One, Two, Three
Anya was putting away their dishes. Their new dishes in their new apartment with its unfamiliar layout and odd quirks they were still learning. Xander had wanted to bring the crap he called tableware, but Anya had put her foot down. Or rather, she’d shrilled until Xander shelled out his half and they purchased the grey-and-white set from Target, with the matching silverware.
There was something boiling on the stove, another new convenience Xander was still getting used to. Working stove, a refrigerator that wasn’t older than he was, a dishwasher, a ceiling fan in the bedroom, clean not-brown running water, and nice furniture. Okay, yeah, a lot of it had come from goodwill, but Anya had a sharp eye for good bargains and she knew quality.
And she’d promised to make a cover for the horrible flower print on the sofa.
“Hey, Anya,” he greeted. Nervously. Trying not to be, because Anya picked up nervousness like a vamp picked up fear. And wasn’t that a bad thing to be thinking about, right then. Erk.
“Xander!” She flashed a megawatt smile and bounced into his arms, kissing him soundly before bouncing back to the cabinets. She was really getting into the Suzy Homemaker thing, although Xander was well aware that this was a passing excitement. Wonderful as his woman was, she was a contrary, independent, and easily-bored woman, too, and the drudgery of housework was going to get old quick. That’s when the nagging, and complaining and badgering would start—but that was okay. Xander liked that in a woman.
Bad thoughts! Bad thoughts!
“How was demon-hunting?” Anya asked, pouring her mug of tea before starting on the glasses. Real glass glasses. Weird.
“Uh, fine. Buffy got him.”
“Did you ever find out what the stick that gave Giles his latest concussion did?”
“Uh huh.” And that was practically squeaked, which meant he deserved the suspicious look Anya was giving him.
“Is something wrong, Xander? You’re very pale. And starting to sweat.”
Why did the greatest moment of his life—moving into his own place, paid for with his own money, with his own girlfriend—have to be ruined? Not that he wasn’t expecting it. Oh, no, that’d be too simple. Xander happy meant bad things happened to Xander.
This was probably the worst.
“Hey, Ahn, did I ever tell you about some of the traditions of having your own apartment?”
“Besides having sex in each room?” she asked brightly. “Oh, I fixed that handle you kicked loose in the bathroom, by the way.”
“Okay, great,” he responded, not really hearing anything but the word ‘sex’. “This is a different tradition, though. It’s more of a. . . a friendly tradition.”
Two well-plucked—and god, he’d been horrified when he learned that female ritual—eyebrows lowered in confusion. Anya stopped putting away the glasses and turned to face him fully. “A friendly tradition? Is this the housewarming party you don’t want to throw? And I still don’t know why not. We need a new toaster. Giles could afford to give us a toaster. And so could Buffy. She didn’t need that new shirt she wore yesterday. Although she does look good in pink.”
“Anya!” This was not a good time to let her rag on his friends, because if she worked herself up into a righteous snit. . . bad. Bad, bad with a side order of bad. “Not the housewarming party and I want to do that. Later. This tradition. . . this tradition involves the sofa. Specifically, the sharing of the sofa.”
Anya wasn’t stupid. Naive, and often very innocent when it came to the daily practices of modern human life, but she wasn’t stupid. The beginnings of a scowl appeared and Xander knew fear. “Sharing our sofa? Who would we share it with?”
He really deserved whatever she did to him. He knew that. “It’s more like—oh, hell. Lemme show you.” Xander went back through the still open door of the apartment, unsurprised to see there’d been no movement in his absence. He said, “You can come in, now.” A brief twitch was the only response. Offering up a small prayer, Xander manhandled his ‘surprise’ inside, kicking the door shut behind him.
Long legs. Narrow hips with just the barest hint of curves. Long torso, longer neck. White arms. Pouty pink lips. Straight nose. Cheek bones sharp enough to cut. Big blue eyes. A shock of white-blonde curls.
"Buffy and Willow are in their dorm rooms, and Buffy refused to let him go to her mom's house, because Dawn's there, even though Dawn knows, and Giles is getting his place fumigated so he's living at the shop for a few days, and Buffy said that we should just let him go back and live wherever he's been living, but Giles says we need to study what did this to him, and he hasn't said a word since this happened and Willow and Tara think he shouldn't be left alone, and I think I agree with them 'cause I'm kinda worried, too, and I did not just say that out loud."
Xander slowly opened his eyes, trying not to gasp for air after saying that in one long breath. Anya was staring at him, face blank. Almost considering.
Fear turned into terror.
"Ahn? Are you—please don't kill me?"
"Don't be silly, Xander. I'm not going to hurt you."
‘Not hurt' did not negate the possibility of death. It didn't have to be painful, if she made it quick enough.
Anya walked with slow, deliberate steps to stand right in front of their guest. Wide blue eyes tracked her movements, but retained their glazed, shell-shocked look. That look hadn't faded for even an instant, and that really did worry Xander. To meet something like this and show no reaction? Bad. Wrongness on an epic scale. There should be shouting and bitching and comments about pants that were suddenly too long and a shirt that swam on the altered frame. Definitely some threats and a lot of demands that this be fixed. Immediately. Now, dammit.
And then, maybe, there'd be some innuendo. Because there was always innuendo.
Xander realized his hand was still resting on the small of the back, right before the flare of perfectly rounded buttocks that he'd never stared at before. He yanked it back hurriedly, moving around to stand behind Anya. Where it was safe. Where he could ignore the half-twitch in his direction, the first unbidden move Xander had seen all night.
"He's very pretty," Anya said eventually. "If that's what the stick did, I wonder why the demon wanted to use it on Buffy. Men are stronger than some women—or maybe it would make her lose her Slayer powers? Because if she was a boy, then she couldn't be the Slayer."
All things Giles had speculated on, but that didn't answer the burning question of whether their couch would hold someone that night, and if Xander got to live to see the morning.
"He's in shock," she continued, circling him with a thoughtful expression. "And he needs new clothes. These shorts are awful. Green and yellow look good on no one." The shorts were a loan from Willow, who happened to have a pair in the shop, since the skin-tight jeans now extended almost six inches further. It had been really entertaining to watch the stumbling and the tripping for a little. Then it got sad. Then Xander started thinking things like it wasn't so much that the jeans were too long, but that the legs inside them were suddenly much thinner. And the pants rode much lower on wider hips.
That's when he'd suggested the shorts. And then wanted to tape his mouth shut, since now the legs were exposed.
"And a bra," Anya announced, not noticing her boyfriend's flush. "I keep telling Buffy I don't understand how she goes braless all the time. I know she's very small, but it's uncomfortable for me, and I'm only c-cup." Cocking her head, Anya appraised the chest in front of her with a professional eye. "He's a b, probably. I have some sports bras that he can use."
There was an arm twitch, and for a brief second, Xander thought he saw a horrified expression.
"So he can stay?" Xander asked, steering the conversations away from cup sizes out of an odd sense pity. Or maybe it wasn't pity. Maybe he just really, really didn't need to be focusing on the wrong set of breasts.
Frowning over her shoulder, Anya was clearly already reviewing her closet. "Of course he can stay," she answered distractedly. "Xander, go get those ugly curtains your mother gave us. I don't want them in our living room, but they're thick and should cover the windows enough. And I think he'll look very good in the midnight blue shirt that you bought for me, Xander, the one that's just a little too small."
Question one answered, and Xander thought he might be safe on question two. Thank god. Although there was still the other conversation waiting to happen, but Xander was quite happy to put that off as long as absolutely possible. So he opened their rapidly-filling closet and dug out the curtains his mother had given—really, tossed at—them when Xander did a final check of the few things he was actually bringing from the basement. Xander had mixed feelings about the curtains. They were a hideous green-and-gold paisley, and probably offered more as an insult than a parting gift. But it had come from his mother. Xander couldn't remember the last time his mother had given him anything—unless you counted complaints that were supposed to be insulting, in which case she'd given him lots of things.
Hanging up the curtains didn't take nearly long enough, the room stuffy and dark by the time he was done. Anya was in the bedroom. He could hear her rummaging around in the closet and addressing each article of clothing: "That's far too good for him, and I don't want him stretching this one out. His shoulders are wide, for a woman's, and I like this shirt. That's what Buffy told me when I asked to borrow her red leather mini skirt. Except she told me it was my hips."
It was kind of scary that listening to her made him feel content and fondly amused. Could anyone under thirty years old pull of ‘fond'? He wasn't sure. It didn't have that hip, first-apartment flare.
"Xander, I've got some extra blankets and sheets for our guest!"
"Thanks!" he called back, joining her in the bedroom. A stack of linens greeted him, since Anya was still almost completely swallowed up by the closet. That, of course, immediately prompted the horrific image of it actually happening, an unfortunate side effect of the Hellmouth. No metaphor was safe, here.
"We need to think of a name," Anya said, still within the closet.
He debated on asking her to come out. "A name?"
"Well, he's a girl now. He needs a girl's name."
"But why do we have to think of his name? And what's wrong with the name he has now?"
"Xander!" Finally exiting the closet, Anya smacked him lightly with the shirt she held. "Have you ever heard of a girl named Spike?"
There was no good way to answer that, so Xander grabbed the stack and headed to the living room to make a pallet on the sofa. It really was a nice sofa, if you ignored the girly fabric. Extra long and even a little extra deep, because Anya didn't mind when he wanted to cuddle in front of the tv, but she wasn't going to be uncomfortable doing it.
He thought the black sheets were a nice touch. Kind of homey.
Finished, he looked up to see that all of four tiny steps had been taken. And not towards the nice bed Xander had just made for him, but for the table-that-still-had-no-chairs. Spike was looking uncertain, too, which was a nice change from utterly blank.
"You can sit, you know," Xander snapped. He was still half-waiting for the expected comment on his hospitality—either something horrible he'd missed or how his being accommodating was an example of his loserness. Snickering at the apartment. Biting comments on his—well, Anya's actually—choice of decor.
But Xander realized none of those comments were forthcoming. Instead he got arms that were starting to tremble and a few more steps, this time towards the sofa. But not enough to actually reach the sofa. Oh, no. Not the sofa he'd so kindly made and—
The insulted indignation Xander was trying to work up was impossible to continue, not when the fifth step after a five-second pause included a nervously bitten lip.
"And the best impression of a living statue goes to—you! We get it, Spike, really. Now go sit down, okay?"
That earned him a sustained, if hesitant, walk all the way over to the sofa, and Xander knew he was in deep, deep trouble. Before, the walk had always been graceful; lean and predatory, with a confident sexuality that had oozed past gender and all sensibility. That had been bad enough. But now? Now it was a slow, hip-swaying walk of sensual abandon. The pivot and bend to reach a seated position was mesmerizing. And if Anya caught him with his tongue hanging out like a dog, Xander thought as he rapidly stuffed it back in, he would deserve every last painful thing she did to him.
"Here." Anya appeared with clothes bunched in her hand. "Put these on."
Xander was too busy trying to compose himself to notice what was going on until slender, delicate arms tugged at the too-large black shirt and time went into slow-mo as the shirt was lifted up and off. With the nothing underneath. And the Xander standing right there, watching.
"Whoa! I'm, uh, bye!"
Diving into the safety of the bedroom, Xander took the opportunity to change out of his clothes. No demon stains, or worse, blood stains, this time, but he did reek of the fragrant eau de Sunnydale Dump. Ew.
The clothes went into the black garbage bag kept expressly for that purpose. Xander took a moment to survey the wreckage of Hurricane Anya and had to wonder why she'd been so. . . thorough. This wasn't a big deal, really. Bad magic, Giles and Willow fix, Xander goes insane in the mean time, and poof, everything's back to normal.
So why Anya had at least three outfits spread out on the bed, including the dress that was just a bit too small on her, was unknown. He understood the feminine need to play Barbie, he'd spent his childhood with Willow, thank you. But that didn't explain why Anya wasn't seeing the whole temporary nature of this. Because this was temporary. Giles and Wills were on the case, and they were good at finding the answer quickly, especially when one of them. . . was in. . . trouble.
"Xander? What did you put in our refrigerator?"
"Oh, Giles gave me that." Back in the living room, a fully-clothed Spike was slumped against the sofa, dressed in a black tank-top and loose black sweat-pants. He could see the straps of the bra where they weren't covered by the tank and that was just disturbing. There shouldn't be straps on those shoulders. The ones that sloped just slightly and were covered in skin that looked peachy soft and—he wasn't looking, he wasn't looking. Except obviously he was looking, because he saw Spike's half-lidded eyes flicker away.
"Xan?" Anya held up a bottle in confusion. "I understand why Giles gave us the other items. But why did he give us a bottle of bourbon?"
Xander ran a hand over his face. "For me, Ahn, he put that in there for me."
Anya tilted her head, assessing him. "You're making a joke. You are a minor and Giles would never give you alcohol. That's illegal." So decided, she disappeared back into the kitchen.
Xander glanced at the sofa. "I hate you."
"Do you want meat in your pasta sauce? Like I made that last time?" The clank of pots—pots! they had pots!—made coppery music, augmented by Anya's humming. An old lullaby, she'd said when he'd begged her to sing it all for him, the foreign words spinning through his mind, incomprehensible but beautiful because they had come from her.
The smell of onions and frying meat was the last, wholly masculine touch this place needed. Which explained why Xander was making the salad and asking if Anya wanted the radicchio or the iceberg, and clucking at her when she wanted iceberg.
Neither of them mentioned their unexpected guest, still sitting on the sofa in a daze, or what to do about him.
Deciding to bring Spike here had been easier when Giles was smugly declaring his landlord's desire to fumigate, and Buffy threw a hissy fit at Willow's innocent suggestion that Joyce might be willing. Listening to them play hot-potato when the potato was right in front of them—especially when this particular potato was unusually quiet and oblivious to his fate—hit every manly, protective instinct he had.
The body was lifted straight out of Xander's fantasies. Small breasts and almost boyish hips, pale milky skin, and a wild tangle of curls—hello, to all of Xander's buttons. Not that, well, Anya didn't push buttons because she did, the Good Boyfriend reminded him. Even with the vague thought that, whoa, weird, Spike-male now Spike-female and that could be him and would he look as pretty if he was a girl? That should be scary enough to put a damper on anybody's hard-on, right? Xander glanced down, his erection tenting his jeans. Anya's sixth-sense was going to pick up on it really soon now, but what was he supposed to do? This was the fantasy woman he'd seen in his head since junior year of high school. And now she was sitting in his living room. Very alone, and nervous, and just waiting for a big strong man to offer his arm. Or something like that.
And that was why he couldn't calm down and why this lasting more than a few days was going to kill him. Right now, he was contemplating two ways to go. Anya would eviscerate him, or the lack of blood in his brain would make him do something like walk in front of a car, or tell Anya what he was thinking. Which lead back to method number one.
He was a bad, bad man.
Xander made damn sure Anya sat in the middle.
They watched the news and some kind of reality-dating show as they ate, ignoring the way Spike accepted his dinner and then returned to staring out into space. At least, Xander ignored it. Until Anya put her empty plate on the floor and gave him a look every male in existance recognized, and he cringe in anticipation.
"He's not eating," she said critically. "He's just holding it. Xander, make him eat."
"What? Why do I have to be the one to make him eat?" Xander waved away her answer before she opened her mouth. "Right, right. I have to make him eat. Great."
"I'll clean the dishes," she volunteered, taking their dirty plates back to the kitchen. Since cleaning the dishes involved putting them in the dishwasher, Xander wasn't that mollified. But he slid over on the sofa and wrapped long fingers more firmly around a tall plastic cup, one of the few Anya had deemed keepable.
The mildly affronted expression on Spike's face wasn't a surprise—even for zombie-boy. Girl. Something. "Hey," he said awkwardly. "You've got to eat. Look at that, nummy nummy, right? It's mostly even warm, still."
A long, slender middle finger raised an inch.
"Come on. If you don't, Anya's gonna be pissed at me, and besides, I can smell it and I don't want to do this and would you just—"
The cup trembled but successfully reached petal-pink lips. When he started swallowing, Xander quickly turned away. Watching that would be bad, and Xander was trying to be good.
The cool touch of plastic on his arm told him when the cup had been emptied. Looking back up to retrieve it for immediate rinsing, Xander accidentally met Spike's eyes.
Five year old Willow with a booboo on her elbow. Eleven year old Dawn when she'd broken her leg. Absolutely none of that compared with the liquid scream of pain and confusion he saw, begging for help that couldn't be voiced.
God, he was such a sucker.
Xander didn't realize what he was doing until he was kneeling on the floor, running his fingers through short, curly hair, with only half-open eyes and a bit of the nose visible from the blankets he'd smoothed down. He was whispering like he did when Anya had a nightmare, low and crooning, from the back of his throat. Quiet entreaties to sleep, to relax, to trust them. That Spike was safe here.
And right then, Xander believed that completely.
When the eyes slid
closed and the soft rush of water meant the dishwasher was on, Xander got back
to his feet and went into the bedroom. Anya was waiting for him. And maybe the
apartment was a bad thing, because they didn't make love that night. Just kissed
and cuddled and talked about their day. Totally domestic and Xander knew in
a few days his teeth would be rotting, but right then, it was perfect.