Closer Encounters of the Feminine Kind
“Could you seriously be any more obnoxious?”
“Sorry if you can’t handle the truth, mate.”
“Guys, could we just…”
“I am not a girl!”
Spike snorted. “Of course you are. Maybe you don’t wear a skirt and wear makeup, but most girls don’t these days. What girls do really do is scream in a really high-pitched tone whenever a big ‘ole demon comes by.”
“How many girls actually see demons?”
Spike just snorted. “And he didn’t disagree with me. Please make a note of that.”
“The only thing I’m noting is how much longer it’ll take Xander to realize he can knock you flat without you being able to do anything about it,” Buffy muttered.
Xander glared at Spike, wishing he could. The vampire had a smug look on his face, enjoying his time destroying Xander’s ego, or what he really had left. Spike had helped them on patrol, then had laughed himself silly when Xander had squealed, and Xander could admit that he had sounded very feminine as he’d done so.
But that had been almost an hour ago. And Spike just wouldn’t let it go.
“I really hate you some days,” Xander muttered.
“Sure you do, ma’am,” Spike said, snickering at the look Xander gave him.
“Who paints his nails? Who used to wear mascara in the seventies? Yeah, I remember what you told Buffy. So really Spike, who’s the girl here?” Xander shot back.
Spike smirked. “Oh, I’m very much a man, pet. Wanna see?” He slid a hand down towards his legs, his thumb hooking into his jean pocket. The other fingers splayed across the jeans, displaying the very obvious bulge in his pants.
“Gross, Spike,” Buffy said. “And my sister’s in the room.”
“She doesn’t mind, though!” Dawn called out from the table, where she was doing homework.
Xander suddenly pushed himself up from the table, heading out. “Where are you going?” Willow asked, frowning.
“Out of here, and away from the crudest person in all of history,” Xander muttered, shoving the door open.
Once he was outside, he walked a few blocks, then allowed himself to stop and breathe. He was not going to admit that Spike’s little display back at the shop had turned him on. He wasn’t.
Xander groaned, letting his head fall back against the bricks of the building behind him. He’d slowly been crushing on the vampire for a month now. He’d tried to be nicer to him, because he could’ve sworn that Spike had given Anya a genuine smile when she’d left for England, and Spike had sure sounded genuine when he’d wished her good luck with Rupert.
But with everyone else, he was just plain rude and crude. And with Xander, he was more than that: he was heart-wrenchingly cruel. Tonight had been a good night, a night where he’d actually not been too bad. And yet bad enough to let Xander know that he had NO chance with him. His lust and feelings would remain unrequited.
Xander cursed softly, wishing he could just make the feelings go away. The little mushy-gushy feeling he felt whenever Spike turned a care-free grin towards the group. The hammer of his heart whenever Spike effortlessly danced around the demons, thoroughly enjoying himself as he did so. The flip-flop of his stomach whenever Spike dared to look his way.
Only to have that same flip-flopping stomach fall when Spike sent him an insult. Which was every single time.
“There is always a way to change what cannot be changed.”
Xander glanced up and saw an old woman standing next to him. Her hair was white and pulled back into a slick bun, but her eyes danced with mischief and life. “How did…I didn’t say anything out loud,” he said.
The woman gave a small laugh. “No, but your face says it all. You want something to change, yes? It’s normally feelings for someone at your age.”
Her accent was foreign, but not French or Spanish. He couldn’t really place it, but he’d heard it somewhere before. “Yeah. Some gu…erm, person,” Xander said quickly.
She raised her eyebrow. “Men have been together for ages; they’ve just been more quiet about it back in the olden days. You wish him to see you in a different way, no?”
“Yeah, I really do,” Xander said, suddenly placing the accent. Jenny Calendar had quoted something Romanian once, her origins coming to the forefront and letting her speak her language with grace. The accent was Romanian. Which meant she was probably…
“You were expecting rags and a bandana on my head with gold beads that jingled, weren’t you?” she asked. “Not all gypsies dress that way.”
“You’ve definitely got some magic to you,” Xander said softly. “I can see it in your eyes.”
The woman smiled. “Indeed. Enough to help you with your ‘problem’. I can only offer you a way to change it. You must complete the changing yourself.”
Xander bit his lip, thinking it over. Accepting magic that was going to change him in some way probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do. She could turn him into a frog, and then Willow wouldn’t go near him to change him back.
But what if this worked? What if he could fix this thing between him and Spike to the way he wanted it to go?
Xander turned back to her and nodded. “I’m ready,” he said softly.
The woman smiled. “Lean your head forward and close your eyes, so I can see into your mind,” she said, gently placing her fingertips on the sides of his head. Xander felt himself almost lifting from the ground, and closed his eyes. Then he was flying and spinning, and there were extraordinary colors, and when he opened his eyes, the woman was looking him straight in the eyes.
“That should do it,” she said with satisfaction. “And don’t be alarmed. You will resume your original form in one week’s time exactly. You have that time to change whatever you wish. Good luck, Alexander.”
His name was spoken with so heavy an accent, it almost sounded like a different name. He nodded his thanks, turning and heading for home.
He was about halfway there when he realize just why she’d been eye to eye with him. He stared down at himself in horror, then hurried over to a nearby shop window for a better look.
Long legs, thin, slender frame, long brown hair, and brown eyes that were wide in astonishment. He gasped, and the sound that came out definitely wasn’t one a male would make.
He was a she.
“This is all types of wrong,” he muttered, finding his new, higher-pitched voice strange. Very strange. He wondered if it was too late to change it back.
How the hell was this going to help him with Spike?
The wind picked up, sending his hair flying. He shivered, trying to push the hair out of his face. Why did girls wear it so long when it did that? It was really annoying. Guys having it short was a much better solution.
But he wasn’t a guy anymore. That much was painfully obvious.
No, what he was now was a young girl, about late teens, early twenties. Not too bad looking either; she’d really dressed him up well.
It was only then that he realized that she hadn’t called him ‘Alexander’, but ‘Alexandra’. A girl’s name. A name he should take, because it was close enough to his real name that he’d realize he was being called. She was crafty, that woman was.
How, exactly, was this going to help him win Spike over, though?
He shivered and headed for home, before he froze to death. Women got a lot colder then men did; he’d never been so cold in his life. He wondered why.
A soft growl was heard from behind him, and Xander froze, his movement having nothing to do with the cold now. Slowly he glanced over his shoulder to see two vampires, male vampires, grinning and leering at him.
Oh no. Oh please no…
Two seconds later, Xander was moving as fast as he could. The vampires snarled and gave chase, and it wasn’t long before they’d caught up with him. “Come back, little pretty!” one of them called. The other just laughed.
Xander panted but kept running, through the trees and into the deeper part of a local cemetery. He gasped as he tripped over something, landing heavily on his face. This was bad. This was VERY bad. He turned just in time to get pushed down further by one of the vampires. “Hello,” he said, laughing as Xander tried to fight back. “I wasn’t expecting a little fun with my dinner, but I’m very glad you came along.”
It only took Xander a second to realize just how much more trouble he was in then usual. He was even more helpless as a girl, and that helplessness was now extended to more areas then before. Great. Just great. Xander took a deep breath and did the only thing he could.
The scream came out high pitched and full of fear. Even the two vampires winced at its shrill tone. “Shut your trap!” one of them yelled, covering his ears.
Xander ignored him and kept screaming, praying Buffy was in the vicinity. It was almost time for her to patrol, right? She was probably headed home, and then she’d hear him and help him, except she didn’t know it was him, which was still okay, because she’d rescue him anyways. Defending helpless girls was what she did best, and he now fell under that category.
He choked, his scream cut off as he was backhanded severely. His jaw and cheek stung, and the vampire on top of him laughed. “There’s always a fun way to shut ‘em up,” he said, before diving in.
Then he was flying off, and his buddy was fighting with something. Xander didn’t bother looking at what had saved his ass: he took off, running as fast as he could through the woods.
He ducked behind a tree when the sounds of the fight had faded away to nothing, then slowly slumped down to the ground, sniffling. His emotions were running on overdrive, and he couldn’t believe how easily the tears sprang to his eyes. He felt scared. He felt terrified. He felt helpless, and he suddenly felt empathy for all the young girls out there facing the world of high school, boys, and life. To feel this helpless all the time…
He was never letting his girls out of his sight. Never.
He quickly brushed the few tears away, then stiffened as he heard the crunch of a branch from behind him. Not too far away now, but he could make it. Xander tensed, getting ready to flee.
As soon as the branch crunched again, he pushed himself up and away from the tree, only making it a few steps before a hand grabbed his arm. “No!” he yelled, not even surprised anymore when the voice came out high-pitched and SO very feminine. To his surprise, the arm softened its hold, gently letting him fall to the ground.
Xander shivered and glanced back up, his eyes going wide at who he saw. It wasn’t a fledge he saw standing there, but a master vampire in his own right. The one that Xander had gotten himself into this predicament for.
His face wore a concerned look, and he crouched down beside Xander. “You all right?” Spike asked hesitantly.
“Yeah, sure, if you count almost getting eaten and…” The last word stuck in Xander’s throat, and wouldn’t come out. He swallowed, trying to rid himself of the knot that had suddenly arisen. His voice wasn’t just high-pitched anymore: it was also shaking. Great. Let the vampire laugh at him.
To his greater surprise, Spike didn’t laugh. If anything, the concern on his face deepened. “Did they hurt you?” he asked softly.
Xander reached up to point out the growing bruise on his face, then gasped when he touched blood. “Shit,” he muttered. Hadn’t realized the backhand had been that strong.
In an instant Spike was beside him, slowly reaching out. Xander lowered his hand, and Spike’s own hand took its place, his hand gently caressing the bruised and bleeding cheek. “I’ve got some stuff for this back at my place,” Spike said softly, giving Xander a smile. “If, you know, you’re interested. If not, I can just walk you home, but I’d feel a lot better if that cut was looked at.”
“You’re a vampire,” Xander found himself saying, surprised by Spike’s tenderness.
Spike sighed. “Yeah, I know. But I’m not gonna hurt you, I promise. Just…just trust me. Don’t know what I can tell you to get you to trust me, but I’m not gonna hurt you. I swear it.”
Xander stared at him for a moment. Worried eyes watched him, as if waiting for rejection. Xander blinked. Rejection? Since when the hell could he read eyes?
Must be that womanly sense coming in; they’re good with the mind-reading and empathy, Xander thought. He glanced at Spike, and gave a tiny smile. “Lead the way,” he said.
Spike’s expression briefly showed one of joy, then it was gone, and the gentle smile was back. He stood quickly, then extended his arm to Xander. Blinking away his shock, Xander took the offered hand, and let Spike carefully pull him to standing. “All right?” Spike asked. Shocked gave way to stunned, and Xander could only nod. “It’s this way,” Spike said, heading off.
Over the next ten minutes, as they walked to Spike’s crypt, Xander found himself finding out a few things about Spike.
One of which was that his tenderness wasn’t for a limited time only special. He walked at Xander’s pace, going slowly and steering Xander around a few tiny holes in the grass. Xander talked about a few things, like a book he’d just read, and Spike went with the conversation, talking only when Xander paused, never interrupting, never mentioning anything crude.
Who was this vampire, and what the hell had he done with Spike?
Spike was also quite the gentleman. He automatically held the door open for Xander when they reached his crypt, then waited until Xander was seated comfortably before heading off to snag the First Aid kit.
There had to be a word beyond shocked, or maybe shocked was okay. Because that was about how Xander was feeling.
“Let’s take a peek at the lip,” Spike said, kneeling down before Xander. He tenderly brushed away a few fallen strands of Xander’s long hair, then set about pulling out a tiny band-aid and some anti-bacterial cleanser.
“You never told me your name,” Xander said. Spike glanced up at him.
“What, I don’t get to find out who my rescuer is?” Xander asked, and his tone sounded very much like a teasing Buffy.
Spike grinned, dousing a cotton ball with the cleanser before leaning forward. He paused, the cotton ball just a few inches from Xander’s face, and Xander realized that he wasn’t sure about the chip firing. He reached out, taking the cotton ball from Spike’s fingers, giving him a small smile. “Thanks; I’d rather do it myself. I want to be mad at myself for the pain, not at the person who’s doing all of this for me,” Xander said, dabbing at his lip. It did sting, and he was glad he’d taken it from Spike.
The vampire chuckled, pulling out the band-aid. “I’m Spike.”
“Alexandra,” Xander said after a moment. Best go with the girl name; don’t want him laughing at you when he finds out you’re really Droopy Boy. His good mood vanished with that thought; how was this going to make Spike want a ‘whelp’, a boy that he despised and said that he despised whenever he got the chance to?
“What’s wrong?” Spike asked. “Got a frown now, and it doesn’t look right on you.”
Ignoring the little skip his heart gave at that, Xander shrugged. “Just thoughts. Not really happy ones, but…you know. Life. Guy problems. The usual stuff.”
“Oh?” Spike asked, applying the band-aid. “And what types of guy problems would those be? Hopefully not the type to have you walking around a cemetery full of vampires on purpose,” he said suddenly, as if having just thought of something else.
Xander shook his head. “No, I didn’t head out here to ‘meet my maker’. Just a walk, which, of course, was a bad idea. I don’t seem to have any good ones,” he joked.
Spike paused, his fingers still right in front of the band-aid. “Don’t be so hard on yourself,” he said, turning back to the kit. “No one’s as stupid as they think they are. And I’m sure you’ve got tons of wonderful ideas.”
“Ask anyone that knows me; they’ll tell you differently,” Xander said, sighing. “Especially him.”
“The guy that’s caused the problems?” Spike asked. Xander glanced at him, and found him casually putting away the things in the kit. Smooth.
And very intuitive, or was Xander just that obvious? “Yeah. He…for lack of a better word, despises me. Thinks I’m stupid and not worth any sort of time. Loves to make fun of me. Brings me down to my lowest point, just for the fun of it.”
“Bet he likes you,” Spike said, glancing up with a grin.
Xander laughed, the laughter coming out in a sort of ‘bells and chimes’ way that sounded really pretty. Girls got all the good breaks. “I really, really doubt it, but thanks for saying it,” he said, before staring down at his shoes. He was wearing heels. Huh. “I can say for certain that he hates me.” And my, but didn’t he sound depressed?
“It’s common knowledge that if a guy picks on a girl, they like her,” Spike said, standing and putting the kit away. “Simple as that. Trust me on this one.”
“Not always, and trust me on this one: he can’t stand the sight of me,” Xander muttered.
“I find that hard to believe,” Spike murmured, and Xander could feel his cheeks turning red. Had he really just said…?
“I don’t always look like this,” Xander said, then stammered out a better explanation. “I-I mean, I’m not, you know, always dressed this nice.” And he was dressed nicely. His khaki pants had been replaced by a khaki skirt, his button-down shirt was now a pretty, pale-blue blouse, and his shoes were black heels. He looked pretty good for a girl.
“Clothes got nothin’ to do with it, luv,” he said, and Xander shivered at the casually given pet-name. “Has to do with the person inside, and I’m bettin’ that he’s seen that. He’d be a fool to not like you for who you are, pet. You’re more than a pretty face. Everyone is, but they never see it like that.”
Xander blinked, swallowing a few times before managing a reply. “You…You don’t even know my person inside.”
Spike smiled, and Xander found himself melting. “I can tell. You remind me of someone I know. They’re a good person too, but don’t always see it. So don’t worry about it; you’re wonderful just the way you are. Don’t doubt that.”
He headed off, setting the kit back where it belonged. Xander tried to stop his heart from pounding so hard.
“So…can I get you somethin’ to drink?” Spike asked.
The night spent with Spike was a great one, Xander had to admit. They’d talked for hours about books, guys, favorite movies, and poetry, of all things. As a girl, Xander had safely admitted that he really did enjoy reading poetry, and as a vampire that could rip arms off of people Wookie style, Spike had cautiously said that he used to write it. He hadn’t shown any to Xander, at least, not yet. He really wanted to read Spike’s poems.
When he’d arrived home, he’d been surprised to find that all his clothes were now fitting for a woman. Very odd. He was glad he didn’t live with anyone else anymore; there would’ve been serious questioning otherwise.
Dressed and ready, Xander headed out to face day two of being a woman.
About three hours later, Xander decided that he’d better head to the Magic Box. He was just a normal customer, right? He could browse the shelves, whatever. They didn’t know it was him.
From behind him, another guy whistled appreciatively at him, and Xander sighed, hurrying up the pace. He couldn’t stand this anymore! How did girls put up with it?
He quickly stepped inside the shop, then glanced around.
Everyone was seated at the table, and they immediately turned back to the books after seeing no one they knew. Everyone except Spike, that is. “’Ello again,” he said, grinning.
Xander grinned back. “Hi. Mind if I hide in here for awhile?”
“You know her?” Willow asked, glancing at Spike.
“Yeah. Pulled her out of a nasty situation last night,” Spike said, frowning slightly. “What do you mean, hide?”
“Annoying guys whistling at me,” Xander said, rolling his eyes. “Getting really tired of it.”
Buffy and Willow nodded their agreement. “It’s just so…crude, and it really doesn’t feel like a compliment,” Willow said, sighing.
“Tell me about it,” Xander muttered. Another thing he’d learned from this: appreciative glances weren’t appreciated by the fairer sex. And neither were the whistles.
This experience wasn’t just helping him with Spike. The girls would like this new change in him. And if they ever asked how he’d gotten so sensitive…
Not going there. Ever.
“There’s plenty of books and other neat things around here,” Willow said brightly, perky as always. “Just take a peek around. And, you know, hide from the obnoxious males.”
From beside her, Tara still said nothing, merely gazing at Xander with an all too-knowing look. Did she know…?
“Th-Thanks,” he stammered out, praying that if Tara did know, she’d not say anything. This could really help him with Spike, and if someone blew the whistle on him, his chance was gone. All of it.
But how did this help his chance in the first place?
Well, it was only the second day. There had to be more that he could learn.
“So…do you guys always get together in here?” he asked, heading over to casually browse a few shelves. “You seem to know each other really well.”
“Yeah, it’s just us. Well, us and Xander,” Buffy said, frowning. “I haven’t heard from him since last night though.”
“I’m sure he’s fine,” Willow said. “Just home bathing his wounds, so to speak.”
Xander frowned. “Bathing his wounds?” he asked, genuinely confused.
“Oh, just figuratively,” Willow hastened to add. “He was sort of in a verbal sparring match, which, by the way,” she said, turning to glare at Spike, “was really mean. Xander used to get teased about that in school by the stupid bullies we had to deal with, and you know it’s not true! You pick on him way too much. Leave him be for a little bit.”
Thanks, Wills, Xander thought silently, a small smile growing on his face. It was good to know that he still had his friends there with him.
Spike rolled his eyes. “He could use some fightin’ of the verbal kind. He knows I don’t mean it.”
“Does he?” Tara said softly, speaking up for the first time. She glanced over in Xander’s direction, then turned back to Spike. “Sometimes what seems like such a trivial detail to you may really be something that digs deep down inside someone else. And for all his bravery and laughter, Xander’s actually one of the most insecure people that I know of. He’d do anything, anything, to be loved the way he loves people.” Another glance in Xander’s direction, just a casual look, and Xander knew that Tara wasn’t fooled by the womanly disguise. She knew it was him.
Spike blinked, looking slightly taken aback by that news. “Let’s see if we can find you something good to read,” Tara said, rising and smoothly leaving Spike to his thoughts. She guided Xander around a few shelves to a corner of the room, then waited until everyone else had started talking again before turning to him. “Wanted to see how things were on the feminine side?” she asked.
Xander flushed. “I kinda figured you knew.”
“Your aura’s still the same. Nothing can change that. I’m guessing as to why you did this, but I’d rather hear it from you,” she said softly.
Xander sighed. “I didn’t do this. A gypsy woman on the street, and don’t give me that look, she said she could change things. Help me get someone to see me.”
“Spike sees you already,” Tara said.
“Not the way I want him to,” Xander muttered. “I doubt he ever will. But, um, thank you for that. What you said. That was…” True? Right? Completely accurate? All of the above? “…good,” he finished. “I appreciated that.”
Tara smiled, gently leaning forward to brush a kiss across his forehead. “There’s more than meets the eye with each person,” she said, chuckling at the face he made at her mysterious message. “You’ll see. I promise.”
“Couldn’t you guys just say things in plain English?” he complained, but headed out after Tara. The gang was wrapped up in their books, smiling and joking about something, and for the first time, Xander actually missed researching. He’d be joking with them around this time. Joking and stealing glances at the vampire who would never look his way.
Xander sighed and headed for the door. “Leaving already?” Willow called after him.
“Yeah. I figured the guys have given up by now,” Xander said, giving a small smile and opening the door. “It was nice to meet all of you, and it was good to see you again, Spike.”
Spike nodded in his direction, giving a smile as he did so. “We’ll hopefully bump into each other some more soon,” he said, his eyes never leaving Xander’s.
Suddenly feeling overly warm, Xander hurried out of the shop. As soon as the door was shut behind him, he allowed his smile to broaden to almost a painful point. Spike wants to spend more time with me. With me! I must be doing something right, then.
With a cheerful whistle he headed for home.
Xander batted at his earrings for the fifth time since he’d put them in. His ears were now pierced, another thing he’d discovered back at his house, and he also had a jewelry box for them. Spike had told him once that he had holes in his head, but Xander doubted that this was what he’d meant.
He walked through the cemetery, happier now that he was back in tennis shoes and not heels. No wonder he’d tripped the night before. With some casual flares, a t-shirt, and sneakers donned, he’d headed out for Spike’s.
As he neared the vampire’s crypt, however, he slowed to a stop, suddenly self-conscious. Would Spike even want him to show up? Xander hadn’t exactly been asked back. He’d assumed from what Spike had said in the shop, but maybe not…
The crypt door swung open, interrupting his thoughts. “You plannin’ on standin’ out there all night? I didn’t think you wanted a repeat of last night,” Spike said. He was smiling at him, so Xander took that as an honest invitation, not a ‘have-to-do-this’ sort of obligation.
“Thanks,” he said, not really surprised when Spike continued holding open the door for him. “You always this perfect a gentleman?” he found himself asking.
Spike blinked, then chuckled. “No, not always,” he said ruefully. “Found that out today from the girls.”
Xander frowned, taking a seat. When had the girls told him this? Serious words were going to be had with Willow and Buffy… “What did they say?” he asked.
Spike raised his eyebrows. “You were there when they talked about their friend Xander, right? ‘Member what the blonde, quiet one told me?”
Blonde and quiet had to be Tara. Which meant…wait a minute. Spike was actually concerned about not being a gentleman with Xander? “I thought you didn’t like this guy,” Xander asked, completely confused, but still slightly hopeful. This could be the moment he was hoping for. This was why he had to be a woman: he had to hear things undercover. Spike would never tell Xander as a guy, but without him knowing…
“I don’t,” Spike said quickly, and all of Xander’s hopes were dashed. “But even if I don’t, I can still be polite. Well, as polite as I can be with him, because some days, he just begs for it, you know? He’ll mouth off at me, I’ll mouth back, and it’ll progress into somethin’ loud and obnoxious. Probably shouldn’t let him get to me, but he’s so bloody annoyin’! I can’t stand him most days. Wish he’d just up and disappear, you know? He’s just…irritatin’ beyond all reason sometimes.”
“Some guys just are,” Xander said, his voice sounding faint.
Spike frowned slightly. “You all right?” he asked softly.
Xander felt sick. The room didn’t feel right, like it was full of too much air, and it was slowly moving him on the currents. His head was pounding, and the neck of the t-shirt kept choking him. “Yeah, fine,” he lied. “I-I should get going. You’ve probably, you know, got a lot to do tonight. I should let you be. You don’t need…need me irritating you,” and he couldn’t help choking up on that last part.
He had no chance with Spike. None. This entire week was worthless. He had NO chance at all. Why hadn’t she just looked into a crystal ball and told him that, and saved him the humiliation and anguish?
He had to get out of the crypt. He felt like he was going to pass out or throw up. Possibly both. He’d always sort of known that he had no chance with Spike. But there had always been that hope.
Now, though? Absolutely no hope whatsoever. And it was crushing him.
Spike’s frown deepened as Xander rose. “You sure? Could walk you home. You don’t look so good, pet. You look paler then I do, and that’s a hard thing to do.”
Xander shook his head, trying a smile on as he allowed himself to glance back at Spike. “No, I’m fine,” he said. “Really. But…thanks anyways.”
Spike’s frown lingered, then faded completely, his eyes widening, a look of horror on his face. Before Xander could ask him what was wrong, everything went black.
Coming to usually didn’t feel this good. Most of the time he just hurt. That or he was in the clutches of some nefarious evil person, but this didn’t seem to be either of those times.
Slowly he opened his eyes. He was lying on a soft bed, an even softer blanket thrown over his tiny feminine form. There was a gentle touch on his head, slowly moving through his silky hair that felt even silkier now.
He glanced to the right and found Spike sitting beside him on the bed, his fingers moving through Xander’s hair. His eyes met Xander’s, and the smile and relief was almost instantaneous. “Scared me, fallin’ like you did,” Spike said. “Knew you weren’t feelin’ good. Feelin’ any better now?”
Xander had felt better up until that point, in which everything came back to him. “Better, yeah,” he said, closing his eyes briefly. Spike still hadn’t stopped moving his fingers, and Xander wasn’t going to stop him anytime soon. Not when this was probably the last time he’d receive any sort of gentleness or caring from Spike.
“No you’re not.”
Xander opened his eyes, startled. He hadn’t actually said anything out loud, had he? He knew girls loved to gossip and share stuff, but stuff that was supposed to stay locked in HIS skull was a big no-no for sharing.
“You’re still too pale,” Spike continued. “And you’ve got that weird look on your face, like somethin’s botherin’ you. You gonna share, or am I gonna have to pry?”
“You wouldn’t pry; you’re trying to be a gentleman, remember?” Xander teased, relieved that Spike hadn’t heard his inner thoughts.
Spike chuckled, before his gaze became serious once more. “Yeah, I would. Because it would be the gentlemanly thing to do.” Xander frowned, and Spike gave him a soft smile. “No lady should have a frown on her face, or pain in her heart, which is where the gentleman comes in to do his job of makin’ things better,” he said quietly.
Tears welled in his eyes before Xander could suppress them, and a few moments later he was crying, trying to bury his head as far down in the mattress to hide his utter embarrassment. Spike didn’t give him the chance; he carefully reached around and pulled Xander into his arms, letting Xander hide his face against his shirt. Letting the ‘lady’ not be seen making a mess of herself, even if the only one there to see it was Spike.
A true gentleman.
Xander finally calmed himself, wiping away his tears. “Sorry,” he mumbled, knowing his face was red and that wasn’t just from the tears. Crying in front of someone was still embarrassing, even if you were a woman. Some things just didn’t change.
“Please don’t tell me this is because of that guy you mentioned the other day,” Spike said softly. Xander glanced up, surprised, and got an even bigger surprise at the obvious anger in his eyes.
“Um…” was as far as he got, before he stopped. The tears had been about the ‘guy’, but for a slightly different reason then Spike thought.
The anger in Spike’s eyes flared to a burning fury, and Xander had to remind himself that Spike was chipped, and it wasn’t Xander he was mad at. Well, hopefully it wasn’t.
“You can do better than that wanker, then,” Spike said. “He doesn’t deserve you, and you don’t deserve this. No one’s worth this much grief, luv. Trust me.”
“I think he is,” Xander whispered softly. And Spike was, still was. No matter what happened, no matter where this week left him, Xander would still be completely, head-over-heels, madly in love with, Spike.
Spike pursed his lips. “Find someone else to dote on, luv. You may be star-struck about him, but he’s tossin’ away a good thing, and apparently doesn’t know it. You got a big heart, pet. Remind me of someone who gets walked over for havin’ such a big heart.”
Xander sighed. Tara did get walked over a lot, even by Willow sometimes, though Willow certainly never meant to. He wondered if that was why Tara had been gifted with a big heart, because pieces of it were going to get ripped off and trod all over. Sort of how Xander felt most days.
He closed his eyes and laid his head against Spike’s chest, trying to capture the moment forever. Spike’s hold on him tightened slightly, and Xander fell asleep.
The next day was bright and cheerful, which normally made Xander want to hurl at the obnoxious sunshine the world gave off. As a girl, however, he appreciated it more. Way more.
He spent the morning drinking a mocha at the local café stand, then walking around the park, pausing in a few places to admire the flowers. He wondered if this was the girl influence, or if this was Xander admitting that he liked looking at this sort of thing. Either way, the morning soon progressed into afternoon, and for once, the day had been a good thing.
It had also given him time to consider and digest everything that had happened the previous night. After he’d gotten up around six in the morning, Spike had still been asleep. Xander had quietly stepped out and gathered his tennis shoes (which Spike had thought to take off when he’d passed out), then had paused for a few moments beside Spike’s sleeping form. He’d dared enough to lean forward and press a tiny kiss to Spike’s forehead, and hoped that the smile Spike had given, even in his sleep, hadn’t been an imagined one.
He’d headed home, taken a shower, changed once more, then headed out again. At the café stand, he’d gotten a few whistles, but one glare thrown in their direction had caused them to back down. Oh yeah; he had the power of The Look. Another benefit to being a woman.
A brief stop at the Magic Box showed everyone busy at work, or faking it really well. It was probably the latter, and Xander couldn’t help but long for the researching atmosphere again. He thought about telling them about his knowledge of vampires and would then be included in the research still, but it wouldn’t be the same and he knew it. Better to stay out of it.
“Wait! You forgot something!”
Xander glanced back at the door of the Magic Box to find Tara running out after him. “I did?” he asked, perplexed. He didn’t think he’d taken anything out of the stupid purse…
Tara stopped in front of him and smiled. “No, but I just wanted an excuse they could hear,” she said. They shared a grin, before Tara nodded towards the park where Xander had spent his morning. “Take a walk with me?”
Xander nodded, and they made their way down the path together.
“I think what you’re doing is very brave,” Tara said softly.
Out of everything he’d expected to hear from her, that was at the bottom of the list. “How so?”
“You’re on a fine line, though you may not have realized it yet. You’re trying to glean Spike’s true thoughts about yourself out of him while in a different, disguised form, but at the same time, though I’m sure you didn’t intend for this to happen, you can’t help but spend time with him.”
“Actually, I did intend to spend time with him,” Xander said, getting more confused by the minute.
Tara raised her eyebrows. “So you meant for him to start liking you from you staying with him, being friends with him?”
Xander grinned. “Well, not really, but hey, if he does, then…”
“Then what?” Tara said. “Look down at yourself. Tell me what Spike sees now.”
Xander’s head immediately swung downwards, and his heart sank. “It’s not really me he likes,” he said quietly. “It’s her. Isn’t it?”
Tara bit her lip. “You’re still very much Xander, that much I can tell. The way you talk, the way you smile, the way you laugh, but it all sounds different. Disguised. Even if I hadn’t been able to see your aura, I could’ve figured it out after awhile. I don’t think Spike will, since he’s never really gotten to see this side of you. You guys are always fighting about something.”
“So don’t fight with him unless I want him to know who he’s really talking to,” Xander said bitterly. Dammit. He should’ve thought of this.
Tara sighed and nodded. “I’m so sorry, Xander,” she said softly, pulling him in for a hug. Xander found himself reciprocating it, and it did make him feel slightly better. Even more so then when he got a hug as a guy. That was the feminine side of him coming through now, he knew it. A benefit to being empathic and emotional: little touches and well meaning acknowledgements meant more to a woman then a man.
Of course, learning this stuff, the good stuff, meant he was learning the bad, too. He hadn’t considered what Tara was saying, but she was right: Spike was starting to like the female him, and was completely forgetting the male him.
Not that he’d actually THOUGHT about the male him, but still. Point.
“I thought you should know before you started hanging out with him more,” she said sadly. “You might also want to stay away from the Scoobies until you’re back to normal. Willow and Buffy’ll figure it out in no time.”
“Thanks for the heads up,” he said, trying to smile. Sucky part about being more emotional: your heart hurt way more with stuff like this.
“Call me if you need me,” Tara said. He nodded and turned away, hearing her softly spoken, “Good luck,” before she headed back to the shop.
The walk home was filled with silence and bitter thoughts.
He stayed in all throughout the next day, reading a few books and tidying up his place. He even printed out a recipe to try for dinner, and managed to waste a few hours digging for all the ingredients.
In the end, he was forced to leave for the grocery store in order to get some of the more perishable items on the recipe list. The amount was only a bag full, and he stocked up on a few more things while he was at it. He just wanted this week to be over already.
He headed for home, his two bags clutched in his arms. He hadn’t thought to take the car, since it was only a few blocks from his house. He hadn’t thought about the fact that his natural, masculine strength being not there anymore. As soon as he picked up the bags, however, he realized that it would’ve been better to have thought this one out.
Like he should’ve thought out the decision of becoming a girl. He needed to think out a lot of things.
Xander didn’t register the name immediately, but the voice he recognized instantly. He glanced back, and watched as Spike hurried to catch up. “Didn’t see you yesterday after you ducked out,” Spike explained. “Wanted to make sure you were all right.”
Xander nodded, giving a brief smile before heading down the road again. “Here, let me carry those,” Spike offered, already taking one of the bags from Xander’s arms. Xander soon found his own arms empty, and Spike didn’t seem to mind carrying them. “Headed for home?” he asked.
Xander nodded after a moment. “Yeah, I’ve got a recipe I wanted to try. I haven’t cooked anything in ages; figured now would be a good time to start.”
“Well, good on you, then. A home-cooked meal is one of the greatest things you can eat,” Spike said, smiling. “What else have you been up to? Missed you yesterday.”
Xander’s heart skipped a beat, and he tried to not let it show on his face. He knew it wasn’t himself that Spike wanted: he wanted the new and improved, not really real Alexandra. “I was…um…busy. Took a walk around, tidied up my house, stuff like that.”
“Ah,” Spike said, his voice sort of shorter now. Xander dared a glimpse and found his lips slightly pursed.
Xander stopped and sighed, turning to Spike. “I’m sorry. But…I just realized that what I’m doing isn’t fair to either of us. You’re a…a fantastic guy. And I’m really starting to like you. I can’t…I can’t do this anymore, though. I’m still crazy about my guy, and it also isn’t fair to you, either, because I’ve probably been giving you the wrong impression. So I’m sorry. Thank you for saving me, though.” He reached over and took the bags from a stunned Spike’s arms, then continued on his way home. There; that hadn’t hurt too much, had it? His heart was just shredded into a million itty bitty pieces, but he’d live.
A hand on his shoulder made him stop. Xander glanced back at Spike, who was giving him a slightly concerned look. “Was worried you didn’t like me, but it seems I was a little stuck on my own thoughts. Hadn’t even considered this was the reason,” he said softly. “I know you’re still thinkin’ about…him, though frankly, I don’t think you bloody well should,” and had he just growled? “But I’d still like to see you. Be friends at least. You’re a sweet girl, and I do like you, and think you’re absolutely adorable in more ways than one.”
Xander could feel his cheeks turning red, and Spike slowly began to smile. “I-I’m not used to compliments,” Xander stammered.
Spike’s smile broadened. “You should be. You’re a beautiful person, inside and out.”
And he didn’t think his face could blush even more than it already was, but apparently, it could. Spike chuckled, then his face turned serious once more. “Love to have somethin’ more with you, but you’re not the only one thinkin’ about somebody else. Got someone I’ve been thinkin’ about, too.”
Xander’s heart sank. Of course Spike had an interest already. Why wouldn’t he? “So…what’s this someone like?”
“Strong and brave,” Spike said immediately. “You wouldn’t guess it from lookin’, though. We’ve been fightin’ for years, but as of lately, the heat of the fight’s sort of gone out, and I’d like to make it more.”
Buffy. Oh no. Xander should’ve known. Spike had started hanging out around the Magic Box more, had taken to patrolling with Buffy more, and now he knew why. When was the last time he’d seen the two of them fight? When they’d fought last, it had been a sort of odd bickering, like siblings would do. A fight with less heat then there used to be.
He should’ve known.
“Well, good on you,” he managed to say, his voice coming out like it normally did these days. “Bet she likes you, too.”
Spike slowly started chuckling. “Well, that’s the thing, because I don’t really think you could say that. And give me those bags back; you shouldn’t have to carry them.”
“Pushy gentleman, aren’t you?” Xander said, smiling despite himself.
“You girls have gotten so bloody independent these days…”
Xander laughed, then immediately switched to another topic. Anything to not think about Buffy and Spike’s unrequited love for her.
When they stopped about a block away from Xander’s building, Xander turned and opened his arms for the bags. “This is my stop,” he said brightly. “Thanks for, you know, the company and the help. Even as an independent sort of gal, I do appreciate it.”
“More than welcome,” Spike said, glancing up at Xander’s building and frowning. “That it?”
Xander quickly nodded. “Yeah, I just moved in a little while ago. Why?”
Spike’s frown deepened. “Because that’s Xander’s buildin’. What floor are you on?”
“First,” Xander said immediately, hoping his answer hadn’t come out too fast. “I don’t like climbing stairs. But maybe I’ve seen your friend. What’s his apartment number?”
Spike shook his head. “He’s on the second floor, I know that. Was a bloody pain helpin’ him move his furniture in.”
“Why the interest in knowing?” Xander asked suddenly. Why had Spike decided to ask about the same building?
Spike frowned. “He still hasn’t shown up to a research meetin’, and Buffy’s startin’ to get worried, that’s all.”
And since Buffy was worried, Spike was worried by proxy. Lovely. “Well, if I see someone that answers to the name Xander, I’ll let him know she’s worried,” Xander said as cheerfully as he could manage. “Thanks again.”
Spike shook himself and smiled at him again. “Not a problem. You doin’ anythin’ tomorrow?”
Xander paused and pretended to think it over. “I don’t…think so. No. Why?”
“You got any leftovers from what you’re makin’ tonight, you can bring ‘em over. I wouldn’t mind some home-cookin’ for once. And if you want, I’ll…I’ll show you my poems,” he said softly.
Xander’s eyes widened in honest joy. “Really?”
Spike shrugged, trying to look indifferent. “Why not. You can sit and enjoy a good laugh.”
“Stop being mean to yourself; I bet they’re wonderful,” Xander said, his grin widening at Spike’s sheepishness.
“Doubt they’re what you’d call wonderful luv, but if you’re really interested…”
“I am,” Xander said without hesitation. “I’ll bring those leftovers around sometime like…seven?”
Spike nodded, and the two of them shared a smile. “I’ll see you then,” Spike said softly, heading for the corner. Xander frowning, watching him disappear. That wasn’t the way back to Spike’s cemetery, so why…?
He shrugged and headed down towards his building, and a few minutes later, had his purchases and himself safely inside. He glanced behind him through the glass door and found Spike at the corner, watching him. He gave a smile and a wave, then headed back in the right direction to his crypt.
Xander let himself enjoy the flips his heart did at the thought of Spike safely seeing him home.
Seven o’clock, on the dot, and Xander was knocking on Spike’s door. Day five had gone well so far. He’d finished a crossword puzzle, then had dug out a real puzzle and had spent two enjoyable hours putting the thing together.
Now he was off to enjoy an evening with Spike in a friends only sort of way. Because Spike was crushing on his best friend. Right. And he was crushing on Spike. Yup.
What a triangle.
Spike opened the door and smiled at him. “So, what’d you end up makin’?” he asked as Xander stepped inside.
Xander grinned and pulled out the well packed meal. Spike’s eyes went round with delight. “Lasagna. Honest to goodness lasagna. It smells wonderful,” Spike praised.
Xander gave an embarrassed but pleased smile. “It doesn’t taste too bad, either,” Xander admitted. “I think you’ll like it.”
“I know I will. Did you make all of it by yourself?”
“All from scratch, including the meat,” Xander said proudly. He’d decided to do it all, and it had meant him needing six hands instead of two, but he’d done it. Done it all by himself, and had also made some bread to go with it. He wasn’t doing all that badly so far.
He’d tasted a little bit of it, but it now had to pass the hardest test of all: Spike’s approval.
In a few minutes, they had the lasagna spread out into meal sized portions, and Spike was taking his first bite. Xander paused, the fork almost to his mouth, waiting anxiously for Spike’s thoughts on it. He hadn’t ever really cooked something like this before. Nothing really past an omelet, and what if he didn’t like it? What if it totally upset his stomach? Could vampires even get an upset stomach?
Spike saw him staring and tried not to laugh. “Pet, it’s wonderful,” he said, smiling softly. “Stop bein’ so mean to you. What you told me yesterday, wasn’t it?”
Xander shrugged, relieved that Spike thought it was okay. “Yeah, but it’s just…it’s different telling someone else that. I’ve always been insecure about little crap like that. It’s part of me; I just hide it really well,” he joked.
Spike frowned slightly. “That have to tie in with the ‘not used to compliments’ thing?”
Xander nodded slowly. “Yeah. It’s just who I am, that’s all. All ‘girls’ are insecure about stuff,” he said, the word ‘girls’ getting slightly spat out. Okay, so he was still a little miffed about Spike’s comment.
Even though he was a girl at the moment. It was still the point of the matter.
“Nothin’ wrong with bein’ a girl,” Spike said, still frowning slightly. Xander froze at the sudden realization that possibly Spike had correctly identified who Xander was. Subject change, please!
“So…when do I get to see those poems?” Xander asked, giving Spike a coy grin.
The subject change worked. Spike rolled his eyes, then jerked his head over to the left. Glancing over, Xander spotted a well-worn leather journal that looked very old. “Can I?” he asked.
Spike sighed but nodded. Xander grinned and dropped his fork, reaching over and pulling the journal into his hands. “Don’t have to read ‘em if you don’t want to,” Spike said sullenly. He looked like he was simply waiting for ridicule and rejection, and that bothered Xander. Master vampires weren’t supposed to look like that.
Spike wasn’t supposed to look like that.
Xander turned back to the journal and started reading, and soon found himself lost in the worlds and images the words created. Some of the words he’d never heard of before, but they sounded in his head like beautiful things, and their meanings were obvious from the rest of the words around them. How could anyone think that these were trash? Okay, they weren’t Shakespeare or Dickinson, but they were still full of imagination, passion, and life. Someone’s joy for something being shared with someone else, and to be able to convey that was an honorable and beautiful thing in Xander’s eyes.
Xander blinked, glancing up at Spike. “Huh?”
Spike smiled. “Your food’s gonna get cold, luv. Been readin’ that silly book for almost twenty minutes.”
“Really? Wow. I didn’t know,” Xander said, glancing back at the book. He could read the rest of them later, he supposed.
“I’m gonna assume that you liked ‘em?” Spike asked, but there was a tiny pleased smile on his face.
“Liked isn’t a strong enough word. Those are fantastic!” Xander gushed. “Full of passion and imagination and feeling and they just put you right where the writer was at the time. They’re WONDERFUL, Spike.”
Spike’s tiny smile had blossomed into a goofy grin. “There’s better,” he said, but he was still grinning.
“There’s always better,” Xander said. “So long as you’re happy with the results yourself, then they’re priceless. That’s what matters.”
Spike’s grin slowly disappeared, and he tilted his head, regarding Xander silently. “You are a very wise person,” he finally said. “Don’t let anyone tell you differently.”
Xander could feel the all too familiar blush filling his cheeks. “Um, thanks.”
Spike shook his head, chuckling softly. “Gotta get used to those compliments, pet. You’re gonna get a lot of ‘em in the upcomin’ years, I’m sure.”
Xander snorted and rolled his eyes. “Highly doubt it. I should be gearing myself up for insults, but…I do like the compliments better,” he said softly.
“Everyone does,” Spike said. “I’d rather hear that I’m a handsome devil instead of a disgusting demon, but you can’t help what someone says or thinks about you. Even though the first one is obviously the truth,” he said, his grin back in full force.
“Obviously,” Xander said, grinning himself. Before he could talk himself out of it, he leaned forward and pressed a quick kiss to Spike’s cheek.
Spike’s eyes were huge when he pulled away. “What was that for?” he managed.
Xander smiled shyly. “Because you’re a handsome devil.”
Spike grinned, then leaned forward himself. Instead of the quick peck Xander was expecting, there were lips on his, gently teasing them into opening, long enough for Spike’s tongue to wet his upper lip before pulling away. “Wh-What was that for?” Xander panted.
“Because you’re a beautiful woman,” Spike said softly. Then he was kissing him again, and Xander moaned, the exquisite feel of cooler lips expertly moving against his sending his nerves into overdrive. Hairs rose on his arms and back when Spike’s fingers danced up his side, gently teasing at Xander’s bra line.
Suddenly Spike’s words came back to him. Because you’re a beautiful woman. Meant to be a compliment, but with Spike slowly caressing the bottom of his bra, Xander knew this wasn’t just about his inner beauty. Spike wanted the womanly curves. The softer, smaller body.
Not Xander. Not really.
Xander slowly pulled away, pretending to be dazed. Wasn’t really all that hard; damn could Spike kiss. “Wow,” he breathed. “That was…wow.”
Spike grinned. “Lose your breath a bit?”
“Hey, some of us do have to use our lungs to stay alive,” Xander retorted, then gave a weak grin. “I should probably head back. Did you want to keep the lasagna? You actually seemed to enjoy it, so…?”
Spike shrugged, though he looked disappointed. “Sure, why not. It really was good, luv. Give yourself more credit. Need me to walk you home?”
“If you could,” Xander said softly after a moment. He’d really wanted the time home to let his heart break on its own, but that probably wasn’t a good idea. Besides, he only had two days left with Spike. Better take whatever time he could.
Even if Spike only wanted him as a girl.
“Could stay a bit longer then, if you wanted,” Spike offered, but he stood along with Xander.
Xander sighed, then stepped forward. “If I did, more than a little flirting and kissing would happen, and you…you might regret it afterwards. I might, too. We’d better not.”
Spike blinked, looking surprised. “Nothing I do with you would be a regret,” he said softly. “Yeah, I get what you’re sayin’, but don’t think that. I’m enjoyin’ every minute with you.”
Xander gave a weak smile. “So am I, trust me. But…”
“Yeah, I know,” Spike said with a sigh. “So…home again?”
Xander nodded, and the two headed out into the evening.
Around three in the afternoon the next day, Willow called. “Xander, are you there?” she asked, sounding worried. “We’ve really missed you. Give me a call, just…something. Let me know you’re okay?”
At five, Buffy called. “Xan, it’s me. Haven’t seen you around in awhile, and I’m starting…well, not starting, but the worry’s deepening. Hope you’re okay. Give me a call back? Or stop by the Magic Box sometime. Whenever. Just…be careful, okay?”
At five thirty, Dawn called. “Xander, answer the phone already! You’re really starting to scare us. We’ve called your work, and they said you hadn’t shown up all week. Let us know what’s going on, please? We miss you. Lots. But me more than Buffy, because she’s a toad, which you already knew.”
Xander grinned at that last one, then sighed and finished off his sandwich. He didn’t know how to call them without letting them know, but he didn’t want them worried. And he’d forgotten about work; he was just glad that this week hadn’t been an urgent project. He’d just tell his boss that an emergency had sprung up, and that could be one of his weeks of vacation.
Maybe he could call Tara. What was her cell phone number? He knew it was around here somewhere. Just call her and tell her that as Xander, he was fine, and would be back to the Magic Box next week.
He gasped when his head was thrown to the side and rammed into the wall. He tumbled to the ground, then glanced up at the huge demon that was in his sight. The weapons chest was too far, and how the hell had the demon gotten in so quietly, anyways?
Then the demon was aiming another fist at his head, and things went black for awhile.
Xander groaned and awoke with a huge headache. He’d much rather have woken up with Spike’s fingers threading through his hair. Not the case this time.
A clanging sound made him sit up and take a look around at where he was. He didn’t like what he was seeing.
It looked like some sort of iron house. The air was hot and humid, and the clanging sounds were that of multiple demons banging on iron weapons.
It was only then that Xander realized that he was in a cell of some kind. Long and tall, the metal bars holding him in didn’t look like the bendable tin kind. They looked like the kind that would bruise your shoulder if you tried to bash them down.
He also wasn’t alone. In his cell, it was just him, but there were hundreds of cells around the area. In his small divided section, there was no one else. All the other areas were full of numerous numbers of people.
A scream made him turn and look. A girl was being pulled from her cell by two large demons. She kicked and fought against them, but they pulled her over to the middle of the anvils and clanging metal, where an odd looking demon stood. He was green all over, but his hair was slicked back and golden. His eyes were silver and cold, and he pulled something out of the leather pouch hanging from his belt. He blew it in the girl’s direction, and Xander could see his lips move.
Then she was screaming again, but the scream was changing as her body changed. Xander watched in horror as her girlish figures soon became grotesque and demon like. She looked like a miniature version of the huge, ox like demons that had pulled her from the cage. The same kind that had knocked him out.
The girl had stopped screaming, and her demon form immediately shuffled over to the nearest anvil, snatching a crude weapon from it and cackling.
They were amassing an army.
Buffy needed to know about this, now. These guys could easily change everyone in Sunnydale into their minions. Was there a way to change them back…?
Xander hoped so, because they were pulling more people out of their cages. They started with the people to his left, who kicked and screamed all the way down to the green demon. They continued around the room, pulling people out until the area was deserted.
Looked like Xander would be last. Wonderful.
He scooted back into his cell and curled up, waiting for either Buffy to arrive or a demon to come take him. They had a ways to go, but still. It wouldn’t take long.
Almost an hour later, the noises of the screams started getting louder. A glance up told Xander that they’d almost reached his area. Wonderful. And Buffy still wasn’t there. His stomach grumbled, and he frowned. He’d just eaten. Was food all he thought about?
His hunger was sharp, as if he hadn’t eaten in too long, however. Maybe it was the air.
Suddenly there was another pain, but this time in his entire body. Xander gasped and jerked, watching as his fingers became slightly larger. His clothes were changing back to men’s clothes, and he realized that he hadn’t eaten since yesterday; he must’ve been out for longer then he’d thought.
He’d spent his last day as a girl unconscious in the cell. Now he was changing back.
Images of the days spent with Spike haunted him, and he held his head with his two hands, miserable. He hadn’t learned anything, except that Spike could be a true gentleman, wrote wonderful poems, and liked Buffy.
And still hated Xander.
When Xander looked back up, he was back to normal. No more womanly curves for him; just his own lean, manly form.
And still no Buffy in sight to save his ass.
The demons pulled the last person out of the other area, then turned and headed his way. Xander backed up as far as he could, until his back hit the wall. He had strength on his side again; how was he supposed to use it?
Noises of screams and grunts made him keep his head down. With his luck, he could ambush the demons and make a run for it. Maybe if he told Willow about this, she could turn them back. It was probably only magic. She and Tara could undo it.
The cell door creaked as it swung open, and Xander shot forward, hitting the body in front of him. With an “Oomph!” they both went down, and cool, pale hands grabbed his arms. “It’s me, all right?”
Xander glanced down and saw Spike. “How’d you find me?” he asked.
Spike rolled his eyes. “Red started a locator spell. She was also lookin’ for someone for me, and I just assumed you’d both be down here.” He frowned slightly. “Don’t suppose you saw my friend?”
Alexandra. Of course. And now she was gone forever. Xander sighed and pushed himself up. “No, I didn’t see her. Sorry.”
“Xander! Are you okay?” Willow asked, rushing over to envelop him in a huge hug.
Xander gave her a grin. “Yeah, I’m made of tougher stuff. You guys okay?”
Tara nodded, walking over with the others. “Yeah, we’re all right. And so are the others; it was only a little bit of magic to undo.”
“Guess you didn’t get my phone call this afternoon,” Buffy said, grinning. “We headed over to your apartment, and found it pretty trashed. Not too bad, though. Should only take a day or two of cleaning. We figured we’d better use a spell to track you down.”
“We didn’t find your friend,” Dawn said, turning to Spike. “Tara’s already turned everyone back, so I’m sure that she’s safely out by now.”
“Was that the girl we met at the Magic Box that afternoon?” Willow asked. “She seemed really nice. Familiar sort of nice, too.”
Tara glanced over at Xander, and he gave her a tiny smile, then slowly began slipping away. She nodded slowly, then turned back to the others, giving Xander time to get out of there.
The walk home was a disheartened one.
A knock at the door made Xander a happy man. The apartment wasn’t too bad, but there were a few things he was going to have to buy again. Just a chair, a few plates, and a couple of CDs. On the overall, he’d come out of this okay.
But cleaning wasn’t fun. So any distraction made for a happy Xander. “Coming,” he called out, mindfully noting where the nearest weapon was, should he need it.
Spike was on the other side. Xander blinked, confused. “Um, hi?” he asked, frowning slightly.
Spike pulled something out from behind him, and held it out to Xander. Xander glanced down at the item and paled. It was the container he’d brought the lasagna over in. He glanced back up at Spike and found his eyebrows raised, the rest of his face unreadable. “Hello Alexandra,” he said quietly.
Xander couldn’t breathe. How the hell had he figured it out? Had Tara told him? No, she wouldn’t do that. Would she? “Spike, I’m sorry, I really am. I d-did try and pull away, and I did pull away, you know that,” he stammered, knowing he was babbling but not caring. Nothing mattered anymore. Spike knew, and he was still staring at Xander stony-faced.
“That’s why I thought you’d be better off not seeing me, so I didn’t go over to your crypt that day, but then you came and found me later that evening on the way home with the groceries, and I just wanted to get closer, that was all, but then I found out that, you know, you and Buffy, so I tried to pull away again, but I didn’t want you to feel bad about it, because it was all my fault, or really, it was the gypsy woman’s fault, because it was her idea to start with, and I’m sorry Spike, so sorry. I just…just wanted to…” Having run out of steam, Xander glanced down at his shoes.
Couldn’t he have any good ideas? He was an idiot.
“Can I say somethin’ now?” Spike asked, his voice low and devoid of emotion still.
Xander merely nodded, knowing that whatever Spike said would be true. ‘Thanks for making me feel something for someone that didn’t exist’? ‘You’re a pathetic girl, Harris’?
A cool hand was on his chin, and before Xander knew it, his head was being lifted up, and soft lips were on his. Xander’s shock soon gave way to the feeling of pure bliss, and he eagerly claimed Spike’s lips, wondering if this was how Spike was going to get back at him: kiss him, make him feel something for someone he could never have, then walk out of Xander’s hallway into Buffy’s arms.
Spike slowly withdrew, and Xander hesitantly opened his eyes. Warmth and tenderness met his confused and completely bewildered. “Um…I know it’s going to sound stupid, but why?” he asked. Better to get it over with.
Spike stared at him, before he started chuckling. “You really do have an insecurity streak a mile long, don’t you?” he asked. “We’ll fix that, I promise you.”
“Still not answering the question,” Xander said, trying to ignore the happy feeling that was spreading from his toes to his spine at Spike’s words.
Spike leaned in closer and smiled. “Who did you think I was talkin’ about? The person you reminded me of that first day? The person that got walked over for havin’ too big a heart? The person I’ve been thinkin’ about? All you.” He frowned a moment later. “What was that bit about me and Buffy?”
Xander blinked several times before he was able to answer. “I-I thought it was Buffy. Strong, but you wouldn’t think so by looking. I just thought, since you said the feeling wasn’t returned…”
“I never said that,” Spike said, raising his eyebrows. “I was tryin’ to say that your assumption about the person bein’ a she was wrong.”
“But you said…I’m irritating. I’m annoying. You don’t like me,” Xander whispered.
Spike bit his lip. “I didn’t. And you can be irritatin’ and bloody annoyin’. But so can I.”
Xander glanced up, and found Spike gazing at him miserably. “Not all the time,” Xander said, trying to defend him.
Spike shook his head. “The only bad part to realizin’ who I’d spent the week with was figurin’ out who the guy was you kept talkin’ about.” His hand reached forward, gently caressing Xander’s face. “I’m sorry it was me,” he said softly, before he snorted. “Got me so upset, thinkin’ about some guy doin’ that to you, and then I realized the person I was mad at was myself.”
“Why the sudden change?” Xander asked, leaning unconsciously into Spike’s touch.
Spike sighed. “It wasn’t as sudden as you thought, and the advice I gave you concernin’ the guy wasn’t that far off the mark: I did tease because I liked you. Sort of makes me a school boy, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah, but a cute one,” Xander said, grinning.
Spike chuckled. “I was attracted to you and wasn’t sure about likin’ you, or admittin’ that I did, but then over the week…got to know you a bit better, and I realized that I could safely say that I…I like you. I really do,” he said softly.
“How did you know it was me?” Xander blurted out. Where the hell had he gone wrong?
“Your reaction to the ‘girl’ comment a few days ago was what started me thinkin’,” Spike said, grinning when Xander groaned. He should’ve known that a subject change wouldn’t take Spike’s mind off of it. “Then I started thinkin’ about you bein’ missin’, and Alexandra just suddenly showin’ up.
“Final clue, however, was last night. When I asked you about my friend, you responded with a she. I never said that the friend was a girl.”
Xander blinked. Yes he had! Well, Dawn had said that his friend was a girl, and Willow had responded about meeting Alexandra, but that had been after.
Spike hadn’t said anything about his friend being a female. “I’d make a lousy spy,” Xander managed to say.
Spike laughed and leaned forward, pressing a kiss to Xander’s lips again. “Need help with the apartment?” he asked, glancing beyond Xander’s shoulder.
“There isn’t too much left to clean, I don’t think,” Xander said, before he began to smile. “I think I do still have some lasagna that needs to be eaten, though. That’ll probably go bad over the next couple of days. I’d been hoping to eat it yesterday, but I was sort of preoccupied,” he said dryly.
Spike grinned. “I suppose I could help. Wouldn’t want your fridge to get too crowded or anythin’.”
“Well, all right then. If, you know, you really don’t mind,” Xander said. Slowly they began to smile, and Spike stepped in, making sure that Xander was safely in before closing it.