This is set roughly 3-1/2 weeks after Xander is cursed in
"Feminine Perspective". He is now a female and is living in an alternate reality. Details of this curse and the AU-world can be found in
"Feminine Perspective" and will make this story easier to understand.
Under Her Skin
Over the years that I've been working with the Slayer and her group I've learned to have a grudging respect for them. I've seen them throw themselves headlong into dangers with mind-boggling enthusiasm and I've watched them place themselves between humanity and the end of the world armed only with sheer determination and hope. At first, I was certain that they would all meet a painful and bloody death every time they headed out...and it wouldn't have bothered me one bit. Over time, I began to realize that it was that sense of hope that pulled them through time and again. Hope...such a simple thing that one can easily overlook. And yet it is so powerful that it can overcome almost any evil if given the chance.
And right now, that's all that my Xan is clinging to; hope.
Hope that her friends will realize that she is, in fact, a man trapped in a woman's body. Hope that the Vengeance Demon Anyanka will relent and lift the curse she's living under. Hope that she will figure out this new world and her place in it before her confusion and clumsiness gets her killed. Hope that she will learn to feel at home here if she can never get home.
Such a simple thing; hope.
When it first became clear that no one believed her about the Vengeance Demon and the gang was pushing the theory about a witch scrambling her memories, Xan refused to accept it. She was adamant that it was a curse by Anyanka that had transformed her body and that it had nothing to do with her memories. I pulled her aside and tried to calm her, soothe her, make her see that humans in general have a very difficult time with the concept of multiple realities and alternate timelines. I tried to make her understand that it wasn't a desire to call her a liar, but a desire to believe that this world is real, that reality is solid and unalterable...not something that can be erased and rewritten like a bad story.
It took a little while, but Xan finally began to see what I was trying to tell her. And didn't it just break my heart to see those large beautiful brown eyes get wide and round with realization and begin to swim with tears. I could almost imagine the mental cliff that she found herself standing on; caught between safety and love on one side and a sheer drop into uncertainty and despair on the other. The only problem was that Xan didn't know if staying in this world was the flower dotted grassy plain or the leap of faith into the air over the cliffside.
I tried to assure her that if she jumped I would catch her. I tried to assure her that if she turned and ran I would be by her side. I tried to let her know that I would do anything for her if she would only let me. I don't know if it was because of my support or if it was due to the giant wellspring of bravery and determination that thrums through her, but my beautiful brown eyed girl refused to give into the despair.
Now, unbeknownst to the others, she and I have begun to collect any and all information on curses that we can. Maybe we can find something to help...maybe we can't. I don't know. Part of me hopes that we find something so that my beloved Xan will be happy...part of me hopes that we never come across the cure to her curse. I know that if we do then I will end up losing my girl. She will fade away and take the whole world with her. Not just my world...but everything that exists in this reality. If this world was created just for her to have a place to live out her curse then what would breaking that curse do to the rest of us?
My only consolation is that I won't be around to realize all that I've lost. Personally, from all that I've heard, her original world is no wonderland of happiness and joy. Everyone there seems to be...broken in some integral way. I don't know why she'd ever want to go back. But everything always seems to lead back to hope. My hope is that if we ever do find a way to break her curse that she will have come to the conclusion that she doesn't want to return to her old life. In the here and now she has friends, good friends that are happy and healthy and alive. In the here and now she has...well, she has me. And trust me when I say that I'm going to do everything I can to make this reality an enjoyable one that she'll never want to leave.
Of course, it's not going to be easy. Xan is...different now and it's a bit harder to predict what she'll do or say or think about any given thing. A whole lot of it is due to the fact that she still has perfect recall of her original timeline and this tends to support the Watcher's theory about a witch scrambling Xan's memories. It also makes talking to her like walking through a verbal landmind. You never know what will set her off. The other's are horrified that anyone would put those types of memories into their friend's mind. I am horrified because I believe that my lovely Xan actually lived those memories. It seems that everyday we learn of some new atrocity due to a memory being triggered by someone stumbling upon a topic that is "taboo" in Xan's home reality.
Who knew that Rupes ordering a case of freeze-dried praying mantises for spell components would make Xan scream and start smashing them into tiny bits of mashed bug parts?
Still, even though everyone has learned to expect the unexpected with her when a bad memory of her life as a boy springs up, I am a bit shocked that no one else but me seems to see the other things; the things that support her theory about coming from a reality wherein she's actually a male and not a female. I think that it's bloody obvious, but then again I tend to pay closer attention to my dark haired beauty than the others do. Still, if it was only one or two things then I could understand, but it's so many things that are layered on top of layer.
And they don't think that they're Hellmouth blind?
Willow, out of all of them, should have noticed that Xan's speech patterns have changed. Oh, it's still a form of that Sunnydale mangled English that they all use, but her's is subtly different now. First off, Xan refers to herself in the masculine forms, but it's not often that she talks about herself. In any case, it's the little things that stand out. The gang has always come up with odd and quirky names for things and beings and objects. Even each other. Xan now uses other quirky little names and labels that no one else uses. The first time that Xan referred to the Slayer as "Buffster" everyone just blinked and glanced at her funny, but they let it pass. It rolled off of Xan's tongue as if she'd said it a million times and yet it's not a nickname that I've ever heard. My girl usually refers to the Slayer as "PowerBuff Girl". And Rupes? When Xan called him "G-Man" I thought the old boy was going to have an aneurysm. Although it's hard to say if he dislikes that nickname worse than "Fearless Leader".
Then there's Xan's sense of humor. My girl always was quick with a joke or a quip, but now those flashes of humor are a far cry from the sparkling witticisms that lifted spirits and banished everyone's fear. Xan's sense of humor has become a thing of dark beauty; cutting, cruel and cynical. Personally I see that as a huge improvement and I often find myself snickering at the things that come out of her lovely mouth, but I'm the only one. Maybe that's because her comments and observations make it clear that she doesn't just fight the forces of darkness...but that she's been touched by evil in a way that the rest of the gang simply can't begin to understand.
One thing that isn't so good is Xan's ability to research has changed for the worse. The Watcher has been excusing it as a side effect of this mysterious spell that's broken her concentration, but I think it's more than that. I honestly don't think that Xan's ever learned how to research. My dark beauty has even referred to Willow as "Research Girl" and that's just not how it is on this world. In the here and now, it's my girl that is the expert at research. Willow's great with the mojo and with hacking into computers, but the Xan we all know and love was taught how to research and translate texts at her mum's knee as a child. The Xan we all know and love is fluent in a few dead languages and has started to tackle some demonic tongues just for the challenge. This new Xan that's been shoved into my lover's body struggles to read Latin. Latin!
Oh, not that she isn't getting better at it. She told me that Anyanka promised her that she'd slowly gain memories and knowledge of this reality the longer she stayed here, so things are coming back to her bit by bit. I just hope that it all comes back before she makes a fatal mistake. However, the research part of it isn't half as bad as her fighting skills. I'm bloody surprised that the Slayer hasn't twigged to it yet, to be honest.
Don't get me wrong, it's not like Xan doesn't know how to fight. It's just that the technique that she tries to use isn't one designed for a petite chit with little strength. She tries to fight like a bloke would. The moves that she makes during battle suggests that she thinks that she's taller, stronger and has far more weight behind her. The first time that we faced fledges together I almost lost her to them. It was horrifying. She's getting a lot better, but I think that has more to do with the fact that she's taking lessons down at the gym than it has to do with anything else. Still, in the heat of battle when Xan loses that sense of self that she tends to carry with her, she reverts back to fighting like a human male.
The thing that gets me the most though is how she's changed in relation to me. Selfish, I know, but it's hard to look at the woman you love and realize that there's someone else living behind her eyes. She no longer dolls herself up in her prettiest dress and slinks over to me in order to drape herself along my body as she peers up at my with sleepy heavy-lidded eyes swimming in desire. Instead, Xan tries to hide her sexy curves behind shapeless and baggy clothing in dull bland colors and holds herself stiff and trembling whenever I get too close.
It breaks my unbeating heart, but I have hope. My lovely Xan may not be a brazen seductress anymore, but I know that deep down where she's afraid to admit it that she likes me and wants me. I can see it when she turns startled wide eyes at me when I compliment her or am gentle with her. I don't think that she had ever been treated with sincere selfless adoration in her original reality and that it confuses her whenever she receives it now. That's sad in a way.
Just recently, she's been starting to flirt with me. Oh, it's all different from the way she flirted with me before my Xan was replaced with this new version, but it's still flirting. Instead of blatant innuendo and offers of intimacy I am given shyly offered hints of smiles, blushes and a warm hand to hold. Compliments are received with pleased astonishment that soften into warm pools of whiskey dark eyes tracing every line of my face. She invites me to accompany her about town with a trembling voice and fierce blushes and then is startled when I agree.
It's odd, but the Xan from before...all I had to do was seduce her body by making her want a great shag. But this dark beauty that is fighting to find her place in an alien world is so unsure of herself and has a whole new set of needs that she doesn't understand and I find that I'm trying to seduce her mind; her heart. I don't want her to just be a warm body that invites me into her bed and shows me off on her wrist the way it was before. I want more with this one. I want to get under this Xan's skin and into her very soul.
I want this Xan to love me back.
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