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That sinus infection that kicked my butt a couple of weeks ago? It's back for revenge, and this time it took down my whole family. Witness the results of my delusional state if you like ---

Title: Redefining Unlife (working title, it sucks! suggestions welcome)
Author: Rowaine (
Rating: PG-13-ish, eventually NC17. Whatever that means on the new rating scale. These first two chapters are sedate enough that my 15 yr old *very* heterosexual son didn't bat an eyelash - he beta'd for me, bless his heart.
Warnings: Since this is Spander - at least technically - there isn't much to warn about. Tales from the Bizaar Spander, but still our boys. Mild Buffy-bashing too, since that's one of my favorite indoor sports. Uh, and some Angel-bashing... cus dammit, I'm still pissed about who wore the amulet thingy. :P
Pairings: Spike/Xander, with hints of others.
Setting: Uh... post S7 BtVS and whatever season it is that Spike gets his body back in AtS.
Summary: Spike comes back to unlife. Things get really strange from there.
Disclaimer: Not mine, never was. Insert sniffling and whining as appropriate.
Please remember that I've never watched the Angel series, so I only have hearsay to go by on the personalities of its characters.

Redefining Unlife


Part One

Unlife had been a blast, Spike reflected from his non-corporeal perch atop Wesley's desk. Really, he'd had fun for over a century, so he couldn't complain about much there. The bedamned soul wasn't one of his best ideas, but he had learnt how to deal with it... eventually. Being burned from the inside out, channeling every molecule of the sun's first rays? Now *that* was a bitch. Still, he figured that it made his soul feel better, paid some back dues for mayhem and slaughter. The demon whined about being forced to pay pennance for acting within its nature, of course, and that wasn't unexpected. After all, most of his difficulties after the soul's appearance stemmed from that particular war - conscience versus instinct, both screaming out their points til he was ready to give himself a labotomy just for a minute's peace.

Shuffling papers slid through his ghostly arse, and only the slight upturn of the former Watcher's lip hinted that it might have been on purpose. Granted, he didn't get a real sense of touch from the strange half-contact, but he did feel something. And the smirking Brit knew how much it bugged him. His transparent lips formed a sneer that once would have made lesser beings cringe. He refused to acknowledge the 'ain't he cute?' whispered from the mousey chit standing behind Wesley.

It really didn't seem fair, this non-life he was currently stuck in. Before the final showdown with the First Evil, his soul had prayed for a chance at heaven, even knowing how slim that chance was. His demon had been prepared to raise untold mischief in whatever hell was reserved for it. But no, he wasn't allowed to rest in paradise *or* suffer in some hell dimension. Instead he was forced to listen to the Fang Gang's inanities, float through board rooms and snack rooms and even that twat Harmony was here to torment him and he couldn't get away or smoke a bloody fag. His silent scream witnessed by the only two AI members who actually gave a damn, Spike cursed the Powers That Be for his transient state. In every language he could remember, thoroughly and with great imagination.

And somewhere out there, the Powers heard his frustration. Recalled his history, both good and bad. Weighed everything on some cosmic scale. Pointed and snickered behind their world-shaking hands.

For what Spike forgot - a fact that even the youngest child could solemnly swear with a straight face and lip quiver - is that, first, the Powers That Be are awesome and mighty, though they rarely interfere unless the balance between good and evil is in danger. But more importantly, the blighters have a wicked sense of humor, and just love to torture those who question their methods.

~ * ~

It wasn't as bright as the last time I died. Sounds and smells slowly returned to his befuddled senses. Bugger this, what've they done to me now? He recognized the Texan's soft, melodic tones, with the Watcher's crisp upper crust accent answering. He couldn't quite follow their words, no matter how hard he concentrated. Something was off with his vision too... like he couldn't open his eyes. And that was just wrong, since he had no eyelids to open.

It took a few minutes for his other senses to register. Not unsurprising, considering how long he'd gone without them. A warm hand rested across his brow, smoothing away the soft curls that naturally fell into his eyes. Another hand, much smaller than the first, was checking for a pulse at his wrist. He had to laugh at that - wouldn't it just be his bleedin luck? To finally be free from the twice-damned limbo only to end up on a mortician's slab. The sound that came out, instead of the expected throaty chuckle, was a rough gargle. And nothing near his own voice.

"Oh dear. Fred, I really believe we should contact Angel at once. Before our rather questionable security staff has a chance to swoop down upon us and transport our guest to one of their... cells."

"Ah... maybe we should skip callin Angel then. He's in one of his meetin's right now. Think we can sneak out the back, maybe get back to my place? This'un's gonna need some attention, Wes."

Throat-clearing and the shuffle of feet. "Well yes, most assuredly. You'll do the honors for *cough* that part, yes?"

Gentle laughter. "Yeah, I'll handle it. You just do yer thing with the magic, an we can bring this'un down to my car. Sure we can handle it better without anyone else findin out."

"Perhaps you are correct. However would we explain..."

The voices trailed off, leaving Spike doubley confused. He felt exhausted, moreso than after Glory or Caleb or... His internal conversation came to a halt as his body slipped completely into unconsciousness.

~ * ~

Something cool and moist brought him back to reality. A wash cloth, he figured, being dabbed along his face and neck. He couldn't understand why he would need to be cleaned up - after months of having no physical form, how would he manage to get dirty? But still, it felt rather pleasant.

He counted two heartbeats in the near vicinity. One set of heavier footsteps - indicating a grown man, most likely. The gentle touch of whomever was wiping his cheeks must surely belong to a woman. As coherent thought returned, he figured them to be the two humans with whom he'd spent the most time recently. Wesley and Fred. Right. Higher brain functions almost up to normal, Captain. He groaned at the thought that, hell forbid, he was channeling Harris' geeky sci-fi shows.

"Shh darlin, yer alright now. Safe an sound, an maybe we can figure out who ya are. If ya'll wouldn't mind wakin up an talkin with us, hmm?"

She has such a pleasant voice. Soothing... almost like the hot cocoa that Joyce used to make. With those little marshmellows. "Mmm..." Not noticing vocal chords rusty from disuse, no other sounds were attempted.

"Oh, OH! Wes, c'mon in here. Think our guest is startin ta come round."

Footsteps drew near, stopping within arm's reach. "What have you found so far?"

"No normal heartbeat, can't feel a pulse. But higher than room temp. Dunno what kind we've found here, but... I don't feel a threat."

"Hmm, indeed. Pardon me if I maintain a bit of vigilance. Better safe than sorry."

"Wesley, y'know what happens to most demons when ya throw holy water on'em. An we already checked with a mirror, member?"

"Even still, there is something... not quite right about-"

"Bloody hell, Watcher, don't ya ever shut up?" His voice was off, but Spike took comfort that at least he had been heard this time. Better than using gestures - and the ever popular two-finger salute.

"I say, that was uncalled for, Miss!" Wesley's indignation rang harshly on the recently revived blond.

Blue eyes slowly opened, confirming his first guess. And if they weren't focusing very well, it could be excused... as some sort of mystical whammy. "Need yer specs renewed, Wes. Been floatin round yer office fer more'n half a year now, an ya can't recognize me?" He watched with growing dread as Fred and Wesley exchanged 'a look'. "What?"

"Dear Lord."

"Oh. My. God."

~ * ~

Half an hour later, Spike felt as if he had a fully functional heart again - if only to allow his blood pressure to hit the danger zone. It had taken a weak-kneed trip to the bathroom and several long minutes staring at his reflection (where, if he resembled a kitten, snarling and hissing at a perceived threat, no one could blame him) to convince the centurian Master vampire of his... altered state.

The following hour centered around answering para-spiritual questions from the Watcher and scientific analytical ones from Fred. Neither of whom found satisfactory responses. The trio exchanged frustrated glares.

"Not like ya can blame me for this, y'know. Didn't ask to be brought back as a ghost. No one could hear me bitchin bout... Oh buggerin fuck, what does it matter." Exasperated, Spike threw himself down onto the couch. He refused to acknowledge the extra bounce in his landing as anything more than good springs.

With a long-suffering sigh, Wesley tried again. "Honestly Spike, neither of us are accusing you of causing this... predicament. It is a matter of some interest, however. In any number of ways."

"That I don't wanna hear right now. Please, Wes." Holding up a slim hand, Spike tried to convey how thoroughly worn out he was. It barely registered that he'd asked nicely. "Fred-girl, think you can whip us up somethin ta eat? Stomach's real empty, like my throat's been cut." His attempt at levity fell flat.

Absently watching the young woman's departure, Wesley sat on an over-stuffed chair opposite the blond. "I... There are no words. I cannot apologize for your return, however *off* you find your present status. It is rather interesting that the Powers brought you back at all, but moreso that they deemed fit to change your entire gender. One might suspect that you..."

"Out with it, Watcher!" Spike was in no mood for 'delicate' turns of phrase.

Light spots of red appeared on Wesley's cheeks, while his voice grew increasingly waspish. "That you might've irritated them somehow. Egged them on, so to speak. But no, surely a Master vampire of your age and experience would know better than to challenge the Powers That Be."

More than a hundred years' acting abilities failed to keep the flush from spreading across the blond's pale features.

"No offense, Spike, but sometimes you can be an utter prat."

Having no desire to argue the truth, he sniffled pathetically and curled up against the sofa cushions to sulk.

~ * ~

There are some flavors that soothe frazzled nerves regardless of the century, Spike reflected. Hot chocolate being high up on the list, followed closely by chicken noodle soup. The slim Texan offered both with a shy smile, before flopping down beside him to enjoy her own mug of cocoa heaven.

With the lingering taste of his long lost human childhood still on his lips, Spike felt up to tackling his new appearance. "So, ya wouldn't mind me using yer shower, yeh pet? These must be yer duds too. Good of ya to loan me somethin." He barely waited for the woman's stammered 'yes and you're welcome' before racing back toward the bathroom. He had a new body to explore.

He only spared enough attention to passing scenery to know when to dodge or what piece of furniture to avoid. His earlier visit to the small apartment bath had been so full of stunned disbelief that he hadn't taken in his surroundings. Now that he did... well, it was worse than he could've imagined. Fred being the original down-home Southern girl, every inch of her home was covered in antique lace and flowers. His mother might've enjoyed it, but Spike had a difficult time preventing himself from spewing all sorts of disparaging comments. He wasn't comfortable being surrounded by pink and frills, regardless of how feminine his current form was.

The full length mirror hanging from the back of the bathroom door declared exactly how dire his circumstance was. Full breasts, tiny waist, hair long enough to sit on - and dammit, he'd never be able to gel all those curls out! - shapely legs that led up to generous hips and a muscular posterior. Hell, if he'd designed it himself, he couldn't have made a better woman's body. And since he wasn't 'alive' in the strictest sense, there were no worries about those damnedable hormones and monthly bouts of... Yeah, so he'd gotten out lucky, in a way. Then maybe he should just get used to this and have some fun. After all, no one would recognize him now. A perfectly clean slate, right?

'Right then, what's to do with myself... Shower first, make sure all the parts are squeaky clean. Then clothes an make-up an fixin my hair. At least it'll be easier, now that I can use a bleedin mirror. Gonna hafta use a different accent too, maybe, just to make sure there's nothin to clue people off. Feckin hell, hot shower never felt so good before! Wonder if I should shave me legs, or if Fred-girl's got some of that wax stuff.'

He washed his hair twice, luxuriating in the sensation of that glorious mass of white-blond hair that draped down his back in a heavy sheet. Fingering a generous dollop of condition through wet curls, he redirected the spray of water and located a razor. Admittedly, it had been a couple dozen years since he'd last shaved his legs, but there were some things a person just doesn't forget. He counted his blessings that he didn't seem to need to do his armpits also. With only three or four small nicks, he got the task done soon enough, and turned to rinse the conditioner out of his hair.

'Could get used to this. Curves an paddin an plenty of interestin things ta play with, an no one ta slap me fer doin so.'

A quick scrub with a squishy sponge and soft-scented herbal soap left his skin tingling, just in time for the water temperature to drop rather suddenly. He squeaked, slapped the dial to off, and hopped out onto the floor mat. He silently admitted that he should've been paying more attention to how long he'd been under the hot water - apartment complexes were notorious for having boiler quirks. Spotting a fluffy *pink* towel on the wall rack, he began to dry himself, once more taking the opportunity to examine himself in the mirror.

More natural colored hair, still whiter than blond should really be, fell to the dimple above his buttocks, spilling in loose curls from a natural off-center part. It would be awkward in a fight, perhaps, but he wanted to wait before cutting it off. He still had the sharp cheekbones, but they were tempered by a slender nose, gently arched eyebrows, and rounded chin to give his face an overall effect of striking beauty. Blue eyes remained as bright as ever, good. His neck was neither long nor short, a perfect length for his frame. Shoulders and collar bones were delicate, upper arms showed only a hint at the strength they possessed, and the flat plane of his stomach was slightly concave. All combined to make him appear like a weak mortal woman - deceptive, but he added that to the positive column.

On impluse, he tried to shift into gameface. His eyes turned to dark amber and tiny fangs appeared above full red lips, but the normal shifting of muscle and bone never happened. Not knowing what to make of this development, he went back to his careful inspection.

Slim hands and delicate fingers he'd already gotten used to. He thought them to be well-shaped, but... with what could he compare them? Most of his muscles seemed to be in his thighs - better for running, but it left him unsettled. How was he to fight? He made a note to practice kickboxing at some point. At the end of either leg was a tiny foot, and here he finally felt the shock setting in. His feet had never been overly large, but now, these were the size of a young girl's! Exactly how short was he? Shaking his head, he determined to complete his exam before locating a tape measure.

He'd saved the most interesting parts for last, of course. Breasts and arse and pubic region - his fascination with women's bodies over the years had given him above average knowledge of their relative measurements. And if he was any judge, he had a double handful of 34C. Not too shabby, and not big enough to be grossly out of proportion either. His bum was tight and well-rounded, jiggling just a little when he bounced. And at the apex of his thighs nested a dark golden triangle of tight curls that hid pink, pink lips and a larger than average nub of nerves. Part of him wanted nothing more than to spend some quality time getting to know this aspect of his changed form, but logic won out.

Tossing the damp towel across the shower rod, he redressed in the simple blue t-shirt and grey stretch knit pants he'd been loaned. Finger-combing his hair was somewhat difficult, although it would've been worse had he forgotten to use conditioner. He chose to ignore the hair drier lying on the vanity. Not finding a new toothbrush, that chore was skipped as well. With nothing further to be accomplished by hiding behind closed doors, he crimped a few last curls into submission and went to rejoin his hosts.

"Ah, much better. Feel like a whole new person now, thanks Tex." Smile firmly pasted on, he took note of the humans' positions. A quick scenting told him two things: first, that his senses weren't as strong as usual, and second, that what little he could smell held no fear or murderous rage. It would have to be enough for now.

Fred jumped at his voice, having been lost in thought (nothing unusual there). The Watcher, however, was taking mental notes of his every move.

"Right. Ok then, neither of ya knows what happened or if I can get my real body back then, yeh?" At their head shakes, he sighed softly. "Fine, will just have ta deal. Got plans for me, or am I free to go?"

This got a reaction, as it was designed to do. The young woman jumped up and tripped to his side. "Ya don't hafta go or anythin, really! Why, you could stay here long as ya like."

"Quite right. Or you could share my home, if it would make you more comfortable. Spike, rest assured that we will not kick you to the curb." Over the years, Wesley's speech patterns had loosened up a bit, but when faced with something as daunting as a sex change, he seemed to revert back to form. "It would be prudent to inform Angel of this development-"

"Now hold on there, Watcher! Peaches never wanted me around, spent years thinkin up new an interestin ways of gettin rid o' me, he did. Can't think of anythin good ta come from spreadin the word bout this. Just... give me a few days to get used to myself, an I'll be outa yer hair, yeh?"

Another 'look' exchanged, Fred took up the task of convincing her surprise guest. "Surely it'll take more'n a few days, Spike. From the look of ya, this seems to be a fully genetic alteration. Like you've never been a man. That's gonna take some gettin used to, an yer welcome to stay here. I'll help however I can."

Even with such a generous invitation, Spike didn't feel comfortable hanging around. Still, he couldn't bring himself to worry the chit either. An earlier question popped into his thoughts, derailing his need to quickly get away. "Fred-girl, how tall are ya?"

She blinked, a partial frown forming between her brows. "Uh... 5'5", last time I went to the doctor's office."

With her standing so close, Spike did a bit of mental math. They weren't quite at eye level with each other, so he must be an inch or two shorter than the brunet. And more curvy as well - it felt as if his tits were stretching the seams of his shirt. His creative invectives echoed throughout the room. Causing Fred to blush prettily, while Wesley took careful notes.

"Right then, I'm short, got great knockers an a fine arse, an the effin Powers That Bite turned me into a woman. What say you two help me come up with a name an history, maybe papers to keep me outa trouble, yeh?"

He wanted to scream at them to stop doing the silent exchange thing, every time he said something that worried them.

Finally coming to some sort of conclusion, Wesley shifted his attention back on the blond. "We'll do what we can, which is much more than most underground counterfeit agencies. However, please do not feel as if you must leave immediately. There may well be a reason for your return to a tangible form, and as such, it would be wise to remain nearby."

Spike watched the man take a deep breath in preparation for more arguments. Determined to forestall the new tirade, he stepped in with his own. "Wes, have you ever been burned alive? Exploded into millions of tiny pieces? Think I've done my part for the Powers, at least for awhile. Can't hurt anythin for me to take a holiday."

Fred nodded agreement, which countered the Watcher's objections. "Sure does, darlin. If ya wanna take a few weeks to stretch yer legs an all, I don't see how it could hurt anythin. Yer still welcome here for as long as ya like, an with the company's credit cards we'll hafta go shoppin. You've got... more up top than me, so none of my underthings'll fit ya."

"Ah, that's my cue to leave. Fred, Spike, please call if you have need of me." So saying, Wesley made a hasty departure. He had suffered through enough shopping sprees with Cordelia to fear ever stepping foot into a mall again, regardless of who his companions were.

Snickering, Spike grinned over at his hostess. "Well then, Fred-girl, where do you suggest we start?"

The shy brunet studied her guest, head to toe, before making the most logical pronouncement. "Shoes. Ain't no way yer gonna be able ta keep mine on."

~ * ~

Long practice had immured the Master vampire to such shopping excursions as the Summers girls and their cohorts would take. He had often been dragged along by Dawn as a travelling companion, packhorse, and guaranteed source of honest opinions. (She learned quickly never to ask if a skirt made her butt look fat, even before she had filled out fully.)

Shopping with Fred was nothing like the estrogen rushes of his previous experience, however, and Spike found himself having more innocent fun than he could recall since his distant childhood. They collected a diverse assortment, everything a grown woman might need for a month-long vacation. Both thankful for delivery services, the duo still found themselves heavily burdened by overflowing bags well before the stores closed.

He reflected that, just maybe, his time spent as chaperone and carrier for a gaggle of teenaged girls had given him an edge. Otherwise, the sheer amount of accessories and absolute necessities would have had him running, screaming for the hills, well before they stopped for lunch.

What was perhaps the most startling discovery - at least to Spike - was that he had some resistance to daylight. Nothing close to human norm, granted, but he didn't burst into flames like the past century either. Fred suggested that he had the constitution of a photosensative albino now, a guess that made as much sense as anything he could come up with. Still, he was grateful to the clouds that mostly covered the summer sun. It would take practice not to dive for shelter.

Stumbling back into the Texan's apartment, sacks flew in all directions as both exhausted shoppers flopped onto the couch.

"Not a bad bit o' damage there, Fred-girl."

One eyelid fluttered open, closing only after a half-hearted attempt at a glare. "Not my best work. I'm no Queen C, sorry. But think we covered the major parts." Her last words broke off on a yawn. "Whatcha wanna eat for dinner? Gotta list by the phone of delivery places."

Spike thought for less than five seconds, settling on Italian. "Might as well check to see if this new immunity o' mine covers garlic too, yeh?"

That settled, they collapsed into a doze while waiting for food to arrive.


Part Two

It had been odd, sleeping through the nighttime hours. But after their active day of mall-hopping, Spike figured they both deserved the rest. He was only somewhat shocked when the brunet offered to share her bed, but fatigue and the lure of soft pillows led him to accept without delay.

The sounds of someone singing in the shower woke him, and if he flinched at the diffused sunlight coming through layers of lace curtains, he figured he was entitled. It'd get easier. Eventually.

This new body would take some getting used to, after all. Much to his disgust, he'd found the previous day that he actually had to use the toilet to relieve bladder and... other functions. It was a small price to pay for his new tolerance to sun, holy relics, and other anti-vampire devices. But holding a grudge was one of his best talents, and he began storing up complaints to dump on the Powers, if he ever had the opportunity.

All he had really been able to confirm was that he was neither human nor undead. His heart beat at an incredibly slow pace, but beat it did. He held a temperature of 90 degrees, a blood pressure of 60/35, and appeared to need solid food on a regular basis. Yet he still had superior senses, a sun allergy, and was much stronger and faster than humans tended to be. He refused to decide if he was happy to accept the odd cross between species.

Before long, the constant sound of running water brought back the distasteful urge of his bladder demanding to be emptied. He forced himself out of bed just as the shower cut off, slipping into fluffy purple monster feet - a horrific sight, but they felt wonderful to scuff around in - and was waiting in front of the door just as Fred stepped out, still fluff-drying her hair.

"Oh, g'mornin darlin! Didn't mean ta wake ya." Her voice still gravelly, the brunet smiled through her towel.

Thinking how much she reminded him of Dawn, with her layers of innocence hiding such strength and intellegence, Spike greeted her with a grin of his own. "No worries, luv. Just need the loo for a bit."

Fred had found it vastly entertaining, the first time he'd been forced to utilize the facilities. She didn't laugh or tease, but he could see humor brightening her hazel eyes. A soothing friend to have, he'd decided, and gave himself over to the warmth of her company.

All of his toiletries had been placed neatly on the left side of the vanity, ready for use. One of his favorite stops the previous day had been to a salon, where several ladies had tinted and snipped, buffed and polished, and generally made him feel like a queen. A comparison he refused to look at too closely. The overall effect was well worth it, however he wanted to look at things. A quick peak at the mirror showed that, while mussed from sleep, his hair held golden highlights in random chunks that looked more natural than his white-blond had done. His fingernails - which he'd not bothered to notice at all the day before - were smooth and shaped, coated in deep crimson polish. All he would need this morning was a light application of make-up and fresh clothes.

Part of his subconscious screamed at his ease in accepting such mundane *female* thoughts, but he quickly stiffled it. His lot had changed, and without knowing how to get back to his masculine form he would have to make do. Besides, there were a few interesting perks that went along with being a woman.

Hair fluffed back into shape, face done lightly, and other business taken care of, Spike joined his friend in the living room to explore his purchases. They hadn't had the energy to hang everything up the night before, so quite a few pieces would be wrinkled today. That left him with half as many options, but he was fine wearing stretch knit and lycra - two fabrics that moved with him and didn't ride into his new cracks and crevices. Fred had chosen light shorts and a pullover top, which he decided would do nicely. So with a nod in her direction, Spike took his choices and went to dress.

One of the most extravegant purchases they had made - and one that Fred swore would be justified - was in top quality silk and satin underthings. And as tetchy as they were to put on, Spike had quickly found how much help a good bra was, when sporting his new darling twins. Long experience at removing said delicacies from his past lady loves gave him an edge in putting them on, and soon enough he was preening in front of the dresser mirror, wearing a matched set of silver satin bra and high cut panties.

He had to admit, he looked luscious. His feminine face twisted into a leer, and he burst out laughing at himself - the expression might look natural on his masculine face, but it was ridiculous on a woman's.

Time to move things along. Pulling a dark red top over his head, it stretched lovingly across his chest. He allowed a minute to enjoy the sensativity of his larger nipples, watching them pebble through layers of material. Next he donned simple white bobby socks, muttering about his diminuitive feet. It took a few minutes to get the stretch denim capris pants into place. He was unfamiliar with how they should fit, but the overall effect was... comfortable and attractive, showing off his assets nicely while allowing him full range of movement. His mood flipflopped once more when he went to put on sneakers - even kids had larger feet than size 5!

Dressed and mostly awake, his stomach began making noises of its displeasure at being ignored for so long. He returned to the living room, following the faint scents of cinnamon and coffee. "Oi Fred-girl, yer a lifesaver!"

She smiled from the counter, where she was spreading icing on cinnamon rolls, a fresh pot of coffee nearby. "Figured ya might be hungry, seein how much ya inhaled yesterday."

With enthusiasm normally only found in teen boys, the two women put away a full plate of rolls and numerous cups of caffeine. Sugar and coffee brought their energy levels way past norm, so that when Wesley arrived, he found them fairly bouncing off the walls - removing tags and folding or hanging their purchases, giggling about various people they'd seen the previous day, and sharing general gossip of common acquaintences.

"Good morning, ladies," Wesley began. He was forced to dodge a high heeled sandal for his unconscious slip. "My apologies, Spike. Regardless of the striking picture you make, I shall attempt to remember that you are, at least mentally, a man." He spoiled the effect of his apology by grinning at the blond. The matching sandal pelted him on the shoulder. "Er, yes. Moving along, I have the paperwork you requested yesterday. Have you chosen a name yet?"

In actuality, the shoppers had spent little time discussing women's names. Spike dregged up a memory from... his human self (and that, too, had gotten easier - enough that he wondered if his soul and demon had merged, or just been sedated), stating the name as a question, "Ashleigh Joanna Wilkes. Sounds British enough, right?"

The former Watcher's eyebrow rose, trying to place what might be important about the name. His questions were interrupted by Fred, who cut down the wordcount with, "It's pretty. Didja know someone called that?"

With a shake of golden curls, Spike gave only a partial explanation. "Member when me an one of my mates were doin the rounds one year, hearin the debutantes makin their plans for weddin's an babies an the like. One homely bint said she liked the name, if she had a daughter. I liked it enough that the memory stuck." He shrugged thin shoulders, and let them think that was the entire tale.

Wesley looked like he was about to ask further questions, but Fred once again saved her friend. "Well whatever the reason, it suits ya just fine. Now ya'll sit yerselves down an fill out forms while I make tea, yeah?"

Outnumbered, Wesley found himself sitting and holding out papers and a pen. He had spent the earlier part of the morning making use of his contacts to arrange a visa, passport, and educational background, so that all Spike had to do was fill in the specifics of his name, occupation, and place and date of birth. He eagerly read through that information, curious to see what information the vampire would use - it had long been a weekend hobby for Watchers-in-training to research the human lives of the Scourge of Europe, but little could be confirmed.

"Don't getcher hopes up, Watcher. Nothin on there bout Victorian England. An no, that's not my real birthdate or anywhere I used ta live." Smirking, Spike handed back the completed forms, pocketing the pen - it was quite nice, and might be useful. "Sides, wouldn't help if I told ya my life story. You'd never know if I was tellin the truth, an I'd get bored quick an bite ya."

Soft laughter floated over the blond's shoulder, where Fred stood with tea and sandwiches. "Wes, you should know by now, it ain't polite ta ask a lady bout her age." And if Spike didn't try very hard to retaliate, he chalked it up to gratitude at the generous hospitality of his hostess.

Half an hour later, their meal was finished and Wesley found himself being ushered toward the door.

"Really, I can stay longer. There's nothing at the office which currently needs my attention."

Patting him on the shoulder (while simultaneously pushing him closer to the door), Fred urged him, "Only Ashleigh's ID! What if somethin happens today, like we're in a wreck, an the paramedics can't find emergency contacts for her?"

The pair from Angel Investigations went on to bicker good naturedly, while Spike slipped into thought. Without much consideration, he'd used the same people as his last fake ID. And months spent snooping through personel files gave him accurate information. But had he really listed Harris as his top contact? Oh fer fuckin' shite!

~ * ~

After finally getting the nosy Watcher out of the apartment, 'the girls' spent a pleasant afternoon making sure all their purchases fit with proper undergarments. Spike found himself having... fun. Simple, unbloody fun with the shy woman who'd quickly become a friend. Such uncomplicated companionship was rare, and he treasured every moment of it. He made a mental note to find the perfect 'thank you' gift, even as a muted demon voice snarled at the sentiment.

That evening, Wesley once again knocked at the door, bearing dinner and a manila envelope.

"Inside, you should find everything that would count as standard identification for a young lady of your assumed years. I included two types of our corporate credit cards, since so many places insist upon such things as proof of one's existance." Wesley paused to sneer his opinion at this development. "Please do try not to send us into financial debt. Both cards have a decent limit, but as they are connected to the law firm they can also be used to track your movements."

"Ah, gotcha." Blue eyes widened as he saw the generous balances provided on the cards, along with a checking account under his new name, travelers cheques, and a local library card. From the mass of paperwork in his lap, Spike found a whole new life. Memberships at a gym and dojo, frequent buyer cards at two grocery stores and assorted boutiques, as well as 'older' cards from England that would allow him easy access to university libraries and events, and even the odd bus pass for both London and L.A. "Very thorough, Wes. Spend alot of time creatin false identities, eh? Bet yer in charge of witness protection too."

Though his voice was teasing, the Watcher answered with a straight face, "Actually, yes. That is one of my primary duties of late." His assertion was backed up by Fred's frantic headnods.

"Right then. So I'm all set... think I'll take a few days ta figure out where ta go. Wanna see a bit o' the world, stretch me legs an all." Spike drifted off, once again remembering that he would be doing so alone for the first time. It sent conflicting emotions through his mind - pleasure at not having to bend to someone else's wishes, and a sharp melancholy, knowing that he would have no one to share his discoveries with.

Gentle fingers squeezed his hand, bringing him out of his thoughts. "Hun, ya don't hafta go so soon. Nor by yerself. I've got time off comin, if ya want comp'ny."

He gave Fred a one-armed hug, but was quick to turn her down. "Somethin I gotta do by myself, y'know? Sides, there's some folks who... deserve ta know I'm back."

"But Angel is not one of those?" Wesley couldn't understand why a childe would wish to keep his presence from his sire. It simply did not add up to all the details from the Watcher's journals.

"No, he bloody well isn't! Wes, you've done alot for me, an I can't say thank ya enough, but ya don't understand a bit bout what's tween me an the great poof." Taking a deep breath, Spike tried to calm himself. He couldn't explain everything, but if it got the Watcher to hold his tongue it would be worth trying. "The souled bugger you know is *not* my sire, no more than I'm my mum's boy. It goes beyond that - Angel didn't get his soul like I did, his was a curse, meant to constantly torture him. What little's left of Angelus under all that hair gel is bloodthirsty nuts. My sire was, ok bloodthirsty is a good start, but he was cunning an fox-smart, an he'd give anythin for his family. Angel-" the name sneered with distaste "- don't give a rat's arse bout his kin or clan. He's so wrapped up tryin to kill demons for the bloody Powers, he can't see that we're still family to'im."

Spike ran out of steam, deflating against the cushions. He waved off Wesley's sympathetic hand, and even moved away from Fred's comforting hug. "Not gonna tell ya more. It's hard for a human ta get it. Can ya imagine yer folks dumped ya at an orphanage when yer only ten, twelve years old? Old enough ta know what's goin on, but can't really take care o' yerself yet? Think about it, but don't ask me. An ya better not go ta him either! Fuckin Angel, blew all chances of ever makin things right."

Wesley's face was a mix of concern, confusion, and barely supressed anger. He tried to process the Power's warrior that he'd been working with for years in relation to the parental figure Spike described, who abandoned his children to the wolves only to benefit his own pitiful conflicting personalities. Absently, he leant back in his seat as the emotional blond ran from the room, barely seeing the glare sent his way by his coworker.

"Well done, Wes. Ya should know better by now, upsettin a woman who's already in a bad spot." Fred's tone full of censure, she followed her friend into the bedroom, tossing one final remark over her shoulder. "I'm sure ya can find yer own way out, cantcha?"

She didn't wait to hear the door click shut.

~ * ~

"C'mon hun, he didn't mean it that way. Ya can't spend the rest of the day in there anyway. I've only got the one potty, an pretty soon I'll hafta bust open that door." She held her breath, trying to catch the tiniest sounds as a clue to how her friend was feeling. Hearing nothing, Fred moved on. "Let's find a big ol' atlas, yeah? See where all ya might wanna visit. Bet I've got some more cocoa, an we can fix popcorn or somethin." Yes, she knew she was floundering, but it'd been an awfully long time since she'd had a close female friend. "Least ya can do is come out here an let me cry *with* ya! It's what's sposed ta happen, dammit."

Her voice caught on a ragged breath, Fred missed the bathroom door cracking open. The blond was about as messed up as she'd sounded, and the two women gravitated toward each other. Mutual hugs and damp shoulders, with the promise of chocolate - one of the secrets to surviving hormone surges.

~ * ~

"Dunno what happened, Freddie. One minute everthin's fine, an the next all I wanna do is bawl me eyes out."

Soft chuckling and a warm hand on his arm, the brunet reassured with quiet words, "Welcome to the wonderful world of women's emotions. Sure ya'll get used to'em soon enough. Ya shoulda seen Wes' face! He was so lost, not knowin what he'd said or how ta fix things."

Surrounded by chocolate of various types, soft drinks and munchies, and the soothing presence of his friend, Spike let himself be calmed. "Yeh, guess it shouldn't be much of a surprise, right? Spent enough time around women, with Dru an the Slayer an all her girly friends. Next thing ya know, I'll be raggin with the rest of ya."

A sharp look crossed Fred's face, and she briefly tightened her hold on the pale arm. "Sweetie, that might happen too. Ya've got all the other female parts in place, an with havin to pee an all... hate ta say it, but it looks like yer a fully functional woman."

Spike groaned. Loudly and with great expression. "That's not nice, Fred! Cus if I start a cycle, that means some bloke could knock me up, don't it?"

"Well," she began with laughter in her tone, "not if ya can keep yer legs crossed."

The purely girlish whine that followed caused Fred's laughter to erupt.

~ * ~

In a grand show of wisdom, Wesley didn't return for another visit that week. Left to their own devices, Fred and the newly-named Ashleigh covered all sorts of topics - mostly designed to complete the blond's sketchy knowledge of what being a woman entailed. She adapted quickly, which came as little surprise to either woman. After all, the Master vampire had learned to adapt to numerous changes in his 125 plus years, and his *mind* had not been altered. Memories and experiences remained to assist in this new crisis, a fact he found more comforting than almost anything else, second only to Fred's stable presence.

What took the most time, in Ashleigh/Spike's opinion, was learning how to respond to the feminine gender pronouns and titles of address. Every time someone called him 'Miss', he felt like searching the area for an appropriate target. The hardest part of incorporating his body's changes was in thinking about himself as a 'her' - as Ashleigh, instead of Spike. The juggling identities made his head ache.

By the middle of his second week as a woman, Fred had taken to calling him Leigh. Somehow, that made things easier. And Leigh was determined to move on to his vacation.

"Freddie, ya don't understand. I *have to* go ta London. Gotta let a coupla folks know I'm back, an what's happened. They might not like me much, but they're the closest I've got ta family these days, y'know?"

Hearing the resignation in her friend's voice, the brunet could only offer soft murmurs of comfort. "Whatever ya need, hun. Want me ta go with ya? I can take off as long as I need-"

"I want ya to, really really want it, but... this has ta be done - just me." Leigh felt torn between depression at her expected reception, and deep warmth around her heart from the love of her friend. "I know where ta call if things get hairy, yeh? Gotcha cell number memorized an written in a dozen places."

"If yer sure, darlin. Just so's ya know."

"Yeh, I know."

And another round of tears was exchanged. Followed by frantic calls to airlines and hotels, making reservations for Lady Wilkes to finally make a return trip to her homeland.

Part Three

As a nocturnal being with highly flamable reactions to sunlight, Spike had always avoided planes as a mode of transportation. It would only follow that his nerves were wracked by the promise of a full day in the air. He took little comfort that he had a seat in the middle of the aircraft, well away from windows and near the darker restroom area. Fred tried to think of everything to insure her friend's safety, but the blond refused to give up the last of his justifiable paranoia.

"Just get on that plane afore I buy a ticket an drag yer curvy butt across the states. It ain't too late, y'know."

The memory of those words finally spurred him into action, pushing his wounded ego onto the plane and even seeing him through a shuddering lift-off. And if he made a dozen calls between Los Angeles and New York to a certain number, the mousy scientist made no mention of it.

Fatigue (and the cell phone's battery giving out) had sent Leigh into a deep sleep shortly after the plane left land to begin the journey over the Atlantic ocean. Only the popping of her ears alerted the blond to their descent, when she woke to a fresh cup of coffee being offered by the flight attendant.

"We're half an hour from Heathrow, Miss. Would you like some breakfast in the meantime?" It seemed that even seasoned stewardesses grew less perky on overseas flights. "You're one of the first up, so I'd urge you to choose the fresh fruit cups and a muffin."

Leigh nodded, sipping quickly at her heavily creamed coffee. "Didn't realize how hungry I'd gotten. Thank you!"

Even as she spoke, the blond recognized a long ago learned accent - that of her human education and culture. Listening to herself, Leigh thought she sounded like her maternal grandmother. It was... nice, to be connected to the grande dame herself.

A tray laden with fresh berries and citrus slices, blueberry muffin and more coffee, was laid across her lap. She smiled up at the attendant, already piercing a plump strawberry to stave the growling in her stomach.

Thanking London's typical fog for sheltering her 'sensative skin' against the sun's rays, she popped the last grape into her mouth just as a voice announced their readiness for unloading. Leigh swore she would never laugh at anyone else for their weak knees or jetlag when she had to grab the broad shoulders of a man just ahead as her legs gave out.

"Oh, I am sorry, sir! It's been ever so long since I've flown, I'd forgotten-" Mentally cursing herself for blushing, Leigh could only stammer excuses.

"Think nothing of it, Miss. Could I offer you my arm, until you've regained your balance?" came the tenor response from her unintensional savior. "We may be stuck in Customs awhile. It would be lovely to have a delightful lady such as yourself with whom to while the time away."

Which only partially explained how the once Master vampire entered her home country on the arm of the Head Watcher, Rupert Giles. After finding her tongue, Leigh ran through dozens of scenarios that might help her break the news to her acquaintence. All came up flat. The sluggish line through Customs gave her time, however, and she had personal reasons for the burning need to reconnect with the Watcher.

Reminding herself that, as the Slayer of Slayers *he* had balls of steel, Leigh introduced herself and began a conversation that would've drawn heads had her voice not been pitched so low. "Rupert Giles, I do recognize you. I daresay you won't know me, not as I am now." She dropped her volume to a mere whisper, "The Powers That Be are dozy buggers, an they hate me almost as much as you, Rupes."

Giles managed to stiffle his shock only through strength of will. "Miss Wilkes, I'm afraid that I have never had the pleasure of meeting you. My recollection of faces and names is quite good, and yours is remarkable enough to never forget." Despite his denial, he was drawn to the startling blue eyes of his companion.

"That's right, Watcher. Ya know these eyes, same cheekbones too, see? Wonky higher beings brought me back as a bloody chit!" And while Spike's new body was nowhere near as strong as his previous one, he could at least catch most of the tall man's weight before it could crumble to the ground.

"Bloody hell, Spike, is that you?!"

~ * ~

Calming a blustery Watcher (who was liable to turn into Ripper with little provocation) took more than a touch of talent. "Shh, yeh Rupes. Keep it down, will ya? Came as more of a shock ta me."

Blinking slowly behind his glasses, Giles took his time finding his legs. He would never have guessed that the stunning picture of feminine British gentry was anything other than just that. Unfortunately, he also knew that first impressions were often most deceptive. He proceeded up the line in Customs one space, giving himself time to process.

What was more of a shock, perhaps, was that this female version of Spike actually permitted him the time necessary to accept the new information. The Master vampire he'd grown accustomed to would have been too impatient to allow room for thought.

Two more steps toward their inspection point found the Watcher ready to discuss this latest 'apocolyptic' turn. "If I am to accept that you are who you claim, then there are numerous questions I must ask."

Sighing quietly at his side, Leigh squeezed the arm she still held. "Yeh, figured as much. Just... can it wait til we get somewhere away from crowds, maybe with a nice cuppa? Shoulda known better'n to let my first time in the air be a cross-continental flight."

The slightly husky alto voice using Spike's speech patterns continued to throw Giles. "Very well. I can sympathize, of course. Such a long journey is tiring no matter how many times one makes the trip. Do you have lodging ready?"

"Oh yes, Fred made sure I'd be taken care of, made all sorts of reservations. There should even be a car waiting, I believe." She stopped that line of conversation to double-check herself. Did she really want the Head of the Watchers Council to know where she was staying? Was that safe? Even though she would be contacting a number of people involved in the organization, it still seemed risky. And Giles had proven that he would do whatever he felt necessary to keep his loved ones safe, at any cost. No, better not.

Taking note of the pause, Giles could appreciate his... companion's need for discretion. He had felt only a tiny bit of remorse from his previous actions against the vampire, none of which he would change if he had the chance to do so. Yet the hand on his arm was warm, and a slight flush rested on those pale cheeks. There must truly be an interesting story.

"As you wish. I would like to meet up with you soon, naturally. Perhaps tomorrow, after you've had some rest?"

Leigh nodded, thoughtfully. She hoped that their arrival during daylight hours would be proof enough to such a well-trained demon hunter that she was no longer a threat - or at least, not as much of one. "That would be best, thank you. I haven't felt this tired in... a very long time. Too many shocks in a small period."

While Giles made murmurs of agreement, the line moved along again, leaving them only minutes to continue their conversation in relative privacy. He had one last question that he felt could not wait til the following day. "What are your intentions toward Buffy?"

Spike would have anticipated that one, but he had taken great efforts to begin thinking as Leigh. And Leigh had no designs on persuing the Slayer for any number of reasons. She found herself laughing quietly. "Honestly Rupert, can you imagine me asking your 'daughter' for a date? That is the very farthest thing on my agenda, and I can truthfully say the idea never occurred to me since my return. I came *home*, to set a few things to rest in my mind, and to relay the goodbyes I hadn't the fortitude to do at the end. Renewing friendships would be more than appreciated, a fresh start if you will. However, I expect nothing. I... lost that right, if it was ever mine."

Head hanging, the Watcher missed evidence of the blond's tears. Until two light drops landed on the flagstones, one after the other. The hand that had warmed his arm these past few minutes was taken away to brush beneath thick eyelashes.

"Things change, as do people. I will... maintain an open mind. That is the best I can offer at this point."

Leigh tilted her head in acknowledgement, silently cursing her new hormones. "Our turn is up. Thank you for keeping me company, Rupert. I shall look forward to seeing you tomorrow. Shall we meet at-"

"The Tea Room at the British Museum. I think you can recall which painting I was so fascinated with?"

Both in agreement, they separated to deal with Customs and minutes later out into the London fog.

~ * ~

Settling back into hot, soapy water, Leigh moaned deeply in pleasure as her exhausted muscles finally relaxed. The trip had been tiresome, but the unexpected confrontation with Rupert Giles had taken every iota of her diminishing energy reserves. All she wanted now was to indulge herself in this glorious vat of bubbles, toss on a pair of flannel pyjamas, and order the highest calorie meal that room service had to offer.

The only natural perk she and Fred had discovered about this new body was in the way it burned calories. The southern girl was justifiably jealous - Leigh seemed never to gain an ounce, regardless of what she ate or how often. They hypothesized that, since she no longer craved blood, her metabolism was making up for it in food consumption. Whatever the case, she refused to look a gift horse in the mouth. Dinner was inhaled with all due speed, and she fell into bed with a heartfelt sigh.

Exhaustion was supposed to produce dreamless sleep, but not in her case. One scene after another played through her subconscious, bringing up memories of past hurts and rejections and betrayals. Both by her and toward her from the Scoobies. She knew she would never forget some events, but the harsh reminders of those months before Sunnydale (and she) exploded... she wouldn't voluntarily think on them, and resented having to relive such trauma in her dreams.

A nearby scream pulled her from nightmares shortly before dawn broke. Far from well-rested even after ten hours sleep, she once more called room service for morning coffee and a light breakfast. Perhaps she could grab a quick nap before meeting the Watcher for tea. It was a pleasant fantasy, at least.

~ * ~

The most annoying noise to break a decent nap must be the tinny ringing of a telephone, as any weary traveller could attest. In Leigh's case, she was torn between biting the concierge's head off and blessing him. She had no wish to be late for her appointment, and had allowed herself plenty of time to get ready.

A concept that sent her into giggles, really. As Spike, it took less than ten minutes to fully dress. This female thing... was complicated. And yet people expected such effort to be made by their womenfolk. It boggled the mind. However puzzling the custom, she once again adapted. Allowing ample time to choose a flattering outfit that would give whatever impression she desired was crucial - so sayeth Fred. As was the careful application of make-up, a ritual that could turn a whore into a Lady (or vice versa).

She recalled a bit about Rupert Giles' family history, and decided to go for her most subdued 'classy dame' look. It was slightly pretentious, but better than the t-shirt and jeans she intended on wearing for her other visits. She spared a minute to thank Fred *again* for urging her to get a french manicure before the trip. Otherwise she'd never have time to match colors... and when in hell did she turn into such a GIRL?!

Shaking her mane of curls served a dual purpose. It loosened them back into place after her nap, while allowing her to release some frustration at her prissy behavior. She walked, barefoot and be-flanneled, toward the closet - another thing to thank Fred for: choosing a full service hotel, that had pressed and hung her clothes while she was in the bath the night before. Leigh promised never to take such luxuries for granted again.

The aquamarine skirt and top that had looked so upper class on Rodeo Drive was every bit as daunting now. Of quality linen, it hung from her curves and detailed each one. Especially when teamed with a creamy silk shell top, pearl stockings and smart sandals. And gods save her, she was turning into a fashion junkie! Light make-up done while she talked herself through possible avenues of questioning by the Watcher, she had only to grab purse and cardkey with plenty of time to spare before tea.

~ * ~

Leigh exitted her cab out front of the Museum half an hour before her 'date' with Giles. And she knew it would take that long to regain a semblence of good humor. That presumptuous driver had taken her for a 'working girl' and spent most of the ride trying to get a list of rates and services offered. What had she done wrong with her carefully selected outfit? A quick look around the plaza showed... quite a crowd, scattered in small groups or sitting by themselves. The only females she saw without headwear of some type were either children or tourists. How could she have forgotten such class-oriented details?

There was only one thing to do. Locate a vendor and purchase the closest thing to match her current clothes. This close to the tourist lines, such shops and boutiques were plentiful, and she quickly found something to suit her needs. The brim fell over one eye, drawing attention to the vivid color of the visible eye. Of pale straw, closely woven into an attractive design, she tied a scarf in place and walked briskly back to the Museum.

Just arriving, Giles paused briefly before offering his arm. Whether because he now knew her identity, or was taken in by her choice of attire, she couldn't tell. Leigh simply felt relief that he hadn't changed his mind. She knew she'd get no chance of approaching the others without this man's good wishes.

"Good afternoon, Rupert." Smile charmingly, she told herself. Win him over, but don't make him suspicious. The sun broke through its cloud cover, sending dim rays across the pair. "Could we find a table soon? I'm afraid I haven't eaten since quite early this morning." The backs of her legs were beginning to ache from the sun-heat, a remembered burn more than actual.

The Watcher held his position a moment longer, watching the sunlight glint off blond curls but not finding a hint of smoke. He offered an apologetic half-smile, then led her inside the darker foyer. "My apologies... Leigh? Right. This is... awkward. I must apologize for my assumptions-"

"No Giles, we have both said and done numerous things to provoke one another." Use that bright smile again, girl. It worked well last time! "Let us use this time to catch up, as if we were truly old friends. A ruse, of course, but maybe in time...?"

Giving a neutral 'hmm', he led Leigh into the Tea Room and toward a far table. By force of habit, he also held her chair - a fact that caused both to blush lightly. "Relax Rupes, this is only as difficult as we make it, right?"

Giles withheld his reply until their orders had been taken. "It seems quite simple to... forget who you were, til you say something in that atrocious accent." This attempt at a smile seemed more authentic. "Now, I believe you have a story to tell?"

"Right, business first." With a disappointed sigh, Leigh resigned herself to being kept at arm's length by this man. Not that she wanted to jump into bed with him, but his cold demeanor... hurt. "Shortly after the amulet did its job, I found myself floating around the offices of Wolfram & Hart. You're familiar with the name, yes? Good. Up until a few weeks ago, I was less than a ghost. The why and how of my return hasn't been answered to my satisfaction, although Wesley Windham-Pryce - you remember him - seems convinced that I managed to get the quixotic attention of the Powers That Be. What you see now? That's me, complete with soul and all memories." She locked eyes with the Watcher before finishing, "I'm no danger to anyone these days, Rupert. Except maybe to myself. We haven't found a record or description of what sort of hybrid I might be, but it's mainly human. And all woman, unfortunately."

Hearing his companion snort indelicately, Giles raised an eyebrow and waited for her to explain the last comment.

"You're surrounded by them, Watcher. What sort of complaints do you hear most often?" Giles' slight blush caused a return of her best smile. "Exactly. This is no reward, not like Peaches' shansu bit. There's perks, sure, but just as many drawbacks."

"I... believe I understand. There are still numerous questions to answer, of course, but- Oh, our tea has arrived. Lovely."

Relieved to be spared further interrogation for a short time, Leigh began pouring while Giles passed out thin fingers of the assorted sandwich types offered. And if the Watcher, well, *watched* her closely, Leigh had to allow the man his curiosity. She refused to restrain her abundant appetite for his benefit, as she'd skipped two meals in the past twenty-four hours. The third eyebrow raising made her grin impishly.

"This body requires frequent meals, Rupert. It rejects the very idea of my former method of nutrient absorption, so I have to make it up somehow." Having offered the briefest of explanations, she popped a slice of pickle in her mouth, chewing happily on the garlic-laden vegetable. "And you knew nothing of which foods you'd placed on my plate? Really, Watcher, you give me too little credit. I'm a new person. In the most literal sense."

Chuckling ruefully at his own folly, Giles had to agree. "Indeed. And more than your outward appearance has changed, from what little I've seen." He cleared his throat, and barely stopped the reflexive move to polish his glasses. "If I may say, you seem more... at ease with yourself, now, than in all the time I've known you."

Leigh thought over the suggestion for a few minutes, finally deciding that he could be right. "Perhaps. You only knew of my reputation before I was forced to beg your assistance. Toward the end, I was approaching something like a balance with myself. It's a... mixed blessing that there was little time for me to come to terms with my 'gift'. When I came back, the internal battle was gone. I suspect that I now have a better balance than the average person between their conscience and base impulses."

And wait for it... Yes, there it is! The eyebrow raise, number six in less than an hour. Leigh gave herself points for keeping the Watcher off balance. She grinned at him, and stole the last bit of cucumber sandwich from his plate.

Giles rolled his eyes at the juvenile display, but was secretly relieved. So many shocks to a person's psyche often led to... abhorent behavior. And for a half-human with no criminal history to trace, and William the Bloody's vast stock of knowledge in violent pasttimes, such mental imbalance would be more than a little dangerous.

"I assume you wish to make contact with the remaining Scoobies?" He asked, before he could rethink his decision. Leigh nodded and continued chewing his sandwich. "Very well. Should I arrange for them all to be in one place, or would you prefer to speak with them individually?"

Taking a sip of tea to wash away the few crumbs left in her mouth, the blond considered his proposition. "I suppose it would get things over more quickly as a group, but no... I should take time with each of them. It would be inconsiderate to do otherwise, and at least Dawn would lecture me for hours about that."

"Ah yes, the younger Summers. A joy and trial, with more energy than any dozen people are entitled to hold. You may consider yourself fortunate that she is currently out of country." He paused for a drink, deciding how much information to give away. "As is Buffy. I have no idea how soon either shall return, but they did leave contact numbers if you wish to ring them."

Leigh knew what he was doing, not that it hadn't been expected. "At your leisure, of course. Rupert, I've already told you that I have no plans on attempting a relationship with your girl. Above friendship, if it's offered. I would prefer to see Dawn in person, but at this point I'll take what I can get." With every scenario she'd considered, the Watcher's ready consent had never played a part. "The rest are here in London, working with you now?"

"Well... yes and no. Willow is deeply involved in a sister organization, both in teaching novices and in learning how to better control her power. She and Kennedy are no longer seeing one another (he paused to mutter 'thank the gods' under his breath), but if you wish to speak with the potentials, a time can be set naturally. Andrew is working toward becoming a full-time Watcher, and has shown some potential in that area. Thankfully, we have minimal contact. Xander lives nearby, and occassionally drops by to do the odd job, or to counsel one of the homesick girls."

Another pause to refresh his tea, Rupert considered who else might be of interest to his companion. "Robin Wood accompanied Faith and a dozen potentials to the new... site at Cleveland. They send reports once a week, and appear to be doing well. Have I left out anyone you wish to contact?"

Somebody was missing, she was certain. It came in a flash, and she couldn't figure why the Watcher (who normally saw everything) had left out news of- "And Anyanka? She had no intentions of renewing her relationship with Harris, but... what's wrong?" The flash of grief that briefly flooded Giles' face told its own tale. "In the final battle then. I'm so sorry. She was... a good person."

The Watcher quickly replaced Rupert-the-human. "Quite. She... she saved Andrew's life. Please, do not mention her name around him, unless you wish to be the center of a theatrical performance worthy of Shakespeare."

"Of course not. I'd rather avoid the boy at any cost, if it's all the same to you. Sure, he means well, but there's only so much eager puppy a person can tolerate." Leigh added a small smile to soften her words, but she knew her opinion was shared by most of their group. "Right then, Willow and Xander are the only ones nearby, yes? Then... whenever you're ready to set up meetings. One at a time, if you could please."

In short order, they finished their tea and argued quietly over the bill. Leigh realized that, as a British gentleman in his home country, Giles would feel slighted by being denied the right, and eventually gave in. After an exchange of phone numbers, he saw her into a cab and left for Council Headquarters.

~ * ~

Shortly after finishing her nails, Leigh's cell rang that evening. She muttered a few choice words, trying to stab the 'on' button without smudging the deep rose paint. "You've reached the number you dialed. Who were you looking for?"

Masculine laughter, so familiar, tore a choked sob from her throat. "Hey there, I was told to call this number by a friend of mine, Rupert Giles? Maybe you can explain why."

It's Harris. Oh feckin hell, how do I do this?! No, deep breath, calm down. He doesn't know anything yet. "Ah, this must be Xander Harris then. And I have no idea how to do this over the phone. Are you free to meet somewhere perhaps? There's a decent pub attached to my hotel."

"Uh, I don't make it a habit of blind dates, Ma'am. Giles might've given me your number, but-"

"Hold on there, slugger. Public place, feel free to bring your cross and stake. Rupert can vouch for me being no danger to you. I just... This is about closure, y'understand?" She allowed a small measure of her hopes and fears to come across in her voice. "I give my word you will come to no harm. Is that sufficient for a start?"

"Lady, I don't even know your name." The brunet's exasperation took over, with him sighing heavily into the receiver.

He's learned some sense of self-preservation, at least. Took him long enough. "My name would mean little to you, however, you're welcome to it. Ashleigh Joanna Wilkes, but please call me Leigh." Be enough, c'mon Harris!

"Right... Ok Leigh, I'll give you half an hour. And Giles better appreciate me draggin my butt into London on a wild goose chase." The last line was whispered well away from the phone, but Leigh heard it clearly, barely catching herself before giggles broke free.

"It's just past eight now. What time can I expect you?"

"No sooner than ten. Sorry, I'm in dire need of a shower before entering any civilized establishment. G-man tends to forget how much manual labor I do for him."

He sounds so good. Healthy, happy even. Please don't let me muck this up. "Ha, just like a man, eh?" She waited a heartbeat for the splutter of indignant laughter before moving along. "Alright, ten o'clock it is. And as much as I hate sounding like one of your hated blind dates, I'll be wearing a dark pink carnation in my hair so you'll know who to look for. And... oh hell, you're making me think ahead on what clothes to drag out." Another chuckle, this one with no negative influence. "*Hmph* Fine. Jeans and a pink floppy shirt. My hair is blond on blond, and if you ask for more I'll have to accuse you of internet chat room pickups."

The last brought out a full-throated laugh like none Leigh could recall. It warmed a piece of her heart... and lit something farther south.

"Do you know who you're looking for? I can play the Dating Game too."

When did the whelp learn to turn his voice into a weapon? Feck! "No need, I've got your description already. And Xander... I truly look forward to seeing you tonight." Dammitall, when did Droopy Donut Boy become associated with 'home'? Can't screw this up. Can't can't can't!

"Yeah, think maybe I am too. See ya in a bit, Leigh."

Before she could make her goodbyes, Xander rang off. She had two hours to get ready, and for some reason, this mattered so much more than meeting 'Daddy' Giles' approval. Marvelling at her impending insanity, she stepped into the shower for a quick wash.

~ * ~

In a tornado of nervous energy, Leigh changed clothes a dozen times after her shower. Eventually settling on her first choice, since it was what she'd told Xander to look for. Her hair caused even more trouble. She tried fancy braids, a simple twist, leaving it loose (but she kept picking tendrils out of her mouth), and a dozen more elegant styles before finally admitting defeat. One pony tail in a generic clip, coming up.

At half nine, she headed down to the lobby, checking in every mirror she passed until a sliver of the old Big Bad attitude gave a huge mental smack, knocking some sense into Leigh's frazzled nerves. Right, it's just Xander. Harris. Xander Harris, of course. What's the worst he can do... try'n stake me? Laugh in my face? Nothin he hasn't already done. Alright then, showtime. I can do this.

So wrapped up in her personal peptalk, Leigh missed the single step down into the pub. Strong, leather-covered arms caught her, and she smiled shakily at her savior. "Xander Bloody Harris."

Shock does funny things to human bodies, she reflected just before darkness took over.

Part Four

She was cradled in strong arms, a firm chest holding her close to the reassuring heat and steady pulse of a human male. Every part of her wanted to stay still and soak up the contact, even as her eyelids fluttered open.

"Well hi there, Sleeping Beauty. Glad you could join the party." A million dollar smile that she'd often seen directed at one of his 'girls', now all for her! "Nothing seems to be wrong with you... I didn't find one of those MedicAlert bracelets to check for specifics. Wanna tell me what happened, doll?"

Leigh's mouth opened, but nothing came out. She reached a shaky hand up to her hair, pulling loose the flower (which definitely looked worse for wear) and dropped it on her chest.

"Okay... this tells me who you are, Lovely Leigh, but not what caused your crash-n-burn." Xander's grin faded a bit with concern. "How bout we get you a drink of water or something. If you feel up to moving?"

Struggling to right herself, she gave in gracefully when Harris tightened his arms.

"Didn't mean that! You stay put, I'll get us settled someplace quiet, k? Just... give me a smile for yes, or snore for no." He waited for her weak grin before mirroring with one of his own. "Gotcha, now hang tight and we'll get comfy soon."

Well Leigh, you made a wonderful first impression on the boy. Alright, not a boy anymore. Definitely a full grown man, setting off those lovely triggers Fred warned me about. And what happens when he gets all pissy over your little secret, eh? Don't let that puppy brown eye and a handful of laughs send you over the edge, girl!

As promised, Xander relocated them to a back booth, snagging a bottle of water along the way. To Leigh's surprise (and delight), he shuffled her across his lap, leaving his arms free to rub feeling back into her shoulders.

"Now, if you're the lady I'm supposed to meet, maybe you can clear up this whole mystery at one time. Take a few sips and some deep breaths, and begin whenever you're ready." His quiet request felt like an order, albeit polite and gently asked.

Leigh took his suggestions to heart, beginning with oxygen intake. After a few minutes, her pulse regulated and she began her explanation. "Think I might have hyperventilated. Y'know, when something puts so much stress on you suddenly, your body kicks into automatic overdrive?"

"Yeah, but what possible problem is so big that meeting me could cause that?" He meant it as a joke, she knew, but he wasn't far from the truth.

"We've met before, but we didn't part on the best terms. I... need to make it right somehow." And yes, dear audience, her voice could sound like an eight year old. A sexy, curvaceous one.

Xander barked out a short snort of laughter. "Doll, if I'd ever met you, I'd definitely remember it. So c'mon, spill!"

Finally, she found the courage to meet his eye, flinching in memory of yet another failure. "Does it still hurt, Xan? I'm so sorry... I should've got there sooner." Her fingertips barely brushed the edge of his patch, but Harris' hand caught hers before it could move the protective barrier.

"Listen lady, whoever you are, you're treading on thin ice with this. No more jokes, got it?" He began pushing her off his lap, but she held on with more strength than her tiny body should have.

"Please, just... be still and let me do this?" Waiting till Xander gave his tentative agreement, Leigh took one last breath. "Right. This was so much easier, explaining to Giles." Returning her eyes to watch his reactions, she saw the closely guarded 'poker face' the boy had learned long ago. "Forget that, there's no easy way to tell it. So, here goes. After flaming the hell outa Sunnydale, I ended up stuck in that damned amulet. Remember it was borrowed from Wolfram & Hart? Well, it just appeared on the poof's desk one day, and when he picked it up, I fell out... not all there. Was a ghost of sorts all these months, til three weeks ago. Cussed out the wrong higher power, got dumped back into a body. But, as you can see, it's the wrong bloody gender. That about cover it all, whelp?"

She tried, really. Keeping her temper around Harris was always difficult. Especially when he felt equally beligerent about whatever subject they were arguing over. By the end of her babbled tirade, Leigh had to forcibly lower her volume and restrain the hostility wanting to spill out.

Xander's continuing silence unnerved her further. "Got nothin ta say, Xan?"

Lips tightening as though he were biting back... some response... the brunet closed his eye and practiced a little self-prescribed medicine. One deep breath after another, till his heart rate slowed and he had control once more. "If you're trying to tell me that a certain blond, souled, semi-evil and almost Big Bad is tucked into this body, I gotta tell ya... I need more proof."

And there goes the eyeroll. How could I have forgotten? "Right. You kept your Babylon-5 collector plates wrapped in Scooby Doo paper, tucked way back on the top shelf in that ratty kitchenette. Your folks' basement apartment, you called it the Basement of Doom and kept me tied to a medieval torture device that you swore was a barcalounger - never had me fooled there, Quasimodo woulda been proud ta have one of those things."

The strangest combination of conflicting emotions flared to life on the brunet's face. He managed to tense and relax simultaneously, which looked bloody painful to Leigh.

"After coming back from Africa with a brand new soul, you ended up taking me in again. This time, I slept in a over-sized closet and stole your soft porn to keep me awake. To stop the voices in my nightmares - and from the First. And... I almost wish I'd listened to ya, when you tried to convince me not to wear that feckin amulet."

There wasn't much more for her to tell to convince him. As the Americans would say, the ball was in his court now. She thought that, just maybe, she understood how he could be relieved and stressed at the same time. But regardless of her empathy of his predicament, Leigh had an urge. An incredible, burning urge to kiss the stunned fish expression off his face, pushing him into full shock. She managed to supress it. Barely.

"Nothing to say, Harris?"

After another achingly long minute, he drew another deep breath. "Wow."

She was incapable of holding in a snort of laughter at that. "Still as eloquent as ever, puppy boy."

"Yeah, but at least you don't look like the poster child for Etheopian Undead United these days." And the spark of humor was back in that deep brown eye. "And hey, the Powers fucked you over worse than me, so I guess it's all good."

A smart-arse comment was called for, Leigh knew. All she could think of was 'thank hell he hasn't tried to push me away again'. Unconsciously, she snuggled closer to his inviting warmth.

"So what now. Not that I'm not glad you came to say hi or anything, but... what else is this about?"

She'd forgotten how soothing a human heartbeat could be. Nothing like it really. Harris' pulse steadied her, luring her into a trance-like state.

"Hey blondie, don't fall asleep on me here!" Xander gently shook his tiny burden, rearranging Leigh so her body was spread more comfortably across his legs. As her eyes opened, he grinned at her. "So you're stuck in a woman's body, and from the warm butt I'm guessing you aren't a real vamp these days. Wanna fill me in on the rest?"

In a sleepy voice, she managed to answer at least part of his implied questions. "Not all human, still got fangs though. Wes thinks maybe the Powers have some use for me, but Fred and me, we believe they're just yankin my chain. You feel good." And since when was her mouth allowed to spew that drivel? Gah!

Grin turned to smirk. "Huh, so do you. Much better than your old black-on-black days." Brushing a few curls away from her face, his voice almost a whisper. "How are you handling the whole T & A package?"

"Mmm, s'nice sometimes. Like the body, hate the hormones." She snickered into his chest.

Joining her with a good chuckle, Xander had to agree, "Yeah, I can see liking this body. And ditto with the hormones. Remember, surrounded by girls growing up, surrounded by super-girls at Slayer Central now." He curled a lock of blond hair around one finger and gave it a tug. "Wanna wake up and get that drink you hinted at? This calls for alcohol in great quantities."

"Nah, you never could handle yer liquor, Harris," Leigh managed to say through a giggle. "How bout we ditch this place and find some all-night pizza parlor? I'm starving. Again."

"Now this sounds familiar." His smile grew larger for a moment before falling into serious thought. "Do we need to find a butcher?"

Shaking her head brought her face into the curve of his shoulder, a place Leigh was quite happy to be. "Nah, don't need blood anymore. Lots of food, all the time. Makes Fred jealous, how much I can eat."

One thing she'd often (very secretly) admired about Xander Harris - he could roll with whatever punches were thrown his way. Nothing so far said had thrown him very far off course, nor had it caused him to lose body contact. Through each of her lives, Leigh had always craved physical shows of affection, however small. That the man who had repeatedly tried to stake him could offer this comfort... meant a *lot*.

"Don't go to sleep on me, blondie. We really should separate till we find your pizza place." Contrary to his suggestion, Xander made no move to get up.

"Or... we could call room service and order up a bunch of grease and chocolate." Hey, that sounded like a logical idea. She wondered which two brain cells weren't locked down by those delightful arms.

"Mmm, yeah." One arm moved beneath her legs, easily lifting Leigh's limp body as he stood. "Which room are you in?"

She struggled to remember, finally deciding on handing over her cardkey to let him figure it out. Only it was in her back pocket, and that would require more movement or effort or something. "Pocket, back. Get it?"

"Oh man, you're really losing it. Gonna hafta tell me what you're on, and maybe share." Xander snickered at the pout that formed on her lips. "Or maybe you're still jetlagged, right? You must've come in about the same time Giles did, and he was snoring when I left at eight."

That sounded like a good reason. And it might have been a part of her desire to stay *exactly* where she was. Leigh couldn't find the energy to do more than grunt agreeably.

"You're calling yourself Leigh now, right? Fits you better than Spike at least. There's probably a story in there somewhere too, but it can wait til later." Xander shifted her weight onto one arm, to more easily search for the elusive key. "Back pocket, you sure? Howinhell did you stuff anything in these! They look painted on. Not that I mind the view."

And maybe he's not unaffected either. Another point to the blond bombshell, ladies and gentlemen. Take a bow, take a number... what was I saying?

Chuckling, he returned his arm to holding Leigh more comfortably, the cardkey safe in his hand. "And you still talk in your sleep. Maybe I should stick around, learn some girly secrets from ya. Like what's the point of that green face mask that makes women look like Frankenstein's monster?"

They were moving again, the sensation of an express elevator taking them to the appropriate floor. Leigh hoped he would remember to call for food, because she couldn't be arsed right then.

"Yeah, I won't forget. Little of everything, or is this a test for me to remember all your favorites?"

She tried, really, to formulate an answer. It just wasn't worth it. As long as he never put her down.

"Uh, you do know that one of us will have to use the bathroom before long, right? And no offense, but there are some things I just don't like sharing."

Huh, she really needed to put an emergency lock-down switch on her mouth. In case of babble, hit this button. Where would be the best place for the button? Maybe if she stuck it on her tits...

Xander stiffled a laugh, choking himself. "Button on your tit? Is this one of those kinky vamp things, or can anyone play?"

Mmm, playing with Xander. Lovely images flying through her head, all with brown eye and hair and warmstrongsafe holding her tight. She could always lend a helping hand, so he'd never have to put her down to pee. Might make things hard, but that too would pass with a little push-n-shove.

"Alllllllrighty then. You might have the bod of a centerfold, but inside that bleached brain is still 100% Spike. And can I just say how proud you should be of the non-freaking going on?"

Wouldn't help anyways. There are limpets in my family tree - watch me prove it by latching on.

"Lips! Spike lips? Leigh lips. Ooh, and tongue too. Damn girl, if you can do this in your sleep, I've gotta see what happens when you're awake."

Yeah, wake up beside me, inside me? Mmm, sounds fuckin wonderful, pet. Why didn't we try this before?

"Uh, cus you were a guy maybe. And there was always someone else... or was that a rhetorical question. Nevermind, just sleep through this part. I can embarass myself without any assistance from the gallery, thanks."

Always could, luv. Was one of the simple pleasures in unlife - watching your face turn red with all that delicious blood, smelling your want and shame and arousal. Miss smelling ya.

"That's sweet... and disturbing. And we're here. Wake up, blondie bear. Home sweet home!"

Didn't I think that earlier? Think I thought it... dunno when it happened, Harris being home.

"Er, WHAT?!"

~ * ~

More soon as I can - tell me what you think?

** And, for those of you interested in the model I used for 'Leigh', I stole the general body from Miss April 2004 on my son's calendar. He didn't object, as long as I promised to treat her well. **

Last quick note - a question was made by my beta-readers (son and daughter, for now), about the hat custom. All I can say in my defense of this assumption is that 'proper' women in certain areas of Deep South USA hold the belief - as well as the use of cloth gloves - and a good friend of mine (single het male, so consider the source) currently living in England said that the custom was similar there. I just thought it was sorta interesting, and something that Spike might encounter.

Part Five

"Ok, Spike... Leigh... whoever you are these days. Tell me that you didn't have some sort of strange vamp crush on me." Stroking hands didn't pause throughout the panic attack, but large fingers kept getting caught in blond curls. "Please? I mean, honestly, I don't know if I could handle the trauma there."

'S cute. Forgot how cute he could be in full babble mode. Wish I'd let myself look a little harder back when. Coulda had all sorts of fun. Might've even prevented the thing with Buffy.

"Woah, hold that thought. I don't mind the psycho-babble. Gods know I've got enough practice at my own, plus years of interpretting for Wills. But herein lies madness for the Xanman. C'mon Leigh, pull it together, will ya?"

Mmm, what's that the demon bint used ta say? Interlocking parts. Fittin together just fine, luv. Lemme show ya how much fun madness can be, yeh?

Saved from having to react to the mention of his dead ex-fiance, ex-girlfriend, a knock at the door saw a steward bringing in a fully loaded cart of food and drink. Leigh's eyes opened slowly after the first whiff of tomato sauce reached her nostrils.

"Oh lovely, nice selection! But... what are you going to eat?" She reached for a can of soda, hiding her grin behind a sip of the bubbly beverage.

Blink. Blink blink. "You've gotta be shittin me." Blink. "Nevermind, I was around for Dawn and her friends' slumber parties. Maybe you're not. Either way, we can always order more, right?"

Seeing his lapful had returned to a somewhat more rational state, Xander quickly deposited Leigh on the couch of her suite, pushing the cart toward her before finding a place at her side. Not touching, but close enough to... do something, should she daze out again.

Leigh couldn't answer with a mouth full of stuffed pastry. Or she could, but the training of manners had come back shortly after setting foot in her home country. She swallowed and took another drink before attempting to answer. "I wasn't kidding about how much I eat now, Xander. Still, this should do for a start. We can still hit a pizza place later if you like."

"Uh, not a teenager anymore, blondie." Watching the quick inhilation of appetizers, he marvelled at how neat and precise her movements were. Especially since this body held his former roommate, a being renowned for his disgusting habits. "Tell ya what, you go ahead and chow down. I'll catch the second act if we make it outa here for some pies, k?"

She shook her head around another bite. "Go ahead, luv. Either way, I'll have to find more soon. Won't hurt anything, and I promise not to try nibbling at your fingers." Glancing out the corner of her eye at the brunet, Leigh had to grin again. "Unless you want, of course."

Xander had just popped the top of his own soda, and nearly dropped it. "Ok, this just went beyond the Twilight Zone. My former chipped-undead, then souled-unchipped-undead roomie, who burned like a bottle rocket, comes back from a non-existant afterlife and *plop* into a blond bombshell body, and now he's a she and she's hitting on me. Jerry Springer, here I come. Although... there's no way to prove the 'former' part, is there."

Leigh grinned, Xander frowned, the food supply lowered rapidly. She let him babble his way through the pertinent facts.

"And how weird is it that none of this mess triggers my hellmouth radar. I mean, turning into a chick is a pretty major thing. Especially a woman with *those* assets. How'd you rate getting that body anyways? The Spike I remember was skinny and underfed and never looked half as good in plain jeans. Guess that only proves what I've been saying all these years and guys can *never* top girls in the ass department. Could be why Wills didn't take my 'gay me up' speach seriously. Hey, don't hog all the fried cheese sticks!"

"Oh, you came up for breath?" Tossing him a smirk, Leigh nibbled her gooy treat, offering the last one to her friend. "Want more, we go out for it. I'm not that impressed with the hotel's version of them."

"Mmhmm," Xander mumbled around half the stick. "Yeah, had better. Not many places to go in England that have decent cheese sticks though. And I still haven't found a good bloomin onion thing."

Some things never change - the way to Xander's heart and brain was through his stomach. At least he'd stopped the panic attack. "Point. But we can have fun poking fun at their attempts, right?"

Less than ten minutes later, the cart was cleared of everything edible. Including a few sprigs of parsley, which caused Leigh to brush and floss before they went for pizza.

"Hey, you aren't gonna do that hyperventilating, fainting thing again, are you? Cus I can catchya, but it might make people nervous, y'know?" Xander helped her into a light jacket, taking her arm and closing the door behind them.

"Probably not, thanks pet. I just forgot to have a snack after you called earlier." The unconscious courtesy warmed Leigh's heart more than the jacket, and she snuggled into his side once again. "Told ya, this body needs alot more food. It's like a diabetic or somethin, see? Has to have a certain amount of calories or it starts wanting to shut down."

That made as much sense as anything, and Xander nodded at her as he pushed the button for the lift. "So, are we going to have a fun night on the town, or are we gonna find your pies and talk deep shit?"

Ah, the $25,000 question. "Suppose we should get it over with. Can make it easy or tough. How's this: I'm sorry, for all the crap I did to you and yours. And I really appreciate the care you gave me after the soul." She paused, trying not to get wrapped up in memories. "And... you're part of my family, Xander. Can't explain that one very well, but both demon and soul feel the same. I just want a chance to be... friends or something. Can we try it?"

Luck was with them - the lift held no other people. It gave them a semblence of privacy, which the brunet was grateful for. "Shit Sp.Leigh, you were my friend long before the soul. An annoying, snarky, tempermental one, sure. But... you didn't need to go through all this just to apologize."

A heavy weight lifted from her shoulders, her body sagging against his sturdy frame. "Thought that myself, but wasn't sure what my reception would be. Said and did so many nasty things to you and the Scooby gang..."

"Hey, shh! Past and buried, ok?" Placing a rough finger against her lips, Xander tilted her face up. He wanted to meet her eyes for this. "It's the nature of the vamp to cause trouble and draw blood, the whole murder and mayhem bit. I understood it, even if it bugged me alot. Can't swear what the girls'll say, but you and me, we're good."

Leigh found herself tearing up again, and quickly ducked into her purse for a hankie. "Damned female hormones! Never had this many mood swings in my unlife."

Intellectually, Xander knew that this person at his side was William the Bloody, the youngest of the Scourge of Europe. The vampire known as Spike who spent so much time tied up in his basement. The undead menace that turned everyone against each other during that ADAM fiasco. The crazy, souled, ragged pile of bones he'd harbored, listening and crooning at him through so many nightmares. His mind understood that. His heart saw a lonely woman forced to her knees from the weight of her troubles, in tears of misery, and demanded that he comfort her.

Well, what else could he do? A hug was a hug, regardless of whom the recipient was. He shoved the niggling part of his brain that insisted 'we do NOT cuddle vampires' as far down as he could bury it, drawing the weapy blond into his arms. "S'ok, everyone deserves a good cry once in awhile. Just remember, you'll smudge your mascara if you don't watch it, right?"

Leigh blew her nose with as much decorum as she could dreg up, trying to smother a giggle. She and the boy had often laughed at the girls for their 'racoon eyes' after a sob-story or sappy movie. "Yeh ok, Turning off the water works now." He didn't push her away, and she wasn't about to argue with the unspoken offer. "When'd you grow up, Xan? A year ago, you'd have-"

"Done about the same. Think I grew up about the same time you did." That comment drew them both up short. "I propose that, for the remainer of tonight, we agree not to discuss the events of our mutually horrific past in Sunnydale. It can't be good for the digestion, and as much as you eat, I'd hate to see ya with a tummy ache."

She whacked him on the butt. Well, she would have aimed for his arm or shoulder, but those were currently occupied. Besides, he'd gotten a free grope at her posterior already. Fair's fair!

If she had expected him to object, her plans were foiled. He wiggled beneath her hand, smirked into her hair, and pinched a cheek of his own.

The lift opened and they were forced to separate, but Xander held out his hand and Leigh immediately placed one of hers into his custody. A pleasant evening with no painful memories, in the company of an attractive potential partner. Neither found their situation objectionable.

~ * ~

"And then Wesley had the gall to say I should tell Angel. I blew up, teared up, and raced from the room." Leigh finished her anecdote of that scene, fairly glowing with the full-throated laughs from her companion.

"I'll bet he'll never try that again. Wesley never was comfortable around 'those emotional episodes'." He had to fight his chuckles to be understood, but eventually Xander caught his breath. "And chocolate came next, right?"

Nodding enthusiastically, she bounced in her seat. "Fred's a wonder! Had all sorts of treats waiting for me. But first she had to pry me outa the loo."

Xander's howl of laughter startled a passing waiter, who almost dumped his tray of empty glasses and plates on their table. "Remember when Dawn did that, cus some boy she had a crush on asked her best friend to the dance instead of her? It took gallons of hot chocolate and three Hugh Grant movies to make her smile again."

"Yeah, I can understand the Niblet better now. These hormones are rough to handle." Leigh took a sip of her soda. "Bleh, colored water. And it looks like the kitchen's closed." She didn't want the evening to end, but neither did she want to assume...

Looking around the restaurant, he found that all the other tables had been cleared. "Huh, we're the only ones left. Uh... what's next? I'm sorta at a loss here."

"And I'm not? Luv, the last 'date' I went out on was... centuries ago." Blushing at what her words implied. "Yeh, uh..."

"Does seem like it, huh? And strange as it sounds, tonight's the most fun I've had in years." Xander looked down at their clasped hands. He stroked his thumb across the top of hers, trying to figure out what to say. "Not ready for it to end, how bout you?"

The shake of her head held more energy than her chair could handle, and Leigh almost fell onto the floor. One of those arms she'd come to enjoy hooked around her midsection, dragging her across Xander's lap. "This is getting to be a habit. Think I like it though."

Leigh could only mumble her agreement, as warm lips cut off any reply she might've made.

It wasn't planned, this first tentative kiss. Xander could swear on a stack of religious texts that he hadn't intentionally connected their mouths. He just wanted to test a theory - did Leigh's lips taste half as good as her uncomplicated company made him feel? After sipping gently at her slightly parted mouth, he had to say 'hell yes!'

Warm, strong, quietly commanding. All the things she hadn't known she needed, bound in this one man, this human who'd seen her at the lowest points of her unlife. Xander made her feel alive and precious and... and this was what Fred had warned her would happen. Spontaneous combustion from the simple meeting of lips. They hadn't exchanged tongues yet, and she was ready to burst into flames.

Fortunately for the lady's lungs, Xander wasn't unfamiliar with new human-type people. He broke away long enough to mutter, "You've gotta breathe, remember? Try breathing through your nose if you don't wanna stop." He waited to see if she'd put a halt to their contact, and was pleasantly surprised when she latched back onto his mouth.

I remember how to do this, just add the breathing trick. Tongues are made to map your lover's mouth. And gods, he's so tender. No one's ever kissed me like this, like I'm the center of their attention. The center of their universe. Want that, never gonna give it up. Unless he runs when he remembers who I used to be.

Xander lost himself in sensation. Full, lush lips and a snake-like tongue, slowly exploring his mouth... he'd never had anyone read him by oral-braile before, but that's what it felt like Leigh was doing. Learning his soul by way of this kiss. He tried to memorize every move, storing the scene for future fantasies, when he felt her begin to tense up.

"Hey," light nibble, "what's wrong, hun?" line of open-mouthed kisses up her jawline, "this too soon for you?" teeth gnawing her earlobe, "I do know what 'no' means, ok? Just tell me when to stop."

Sparkles of light flickered behind Leigh's closed eyes. She vaguely recalled Fred saying something about going too far without preparation, but everything Xander said or did was melting her will to stop. She couldn't think clearly, didn't really want to, even if that's the only way she'd remember her friend's careful instructions.

"Lovely Leigh, I want nothing more than to carry you to a bed and spend the next week lavishing you with all the attention you deserve," his words soft against her ear, Xander licked along the outer shell before voicing the 'but' she heard coming, "but this is moving faster than you're probably ready for. And honestly, all my previous relationships started out with the gropey stuff." His fingers carded through her hair, cupping her scalp so gently. "Would... would you hate me if I asked to..."

Spike had always been the one to pursue his lovers. This treatment left Leigh's emotions stripped bare. She couldn't focus on anything beyond Xander's mouth, Xander's hands, the solid strength of his body that held her like a priceless work of art. Her power of speech had taken a holiday. "Hmm?" was the best she could offer to the conversation.

"May I court you, Miss Wilkes?" If his teeth kept nibbling the tendons of her neck, he could have anything he wanted. "Or is that too old-fashioned... It's just... There's something between us, and I don't wanna mess it up *and* screw with our friendship by taking you to bed before we're ready, y'know?"

Disappointment flared in Leigh's stomach, but still she was touched by the consideration. And really, how could she blame Xander for forgetting that she was no blushing virgin. Rubbing her cheek against the top of his ruffled hair, she tried to think of some way to explain her predicament.

He pulled away from her damp throat, saw the conflicting emotions on her face, and quickly leaned forward for a soft, chaste kiss. "You've had this body for three weeks, if I remember right. And I'll bet you haven't taken it out for a test drive yet. There's plenty of time for that, and fuck yeah I want it too, but... We only get one shot at 'first times', and I'd like to do this one differently."

Leigh's arousal screamed that it was being rejected, but her damned feminine emotions wanted to sob and sniffle and make 'awwww' noises. She did understand though. She just didn't really want to wait.

"Xan, we've known each other for years already. Sure, we're just now interested in getting physical, but doesn't it count for something?" Try fluttering the eyelashes at him, make him forget why he's slowing down.

In response, she got a peck on the nose, a smack on the bottom, and a snicker. "Nice try, goldilocks, but you forget how much time I've spent with only girls for friends. Not much you can do that'd change my mind." He stroked her hair out of her eyes, tracing patterns across her forehead and cheeks. "I'm all for instant attraction, but... Hell, you remember where that got me the last time."

Something in the comment demanded a response. If Leigh could rub two brain cells together. "Been gone for awhile, luv. Can't say I know what's happened to ya since you moved here."

"Ha, no. Last so-called date I went out on was helping that lady from the hardware store, back in Sunnydale. She turned out to be a demon who wanted to use me in a ritual, remember?"

The goldfish face isn't attractive, or so Fred repeatedly said. Close mouth or use it! "You haven't dated in a year? Harris, you've never been celebate that long!"

And the expected blush makes its appearance. "Actually I have. Wasn't getting it when we were roommates last time, cept that once with Anya just before... Anyways, no, I haven't dated since then. It's just..."

Seeing one of the babble twins speechless was never a good sigh. "Xan, if you want to do the whole getting-to-know-you bit, that's fine. I can't promise to keep my hands in appropriate places, cus I don't have a handle on these hormones yet." She grabbed as much of his cheeks as possible, with the chair in her way, grinning when he squeaked at her. "But there's no reason we can't add a bit of snoggin to our dates, yeh?"

Xander's eye tracked her lips, following every word that spilled from them. He barely allowed time to say 'sure' before his mouth took hers again. This time the kiss was filled with a growing passion. He had voiced his concerns, she'd offered her own rebuttal, and they had a sketchy plan. Enough talk, playtime now.

How far their attraction might have taken the pair must remain a mystery - the manager coughed politely, asking that they relocate so that he might lock up for the night.

Sheepishly, Xander paid the bill, Leigh's hand clasped firmly in his own.

Part Six

They walked back toward Leigh's hotel, holding hands and talking quietly. With the mood lightened, she saw the wisdom of taking things slowly. Even if her body screamed and begged for *more* of the heat and warmth of her friend. The fact that Xander Harris - the one from which she'd least expected a pleasant reception - was the object of her cravings threw her thoughts into a scattered jumble of contradictions.

Mr Perception noticed her confusion, smiling at her even as his arm pulled her close to his side. "Hey, there's this band I've been following, Ground Zero, and they're playing tomorrow night at a club not too far away. Wanna go with me? They're pretty good, and no, not country either."

Leigh focused in on a topic that would divert her from thoughts of how his body would fit against hers. "Yeh, why not. I reserve the right to heckle them if they're anything like those losers who used to play at the Bronze."

"Nah, they've got a pretty heavy sound. Think you'll like'em." As the tiny blond snuggled closer, Xander purred, "Public places are safer at first. Otherwise I'd invite you back to my flat for dinner and a movie."

Throwing an arm around his waist, she grabbed his belt for good measure. "No fair, teasing the new hormone factory." One slim hand wiggled inside the back of his pants, fingers tickling along the softly-furred skin she found there. "If you wanna take this so bloody slow, don't make comments like that, k? I might not have my old strength, but I'm pretty sure I can throw you down and climb onboard before you have a chance to blink."

Images of the blond doing just that occupied Xander's brain (both of them), which might explain how he missed the curb. In a tangle of limbs, the couple went down, Leigh's body cradled by the brunet's larger mass. "Heh, guess I should thank you for the soft landing." She licked the tip of his nose and wiggled against him.

What could he do, with a double armful of attractive female twisting against his hyped body? Xander moaned, pushed his hips up, and growled out, "Not all that soft, and you aren't helping!"

She'd known, of course she did. So many times Spike had found himself in the same position. But being on the other side of it? Her mind wanted to shut down, melting at the sensation of a thick hard-on rubbing against her lower stomach. If she ever returned to being a man, she swore never to taunt her lovers (in this way) again.

"Luv, middle of the street, middle of the night. If you're gonna use that, at least get us back to my room first, yeh?" Leigh's face was almost level with his throat, an easy reach for her to nibble along his collar bone. His moan of approval sent a fresh wave of tingles straight between her legs.

"Gods! I gotta meet this Fred woman, if she's the one that taught you to-"

"Nah, this is all me, Xan. Fred-girl's a sweetheart, but she's too shy to grab what she wants, see?" Demonstrating her point, Leigh let her fingers walk down his stomach, heading toward his fly. "And y'can't say I've ever been shy."

Grabbing frantically at the tormenting hand, Xander pulled her into a deep kiss. Every ounce of his need came through loud and clear, making her insides turn to mush. "No, you've never been shy. But you've also never been a woman before." He licked a line across her lower lip. "Let me show you how a woman deserves to be treated."

Leigh fervently hoped he meant in bed, but that didn't look like a promising prospect. "That's gotta be one of the corniest lines I've ever heard, Harris." She tilted her face, rubbing against his exploring mouth. "How often does it work?"

"Hmm, 5 for 5 so far." He grinned against her temple, flicking his tongue out at her earlobe. "I'm still not going to stay the night, but... we really should move this back to your place."

Snickering, Leigh decided that their tumble to the ground looked every bit as funny in reverse. And even through the frustrated arousal, she felt surprisingly good. Something else to be grateful for - the White Knight's ingrained morals for how to treat a lady.

~ * ~

Sunlight flickered through her curtains, sending conflicting signals to her sleep-befuddled brain. She had to remind herself that she would *not* catch on fire, soothing the demon that snarled at its natural death. On the other hand, it felt damned good, the sliver of sunlight that fell across her bare back. And what was wrong with that scenario? Leigh didn't remember getting naked. Of course, she also didn't remember going to bed, but that wasn't quite as worrisome.

Snogging and snuggling all the way, Xander had walked her back to the hotel. Check, remember that. The lift had taken forever, and gotten stuck at the fifteenth floor - a fine excuse for more kisses. She smiled as phantom lips were invoked by the memory. They'd had a tickle fight for custody of her cardkey, where she had won by the simple expedient of sucking his fingers till he forgot what he was doing. Door opened, they came inside, door closed... some quality time on the couch, and more kisses in one evening than she could ever remember getting. After that, nothing.

Had she passed out again? She had definitely tried to breathe as needed, but there were times when Leigh found herself light-headed. She blamed it as much on the effect Xander's proximity had on her as oxygen deprivation. But would he have taken her clothes off to put her in bed? It just didn't sound like a Xan-ish thing to do.

Her bladder chose that moment to offer its opinion - toilet first, answers after coffee and another trip to the loo. She really hated that aspect of her non-vampiric body. After several attempts at untangling her legs from the twisted sheet, she finally fell out of bed and stumbled toward the bathroom. Business taken care of, she washed her face and grabbed a brush, only then taking a good look in the mirror. She still had on bra and panties from the previous night, and there were love bites and bruises scattered from neck to the satiny fabric of her bra. They gave off a tingle-ache, quite pleasant really, when she brushed her fingers over each one. Still, she was more than a little upset that she couldn't recall getting them.

Hair and teeth brushed, she placed a call to room service and threw on a short wrap. It was well after breakfast, closing fast on noon, so the kitchen staff could hardly complain about her request for extra rare steak with 'the works'. Her list of 'the works' far surpassed what was on the menu, but she was a growing girl, right?

She settled down on the couch to await her lunch, and noticed a note on the coffee table.

"My Lovely Leigh,
Last night was... so many adjectives. I had a great time, laughing and
swapping stories and everything else. With you. Hopefully, we can do
it again tonight - the concert, remember?
I hated leaving you, especially after you fell asleep in my arms. Yeah,
so I've always known how sentimental I can be. It takes alot of trust for
someone to let all their barriers down around another person. Thank
you for that.
You were pretty zoned by the time I started to leave, so I tried to make
sure you were comfortable. Don't hate me for taking off your shirt and
jeans - they just didn't look like good pyjamas. And damn girl! I love
your taste in underwear. Maybe you'll let me help you pick some out?
Lingerie shops... Mmmm!
I'll be by around seven tonight, and we can stop somewhere for dinner
before heading to the club, ok?
Counting the hours,

Leigh stroked the page, rereading bits and pieces of it. Even as she read his version of things, images began coming back to her. A wave of moist heat flooded her panties, recalling how his hands had felt cupping her breasts, how his back muscles rippled beneath her fingers, the incredible suction of his mouth and how she had begged him to continue.

Had the steward not chosen that moment to show up with her meal, Leigh would have taken care of her... discomfort. The poor man couldn't understand why the lovely guest in Room 1748 was so cranky, but he had burning ears and a bruised shin to prove it.

~ * ~

"It's official. I do NOT handle frustration well. This is your fault, Xander Harris, and I expect you to rectify the situation immediately." Leigh tried to create a version of the famous Rosenberg Resolve Face, but it simply looked silly on her. "Damn, never gonna get shagged at this rate."

The mirror had nothing to say, silently mocking her attempts to look seriously intimidating.

The night before had seen her running in circles, changing clothes in a fury of nerves. Tonight, her nerves were on fire for entirely different reasons - and she hadn't had any luck in quenching the flames that licked along her erogenous zones every time she thought about That Damned Man.

Hold on, full reverse. Head cocked, Leigh doubled back and turned that thought over. She decided it sounded suspiciously like one of Harmony's rants, and made more of an effort to distract herself.

Right, the telly's out. Even with satelite, there was precious little on that she wanted to see. Without a partner. And again, no sense going there.

Three hours left, what to do? The only thing that seemed harmless enough was shopping, and without Fred that would be... No, maybe not. There were a few types of shops that the shy girl wouldn't consider going. Maybe she could kill two birds with one stone.

After a quick look through the phone book, Leigh grabbed her purse and headed out.

~ * ~

It just doesn't get better than this. Wall to wall porn, stacks of latex goodies, edibles up front, bondage toward the back, and those cutesy gag gifts at the register. I'd kill to see Wesley's face when he gets my credit card bill for this month.

Snickering at the thought, Leigh grabbed a shopping basket and began looking through isle after isle of adult novelties.

Sorta funny, how some of my old kinks don't do a thing for me anymore. But others... I've gotta have one of those dual-headed things! And some ticklers, and maybe a few clamps. Wonder if they do piercings here. Oh look! The leather display is being restocked. *purr* So many goodies, so little time. Maybe I can drag Xan back here after the concert. Mmm, that luscious bum in leather, cutaway to showcase his bits all for me. Might take some sweet talkin, but it's definitely worth the try.

Skipping the video collection (for now, she promised herself), Leigh selected several different toys. On the basis of size and function, although the variety of colors left her eyes crossed for a minute. She thanked the helpful salesclerk when he put a multipack of batteries in her basket, before quickly moving away from him. Something about the greasy hair and too-close eyes reminded her of Charles Manson.

Lube, lube, lube, lube, lube, lube. To the tune of Monty Python's Spam song. Her giggles drew the stares of several fellow shoppers. And yes, she realized that this body came with built-in lubrication, but after having suffered Angelus' attentions, she was of the opinion that a body can *never* have too much slick, thankyouverymuch. Besides, her lovely gentleman friend had a passion for chocolate, and what kind of lover would she be if she ignored her suitor's preferences?

Most of the lingerie was... cheap, coarse and sluttish. But there's a time and place for everything, and Leigh found two nightie sets that wouldn't last through their first use. Disposable bait, followed by edible panties. Sounded like a fun weekend for all.

By the time she turned toward the check-out, she was of the opinion that, even if this place offered it, she would *not* allow them to stick anything into her body that wasn't first sterilized and shrink-wrapped. Or at least the clerk. He kept giving her these looks...

Plain brown bags hid her 'brazen display of lecherousness' from polite society. Those who were blind or so self-absorbed that they couldn't see outside their personal bubble. Leigh could hardly care less - she had toys that might help soothe this ache that developed every time she thought of Xander's lips, fingers, hands... and dammit, there it went again! Just four more blocks, keep it together, girly.

~ * ~

6:45pm. Just fifteen minutes until Xander would be knocking on her door, and she still hadn't had the chance to experiment with any of her new gadgets. Screams of frustration rang throughout her suite, adding to the headache that simply refused to go away.

And why did she think she could have a peaceful afternoon to herself? After all, only four people of her acquaintence knew she was even in London, two of which would hardly bother to call unless an apocolypse hit. She wouldn't mind hearing from Fred, but it was pre-dawn in L.A. It was the last one on her short list that was causing so many difficulties.

Upon her return to the hotel, Leigh had been flagged down by the concierge, bearing a message from 'her gentleman'. He'd tried to call while she was out and left a message. Nothing worrisome about that, so Leigh went up to her room to return his call. Except that he wasn't home. So she left her own message, quickly stripped, matched batteries to pseudo-phallus, and bounced onto the bed.

And then the phone rang.

The hotel manager wanted to make sure that she was not sharing a room without paying for double occupancy. Apparently his kitchen staff had much to say about the quantity and frequency of her meals. She offered for him to come investigate the matter, assuring him that she had no one else staying with her (although she hoped to change that soon), and hung up.

Waiting was hardly one of her better talents, and Leigh found herself boucing off the walls in half an hour. She couldn't take the chance that the manager would use his skeleton key to enter while she was pleasuring herself. Exhibitionism didn't bother her, but this was far from an ideal circumstance. She spent the time reading the 'instructions' that went along with each of her new friends.

More than an hour after she'd first spoken to the man, he finally arrived. Leading a crew of bellboys and stewards. She stood back and watched as ten strangers fondled her undergarments, checked under the bed, and generally combed the suite for 'suspicious clues'. Of course, they found nothing that would lead anybody to believe that another person shared her quarters - unless she had a mysterious identical twin hidden somewhere. Leigh took great delight in flipflopping from amiable guest to bitch-on-wheels, and soon had a discounted rate for the duration of her stay.

With the expenditure of energy from her little tantrum, she called room service - with the red-cheeked manager by her side - and ordered a selection of sweets and finger foods. Hanging up, she turned to the blustering fool and smirked. "I have a high metabolism, and must eat more than the average person. Particularly on days when I've exercised, and I spent much of the morning at the gym. Now, if you have no further questions, I would appreciate the privacy guaranteed by your hotel." She offered a clearly faked smile and shut the door loudly behind him. Complete with deadbolt and chain.

For some reason, her food arrived sooner than usual, with a bottle of fine wine 'complements of the chef'.

After eating much more quickly than she should've, Leigh spent several minutes dealing with stomach cramps, and contemplating the myriad ways she could rid herself of them before her date. Simply thinking the words gave her a gooshy feeling that overrode discomfort, so she focused on picking out an appropriate outfit that might insight her White Knight to let down his guard.

It didn't relieve the sexual tension that had steadily increased over the course of the day, but ransacking her wardrobe did waste another hour. In the end, she chose a halter-style top of gold lame with her black leather skirt. Fred had squirmed watching her try on the skirt, saying how 'good girls don't dress like that', but it clung to every curve and was butter soft. She'd even found a short bolero jacket that matched, and would look perfect over her top.

A glance at the clock told Leigh that she could safely start getting ready soon. She knew that there were numerous methods for women to satisfy themselves - especially in the shower - but without practical knowledge, she decided to wait after all. Besides, she could always turn on one of her new toys if Xander decided to play difficult again.

Her apologies to both Giles and Xander had taken little effort. She suspected, having lived as a woman for almost a month, that she owed a great deal more to Willow and Buffy. Even Dawn, who had struggled through adolescence during far more dire circumstances but with more grace.

Showered, shaved, and dried, Leigh took her time pinning her hair into place. One of the women from the salon had showed her how to create intricate patterns of braids and curls. Her first official date seemed an appropriate time to test her skills. The end result was looser than she'd expected, but each tendril stayed in place even when she shook her head to the memory of Sid Viscious' greatest hits. As she didn't really have time to start over, it would have to do.

Leather in place, top tied together with a prayer (she felt as if her tits would burst through the slinky material), and comfortably flat shoes, her make-up a touch darker than normal, and she was ready. With a quarter hour to spare. Hell, she hoped Harris would be the punctual type.

Leigh was so wired on nervous energy that the expected knock made her jump. She wanted to race to the door and throw it open, but forced herself to breathe a few times and calmly walk to greet her beau.

The first thought that came to her, as she took in her club-ready date, was 'fuckin hell, he cleans up nice!' It proved to be her second, fourth and fifth thoughts as well. (Third being, 'wonder if he'll let me peel those off'im?')

Xander stepped two feet inside the suite, immediately took her in his arms, and planted a steamy kiss on willing lips. He came up for air at some point, whispering into her ear, "Could hardly wait to see you all day. It was hell leaving last night... don't count on me having the strength to be noble again."

Part Seven

Well folks, we've got a few laughs and some serious junk. Heavy on the schmoop scale. I picture Xander as a really sensative lover (courtesy of too many female friends pounding it into his stubborn male psyche over the years), and Spike's girly emotions arguing with his lust. Together we have the roller coaster of chapters 7 & 8.
Don't shoot the messenger - the voices in my head ganged up on me. Held me at gunpoint even. *cough* yeah.

Umm... also wanna add... I'm really nervous about posting this. Slash I can write, and generally get the details down ok. Het stuff? Never tried before. And before any Spander-nazis start in on me, this *will* turn into real slash eventually. If we can cope with the process of plot development first.

Xander had arranged for reservations at a tiny Indian restaurant halfway between her hotel and the club. His extensive experience with Indian quisine? Asking Leigh to order for them both.

She sat back sipping the last of her spiced tea, once again took in her date's new look. Deep brown slacks cut close to his body, outlining every shift and flex of muscle. She'd had to wipe her chin from drooling after watching him bend down to retrieve his dropped keys. A cream colored, brushed silk shirt with some muted abstract design in emerald and garnet clung to his chest, and he must've enjoyed it as much as she by the tight raised nipples she could see through the thin fabric. He hadn't bothered with his hair, not that she minded - it suited him, the fallen out of bed look.

As a couple, they created a striking picture. She couldn't help imagining how they'd look in less formal surroundings. Her bed, or his, she wasn't terribly particular at that point. A flood of heat warmed her from head to toe, bringing a flush to her skin.

"Hey, you ok there?" Xander's large hand covered hers, and he dragged their chairs closer together.

"Yeh, just... that hormone thing." Fuck, she was starting to sound like Dawn now. "Shouldn't we be leaving soon? Don't want to miss the warm-up." Even to her own ears, that was lame.

Giving her a curious look, Xander stood and held out her chair. "We've got time, and it won't kill us to walk the rest of the way. Nice evening, good company." He smiled down at his date, holding her jacket as she slipped it back on. "Wanna stop for ice cream maybe? I hear they make a chocolate version of it."

She had to react to that. Slapping his arm, Leigh huffed, "Now you're just humoring the emotional chit." Not that she would mind some chocolate, but really, she didn't need anything adding to her arousal. Wasn't chocolate supposed to be an aphrodesiac?

With a snort and raised eyebrows, Xander squeezed her hand. "You seem to forget my own worship of the mighty god cocoa." He paid their bill and opened the door, stepping aside to allow her through first. "Either's fine with me, hun. I'm just enjoying... all of this."

"Yeh, never figured you for easy company. Not like this." She shrugged, then snuggled beneath his arm. "Be a bitch of a joke, wouldn't it? We get together and settle somewhere, then the Powers That Wank turn me back."

Xander laughed loud enough to startle their fellow pedestrians. "Maybe, maybe not. I tried to tell you before, I missed you. And no, can't say there were any romantic notions involved. That doesn't mean that there wouldn't be now. You're looking at a different person, just not as dramatic a change as your own."

Blue eyes darted up to catch his expression, but Leigh saw no sarcasm or mocking. "Really. Must be a story there, luv. The Xander Harris I remember was so straight he'd make Casanova look like a poof."

This time, Xander had to stop walking to hold his sides and not fall over. Leigh counted to twenty before smacking him on the back, but it did nothing to alleviate the fit of mirth.

"Right, what's the joke, Xan? C'mon, I could use a laugh too." She was beginning to get worried - wasn't this the person who reminded her to breathe?

Gulps of air fought for time with short explosions of barking laughter, but he seemed to be winning the war. "It's just... you never heard," snicker, snort, "bout my summer at Oxnard," giggle, "and all the new tricks," gasp, "I learned there."

Ok, more of a story than she'd expected. Directing them toward a nearby bench, she pushed him down and sat on his lap. Hey, she ended up there eventually, might as well jump ahead a few steps. "To steal a phrase from Red, alright spill it, buddy."

Paraphrasing the same speech he'd given his girls so long ago, Xander finally admitted what he'd never told them, ending with: "Didn't just learn how to wiggle my butt while taking off clothes, ok? My eyes opened to... other possibilities. There just wasn't any guy I'd make a pass at back in SunnyD. The best were either taken, likely to kick my ass for suggesting something, or... out of my league."

"Uh huh! Xan, don't ever wanna hear you say that sorta shite." Emphatically denying the prospect, Leigh couldn't forget how often she'd told him basically that, once upon a time. "Any person would be lucky to be with you, ya daft lug." She growled at him, softening it with a quick kiss. "And if I ever said otherwise, just ignore it. Was hard enough to accept charity from humans - I was lashing out with no reason most of the time."

Xander just shrugged. "Leigh. Spike. Fuck, whichever's talking right now. My self-esteem had major problems then, and it isn't much better now. Still, I know when not to bother. It's useless to chase someone who's got their heart set on another person."

Leigh's heart threatened to break. She knew he wasn't necessarily talking about him, but that it *could* have been... "For the best, isn't it? Otherwise I'd have to chase them off to have a chance with ya."

Mood lightened a bit, Xander let himself enjoy his lapful of curvy, cuddly Leigh. "Y'know, last night I had almost convinced myself to bail on meeting you. This adorable little thing passed out, directly in my arms. And you know I'm a sucker for damsels in distress. Was two seconds away from calling in an emergency case of the runs." He snickered and ducked away from the playful punch. "Lucky for me, I didn't have to stand you up, huh?"

"Ya woulda been in a serious world o' hurt, Harris!" Leigh let herself be dragged away from more serious topics. "So, how attached are ya to this band?"

"Eh, they're good, but it's not like this is their final concert." Giving her an exaggerated leer, "Whatcha got in mind, little girl?" He licked from the collar of her jacket up to her ear, nuzzling and nibbling on the tender skin below her lobe.

"MmmMore of that?" Leigh's eyes rolled back in her head, neck thrown back to allow that wicked mouth to do its thing. "You serious about staying the night, luv?"

Xander had found the land of milk and honey - milky skin that tasted of warm honey, the closest he'd ever get to heaven regardless of his history assisting the Slayer. He suckled at her throat, adding to the fading marks from the previous evening.

"Hun, I can't say how things work with women, not for certain. For most guys, a first time is a relief, something to get out of the way almost. But the way Wills and Buffy talked, it made them all tender and emotional and exposed, vulnerable in a way not even superpowers could cover. I just don't want you... resenting that, or me for making you feel it."

Leigh's female hormones melted at her lover's thoughtfulness, even as Spike's snarkiness roared in laughter at the shmaltz lying in its own stink. "S'the fanciest line I've ever heard, pet. Not saying it ain't true, but let's get with the shaggin, yeh?"

He stopped the productive exploration, looking closely at his partner. "And hello, bleached menace. All the new sweetness was beginning to make me paranoid." Still stroking his hands along her back, beneath the jacket to bare skin, Xander tilted his head. "Not that I haven't slept with schitzophrenics before, but it'd be nice to know sometime between now and getting our clothes off."

"Ta know what, luv?"

"Whether you're gonna turn into split personalities on me. While I'm in you even. Would be one helluva shock, y'know?"

"Mmm, or it could add some spice." She tried pressing her face into his neck, but Xander pulled her chin up. "Xan, it's all me. That's what I think you keep forgetting. Not even the battle tween soul an demon, yeh? Only me, in this mixed up body. Guess it's not so wonky though, cus it's only wanted *you*. Hear that, whelp? Of all the people I've come into contact with since being brought back, you're the only person that sets me on fire." He blinked down at her, not dodging when Leigh's lips softly touched his. "Want you to burn me up, Xan. Don't matter which bits I've got, wouldn't matter bout yours either. Just want this. Us." She pressed her mouth to Xander's again, initiating a hard wet kiss, then breaking off when he began to reciprocate. "Can we *please* get with the shaggin now?" And the whine was pure Spike.

Laughing out his tension, Xander stood and cradled his blond burden close to his chest. "I think we can arrange something, since you asked so nicely." With one last peck to the tip of Leigh's nose, he headed back toward the hotel.

~ *~

Regardless of its ancient tradition for being staid and strict in following tradition, London had become a fairly progressive town. If not, the snuggling couple would have been taken in for lewd public behavior long before they reached Leigh's suite. Clothes remained (basically) where they belonged, but not for lack of exploratory groping on both sides. They did manage to scandalize a grey-haired matron on the lift, snickering at her loud and frequent 'harrumph's.

Opening the door, Leigh found herself caught up in giggles that just refused to stop. Poor Xander had to kiss her quiet, then kiss her again (just because) before asking, "What's with the snickers, hun?"

She helplessly pointed toward the coffee table, chuckling even as she explained. "This afternoon. Manager thought I had someone else living here. Cus the kitchen staff told him how much I ate. Put his arse in its place."

Xander took a moment to follow her gesture, and goggled at the *enormous* basket of fruit and chocolates that covered the long table. At one end was a double bucket with ice and two bottles of very nice champagne. He grinned, crinkling the skin around his eye. "Well, that helps with my plan to seduce this gorgeous blond I picked up last night."

"Hmm, got competition, do I?" She nipped at his neck, enjoying the ripple of his chest muscles reflexively tensing. "Let's see what I can do about that."

Allowing her to slither to her feet, Xander could only stand back and watch as shoes and jacket were dropped behind the couch. Rounded breasts, that he knew from experience would fill his hands perfectly, bounced beneath shimmering gold material. With every move she made, it flowed against her curves, shadowing and hinting at what lay beneath. The skirt he had admired all evening hugged her slim waist and lush hips, and he longed to grab hold, pull her tight against his body.

Leigh gasped at the perverse thrill she felt at being the cause of such high arousal. She took slow steps back toward her friend, soon to be lover, watching with great interest how his pants tightened at each sway of her hips. It was a heady sensation, this power over such a strong-willed man.

"You just gonna stand there all night, Xan?" Her words broke through his attentive stare. In two long strides, he had her back in his arms. "Much better, luv. Think we can grab a bottle and some glasses, move this to the bedroom maybe?" Silently, he did as suggested, ushering her along with a firm grip.

Only after the door closed behind them and a bedside lamp was turned on did he speak. "Want to see you, watch your face when I make love to you." He leant down and captured her lips, sucking and licking his way inside.

Passion she knew, but this went beyond such simple feelings. Xander was sucking her soul out through her mouth. No, she corrected that thought while she was still capable, he was dancing with her soul, leading it in a complicated tango of eroticism. None of her previous lovers had enjoyed kissing much, regardless of her attempts at showing them how much fun it could be. But this battered mortal treated the practice much as Leigh did - as an intimacy that could communicate more emotions than mere words. She felt what he couldn't bear to say aloud, and returned the same message. There would be no more waiting, neither could last without this contact.

Xander loved to kiss. With each of his girlfriends, it was often the only means he had of sexual release, and one of the most reliable methods of relaying his feelings. Unfortunately for him, Cordy had taken it for granted, Faith couldn't be bothered, and Anya just thought it was foreplay. But here, this marvelous little lady, she understood. And so what if beneath these wonderful breasts was the psyche of a former vampire? He'd lived through worse, and enjoyed most of it. Leigh's responses thrilled him, knowing that she was on the same wave length and every bit as ready.

"Clothes off. Now!" She plucked at buttons, sucking red marks down his chest with each newly exposed inch of flesh.

"Gods yes," he moaned, thankful that her top tied together, easily undone. The slinky fabric slithered over her breasts, crinkling her nipples as it flowed across them. "So beautiful, hun."

Lifting her off the floor, Xander buried his face in her chest, slowly brushing his cheeks against the tender cleavage. He peppered soft kisses across the rounded mounds, settling on one to lick and nibble. When his lips closed around a tight nipple, Leigh cried out, nearly throwing herself out of his grasp.

"Shh, you've got to relax, sweetheart. Don't wanna drop you, might spoil the mood." Xander returned to kissing random spots on her chest, down the smooth plane of her stomach. "Still too many clothes on," he grumbled, letting her slide down his body til she could safely regain her footing.

Glazed blue eyes opened at the loss of those miraculous lips. Since adopting this body, she had discovered how sensative it was. Or thought she'd done. Leigh saw the brunet through new eyes now, as experienced lover. Where they both had practice at pleasuring the female body, she'd never thought much how it felt for the positions to be reversed. She felt a rush of thanks that this man would be the first to show her what her new form was capable of.

While Leigh was stuck in deep contemplation, Xander was busy following orders. He pulled his new shirt - bought just for tonight's date - over his head, tossing it at the dresser. Without looking to see if he'd hit his mark, he toed off both shoes and socks. He hesitated before removing his slacks, then shrugged, figuring that she'd already seen it. And dealt with her own hard-on poking holes in boxers, not the most erotic sight. Admittedly, an erection was flattering to the recipient, but he always felt a bit ridiculous standing around with a boner rubbing wet smears inside his shorts. Xander spared a glance at his girl, and his breath caught at the expression of hunger on her beautiful face.

She tried to swallow out of reflex, but found her mouth too dry. "Where'd you steal the body, Harris? I'd remember seeing this if you'd had it when we lived together." She really should try that breathing thing again. Something must be going wrong, right? He took a step toward her, and Leigh felt her knees buckle. "Xan...?"

"This is definitely becoming a habit, hon. Not that I mind," quickly reassuring her, Xander caught the blond before her legs gave out. "Why do you think there's something going wrong?" He had an idea, having dealt with a certain former vengeance demon, but wanted verification.

"I'm hot, but... not. Can't breathe right either. And looking at you makes it harder." Bewildered eyes, sparkling in arousal and confusion, begged him for answers. "Dunno how birds cope with this mess. A man's got all his feelings in his prick, yeh? This is... everywhere at the same time. Feels like I could climax to my toes."

He gently petted her hair away from her face. "Uh huh, tell me more, sweetheart. I wanna know the difference."

"Your touch- Hell, it's like playing with those electric balls at that Spencer's store, yeh? The ones where little jolts of light follows your fingers? Every place you touch feels like that, but with all 'lectric tingles on my skin." She was mezmerized by the stroking motion, continuing in a daze, "Where your lips touch me, it's like I'm burstin into flames that keep burnin but never into ash, and it makes me want more."

"Sounds complicated." Xander let his hands slowly meander from cupping her face, down neck and across shoulders, massaging each inch he passed. "Guys usually have it all focused in their pants. At least that's what I've heard." He grinned, not admitting any bi-play. "Anything else?"

Leigh licked her lips, trying for more moisture. "Yeh, lots more. I... have this craving, a deep need, and it's so powerful it's scary. I'm so empty, Xander, an I know how to fix that, but just the feelin's the scariest part. Like I'm an unfinished project, an only you can make me whole. But then I know, once we're done, I'll be missin it again."

She sounded so lost, forlorn - a word Xander had heard a few times, but had never been able to put into context. He didn't know how to solve the problem other than the obvious, and she didn't seem ready for that step. "Hun, it's your call. We can't stay 'connected' forever, but that doesn't mean you won't ever feel whole. And how corny did that sound." He leant forward and placed his lips against her brow. "Whatever you want, I'll be here, ok?"

"Feckin hell, Harris! All these damned feelins runnin round inside. How do women do it? I'm in hell." She felt like crying, screaming, maybe cursing even. It couldn't get her in deeper trouble with the Powers than she was already in.

"Oh babe, this isn't hell. No more than any other day, right?" Edging his way over to the bed, Xander pulled them both down, with Leigh taking up her position on his lap. "Hey, maybe this isn't supposed to be a *bad* thing. Think about it, sweetheart," he pulled her chin up, making sure she was looking at his face, "As intense as you're feeling everything now, consider how strong your orgasms are gonna be. Rrowr!" He wiggled his eyebrows, mock-leering until she admitted a shaky grin and slapped his arm.

"Ya dozy bugger, makin fun o' me mortal fears. Insensitive lout, 's what you are." Still, she felt better, some of the tension leaving with the return of humor. "Y'always could make me laugh, Xan. Missed that alot." Rapidly replacing panic, Leigh's body melted against his chest. "Mmm, nice chest, strong and warm and wide."

Xander snickered, cuddling his bundle of fluff. "No going to sleep on me, little lady," and if his Western accent lacked authenticity, it made his lover smile. "Seriously, do you want sleep now? We can curl up and-"

"Xan, if you finish that, I'm gonna have to bite you." Leigh propped herself up on both elbows, making sure to dig them into his pectoral muscles. "This is just... intermission, yeh? Was a bit overwhelming, an not knowin what to expect didn't help none. You'll go slow an easy, right? I... I trust ya, Xander."

Another serious moment crying out for comic relief. "Ouch, that musta hurt." Quickly kissing away the frown, "Hey, I understand what you're saying, and don't think I'm not interested, cus you can feel how much I want you. But I gotta make sure. No regrets, for either of us."

Making up her mind to just do it, Leigh sought his lips and tried to convey how very much she wanted to continue their interrupted lovemaking. "Right, no regrets. Still want you too, never stopped. Just got - as you Scoobies would say - wigged out." She slid along his body til they were limb to limb, lying her head atop his heart. The steady beat soothed the last of her nerves. "Make love to me, now Xan?"

He felt every tiny tremor in her body as she stated her request. "Gladly, m'lady." It had been years since the last time he'd enjoyed that 'first exploration' with a new lover, and Anya was hardly timid about what she him to put his hands or mouth. Many a dream had featured his ideals, replacing the cold reality of how it really happened with the tender fantasy of passion. This he could offer, the sort of introduction to mutual physical pleasure that he'd always hoped to have.

The removal of her skirt and his shorts was... anti-climactic, in comparison to their earlier fevered movements. She ended up beneath Xander, lying open and wanting with his body covering hers. The sensuous slide of skin on skin made Leigh sigh in relieved pleasure. In the pale lamp light, his eye glistened with emotion, creased at the edges by a smile.

Grinning up at Xander's open face, she snickered and asked in her worst mockney accent, "Hey baby, fancy a shag?"

She didn't stand a chance of dodging the fingers aimed at her ribcage.

Part Eight

Xander's personality centered on his ability to laugh in any situation. He had been forced, with each of his previous lovers, to supress his humor after the foreplay began. With something close to awe, he reveled in trading tickle fighting for swift kisses and playful nips. Leigh met each attack and countered with her own attempts, and she seemed to enjoy the same childlike enthusiasm in keeping their antics light. He knew things would turn more serious soon, but vowed to draw out the laughter as long as possible. He dodged her hands each time they made a grab at his, not allowing his feather-light touches to be deterred.

She couldn't breathe again, but at least this time she could pinpoint the cause. "Xan!" her voice shrill and gasping for air, "c'mon Xan, can't breathe, lemme up!" If she could just get a hand free...

All at once, his torment stopped, a stormy brown taking in her state of distress. "Maybe you've had enough, huh?" A mischievous smile began to form, and Leigh's brain called for yellow alert. Both her hands were held above her head, and his gaze caught the picture of her, bound for his desire. "Wanna see you tied up in soft silk scarves, helpless to do anything but lay there and let me bring you to pleasure over and over again. Think I could spend hours worshipping your lovely body without repeating a single spot? Yeah, definitely. You gonna let me do that, hun?"

A soft whine of sheer need was all she could offer in reply, arching her breasts up toward him. A spark of memory dragged up from somewhere reminded her that while men responded more to visual stimuli, women were affected by sounds and words. And christonapogostick that was so true - his descriptions burned in her brain, burned into her nerves. All she could do was *want*, and pray he'd understand and do something about it.

"Mmm sweetheart, you're so gorgeous, y'know that? Skin flushed and damp, wanna lick you all over. And watchin your lovely tits rise and fall while you pant for me... such a turn-on." Xander's mouth opened, telegraphing his intent as his face lowered to her chest. The instant his tongue touched her nipple, Leigh screamed with the sharp pulses of moisthotneed that shot out from that one point of contact, spreading down her spine and straight to her untried sex.

Voice husky and deep, he breathed across the moist tip, "Would ya let me do that for you, hmm? Show you what this lovely body can feel?" Xander took the crinkled bud between his teeth, rasping across it gently. He paused and found her watching his every move. Mr Perceptive made a reappearance. "Spike..." She shivered, a full-body tremble beneath him. "Let me give this to you, ok?"

None of the small handful of people who knew of his return had truly accepted one major fact: Leigh was a fiction to appease the world's strictures of gender-based names - inside the delicate curves and sweet face was the total personality of a 120 plus year old *man*, being forced to adapt through the mood swings and emotional luggage of a woman's hormonal urges. But Xander was speaking to that huge part of him, pulling him back from the role he'd begrudgingly accepted.

"All of me, Xan. Show me," voice every bit as husky as the brunet's, Leigh/Spike lay waiting for her lover to fulfill his promise.

A swift smile before his lips covered hers in a wet kiss that seemed to say 'Hey, I know you, and aren't we having a great time?' Xander released her hands, briefly pressing them into the pillow. "Leave them here, k? We'll get to the audience participation part later, for now just... let me."

She moaned against his lips, then grumbled when they were taken away. Before she could complain about the loss, his tongue ran up and down her throat, nibbling along straining muscle in a meandering line down toward her chest. Large hands cupped her breasts to hold them into place, pushing nipples toward each other. This position allowed him to quickly suck one after the other, the sensations blending until it felt as if both buds were in his mouth at the same time.

"So responsive, shoulda known. You always were a junkie for physical stuff, weren't ya? Gods, you're addictive." He thoughtfully chewed at her left tit, sucking roughly enough to leave marks under the fullest part. "Bet you're going nuts holding back too. Just a few more minutes, sweetheart. Then you can join the fun."

Fun? Fuck, if it got any better, she'd surely explode into more messy, tiny pieces than that damned amulet did. Every nerve in her body sent signals of 'now's a grand time to overload' to her lower abdomen, to that place she still hadn't had the chance to explore.

"Mmm, bet you're ready for a little relief though." Hands left her breasts, smoothing over her ribs and down to pull her things apart. "Spread for me, lovely. Gonna show ya what I've learned..."

This was important, she knew... but the connection didn't click. She followed instructions, knowing only that to do so would prolong the searing pleasure.

"Fuckin hell, you're so beautiful, Leigh. Spike, wish you could see this." A single finger traced along flooded labia. "You're so wet, coating these puffy lips. Can't wait to taste ya." So saying, Xander laid his head against her thigh, breathing deeply of the musky scent of aroused female. For him, it was the most intoxicating aroma, made even better because it was all for him. He rubbed his cheek across the smooth skin of her hip, placing open-mouthed kisses atop the golden fluff of pubic curls.

She remembered this feeling - not able to breathe, burning scorching need that took over such involuntary reflexes. Her vision started to grey out, and she wanted to say 'stop just a minute, let me find my brain please', then Xander's genius of a tongue flicked across the wet folds that hid her deepest ache and all such silly thoughts of stopping fled unvoiced. Her body had to suck in a gulp of air just to moan, so it evened out anyways and thank you please never stop doing *that*.

There are times when snickering at your lover is a Very Bad Idea, but Xander couldn't help himself. Leigh's unconscious stream of babble was a wonderful boost to his ego, plus having the additional bonus of keeping him updated on what turned her on. His tongue dipped and dived, tasting the various crevices, drinking a generous serving of her juices. He'd always enjoyed the flavor, and Leigh's was clean and crisp. With a mental smirk, he 'accidentally' brushed her clit with his nose, and found his head stuck in the vice of her thighs.

"FUCK! Xan, please do that again!" Logically, she knew she had the parts, but to actually experience how incredibly sensative it was...

Smothered words, "Hun, I'd love to. But you gotta relax your legs or I'll suffocate, alright?"

Uh, legs. Face between legs. Keep face between legs? Face must breathe too? Oh, right.

"That's right, sweetheart. Face has to suck air before it can suck you."

Ah, makes sense. Maybe we can come to a compromise - long as you keep sucking, I'll try not to smother ya.

Xander snickered into her dripping lips - incidentally vibrating them, not that she was complaining about *that* - then gave up his slow torment. "Try to keep your legs spread wide for me, ok hun? I'll be able to do this for a good long time as long as I can breathe." With that promise reverberating through her wonked higher brain functions, he curled his tongue around her clit and *sucked*. His arms wrapped around Leigh's legs, holding her lower body in place, else she might very well have flown off the bed.

Replacing one hand with his shoulder, Xander wiggled his fingers toward her slit. He had a suspicion that, being a brand new female body, there might well be another barrier to burst. He honestly didn't want to cause any pain, but... "Taste so sweet. Wanna spend days here, tween your legs with my face buried." His mouth returned to suckle and caress her hooded bundle of nerves, hoping to distract her from what his fingers had to do. He was grateful that she produced sufficient juices to ease the entry.

Spike vaguely remembered his prostate. Fun toy, but he was lucky it'd ever been touched (considering how selfish a bedmate that jackarse Angelus was). Prostate stimulation had nothing on this! She wanted to thrash and twist and grind against that wonderful mouth promising and providing such exquisitely painful pleasure. And then, it got better. The emptiness was fading, something filling it, wiggling inside her core and stretching her open. Maybe she could forgive the Powers after all, as long as she never had to leave this bed again.

Shit, oh well... he'd figured as much, and there was nothing else to do but break it. Lifting his lips, Xander quickly reassured, "Don't worry, sweetheart, not stopping. Just gonna tell you sorry now, and then we'll make you feel better."

It didn't make sense, but as long as he put his mouth back *there*, she'd forgive him anything. Then Leigh felt a second finger joining the first, pushing deeper and pressing against something. Before she could formulate a question, that deviously talented tongue began drilling a rapid-fire tempo against her clit, and her world exploded in technicolor fireworks. She barely acknowledged the twinge of something inside giving way around his invasive fingers.

Thank the gods that worked, Xander breathed a sigh of relief. It had been a calculated risk, timing her orgasm with puncturing her hymen. And as long as he didn't push too hard, she should be ready again soon. With one edge of the rumpled comforter, he cleaned up the few drops of blood he'd caused, then kissed his way back up her body.

Leigh floated on a sea of endorphines, basking in the afterglow, thoroughly enjoying her first climax as a woman - and questioning why she'd bitched about her female body. She remembered orgasms as a man. The good, bad and mediocre. It was all centralized, a driving force to fuck into something till the body spasmed in one great sneeze of cum. This woman thing... she'd joked earlier about feeling it to her feet, but that wasn't a lie. Hell, it felt like here eyelashes were quivering from the aftershocks. So absorbed in taking stock of her state of euphoric self, she completely missed the clean-up, or the cause for it.

She couldn't miss the set of warm, slippery lips that nibbled on her own, begging her to join the party. "Mmm, s'wonderful, luv. Thank you." Limp arms came up around Xander's shoulders, loosely pulling him down to cover her suddenly cold body. They exchanged soft kisses, while she tried to restart her brain. There was something she should do, if she could only remember...

He tried to keep his erection away from its prefered target. Most of the women he'd been with didn't want a reminder of his needs until they were ready for a second round, so Xander tried to squash the pressure in his balls with images of dead kittens and Giles' daily demon-ographic reports. Besides, kissing was good. And kissing these sweet lips was its own level of paradise.

They spent several languid minutes in the soft slide of lips, and Leigh couldn't remember ever having felt so replete. The fire had been damped, temporarily, but she could feel it building again. This time, she wouldn't be so terrified of her body's demands. She undulated beneath Xander's sturdy frame, relishing the tingles of contact with his chest, hips, his legs settled between hers... And that's when memory kicked in.

"Oh Xan, I'm so sorry! You haven't-"

"Shh, don't worry bout me for now, k? Told ya, let me lead this time." Xander didn't want her to rush things. He had plenty of practice at pacing himself, even if Anya had been gone awhile. "We'll do more when you're ready, but no rush, darlin."

Spike had had a handful of partners, but each were impatient. He'd never had to hold off for long before sinking into them - usually at their insistance. Tears of something akin to gratitude formed in her eyes, knowing that her partner would let her choose the pace. The thought also threw kindling on that slow burn, pushing it back to a roaring blaze. "Ready now, luv. Show me the rest, yeh?" She twisted her hips, searching for where he'd tucked that lovely hard cock, purring in female satisfaction at his groan when her leg brushed against it.

"Not gonna ask if you're sure, sorry." He shifted up her body a few inches, eye rolling back into his head when the crown of his erection found Leigh's entrance. "Let me know if you get sore or-"

"Hey Xan, shut up and put your dick to use." Rolling her hips up, the first inch of his hard-on pressed past her lips. All she could do was moan at the series of tremors that shot up her spine.

He laughed shakily, grasping at humor to calm himself a bit. "And they say romance is dead." Another inch in, and he fought to breathe. He'd never taken a virgin to his bed - he couldn't count Anya, even with all the years between her human lives she was hardly an untried body. Leigh shifted again, and he slipped halfway inside. "Fuck, be still a minute, will ya? Cus damn, you're tight. Don't want this to be over too soon."

Smugly, she admitted that her earlier feelings of being empty weren't far off the mark. Oh she felt stretched, sure, but it was a comforting sensation. Every pulse of his thick length inside her shot tingles down to her toes. If she could just convince him to *move*, things would get better.

Xander could see the wheels turning in the blond's mind. He wasn't terribly worried, but it did call for diversionary tactics. Taking a slow breath, he pushed his hips forward, embedding himself the rest of the way inside her slick (fuck, so tight!) hole. Her reaction was more than satisfactory. Blue eyes crossed and rolled back til he could only see the whites, her body motionless and waiting for him to edge them closer to completion.

Spike's inner control freak screamed at her body to take control back from the youngster that dared taunt with such pleasure. Leigh's body, however, decided to lay back and let herself be led, used and adored by this sweet and careful lover. The demon grumbled but couldn't deny how wonderful everything felt.

With his lover relaxed, Xander lifted her legs and wrapped them around his waist. "Be more comfortable for you this way." He pressed their bodies close, stealing a long kiss, then pulled almost all the way out. "Gotta keep it slow or you'll be sore as hell tomorrow." And then, finally, he shifted into a torturously slow pistoning, rubbing across her clit, marking her inner walls with scorching strokes. He reveled in putting such a rapturous expression on Leigh's face, and redoubled his efforts at bringing her the most pleasure possible.

Pierced and stripped completely bare, she'd never felt such intimacy with another being. Leigh was on the verge of tears - again - when her darling's lips descended to nip and pluck at her aereola. Her overtaxed mind couldn't choose which sensation to focus on, splitting her attention and dragging out the divine torture. Tiny whimpers escaped her lips, her slim hands clutching Xander's head against her breast.

He held a tight reign on his body's demands to plunder the deliciously tight sheath spread and wet for his taking. Yet it had been so long since he'd allowed himself the release of sharing pleasure with another person, and soon he gave up any attempts at drawing out their activities. "Sorry, won't last much longer. Want to feel you cum around me first. Getting close, sweetheart?"

She could only nod, her neck feeling loose so she must look like a marionette. Xander's mouth had produced a volcanic eruption of white-hot pleasure, but his cock... that lovely thick piece of flesh... it rammed straight up to her throat, forcing her moans to come out as choked sobs. How could she possibly survive such a tumult of sensation? Even as she thought the question, a far-off star began a slow explosion, setting off a brilliant nova in her core that quickly spread throughout her body. Head thrown back, spine arched and thighs clamped tight around her lover's hips, Leigh rode the waves of ultrasonic vibration (the demon mentally smirking at her use of sci-fi metaphors) until blackness swallowed her up.

Xander watched with deep interest as orgasm claimed his lovely bedpartner again. Choosing to forgo his training under a certain ex-demon, he let himself go even while tight muscles sucked the seed from his dick. Leigh's face was a symphony of surprised delight, and she smiled up at him... before passing out.

He had to laugh - after checking to make sure she was still breathing, of course. "Haven't screwed anyone into unconsciousness in a long time. But maybe you've got the right idea, cus I could use a nap myself." Xander rearranged their positions so that he was still inside her, holding her safe spooned within his arms. He doubted his hard-on would be ready to go away any time soon. The instant attraction he'd felt for this little blond bundle of energy hadn't lessened a bit, if anything growing stronger.

Softly kissing her shoulder, he pulled the sheet over them. Just before letting sleep claim him, he whispered, "G'night Spike."

Part Nine

Stretching muscles long unused, Xander felt completely justified in wearing a wide, self-satisfied smirk. And so what if Anya might be cursing him from her afterlife - not every lover demanded multiple orgasms with each hard-on. Leigh hadn't seemed to mind so much. Smirk turned into a gentle smile, his lips sought the blond head at his chin. A movement from the slim body in his arms broke Xander from his thoughts. He tightened his hold into a firm hug, and softly said, "Sleep well, sweetheart?"

With catlike grace, the blond arched back into him. Arms slithered up to enfold Xander's neck, drawing him toward a sideways kiss. "Can't remember the last time I passed out from sex, luv. Was bloody incredible, thank you." Two pairs of bruised lips met in a gentle play of greeting.

Something strange (relatively speaking) dragged Xander's brain up from its half-sleepy state. While thoroughly enjoying luxurious kisses with his partner, he reran the past few minutes. 'Sleep well?' 'Yes, thank you.' Kissage began. What was wrong with this picture? The answer struck him like a ten-ton feather. "How ya feeling, Spike?" He tried with all his might *not* to tense at the realization.

Sated, thoroughly and deliciously satisfied. He couldn't remember the last time his body had hummed on such a frequency after making love. All he wanted now was another half hour cuddling with his lover, then maybe some food and more sex. Not necessarily in that order. It took a moment for him to catch what Xan had said to him. Him? Riiiiiight.

"Er, eep?" The blond made no move to push away from the warm arms so carefully holding him, but Spike's body prepared for a speedy departure in case of panic. Whether his or Xander's, he couldn't say. "Don't look at me, mate, I don't have a feckin clue."

He couldn't help it, really. Watching Spike's eyes grow to anime-sized proportions was just hysterical. Xander pushed his face into the crook of a pale neck, trying to stiffle the giggles before someone's recently returned male ego got smooshed. And that thought certainly didn't help calm his inappropriate sense of humor either. He snorted, turning a chuckle into an explosion of barking laughter.

"Hey now! I should take offense... for something... right? Fuck me runnin sideways, don't think me brain's shifting back to male mode yet." Whacking the shaking brunet's head felt good. Productive even. "Told ya, the Powers have it in for me. Had just gotten used to ya, now we'll be back to buddies or you'll wanna never talk to me again. Dammit-"

"Blondie," Xander began, his humor fading when faced with his lover's mood, "told you earlier, it didn't matter to me. I'm not the same narrow-minded moron you once knew, ok? This is - new and different, true. Might wanna give me an hour to assimilate the latest info, but... I wasn't lying when I said I like *you*. It's not your fault if this body isn't as cuddlesome as your alter-ego."

He knew the whelp was trying to push him out of a sulk. Of course his words were intended to provoke a reaction. And that's what they got. Spike narrowed his eyes, carefully considered his best course of action, and sprung in a move so fast Xander only saw a pale blur.

Flat on his back with a different blond straddled across his lap, Xander couldn't see how he was in any worse state than before. His eyebrow raised, his hands moved to frame (much skinnier) hips, he snickered at the look of righteous indignation from his lover. "You really weren't paying attention, were you."

"An just whatinhell was I supposed to use for attention gathering? Ya sucked me brains out through..." caught in memory, Spike's nostrils flared and his eyes dilated

"Mmhmm, and you tasted wonderful. Better than the most expensive chocolate even." Xander tried to hold off the physical reaction brought on by his own memories, but it was a losing battle. His cock twitched beneath firm buttocks, bouncing happily in greeting at their new playmates.

A dark chuckle, much deeper than hours before. "Yeh, guess ya aren't so unaffected after all." Grinding his arse across the firm length, Spike's body rose to catch up. "My turn, ain't it?"

Marathon sex wasn't unknown to him, having survived and satisfied Anya's enormous appetites often enough. So Xander gave a mental shrug to the mild shock of having his bedmate changing fun bits before round two could start. He ran through a list of 'damn, wish I'd had time to', only halfway listening to the baritone trying to claim his full attention.

One thing Spike really hated was being ignored. He had to allow the mortal a minute or two to get a grip of the situation... in theory. In practice, he wanted to reciprocate every tender touch he'd been given, and he wanted it NOW. "Time's up, luv. Now you just lay back and think of pretty English blonds, let ol' Spike show ya how the other half lives, yeh?"

Reaching over the side of the bed, he located a brown shopping bag, making a note to exchange a few items for their male counterparts. Later. For now, all he needed was a tube of lubricant. And thank the Powers he'd thought of picking some up. He placed it within arm's reach, then shifted so his face was inches from his lover's.

"Last chance ta say no, Xan. Really wanna do this." He leant forward, barely brushing their lips together, to finish his 'warning' against a warm mouth, "Ya gonna let me have ya?"

If he'd expected fear at the thought of losing the last of his virginity, Xander wasn't disappointed by its absence. He stretched his neck up that last bit, forcing hard contact between their mouths in a deep, wet kiss. Breaking off for air, he gasped, "Yeah, your turn, sweetheart. Show me."

Permission granted, Spike wasted no time in learning the brunet's body as his female form had been mapped. It was a relevation, this open access from an enthusiastic, giving partner. He'd always suspected that his previous lovers were less interested in offering pleasure than in receiving, but now that he knew... And a little Zeppo shall lead the way. He snickered against a throbbing pulse point before sinking human teeth into Xander's neck, chewing lightly when he heard a gasped 'fuck yes!'

Tweaking tiny brown nipples, he nibbled across trembling shoulders. His every touch seemed to only increase the tremors until he worried that the poor human might fall to pieces. By the time his tongue delved into Xander's navel, the brunet was openly pleading for mercy. Spike felt a spark of anger that none of the unworthy chits who'd enjoyed his lovely boy's lovemaking had ever returned his selfless attentions.

"Gods, Spike, gonna explode if you don't do *something* soon!" Xander was at the end of his rope. Never before had he been treated so... reverently. It struck him as beyond bizaar that only a demon had bothered worshipping his body as if he were a precious holy relic. "Please sweetheart..."

"Shh, just trying ta show ya how you made me feel, yeh?" Tongue thrusting suggestively into his lover's belly button, Spike knew he was on borrowed time. Like he had felt only a couple hours ago, so much concentrated effort directed at virgin territory was causing a system overload. And he really wanted to know where the hell all those stupid geek phrases came from. "Open up for me, luv. Just try to relax, an let me make ya feel good."

Xander's eye opened - he didn't remember it closing, but since his brain hadn't been working up to speed lately, he just shrugged the question away - and he looked down into sparkling blue eyes. Pure affection aimed straight at his heart in that one, simple gaze. He might not be a genius, but he wasn't stupid enough to turn down the unspoken offer. Raising his knees, he let his legs fall open, leaving him spread and feeling strangely vulnerable. He pictured how Spike had felt before, writhing from sensations in places he shouldn't have, and whatever feelings of dread might have reared their ugly voices just... fell into oblivion.

"All yours, hun." His voice cracked, and he coughed to clear his throat. "Trust you too, Spike."

The blond's lungs evacuated of all air, and he had to remind his body that it wasn't a necessary commodity. Speechless, Spike shifted til he lay nestled between tanned legs, his face hovering above the length that had brought him to such heights only a short time ago. He kept his eyes on Xander's face as his tongue flickered across the weaping crown, and he purred at the strong taste of his lover's desire. For him. All for him.

That babbling part of Xander's brain that kept up a running commentary of nonsense decided to inform him how much cooler the blond's mouth felt now. He agreed, trying to humor it. It countered with images of what else that mouth could be doing to him. He blinked, considered, reconsidered, and decided he approved. Mental debate at a standstill, he moaned and spread his legs farther apart, thrusting up and away from Spike's talented tongue.

Spike had never considered himself brilliant, except in reading his lovers. It was clear that the brunet wanted his mouth somewhere else, and with a little imagination (that had his demon howling in glee) he sucked a swollen ball into his mouth. The other received its share of attention, even as Xander's hips lifted further off the mattress. Then it clicked, and Spike scrambled to locate a pillow, shoving it beneath his beauty's arse and diving between rounded cheeks.

Each touch of his blond's lips and tongue brought sounds of approval from his disconnected vocal chords. Xander didn't even care what he might say at that point, as long as Spike never stopped. And it just kept getting better, his cock and balls suckled til he was ready to burst. But no, the main event wouldn't be as much fun without his partner's full participation. And yes, folks, vamp speed has many uses outside the bedroom too. He should have anticipated it, but the introduction of a tongue to his puckered hole still made him scream. In a manly way.

Dragging his face away from Xander's arse, Spike chuckled at his darling boy. "Yes, luv, ya scream real manly. Now how bout holdin yer legs open for me, yeh? Wanna get a better look atcha."

The request made sense, and didn't make him feel nearly as uncomfortable as he'd expected. Probably because, before he had the chance to turn it over in his muddled brain, Spike's tongue pierced through the tight ring of his asshole. After that, all Xander's mental voices voted on shutting up and letting the blond have his way. The silence was golden - it let him focus on the million nerve endings he'd never known he had, that Spike seemed to understand cus he kept twisting and swirling his tongue (gonna have to give it a medal for performance above and beyond the call of duty) and wasn't that just fuckin perfect.

It took every bit of Spike's considerable willpower to keep him from cracking up, listening to his human talking to himself. The blond vaguely remembered doing the same thing a few times recently, which helped strangle his laughter before it could interrupt his oral exploration. Hot, tight and clutching, he wanted nothing more than to bury his cock in that wonderful hole... and he would, soon enough. Just a few more minutes to stretch it open, loosen muscles that didn't know how to accept the intrusion of... He had to stop thinking before he embarassed himself.

"Dammit blondie, you've already got the lube handy. I'm dying up here! Stick your dick up my ass before I forget who's driving this time and jump your scrawny butt."

Well, that certainly helped put things in perspective. He let the laughter out, vibrating his chin between flexing buttocks. The brunet had been paying attention, after all. Slick in hand, Spike squirted a generous amount onto his fingers. He stuck his tongue back inside one last time, kissing Xander's hole lovingly, before replacing it with two fingers. And yes, he was mildly impressed at how easily they slipped in, but he had hardly given the lad much time to think.

Xander could've cried in relief, finally feeling something more substantial slide inside him. He marvelled at himself for not weirding out over the idea of being penetrated, but that concern only lasted long enough for those lovely digits to wiggle around and find his prostate. He was not unfamiliar with the male pleasure gland, although it had been awhile since his had seen any action - Anya had been more concerned with her own orgasms, and playing with his asshole tended to limit her favorite toy's recovery time. Spike curled his fingers and pushed them in a steady in-out rhythm, and Xander decided to turn his brain completely off. This felt too good to waste energy on thinking.

"Glad you agree, luv. Ya ready for me, Xander? Don't wanna hurt ya none, but I'm bout to burst here."

"Oooh yeah, all systems go, Cap'n. Proceed with re-entry on my mark."

Snickering, Spike rolled his eyes, even as he slathered lube along his erection. "Figures yer subconscious voice is a Star Trek geek, Harris. Wanna come back online nuff ta join the party though? We're bout to the good part here."

He hadn't gotten a look at the blond's dick before this began, and Xander wasn't sure if that helped or not now. He felt something round and tipped with moisture poking against his body's exit, and... breathed out. A deep, thorough exhilation. He almost wanted to laugh at the look on Spike's face, when his relaxed muscles seemed to suck the first half of the blond's cock inside in one swift glide.

"Don't blink at me, blondie. Told ya, I picked up a few tricks. Never practiced them, but I did remember, ok?" Xander wiggled his hips an inch or so, adjusting to the incredible fullness of taking the blond's erection into his body. And regardless of his father's loud opinions, he didn't feel any less manly for it. "Whenever you're ready to start, Spike..."

"If yer mouth is still working, I must not be doin this right." Giving an experimental thrust, Spike found himself sliding deeper into the heat of his lover's body. It was still virginal tight, but he quietly applauded his boy for keeping himself relaxed enough to make this painless. He pulled out til only the head of his cock remained inside, then pushed all the way back, angling to hit Xander's pleasure button. He patted himself on the back at the wordless scream he'd provoked. "There, that's a much better look for ya, luv."

Gasping around his heart - which had, at some point between waking and having a hard cock spearing his ass, lodged itself in his throat - Xander managed to stumble over a direct order to "Shut up and fuck me, Spike."

The blond forced his micro-thrusts to halt. Leaning forward, he pressed his lips to his lover's mouth, letting their kiss express what he couldn't name. Hell, it had worked before. He let Xander break for air, whispering against his cheek, "Not gonna fuck ya, Xan. Wanna make love to ya. Just like you did for me, k?"

For several heartbeats, Xander could only stare into guileless blue eyes. He blinked back a light film of moisture, refusing to acknowledge tears of emotion, and nodded at his lover. "Yeah, want that too. All of me, for all of you, right?"

"S'xactly right, luv." Spike joined their mouths again, slipping his tongue into play as his erection slid back inside Xander's body. He couldn't believe how... tender he felt from the act. Almost as emotionally wrenching as when Xander had taken him... and there it was. The exchange of their most personal, guarded selves. He gulped back a moan (that might've resembled a sob, if Spike was capable of something so girly). "Feel so good, just perfect, Xander."

As long as he'd been hard, Xander knew he was close to orgasm. But he didn't want to be alone for it. "You fit so well inside me. Christ, Spike, never knew." Hands scrabbling for purchase, he clawed down the blond's back, leaving red streaks and drawing a howl from his lover.

Demon gold eyes glittered open. His human! With a possessive snarl, Spike thrust faster into that sweet arse, relishing the pleasurepain of his Xander's fingers drawing beads of blood across his shoulders, down his spine.

Had he really believed he couldn't get more turned on? Impossibly, Xander's arousal doubled when his lover shifted into gameface. He, Xander Harris, had caused the Master vampire Spike to lose control. His balls tightened close to his body, and he clenched his ass muscles around his lover's pounding prick. "Cum with me, Spike. Wanna feel you cum in me."

Alright then, no more need to hold back, if Xan's that close. Mouth open to show distended fangs, Spike panted on each thrust, balls bouncing against his lover's delicious arse. And when that same arse gripped his cock in a vice of velvet heat, he threw his head back and howled out his climax, filling his beauty's hole with tepid semen.

Three, four, five more strokes. Five blissful passes of cock against prostate. Xander pulled one hand away from its hold on the blond's shoulder, grabbing his own neglected hard-on. He might later be embarassed by it, but only two firm twists of his wrist - combined with the feeling of cool cum flooding his butt - sent him over the edge. He joined Spike's howl with his own triumphant scream.

Spike was rather proud of himself. Unlike their earlier, reversed position, he didn't quite pass out. Came bloody close, but no one else would know that. He also managed to keep his eyes glued on his darling's face, and the expression of shocked bliss made his gameface flicker back to the fore. He well remembered waking up in Xander's arms, how... grounded, cherished he had felt. His sweet mortal deserved the same consideration. As the brunet's breathing slowly returned to normal, Spike shifted his weight, slowly allowing his relaxed cock to slip out of his lover's body, and maneuvered them around the bed for a better snuggling position.

He was held in such secure arms, however undone Xander felt from their lovemaking, his lover kept him from flitting away. And some part of him (the babbling dufus who spoke in geekspeak) wanted to do just that. He remembered cautioning Leigh about feeling this... exposed, vulnerable. But he'd never expected to have that emotion rampaging through his own psyche. It was peaceful in Spike's embrace - he seemed capable of scaring off any random thought, or at least able to overwhelm it with a thesaurus of kisses. Each joining of their lips spoke a different language, and Xander would happily devote years to the study of Spike kisses.

The blond in question found himself laughing alongside Xanderbabble(TM), enjoying his human's rambling thoughts and the justifications that the brunet used on his mental voices. "Is this a private conversation, luv, or can anyone join?"

"Hmm? Oh sure, come join the party, blondie. One more won't fry my brain. I hope." He waited for the freaking out to start, and was more than a little unnerved when it didn't. Which was as it should be. He'd just given his gay virginity to the bleached menace - this deserved freakage, right?

"Thought you'd quit calling me that, Xan. But you're welcome to 'freak out' only if I can too." Spike waited for Xander's eye to focus. "There's blood on the blanket, luv. That's from me, isn't it?"

The brunet tightened his arms, hugging his lover close. "Yeah, told you I was sorry when it happened."

"Want to tell me what exactly happened, pet?" Spike felt he was being the model of patience. Even if he wanted to pull the explanation out of his darling's beautiful mouth with his claws.

Xander blinked once, twice, then remembered how Leigh had been at the time. "Oh right, you were kinda out of it... I.. uh.. I popped your cherry, Spike. Literally."

As a Master vampire, Spike had no problem with a little blood with his sex, or vice versa. But he had never been a mostly human woman with a fully functional hymen before. He considered his 'feelings', cringing even as he did so, and concluded that Xander had the best mode of dealing with these things. He blinked a few times, then kissed his lover.

"Right. Remind me to steal the covers, Xan. Wanna souvenier." That settled, he was ready for sleep.

"Huh?" But apparently, his darling pet wasn't.

"Tradition, innit? Mornin after the weddin, shows proof that the bride was untouched before hubby broke'er in."

He started counting, and managed to get to five before:

"Wedding. Which one of us is the wife? Cus, well, we both got our cherries popped. Unless we're only counting the literal deflowering, in which case that would mean you wear the skirt, cus I got to keep my bits where they belonged but you've switched at least twice, or once tonight, but that's enough to count you as the wifely party-"

Sleep called, so he did what any intellegent being would. Spike stuck his tongue down his lover's throat, stemming the tidal wave of babble before it could reach epic proportions. He only stopped when Xander's face began changing colors.

"Neither of us is the wife, luv. Vampire here, we aren't exactly suited to the 'holy' state of matrimony. So unless you want to be my consort, we can just shack up somewhere and I'll call ya Martha on alternate Sundays, k?"

And there went the blink again. "Huh. Y'know what's really scary?"

"No, but you're about to tell me anyway, aren't you."

"Uh huh." Another long blink. "What's scary is that... I understood the Martha thing, and... it sounds good to me."

"Huh." Blink from the blond team. "Sounds like we should have a talk over breakfast, eh lover?"

"Yeah. Sleep now, talk and eat after shower."

Spike treated his more agreeable lover to a series of sweet kisses, gentling him to sleep. Only after the mortal's breathing patterns showed him to be completely gone did the blond let himself drift off.

~ * ~

For the first time in his long unlife, Spike woke with a strange sense of hope. Rested and replete, he drew Xander closer with strong arms, replaying the odd dream he'd just had. A visit from the Powers That Be. In a long-winded jumble of implied oxymorons, the general idea came through clear. After some thought. He was always intended to come back in one form or another, originally to be bound by the amulet to Wolfram & Hart (and Angel by proxy). But thanks to his little temper tantrum, they had rerouted the terms of his return to a corporeal form. And if his payment for that was a month spent in a woman's body, he would happily pay it as often as necessary. He'd received his own personal shansu: a lover who would devote as much energy and affection as he needed, who didn't care what the package looked like.

He let a smile of perfect contentment spill across his face as he watched Xander's loving brown eye open, leaning toward him for a good morning kiss. Yeh, unlife was good.

The End

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