Authors: lusciousspike & lusciousxander
The Summers' small living room appeared more crowded than the Bronze on a good night. Teenage girls and boys filled the place, chattering, laughing, dancing and making fools out of themselves in ways Xander vaguely remembered from when he was a teenager himself.
Vaguely might have had something to do with the number of birthday parties he was invited to as a teenager, which was not many.
Memorable days of adolescence felt a little too close to the surface when Xander was surrounded with it; it was all he could do not to fall back into the awkward social patterns of his past.
But all feelings of awkwardness soon disappeared when one of Dawn's little friends blatantly started checking him out. She adjusted her glasses so not to slip to her freckled cheeks, and ducked her head bashfully when he caught her eyes.
With this brand new boost to his confidence, Xander gave her a friendly grin and held back his glee when she blushed and hid behind some girls.
It was apparently his night, because she wasn't the only one taken with him. Googly teenage eyes followed him and a few "accidental" bumps interrupted his way as he cut a path to the kitchen to refill the cheese ball bowl. He was fully confident it was his masculine construction worker body, but a quick glance at a reflective surface did help push down any lingering doubts that there was something off.
He patted down the front of his new red shirt. Perhaps folding under Spike’s “fashion duress” was not the worst thing he did - it was a good compromise with Spike losing the short shorts. Even Buffy’s eyes had lingered a tad too long for normal when he had arrived with the drinks earlier tonight.
Speaking of the blonde duo, Xander didn't bother with the traditional polite cough as he walked in on the two of them in the kitchen. "So this is how kids share lipstick these days," he observed, his voice betraying nothing as he glanced at their parted lips and flushed faces.
Buffy smacked a hand over her mouth and mumbled indiscernible excuse, escaping whilst Spike casually leaned against the sink and met Xander's eyes unblinkingly.
Xander gently put down the bowl, crossed his arms and readied himself for a long glare session.
"Xander," Dawn cut in as she dragged a lanky boy, literally breaking the silent staring match. "Meet Dan.” When Xander said nothing, she pushed the boy forward. “My date."
Xander pursed his lips and shared a meaningful look with Spike, tipping his head toward the boy with a slight nod. The vampire slowly straightened and stuck his hands into the back pockets of his tightly fitting jeans, pushing his taut breasts firmly against the cotton V-neck t-shirt, which, now that Xander considered it, bore an uncanny resemblance to the shirt he was currently wearing.
Spike gave him a smug grin then turned his full attention to the squirming figure in the room who was having a hushed conversation with Dawn on why he needed Xander’s approval and how awkward this was.
Taking a slow, deep breath, Xander tore his gaze away from Spike and eyed down the boy, Dan, before completely dismissing him as he put his arm around Dawn, cutting her off mid-rant and showed her out, leaving the confused boy alone with Spike.
Dawn, reading the situation, frowned disapprovingly. She opened her mouth to object but was interrupted by Xander popping a cheese ball into it.
"Don’t scrunch your nose at me. We’re just making sure he's nothing like your last date.” Xander raised his voice to cover any suspicious sounds that might come from the kitchen. “You know the one with a full body tan line and a knack for necks."
"I can still smell the goo in my hair," Willow complained to Buffy, sniffing a stray lock of her hair with disgust. She redid her ponytail extra tight as they strolled down the street toward Xander's building.
"It was wild yesterday," Buffy said with the barest of sympathy, "Poor Dawn."
The main entertainment of the night wasn’t Spike teaching the girls pole dancing moves - foretelling a story Buffy both feared and wished to hear - it was the demon-of-the-week who had possessed Dawn's current crush, resulting in the expected amount of chaos. A cliché victim was the birthday cake Buffy had put her heart and soul into; the final touches alone were a thing of beauty meant for a Martha Stewart book.
Buffy scowled, remembering how Demon Dan had fallen head first into her lovely big cake when there was a perfectly nice wall to ram into right next to the buffet table.
The demon that slithered out of him was a goo monster worthy of 80s slimy horror movies.
It wasn’t all bad. It did help them fish out the wanna-be teenage-witch who had been casting hexes on kids at school, not to mention it had saved them all from dying in sugar induced comas. Buffy still couldn’t figure out how she had read the recipe to include sixteen cups of sugar.
"A sweet sixteen twists into disaster? Not hard to relate," Willow said with a reminiscent sigh. The Rosenberg home had transformed into a zoo of teens she didn't even know, all because Xander had passed out 'Open Party' fliers so that Linda Slutzilla Harper would attend.
However, Mrs. Rosenberg had commended Willow on her “show” of teen rebellion in throwing a “rave”, and explained to her how it was all part of “growing up”.
"I hope Dawn doesn't inherit my BDP jinx." Buffy sidestepped a crack in the pavement, recalling her personal birthday party experiences with a shudder.
Reaching the doorway to Xander’s building, Willow pushed the door and held it open for Buffy to pass through with her cargo.
"On the upside, those odd pastries Spike brought were really tasty." Willow bit her lip, recalling the warm taste they left on her tongue. “It’s a bummer that Giles hogged most of them.”
Buffy glanced at the clean glass platter they were bringing back to Xander's place. "Yeah, he'd mentioned something about knowing how to cook, but I never believed him."
“I didn't believe him when he said he could pole dance and look how that one turned out.” Willow grinned. She had sorted things with Tara but that didn’t mean they didn’t enjoy the show. A lot. Even over Xander’s tad too loud criticism and the teenage squeals and catcalls.
All things considered, Dawn might be the most popular girl in school today.
Reaching their destination, Willow knocked at Xander's door, seconds later the door opened to Xander greeting them.
He had a towel wrapped neatly on his head.
Buffy and Willow blinked.
"What?" Xander asked. At their dual stare, his hand instinctively went to his head. He scowled, letting them in. "I’m not having a girly flashback, it’s cold." He snatched the wet towel from his head and tossed it to the kitchen sink.
"It's been little over a week," Buffy said with a grin. "Still oversensitive to your brief saunter as part of the wild side?"
"Takes time for the mental scars to completely fade." He glanced in the direction of his once-a-closet where Spike was currently playing the part of a corpse so well. "Especially with extra-wild Spike around."
Buffy bit back a grin. “Aw, he’s not so bad. Dead to the world half the day, you have the place to yourself.”
“You’d think,” Xander grumbled.
He was about to say something else when Willow asked, “House Rules?” She was standing in front of a wall free of anything but of the framed paper Willow was inspecting with interest.
¨ Lack of clothes is only allowed in room. YOUR room!
¨ No wet towels on the floor.
¨ No bloody mugs in the sink.
¨ No cigarettes all over the apartment.
¨ Use coasters.
¨ No flirting with pizza guy (He's underage).
¨ Always flirt with Chinese takeout for fast delivery (and extra fortune cookies).
¨ Stop lying to the neighbors about our sex life.
¨ You cook on Thursdays. Alcohol is NOT a main ingredient.
¨ Do not record soap operas over the video tape rentals.
¨ No prank-calling Giles (unless I'm there).
¨ Keep your bleach away from my shampoo!!!
“Long list for such a short time together.” Willow pointed at the paper. “Nice font though. Very straight forward. Arial?”
“Nope, Verdana.” Xander moved closer and shook his head. “Almost did go with it though.”
Willow nodded. “It works.”
“I think it gives out the desired no nonsense meaning. The resident vamp nagged for some class on the wall, like Garamond, but it’s too fancy look at me, I’m so posh…”
Buffy stood back while her two friends discussed the implicit meanings of specific fonts. She hugged the dish closer to her.
Willow raised an eyebrow. "If you hung it in a frame, why not put glass over it?"
Xander glowered at the paper as if it personally offends him. "Because Spike's need for rules is unending, and the list keeps growing."
"It’s not that bad, right? I mean, he can cook!" Buffy said, holding up the platter, glad for the distraction from what was quickly looking like a documentary into the history of lettering.
Xander didn’t bother to hide his wince. “Yeah, about that, Giles mentioned that he might be coming to the Magic Box, stomach ache.” Who knew Giles had such a sweet tooth?
Buffy shrugged, handing Xander the serving dish. "I washed it. That's me showing manners and appreciation." She flashed him a grin.
Xander narrowed his eyes at her words and moved to replace the dish in the cupboard. "I'm sure you expressed your appreciation in all sorts of interesting ways yesterday."
Buffy didn't miss the disdain in his voice. "What's with the residual bitchiness?" She followed him into the kitchen and blocked his way, hands on her hips.
Willow muttered under her breath, “Cat fight.”
Xander turned and crossed his arms. "Maybe it has something to do with last night’s highlight event."
"Hey, if you’re still cranky that Dan got the first and last taste of the uber-cake I told you not to touch until Dawn makes with the magicless wishing, then have your resident vamp chef cook you something."
Disregarded, Willow corrected more to herself, “Bake.”
“You two sure cooked something hot yesterday,” Xander shot back, towering over Buffy’s tiny frame.
Buffy crossed her arms to match his stance. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she hissed, her voice a little scratchy.
Xander recoiled. "You two were lip-kissing!" He shook a reproachful finger.
Buffy gasped, indignant. "We so weren't." Her eyes shifted to gauge Willow’s reaction.
Willow had a hand over her face, but Buffy could defiantly see a large grin and her frame was shaking as if to silently suppress laughter. Buffy felt her cheeks heat.
"Buffy. I saw you. In the kitchen," Xander squealed, indignant at her denial. "You made with the hasty escape before the shiny dribble you left on Spike’s lips even dried."
Buffy’s whole face took on a flushed tint. "That was a slip. Very small slip. A never gonna happen again slip."
"Lot of slipping going on lately,” Xander accused with a huff. "And here I thought Willow had it the worst out of all of us, but it seems that the weakest Scooby award goes to our fearless leader."
"Hey!" Buffy and Willow chimed together.
Buffy frowned, backtracking. "Wait. Us?”
"Deflection!," Xander’s shout of accusation interrupted her scary train of thought.
Buffy took a threatening step forward, her eyes glinting dangerously.
Willow intervened, her amusement over the situation abated. “Enough.” She bestowed the two of them with her rare don’t-mess-with-me glare. "Okay, there are more issues here on both sides of this weird triangle than I even want to know." She gave them a look. "And I don’t think either of you would like my theories on why it's such a twisted touchy subject for both of you."
Xander threw a hand in the air, palm faced forward in a stop signal. "I've got zero pent up issues here. I just think time’s better spent on finding a way to re-gender Spike so he can stop putting his stuff where it doesn't belong."
Harsh reality words spoken, they looked at each other, not knowing where to go from there.
Buffy sighed, walking to the living room and throwing herself on the couch, suddenly exhausted. Xander and Willow joined her. The three friends sat in silence for a moment.
"Research went nowhere fast,” Buffy spoke up, her voice morose. “Giles is on the verge of giving up and I don’t know how Spike is gonna take that."
"Spike - stuck as a girl? Forever?" Xander winced at the squeaky tone in his voice as he contemplated that outlook.
"I'm sure there's a way, we're just not researching the right books," Willow spoke softly, trying to sound optimistic. She patted Xander’s knee.
"What’s with the sympathy groping?" Xander glared at the hand on his knee.
"Because with Spike as a girl you seem to be suffering the most.” Willow explained with another pat. “Hence the sympathy."
"I'm not the one who needs sympathy." He pushed his thumb in Buffy’s direction. "She does."
Buffy sat up. "Why are we back at me again?" she whined.
"You're the one kissing the undead female version of the bleached menace. Not me." Xander took in a deep breath and urged his racing heart to recede from his throat as it had no grounds to being there.
"Okay, Buffy, we know you do," Willow said, putting a stop to it. “It’s kinda funny really until it’s not.”
Buffy hung her mouth open in shock, about to protest, but eventually ducked her head in defeat. "I have a problem."
Xander patted her on the shoulder, suddenly feeling lighter. "First step to recovery, Buff. Ask Willow." He jumped when Willow clenched her hand on his knee.
"He's right," Buffy mumbled. "I have more things to worry about. Like getting my life back on track. Paying more attention to Dawn, slaying, and my current not-so-pleasant-but-so-needed job at the Magic Box playing sexy librarian and heavy box mover." She looked up at them. "I shouldn’t be kissing female vamps."
"Buffy, there's nothing wrong with kissing female vamps," Willow corrected.
Xander gasped, they were fixing things, damn it, not playing life coach.
Willow rolled her eyes. "You know what I mean."
A small smile curled up Buffy's lips. "It was kinda fun. Kissing a woman." She smiled to Willow, ignoring the way Xander shrunk, stuck between them. "I mean I can see where you're coming from."
Willow grinned back.
Xander felt the blood drain from his face before something hit him. He threw up his hands. "Wait!” he cut into their feminine bonding ritual of giggling. “Buffy Summers, are you coming out now? Does this mean, and this is just off the top of my head, us three amigos can go out and pick up chicks together?" He grinned like a lunatic, enjoying the proposal. “It’ll never fail having two wing-women to talk me up to the ladies.”
Buffy raised an eyebrow at him. "It was fun." She looked at Willow apologetically. "It's just… I'm more… penis-friendly."
The girls shared another giggle fest.
Xander deflated, consciousness checking out of the chick conversation that quickly ensued. He had needed a win, even a little one with silvery lining. But, he never came on top with the “fairer sex”. He wondered if he were penis-friendly, too.
Odds were he would never find out seeing as Spike's situation might never get fixed…
His eyes widened.
Okay, a box is not enough for this one. I need a trunk.
The door to Spike's room clicked open, Xander's heart thudded as it always did now whenever he heard the familiar sound. He wasn't sure why he typed the naked rule on the wall as #1. He knew that in doing so not only would Spike not follow it, the vampire would see it as a challenge to break it in a show of rebellious posturing. To contemplate a reason to write that rule other than not wanting it to happen was something Xander wouldn't admit to even if his life depended on it - which these days seemed more and more likely.
He didn't turn his head, his gaze glued to the television while his attention riveted on the sound of the fridge opening. The usual sounds followed; a drawer pulled open, a mug was placed on the counter, blood poured and the sound of the microwave turning on. Xander remained silent, resisting the voice urging him to look, knowing that one even a second would have great effects on a part of his body that couldn't be controlled. Unfortunately for him, just the awareness of Spike's naked female body being in the same room with him stirred his disobedient body part to life.
"Were we playing hosts today?" Spike asked, one hand holding his mug while the other rested on a perfect hip, Xander noted.
Hastily shifting his eyes back to the T.V. Xander said in a strained voice, "You better work on getting dressed. Buffy is expecting you to meet her at the Magic Box tonight."
“Does she now?" Spike said with a sly look, about to sit on the couch next to him.
Xander jumped, snapping finger at Spike’s face, because that was where he was looking. "No naked butts to be seated on anything except your bed."
Spike stopped midway, in a perfect squat, giving Xander a skeptical look. "That's not on the list."
"It is now!"
Xander made a mental note to get a larger frame tomorrow.
“You wanted me?”
Buffy already sensing that Spike was standing behind her, finished putting up the anatomically incorrect statue. She turned to find Spike standing directly in front of her, his long hair tangling with hers, the end of his duster brushing against her legs.
Spike wiggled his eyebrows.
Buffy snorted and pushed past him.
Spike turned around and followed her over to the counter where she was jotting down today’s earning in the books. Spike trapped her, his chest pushing against her back as she jotted down a couple of numbers.
“You forgot to add the one,” Spike said over her shoulder, arms holding her in place.
Buffy dropped her head and sighed. “Spike. We need to talk.” She felt the body against her back stiffen, silence meeting her words. She opened her mouth to speak.
“Don’t.” Spike’s words were muffled. “My enhanced intuition is fully capable of hashing this out on its own.”
“I’m...” She tried to turn around but he was firm against her. “I know it’s me that… I gave you the...”
Spike chuckled. “Spare me, Slayer.” Buffy closed her eyes. “I’m a connoisseur of experiments.” His words felt like light kisses against the back of neck.
“Spike…” The pressure against her back suddenly disappeared. She raised her head and sighed, massaging her neck. She was alone the Magic Box and those boxes were not going to move themselves.
Xander couldn’t sleep. There was no reason why he could not. Absolutely none. The usual cause of his nightly wakefulness was not even in the apartment. In fact, he had been gone for most of the night and the sun was only minutes away from coming up. That was a real problem because Xander had to get up for work in three hours.
A couple of hours ago after tossing and turning in the magnificent silence of his apartment, he thought that a stroll in the fresh night air might help him sleep better. The air did seem stuffy in doors.
He took his car.
Driving didn’t seem to help, even after he remembered to open the window. He found himself paying more attention to the sides of the road and dark alleys around absolutely random bars, it was an unconscious action. And it did help him find this quaint little coffee place tucked in a dark corner next to one of those random dingy bars that served breakfast at night.
Another half hour of casual driving and Xander, not feeling the least bit dozy, turned back to that small shop.
That was how he found himself now sitting in front of the television, watching something that was supposed to be funny - the laugh track had led him to believe - and eating a pretty decent waffle.
The repetitive laugher almost drowned out the sound of keys clumsily being worked into the door.
Fork stopped mid way to his mouth, Xander watched Spike stumble into apartment, whether too drunk or too beat up Xander’s didn’t really know or care.
“You okay?” was mumbled around a large bite of sugary pastry.
Spike stopped staggering into the room long enough to glare. He finally pulled to a stop, forcefully took off his duster and tossed it to the ground. Xander watched the cloud of dust in fascination. He turned his gaze back to Spike and mechanically assessed the damage. The vampire smelled of booze, but it seemed more on him than in him.
His shirt was slashed in the middle but all Xander could see was smooth pale…
Xander moved his eyes quickly to scraped knuckles, a plump-bruised lip, tousled hair and darkened seriously pissed blue eyes.
“We done now?”
Xander thought back to last night in the Summers’ kitchen and their glaring match; how Spike’s gaze had glinted with its usual rebelliousness and self-satisfaction - similar to how he looked post-chip at the Adam debacle. Spike’s gaze now held the customary rebelliousness; however, arrogance was replaced with masked hurt. Xander had no idea how he could read it so clearly, but he didn’t like it so much that his chest felt constricted.
The incessant laugh track bellowed one more, without looking, he muted the television.
Xander’s first instinct was to say he was sorry. But, he wasn’t and talking was totally a female shadow instinct.
Spike was starting to growl. Xander never had much of a poker face and Spike could read him like an open book with really large font. Xander quickly shifted his eyes but he knew it was too late and his obligatory roommate unmistakably read the pity in them.
“Go ahead, Harris. Say it.” Spike sniffed haughtily. “Can’t get better ammo than this.”
You really don’t. Xander straightened his gaze. But, he wasn’t an idiot, despite how others are led to believe. He knew math, maybe not really well, but doesn’t matter how you shuffle it, the numbers will add up to crappy in Spike’s case. And Xander wasn’t the kind of person to kick another when they were down - vampires, though, they were another matter. Spike in particular.
His expression hardened. Spike pulled up straighter.
“Shut up, Spike, and eat your cold waffles.” Xander gestured to the table where a plate with two untouched waffles was placed next to a metal container.
He pretended he didn’t witness and enjoy the dazed expression Spike wore so well as he processed what just happened. He unmuted the television and dug back into his breakfast, grinning at an especially funny joke. The waffles tasted like syrupy heaven.
The couch curved in as Spike sat next to him in perfect silence.
“Don’t get blood on the floorboards. That’s going on the list!”