Tilting his head, Spike let his gaze to draw a line from the tip of Xander's pointing finger, closely sleeved in tobacco brown kid leather, across the wide expanse of deep black water to the far end of the lake.
"Swans. Swimming. So?"
"Not just swans, Spike. Seven swans. We have to stay until they take flight, Spike. We have to!"
Spike turned an incredulous gaze on the man seated next to him. Bundled up in an expensive, fleece-lined leather coat, a silk scarf wrapped several times around his throat and a horrendously garish bobble hat, a gift from Red - hand-knitted by Devon pixies, or some such nonsense - perched upon his head, Xander could have been the poster boy for California kids suffering through the first real winter of their lives. Although, technically, it being the middle of March, it was a lot closer to spring. Not that you could really tell the difference here in soggy England.
"You're telling me you want to stand around, in the cold, and don't think I can't hear your teeth chattering, just on the off-chance that those feathered beasties are going to swooping overhead sometime in the next few hours? Did Red put some mojo on that godawful hat?"
Ducking swiftly to avoid the pale hand that made a half-hearted grab for the unjustly maligned head covering, Xander turned to face Spike, one strong thigh coming up to rest on the weathered wooden bench, his knee gently butting against Spike's hip.
A deep breath sent razor sharp slivers of ice into his lungs, and Xander struggled not to cough. They'd been here four months now and he still had trouble breathing 'fresh' air. Maybe if they thawed it out first it would stop trying to kill him.
"It's..." He sighed and reached over to take one pale, un-gloved hand in his. "This is one of those times where you listen and don't laugh, no matter how much you want to, okay?" He waited, determined not to say another word until Spike agreed. Eventually he got a roll of expressive blue eyes and a nod.
"Okay. When I was a kid, my Grandma gave me a picture book of animal fairy tales and legends from a load of different Indian tribes. The one I loved the most was 'The Legend of the Seven Swans', a Chinook story about a lame Indian woman whose hunter husband eventually left her to care for their six children while he went off and had fun with his pretty dancing cousin. Time passed, and everyone around her got old, but the love she still had for her husband kept her young as she awaited his return."
Xander paused, and examined the beautiful face of his lover, a face that had remained young for over a hundred years, and the pair shared an understanding smile.
"Eventually the husband got sick of his cousin, who'd grown slow and wrinkly, and he rode back to the village to see his wife looking just as young and beautiful as she had been when he left her. He decided he wanted her back, and even though he was old and twisted and no longer handsome, she opened her arms to accept him. And then their god stepped in and told him there was no way he was getting her back after the way he'd deserted her and the kids. The god turned them into seven beautiful white swans and set them to fly in the heavens as a sign of true love. He said that to see them fly is to know that your sweetheart, your love, is true."
Leather-clad fingers played absently with the smaller white hand in their grasp as Xander looked everywhere but at Spike. He knew it was silly, believing in an Indian legend after all the trouble he'd had with the Chumash not so long ago, but the tale had stuck with him for nearly twenty years, and now that he was so close to seeing seven swans in flight, accompanied by the undead creature who had won his eternal devotion, he didn't think he could bring himself to turn his back on the opportunity.
The tone told him he'd probably missed hearing several gentler repetitions of his name, and he looked up, lower lip trapped between square white teeth, trepidation shining in his eyes.
Xander followed Spike's gaze, out across the lake, to where the swans were stretching huge expanses of white-feathered wings in preparation for take-off. Even as he focussed, the first swan began to flap, throwing up rainbow sprays of droplets as the water surface was disturbed. And then, one by one, in perfect synchronisation, they lifted off and soared upward, circling the lake, once, twice, before heading out eastward on the next leg of their journey to the Russian Steppes.
Xander turned to make sure Spike had seen them flying, and found himself snared by the expression of awe that softened the usually sharp edged face he'd spent untold years dreaming about.
"That was... elegant. Special. Like... like a nod of approval from the gods or nature or something. You were right, Xan. That was worth nearly freezing my bollocks off for. Now, let's go home and celebrate the fact that our sweethearts are true by shagging like mink, eh? You can work up a good head of steam and thaw my dangly bits out."
The decidedly chilly vampire tugged his sweetheart up off the bench and snuggled close.
"Love you, Pet."
"Love you too, Spike. Let's go home, yeah?"