Latte mochaccinos were the perfect way to start the day. Buffy truly believed this. And hey, being a Slayer meant not having to worry about those extra calories! She smiled brightly as Willow and Tara got their own drinks—tea and juice, respectively. Witch-craft obviously wasn’t physically active enough for them to join her in her guilt-free enjoyment of coffee, chocolate, and milk.
“What do you think Giles is going to have me do?” she asked as they found their table.
“Aren’t you supposed to be training with him?” Willow asked. She sipped her tea, made a face and reached for the sugar packet. Regular sugar, not sweet’n’low. Ha! And she didn’t have the super-Slayer-defense for those calories. “That is why you’re up before noon on a Saturday.”
“Well, yeah, but that was before that Thoth guy appeared. Shouldn’t he be researching? And aren’t you two going to help him?”
Tara caught on first. “Th-that’s not nice,” she said, staring at her juice. Spending the summer together had gotten rid of a lot of her shyness, but she still wasn’t comfortable with direct confrontation.
That was okay, Buffy wasn’t in the mood to be confrontational. “Nope, but still so very funny.”
“Buffy, that’s mean,” Willow chimed in, leaning slightly towards her girl. Little things like that, small, casual touches, were becoming more blatant. Or maybe Buffy was getting better at looking for them. It was nice, either way. Wills was so happy with Tara. “He’s all helpless now! I mean she. Is he really a she?”
“G-Giles thought so, l-last night,” Tara answered. “A-and he’s not helpless, really.”
“No, he can still go all grr face, but he’s so. . .”
Buffy saw the way Tara’s eyebrow went up and realized that Willow was being teased. She grinned. “Why Will, should Tara be worried?”
Embarrassed and exasperated, Willow balled up her sugar packet and threatened both of them. “Not funny, you two. But come on. You have to admit this is weird. Even for us.”
“I know that Spike not talking for a whole hour was nice. Of course, him not being there would be nicer.” She caught Willow’s expression. “But, we do have to help him, since he was pushing Xander, who was pushing me out of the way, I know, I know.”
“He is awfully pretty as a girl,” Tara confided, half-smiling in a way that made Buffy almost understand what Willow saw in another girl. Almost. Because, well, girl. Lacking all those interesting parts. “B-but I think he was pretty, um, messed up about it.”
“No-talking Spike? Spike going with Xander without a fuss? After he swore he’d never live with Xander again, after he left the last time?” Willow nodded emphatically. “He’s really messed up. Maybe I should go and check on him, later.”
“Oh, come on, Will. This is Spike. He doesn’t need mothering. But, you know, if he does . .” Buffy composed herself to look neutral. “Anya’s always there.”
“Hey! Somebody got bit by the nasty bug,” Willow reproved. There was a glint around her eyes, though, that told Buffy she understood. God, she could just imagine Anya explaining things in the worst, most blunt manner. Oh, to be a fly on that wall. . . “He’s probably driving Xander crazy, really. I was surprised Xander said yes so fast.”
“Eh, Xander’s been weird lately.” Taking a careful sip, Buffy decided that her drink had cooled enough. Mm, mocha-goodness. “That new swank apartment he has? Didn’t ask me once to help him lift stuff. I think he actually hired movers.”
“Well, I know Anya’s got money coming in from somewhere. She never says, but she still has her apartment and I know Xander didn’t pay for that Dolce top she had on last week.”
“Willow! Makin’ with the fashion-lingo! See? I knew I’d rub off on you someday.”
Willow grinned mischievously, leaning even closer against Tara. “I think that was actually Cordelia, Buffy, and I’m not proud of it. I have a fashion problem. It’s my secret shame.”
Tara looked back and forth between them. “D-do you think that we can, um, fix him? Or is this. . . permanent.”
Well, there went her good mood. Permanently female Spike? Buffy conjured up the image from the night before and thought hard. “Oh, my god. He would look perfect in that skirt, you know, the one I bought just in case I didn’t want to wear the sarong? Totally meant for him. I’ve got to let him try it on. Oh, and the spangly black thing that Dawn doesn’t like.”
There was a second where Buffy thought she might get away with it, but then Willow was giving her a long face and turning to Tara. “I don’t know, sweety. Giles said he was going to check a couple of leads this morning, so we’ll know more when we get to the shop. But it shouldn’t be. Any spell that’s done can be undone. Uh, I think.”
“Because I d-don’t think that Spike’s going to, um, stand for this. N-not for long.”
Stupid Spike, ruining her perfectly good morning. Sighing, Buffy let herself be serious. “No, probably not. So, we’ll just figure out a way to make him man-Spike again. Then he can go back to being glowery and smokey and living in his crypt. But that’ll make Xander happy, I guess.” She glanced up at Willow. “This can’t take that long, right? This is Xander and Anya we’re talking about. Spike might get staked long before he’d need a suicide-watch.”
Not that she’d be upset if Xander did stake him. Even if he was defenseless. And looked so innocent, huddled on the ladder-steps last night. Argh! No, bad images! She wasn’t supposed to be feeling sorry for Spike!
“I think Anya would probably stop him,” Willow determined. “But you’re right. Maybe we should start researching sooner?”
Buffy nodded, picking up her mochacchino. “I bet he’s gonna make me research,” she grumbled as they headed down the street. “I mean, here I am, ready to punch something or kick something under his expert tutelage, and he’s going to make me research. I just know it.”
* * * * * * * *
It was a nice dream. Two tongues swirling around him, two pairs of breasts pressed against his legs. Kissing someone’s mouth while he was deep throated. Sliding into hot, wet flesh while equally hot, wet flesh was suspended temptingly over his tongue. Short, bleached curls under one hand and longer, Miss Clairol-dyed red under the other. . .
Xander’s eyes popped open to stare down the length of his body. Crap. No way was peeing going to get rid of this morning hard-on. If he could pee. This wasn’t the normal half-hard that all men dealt with. This was the Eiffel Tower of erections. If the Eiffel Tower had a pulse.
No way was he going to hide this from Anya.
A trip to the bathroom was the first line of defense. Easing out of the bed, Xander tiptoed as quietly as his sleep-fuddled body would let him. Which wasn’t very. But Anya slept like a corpse, so he wasn’t worried about her. No, that worry was reserved for the actual corpse, the one that could wake up when Xander breathed too loudly. At least, he had when they’d unfortunately roomed together for a short time last year.
He was halfway across the living room before realized that checking on Spike with the hard-on from Paris was a bad idea. Particularly when that curled up, trembling form had caused it. Well, had been part of the cause. Whatever.
Peeing was as difficult as Xander had feared, but thinking hard about work and how not to staple your thumb to a piece of wood helped relax him enough. Barely. Finished, Xander looked down at himself. Half-hard. Still. Something, again, Anya was sure to notice—and his handy explanation had just been flushed away.
Why did his life have to be so complicated?
Checking on Spike, he pulled the blankets a little higher. He did not think ‘awww, how cute’ in his head, and definitely did not think about ways of making Spike feel better, when he finally woke up. Because that was Xander’s sofa Spike was shivering on, which meant Xander had already been more than gracious. He wasn’t going to smooth back the twisted curls. Didn’t want to know if skin like cream was as soft as it looked.
And he really, really didn’t want to pull Spike into his arms and hold him until the trembling stopped. Really.
It made a nice litany as he went back to the bedroom. Eight thirty on a Saturday morning meant he could sleep a few more hours, if he wanted. Today was supposed to be shopping-day, which didn’t require early attendance. Good. Sleep. Sleep without dreams of two thin bodies twisted up with his own.
“I’m not upset.”
Mourning for his now-lost extra hours of sleep almost overpowered the panic. Almost. “What? Upset? What would you be upset about? Even though you’re not upset, which is good, because I don’t want you to be upset, ever.”
Xander winced when he heard how nervous and babble-y he sounded. Those were, after all, the two best ways to calm Anya down.
In an alternative universe.
“Xander. Relax. I said I’m not upset.” Rolling onto her side, Anya gave him a knowing look. “You are not 007, despite the game you wanted to play two nights ago.”
“Hey! I look very suave in a tux, you know!”
“Yes, you do,” she agreed. “But you aren’t subtle and you aren’t good at hiding anything from me.” Bright smile, severe tone of voice—Xander always understood why people thought Anya was confusing to deal with. Fortunately, the knowing of the significant other went both ways.
Xander was being teased.
“I suppose you can’t help it,” Anya continued. “You are male and Spike does make a very pretty girl. He’s your type, too. Don’t look at me like that, he is. You love strong women who depend on you because they want to, not because they have to. Like Willow, who used you to validate her self-worth. Or Buffy, who used you to keep herself grounded. Or even me, who—”
“Anya. Remember the discussion we had about psychoanalyzing things? And how early mornings, while we’re in bed, is not the best time?”
Anyone else would’ve thought they were fighting.
Kissing him good morning, Anya inserted herself into his arms. “And you say I have no sense of humor,” she said, smugly content.
“No, I say you have a weird sense of humor, there’s a difference.”
“I’m still not upset, you know. Spike is very pretty.”
That sounded suspiciously like appreciation. And appreciation was bad. Because Xander did know Anya, very well. And while she’d never consider it with any of his current female friends, Spike didn’t have the same kind of emotional baggage attached to him.
“No. No, no, no, no, no.”
“Baby. You don’t even know what I was going to suggest!”
“I am not having a threesome with you and Spike!”
Shrieking with super-sensitive vampire hearing on the other side of very thin walls was a bad idea. So was making Anya glare at him like that—determined-glare, not to be confused with angry-glare. Angry-glare meant he still had some chance of getting his way. Determined-glare meant he was fighting a losing battle.
“Why not? We’re both attracted to him,” Anya explained reasonably. “And sex is very comforting when going through a traumatic and stressful experience.”
“So, what, we’re going to just dump him into our bed?” And no, bad mental images! Bad!
Anya furrowed her brow. “No, Xander, that would be rape. But we could ask him. I’m certain he’ll say yes. I know male-Spike was attracted to me, and you’re very good at sex.”
The matter-of-fact way she complimented his prowess always blew his mind. But not enough to make him lose the train of the conversation. “Ahn, we’ve talked about threesomes before.”
“Yes, we have.” Exasperated, Anya sat up and crossed her arms. Uh-oh. That was foreboding-glare, the scariest of them all. “Xander, no one appreciates your interest in monogamy more than I. But rational, consenting adults in a loving, stable relationship can sometimes have sex with other people. With or without their significant other present.”
She sounded so clinical. Like a teacher. And that was a good image, because they played the teacher-and-student game often—but not even those memories could hide his discomfort. “But that’s cheating. You know, the thing you cursed men for?”
“It’s not cheating if it’s consensual, Xander. There is nothing wrong with a threesome, or a foursome, or even an orgy, so long as it’s agreed upon beforehand!”
Great, this argument. The one they had every time they both agreed that a man or a woman was attractive and Anya inevitably decided they should invite that person—co-workers, random strangers, didn’t matter—into their bed. And Xander always frantically said no, which led to Anya huffing in exasperation and calling him an immature little boy who needed to grow up before she was too old and ugly to attract people for their threesomes.
“But just the two of us should be enough,” he said, knowing that once again, she didn’t understand what he was saying, and he was too ashamed to try and explain it. Of course the idea of a threesome was appealing. He was a guy. Watching two girls go at it was high up the list of ‘things that make Xander horny’. Even watching another guy with Anya had its charm.
But he was her boyfriend. Girlfriends weren’t supposed to want people other than their boyfriends, except when they fantasized about famous rock-stars or actors or something. He was supposed to be her one-and-only.
But more importantly, she was supposed to be his.
He didn’t know how to explain it to her. Hell, he didn’t really know how to explain it to himself. He just knew that their semi-regular argument about threesomes made him uncomfortable in a way her social awkwardness never did. And have a potential partner right outside their bedroom door, pretty and vulnerable, and yes, so very much Xander’s type, made this version even worse.
Rolling her eyes, Anya got out of bed and dug around for her robe. “I’m going to the Magic Box. Giles might need help with gift-wrapping again and he has the mandrake root in the wrong part of the store—it’ll go bad if it’s kept too dry. Also, that’s where the researching will be, to find out how to make Spike a boy again. You will stay here and take care of girl-Spike and the apartment.”
“Stay? Here?” Alone, with just trembling, frightened girl-Spike to coddle and cosset and he was reading way too many of Anya’s Victorian romance novels if he knew what the word ‘cosset’ meant.
Anya belted the robe, clothing over her shoulder. “Yes, here, Xander. I don’t mind that you’re fantasizing about me and Spike without our clothes on, but it makes you even more useless at research than usual. So you’ll stay here and think about what I said. Okay?”
Was it very wrong that Xander loved Anya most when she was at her scariest? Which was usually her most accurate?
“Yes, ma’am,” he said. Climbing onto his knees, he offered his best puppy dog face. Anya’s stern expression melted, and she gave him a final kiss. “Have I told you how beautiful you look in the morning?”
“No, you haven’t.”
“You look beautiful in the morning, Ahn.”
She blushed. He loved making her blush. Then she immediately swatted his arm. “Xander!”
Argument over, even though there was no clear victor, Xander felt he could be magnanimous. “Well, hey, if you’d understood that it was rhetorical, I wouldn’t have had to repeat it!”
“Go back to bed, Xander.” She was still flushed and sharper because of it.
“Yes, ma’am,” he repeated, falling back onto the sheets. Anya laughed at him and went to the bathroom. He listened carefully. No dripping pipes when the water ran. No gurgling sound when she made her coffee. No creak of old plaster molding.
“Love you,” he called as she put on her make up.
“Go back to sleep, Xander. You’re obviously delirious.”
Grinning, Xander did as ordered.
* * * * * * *
Something about guns. Or bombs? Something. . . about police men? Waking up felt like swimming through molasses—understandable, since he’d slept an extra three hours. Ick. Irritable and headache-y from sleeping too long, Xander stumbled into the living room and sat down next to Spike on the sofa.
“What is this?” he asked through a yawn.
Spike shrugged one shoulder. Two men snappily decked out in loops of extra bullets cursed on the screen.
“You gonna continue being a mime?”
Two fingers rose, posed, and then settled back in his lap. Spike looked. . . very focused. Better than the daze of last night, but there was something almost menacing about it. Something that silently screamed ‘go away or I will hurt you.’
Probably not a good idea to disturb him, then.
Coffee was necessary for more complex thought. Definitely. His darling, beloved Anya had anticipated that and there was a pot warming in its mechanical cradle. Thank god. Sipping carefully, Xander poked his head out.
Silence. Then, “Booze.”
Xander nodded and quickly retreated back into the kitchen proper. It was the first time Spike had said anything since the spell, and for some reason Xander had never contemplated what girl-Spike was going to sound like.
Probably because he knew how boy-Spike sounded.
Low. Mellow. Rich like the very expensive merlot Giles had once let him try. Still very British, but the accent was softer, more rounded. A hint of culture to smooth out the abrasiveness of the usual harsh, clipped tones. Spike had always sounded like smooth, creamy chocolate, dripping with sexual innuendo, even for the most innocuous of phrases.
And he still did. Just as an alto.
Retrieving the bourbon Giles had given them, Xander poured a hefty amount into a normal glass, grabbed a pop-tart and stuck it in his mouth, hands busy balancing coffee and bourbon. Spike looked stony and furious when he came back out. Uh oh. Hard to pretend you weren’t a girl when you heard yourself speak an octave higher and distinctly feminine-sounding.
Spike knocked back the entire glass in one swallow. Held it out for more.
“Okay, not objecting to the drowning of sorrows, pal, but I’m not going to let you get drunk.”
The temperature dropped suddenly. He didn’t know how Spike did it, since he was still just sitting there, watching tv. Something about the way his eyes tightened, maybe.
“If you’re that drunk, then Willow’s spell might not work. Magic and alcohol no-mixy. Like drinking and driving.”
Spike’s lower lip trembled once, but he didn’t say anything. Xander was almost grateful. That voice, combined with that expression? Yeah, Spike was still scary as hell when he wanted to be, but the chip removed the lingering fear of pain and death. So mostly Spike looked scared. And helpless.
Xander wondered if there was a big neon sign somewhere that said ‘Here are Xander’s buttons. Push them!’
Of course he couldn’t stand up to that. Sighed, even shifted a little, before asking, “Promise not to go on a destructive rant if I let you get drunk?”
Oh, god, that voice went straight to his cock.
Xander went and got the booze. Took a swig himself before handing it over to Spike. Then tried very hard not to watch Spike: the way those delicate hands closed around the neck of the bottle. The way his head tilted back, the lip of the bottle resting on slightly pursed lips, already wet from the previous drink. The way his throat worked as he swallowed, and swallowed, and swallowed. . .
Gah. Look at the tv, Xander. Not at the pretty girl sitting next to you. The tv. Good tv. Full of—hey, when’d it turn into an infomercial? About—
Xander made a hasty grab for the remote. Realized mid-grab that he was reaching around Spike, which meant possibly touching Spike. Panicking, he jerked backwards. And because he was the great and clumsy Xander, this meant he lost his balance and slid onto the floor with a thump.
Spike giggled. He also held onto the remote, even when Xander made a seated grab for it, humor fading into confusion and slightly upset.
“Oh, so you want to watch an infomercial about viagra?”
“Kinda ironic, innit?” Spike moved the remote so it was under his leg, hunching slightly to protect it.
He should’ve known that Spike would start playing remote-war already. What he didn’t understand was why there was no smirk accompanying it—Spike, after all, delighted in being an annoying pest. Instead, he looked. . . hurt.
“Um, okay. I can. . . see that, I guess. But it’s also very boring. Can I change the channel?”
“I can’t even watch a bloody advert now?”
Xander stared. “And you don’t find watching a show about chemical help to get an erection just a little bit humiliating? Since you can’t get an erection? You know, without a dick?”
Bad question. Very. Because Spike’s eyes widened in stunned hurt. “Fuck off, Harris.”
Sighing, Xander ran a hand over his face. Wow, had he screwed that one up. “Fine. Whatever. I’m going to shower. You can have it after me. You’ve got eyeliner streaks on your face.”
And wow, he was doing great at the kick-Spike-when-he’s-down game, since it was pretty obvious why the eyeliner had streaked so badly. Something Spike probably hadn’t wanted Xander to know about—or at least not comment upon.
Xander wondered if he should paint his foot with chocolate sauce.
Attempting to fix this would just mean chowing down on his ankles and perhaps his knee-caps, so Xander showered and got dressed, all without once looking at or thinking about girl-Spike. No, really. Not once.
Instead he thought about boy-Spike and how this current behavior was starting to wig him out. Even more than boy-Spike growing very tempting breasts.
Spike never shut up. Ever. He talked when there was nothing to talk about, and god help you if there was something to talk about, because he never let anything go until you laid down in utter defeat. Even if you weren’t arguing.
So far, Spike had opened his mouth a grand total of five times.
Was this what Anya had meant by ‘taking care’ of Spike? If so, it was time to have the ‘asking the impossible’ conversation again. Cause how? And why? And also, how?
Exiting the steamy bathroom, Xander was too preoccupied to notice that the tv was off, an empty bottle of bourbon was laying on the floor of the empty living room. He was also too preoccupied in the bedroom with dropping his towel and hunting for his underwear, which hadn’t yet made it into the dresser.
The dresser where Spike was standing.
“Holy—Spike! What the hell are you doing?”
One frantic scramble for his towel later, Xander rewrapped himself and turned back to Spike. Who hadn’t moved or responded in anyway. The mirror showed the serene picture of an unmade bed, and a red, slightly puffing Xander, wet and haphazardly wrapped with an equally wet towel. It didn’t show Spike, standing directly in front of it. Or Anya’s hairbrush in Spike’s left hand, tangled up in messy, gel-crusted curls. Or Spike’s right hand, which was also tangled up in messy, gel-crusted curls and pulling so hard that some hairs had already come out..
Great. They’d reached the self-mutilation stage of shock.
Spike stood dumbly while Xander extricated the brush—hair hopelessly snarled around the bristles—and then Spike’s other hand. More hair came out when he forced Spike’s fingers to unclench. It was gross, definitely, but mostly it just made Xander very sad.
“I’m—I’m a girl.”
“Yeah. Look, Spike, we’ll fix this, okay? Everybody’s over at the shop right now, looking for ways to fix this. Don’t worry.”
“I’m a girl. I have tits!”
They both glanced down at said tits. Xander manfully refrained from complimenting them.
“Temporarily,” he stressed instead. “You temporarily have tits, and pretty soon Willow is going to call, babbling about the cure she’s found, and then you won’t have tits anymore. Or Giles will order us to the store or maybe Tara will find it—it doesn’t matter. Pretty soon, someone will figure it out and poof. No more tits.”
Xander realized he had his arm around Spike pretty much the same moment Spike realized he was leaning against Xander’s naked shoulder.
Except Spike didn’t pull away. And he felt very, very nice under Xander’s arm, so Xander didn’t let go.
“What am I gonna do?” Spike said plaintively. “I’m a sodding girl.”
“First thing you’re going to do is go take a shower. If you take it before twelve thirty, you’ll still have hot water. Then you’re going to get dressed and eat something. After we do all that, if we aren’t too exhausted, we can go to the Magic Box and help research.” Beat. “Or we could hang around here and watch movies until Anya comes home with dinner.”
Spike whimpering like a wounded animal was almost as bad as Spike giggling. But Xander had been pretty sure that going outside was not something Spike wanted to do: the guy had enough trouble holding onto his rep because of the chip, he’d never live down this—hopefully very brief—stint as a girl. So Xander had had the second suggestion primed and ready.
And hey, a legitimate excuse to do nothing all afternoon.
After a moment thinking it over, Spike nodded amiably and got to his feet. Stopped in front of the reflection-less mirror. “Am I pretty?”
Warning bells sounded loud in Xander’s head. He’d dreaded this question since the first time Spike tipped those huge eyes up at him and looked pathetic. “Um, you’re. . . you. Just girl-you.”
And where the hell was Anya when he needed her?
A flash of expression, half wickedly mischievous, half decadently sultry meant Spike had to be feeling better. And that was good, right? Spike feeling better? That’s what all the kind words and reassurances and the touching had been for, right? “Must be smashing, then. Since I was such a pretty man, an’ all.”
Xander didn’t answer, on grounds of incriminating himself. On several counts.
“Well, m’legs aren’t bad, anyway. Still soddin’ short, though.” Spike tugged at a pant-leg, throwing the outline of his leg in sharp relief. “Hm, not too skinny.” Xander didn’t miss the glance up to check his reaction, and he surreptitiously checked the position of his towel. Spike was so doing this on purpose, the immature little bastard!
Then he stopped breathing as Spike ran his hands over his body, describing each aspect as he felt it. “Nice ass, though the hips aren’t real wide. Belly—firm, but think I’ll be layin’ off the blood a bit. Need to loose this little round bit. And now these aren’t very big, are they? Do make a nice handful, though. Or are my hands smaller?”
Spike was cupping his own breasts. Looking thoughtful.
Xander really wanted to get up—with the towel staying on, thank you—and yell at Spike for being a prick. On purpose. Because he’d been a guy yesterday and he should know what that was doing to Xander, dammit!
Except he obviously did. Because underneath all the bravado was the despair Spike was desperately trying to hide. Not doing a very good job, either, since now he was looking more sickly than cocky.
“Go shower, Spike,” Xander said neutrally.
Spike blinked, surprised. Clearly, he’d expected Xander to either get very upset or. . . or take him up on it? He rewound the video strip of his memory and watched Spike tease him. Deliberately. With occasional little glances towards his blatantly obvious erection. And Xander remembered what Anya had said this morning, and his own experiences with the incredibly vain vampire standing two feet away from him.
Had he explained to Anya that it was rude to gloat? ‘I told you so’ had a very short shelf-life, after all, and. . . and she was never going to buy that.
Oddness, meet Xander’s life. Xander’s life, meet oddness.
“Shower, Spike. Before one? Unless you like cold showers. . . Hey, do vampires feel hot and cold like we do? Never mind, tell me later. You need hot water just to get that crud out of your hair. Here, I’ll show you how the taps work.”
Spike was adorable when he looked stunned.