eat," Dawn said, looking grumpy.  She always argued that on a Friday she should be able to goof off and not stick to the rigid 'homework' schedule.  Spike didn't agree. 

"Cool.  I need to change."  Lindsey's jeans and shirt were covered in shavings and plaster dust from helping to put in a new wall at an old house.    Public Defenders got tapped for all sorts of strange things.   "See you guys in a while."

"Yeah."  Spike smirked at him, waggling an eyebrow.  Vampire senses pretty much guaranteed that no sex act could be conducted in private, but Lindsey didn't really care.  'Tease the Vamp' had moved on to something...else...and made sex with Xander a whole new deal.   He grinned back, air-kissing at Spike who snorted softly.  

"Now 'bit, you know that's not right," Spike said, pointing at something as Lindsey walked out.  Spike and Dawn had the downstairs - bigger rooms, full-on kitchen; basement and sewer and garage access, too, all to accommodate Spike and/or provide for a quick get-away.  Plus, they had the 'big' TV.


Upstairs - in a house built sometime in the 1890's and converted around the 1940's - was Lindsey and Xander's place.  It had more of a kitchenette than a kitchen - good for late-night snacks and breakfast, but not much else.  Bedroom, bathroom and a big room at the front of the house that had their books and their computer and the 'music' corner.  Since Spike and Dawn got the 'big' TV - and it was fuckin' huge - he and Xander got the good Bose stereo.  It was playing as Lindsey climbed the stairs, and he smiled.  It was the new CD that Xander'd had for about - two weeks.  He'd been playing it on repeat every chance he got, so Lindsey had most of it memorized by now.   'Scolding Wife' was just ending, 'Stumbling In' just starting, and Lindsey leaned on the doorjamb to the living room, watching Xander.

Fire in the fireplace - there was one downstairs, too - and the little twinkle-lights from Christmas still up over the mantle, white and pretty against the red brick.  Candles burning, as well - the cinnamon ones Dawn got them for Valentines, two days ago.  And Xander, sprawled on his belly in front of the fire on the big, fake-bearskin rug.  Books spread out, feet in the air and his red sweater on.   The one Lindsey had got him for a joke, never really expecting him to wear it.  'Should have seen how he dressed in Sunnydale, mate,' Spike had said, and Xander had whapped the vampire.  But there was the sweater - blood red with a great big heart on the front that said 'Be Mine'.  A joke...and not.


"I don't mind confiding That I make stupid mistakes...

Been misled and misguided And I'm easily led astray...

But you can dance with disaster Never missing a step...

Spinning faster and faster Long after I've already slipped..."


*Damn.  That' true.  So many mistakes...*   Lindsey looked down at his right hand, flexing it, then back at Xander.  *Mistakes and...disasters and...   The worst of intentions.  But you...*   But Xander...saw past all that.  Saw - through all that.  Being with Xander had stripped away the thin veneer of 'high-powered lawyer' and 'city-boy' and 'evil henchman' damn fast.  Because Xander knew evil - knew it from the inside - knew it from the other side.  The side Lindsey had been hurting and helping to kill every day he had worked in L.A.  When they'd met up in October - Xander and Spike getting a beer at the little bar Lindsey played at sometimes - there had been an immediate attraction.  An immediate feeling of...familiarity.   Lindsey had sang, Xander had played pool.  When he'd finished his set Xander had come up to him and told him he really liked the music - really liked Patsy Cline and thought his cover of 'Crazy' had been great.  Lindsey had tossed that one in there by request.  One of the regulars was having a birthday and wanted a dance with his 'best girl' - his wife of thirty years.  Watching them on the dance floor had been bitter-sweet for Lindsey, and when the gorgeous man with the big brown eyes had smiled at him - invited him over for a beer - he hadn't been able to say no.


"Over and over, again and again You float through the door and I'm stumbling in...

I'm twisted and tangled and soaked to the skin You float through the door and I'm stumbling in again...

Pulled in every direction I've a million regrets...

You're the perfect protection When I'm diving in over my head..."


A week, two dates and one amazing kiss later, Lindsey had found himself confessing everything - confessing to his past and to his mistakes - confessing to the evil he'd helped to triumph.  Confessing that he knew Spike was a vampire.   Two weeks later Xander had done some confessing of his own, and now Lindsey knew about the Slayer who'd died in Sunnydale protecting her friends and family - the unlikely vampire who'd vowed to keep her sister safe, and the carpenter who had built a new life for them when they'd all been sunk down so low into grief they thought they'd never get out. 

And Lindsey had been ashamed, and for a couple of weeks he'd avoided Xander - tried to hide from him.  Because this man - this oh-so- young man - had been fighting evil for years.  Had seen his friends die and been hurt over and over.  But he loved and lived and smiled like the world was a beautiful place.  It took until nearly Christmas time for Lindsey to feel the same way.  He'd stumbled and floundered and gotten lost in guilt and regret.  Xander...floated.  Xander...made him feel hope, again.  Hope that he could make up for what he'd done - hope that some day...he could be a good man again.

Xander turned a page, frowning.  Part time carpenter working for a restoration company, part time student studying for a degree in architecture.  Brown hair shot through with gold highlights from the fire, skin a pale tan from the long winter.  He picked up his pencil and then glanced up - smiled, and Lindsey felt his heart thump an extra beat. That him every time.   That smile was warm and sweet and so, so open.  That smile was just for him. 

Lindsey felt his eyes sting a little, suddenly.  Blinked at the tears that had welled in them and walked over to Xander - dropped down next to him and took the offered kiss with a twisting in his belly.  *God...I don't deserve this.  I don't...believe this.  Too good for a guy like me...*

"What's up, Linds?"  Xander said, grinning at him - then taking another, harder look and sitting up fast, grabbing his arm.  "Lindsey?  What's - wrong?"

"Ah...fuck, Xan.  Nothing," Lindsey said.  Shook his head and looked at Xander's books.  "Almost time to go down to supper...what're you studyin' tonight?"  Xander's callused fingers found his cheek - turned his face gently up again.

"Lindsey?  What is it?"  Soft voice - dark eyes so full of concern - so full of...  "Please?"

"Xan, I - listen, okay?  Listen to this -"  Lindsey held up his hand, head tilted, as the final lines of the song played out.


"There's bones in my closet, I've collected quite a few...

God knows what causes an angel to love a fool...

But in the middle of it all You always break my fall...

In the middle of it all..."


Lindsey sang softly along with the last lines, looking at Xander - willing him to understand.  Xander's hand had fallen to Lindsey's shoulder and he kneaded the muscles gently, looking back at Lindsey - smiling, but confused.

"I don't - get it.  Just - tell me, okay?  Tell me what you mean?" 

Lindsey sighed - rested his cheek for a moment on Xander's hand and then took the same hand in his, turning the broad, work-roughened palm up to the light.  Tracing the lines and the scars and the calluses.

"That's us, Xan.  That's me, you know?  Skeletons in my closet - in my past.  So many fuck-ups and...  And that's you."  He looked up, knowing he was frowning - just wanting Xander to get it.  "I've done so many bad things...  And then - here you are and...  You make me want to be a better man, Xander.  You - want me to shine.  I'm so black from the hell-fires I played in but you...  You're polishing me up bright, Xan.  You - broke my fall."

"Lindsey, I didn't -"

"Don't argue with me!"  Lindsey stopped and took a deep breath - wiped angrily at eyes that had teared up again.  "It's true.  I'm out here - stumbling around and...  You're're like my guardian angel, you're just..."  Lindsey closed his eyes - opened them again, and pulled Xander close, so they could be forehead to forehead.

"Xander - I love you.  I love much," he whispered, and he felt Xander shiver - heard the in-drawn breath.  Xander pulled away, and his eyes were wide and shocked-looking.  "Oh, hell, I'm sorry, I -"

"Shut up, you - you fool," Xander said, and his voice was wobbly.  "God knows what causes an angel to love a fool..." he sang softly, and that smile broke over his face again - that smile and then he was pulling Lindsey close for a hard, hard hug - kissing him like there was no tomorrow.  "Swear?  You swear you love me?" he whispered, and Lindsey all but crushed him, he held him so tight.

"God, Xander, I swear - swear on...on my guitar.  I love you - so damn much.  Love you for everything you do for me and for - for everything you are....just love you.  Love you..."

They didn't go down to supper, after all.





Stumbling In - Great Big Sea