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Impossibly Delightful Flesh

Chapter Text

“Where is this thing?” Buffy growled in frustration, her grip tightening on the hilt of her sword.

“Don’t worry, Buff,” Xander consoled, scanning the edges of the cemetery for surprises. “It can’t hide forever.”

“Yes. Because what demon can resist the lure of the Slayer?” Anya chirped in too brightly, poorly covering her sarcasm, a sure sign she resented being dragged out of the Magic Box to patrol with them.

Unfortunately, Buffy had to acknowledge that she was right.

“I’m sorry I can’t do a locator spell for you,” Tara apologized, watching as well. “If I had something that belonged to it, or if I knew what it was . . .”

“Don’t worry about it,” Buffy consoled her. “Anya’s right, with my demon magnet skills, it should show up anytime.”

Xander protested good-naturedly. “And here I thought I was the resident demon magnet!”

Buffy smiled as Anya inserted herself in his arms. “You do have that stasis spell ready, yeah?” she continued talking to Tara.

Tara nodded. “It’s more of an impediment than actually being stasis, but it should slow whatever it is down enough for you to stop it. If Willow hadn’t had class tonight . . .”

“Tara, you aren’t our second choice,” Buffy said comfortingly. “You’re good at what you do, and that’s all I need . . .”

They all froze at the sound of something vaguely human-sized forcing its way through the hedge. Buffy raised her sword, Xander pushing Anya behind him defensively as he hefted his axe.

And Spike burst out of the bushes.

They all sagged in relief as he took in their appearance. “Just a few pitchforks and torches shy of a mob, aren’t you?”

“Dammit, Spike,” Xander complained, “You scared the hell out of us.”

He grinned, obviously pleased. “Well, that’s a nice change, innit? What are we hunting tonight, children?”

“We,” Buffy said derisively, waving a finger from him to herself, “are not hunting anything. We,” she indicated the others, “are looking for an unspecified demon we got a report on. Scared some of the college kids, it sounds like it’s pretty big.”

“About seven feet high, covered in feathers or scales, face like a shaved Pekingese?”

“Yeah, how did you know?”

He pointed. “It’s standin’ behind you.”

They all whirled. Sure enough, the creature stood there as though hoping they hadn’t noticed it. Faint hope.

“So what do you think,” Spike asked, not taking his eyes off the thing, “blunt or edged?”

Buffy adjusted her grip on the sword. “As big as it is? I’m thinking we don’t want to take any chances.”

“Hack and slash it is.” And he swept the axe out of Xander’s hand, swinging it in an elegant figure eight to catch the haft in both hands.

“Hey!” Xander protested.

“Hang back with the other ladies, whelp. They might need your help. Ready when you are, Slayer.”

She didn’t bother to sound the charge, just moved, and he was right there with her.

The creature responded as well, letting out a high, glass shattering screech as it flexed out long feline claws. It moved fast, faster than she’d expected, meeting them halfway with vicious swipes of its extended arms. Spike went low as she went high, dodging those wicked claws as she heard Tara begin chanting. “Winged Mercury, hear our plea, all speed and movement come from thee. From our enemies take your gifts . . .”

It slashed again. Buffy back flipped over the outstretched arm, but it caught Spike, knocking him aside like a doll. He caught himself and rolled back to his feet, charging back with murder in his eyes.

Whatever the featherlike things were, they seemed to be acting like chain mail, glancing the blows of her sword off it. A flying kick to the head staggered it, giving her a chance to evaluate. The scales were concentrated on the torso, arms and legs, thinner on the belly and neck. Spike spun and dropped, knocking its legs out from under it, but it simply turned the fall into a back flip, landing back on its feet to strike out again.

Suddenly the creature slowed, moving as though through honey. Buffy glanced over her shoulder to see Tara sagging in sudden exhaustion. She grinned at the witch as she shouted, “Spike! Stomach!”

She planted herself to pivot on her back heel, twisting into a powerful back swing when suddenly the creature changed. It morphed into a young man, perhaps six feet tall, strong and evenly proportioned, soft blond hair tumbling into a face she couldn’t quite see.

And she wanted him. Oh god, her whole body ached with need for him, with the need to possess him, protect him.

But it was too late. The sword bit deep into his neck, sending his head flying just as Spike’s axe sunk deep into the man’s gut.

An actinic shockwave erupted from the crumpling body, crystalline and piercing, resonating through all of Buffy’s senses.

She was unconscious before she hit the ground.

When Buffy came to, she just felt wrong all over.

Her brain went into Slayer reset mode. Heart still beating? Check. Head still attached? Check. Okay, so she was still alive, which meant that whatever that demon had been, it was now either dead or had split when she went down. But she couldn’t remember how it had taken her out.

She slowly began to flex her muscles, checking for sprains and fractures. One deep breath told her no broken ribs. But her clothes felt painfully tight, cutting deep into her hips, binding her shoulders.

She pushed herself to her feet, eyes still bleary, feeling impossibly top heavy. She could make out a black mound not far away and staggered over to it to determine friend or foe.

It was definitely foe.

It was the headless remains of the demon they had been fighting. It looked as it had originally, bearing no resemblance to the man she had seen before decapitating it. A large black hole smoked in the middle of its belly. She’d better find the head. Giles would want to see it for identification.

“Who the bloody hell are you?” a woman’s voice demanded from behind her.

She turned to see a woman in her late twenties standing there, white blonde hair bright in the streetlight. She wasn’t tall, five foot three or four at the most, with wide pale eyes and impossibly high cheekbones. She wore a black t-shirt that hung loosely on her torso and a pair of black jeans so large she had to hold them up around her waist.

And Spike’s duster, four sizes too big for her but looking like it belonged.

“You with that guy, corn-fed?” the woman with the familiar London accent challenged. “Cuz you might wanna take off before the Slayer and I give you more of the same.”

“I am the Slayer, Einstein!” she insisted, thumping her chest.

Her very flat chest.

“Guess nobody ever told you Slayers are girls, ya pillock!”

For the first time, she looked down and actually saw herself.

Her clothes all felt tight and binding for a reason. Her long, muscular legs stuck out from the hems of her slaying jeans, the button and zipper ruptured to make room for her straight hips and waist. One more deep breath threatened to do the same to the buttons on her blouse which barely held closed over the barrel of her flat chest. The sleeves were torn along the seams to hand in rags about her shoulders, revealing the corded muscles of her arms. She looked like the Incredible Hulk.

And she was most definitely male.

“Oh god, this can’t be happening,” she moaned, studying her long, slender, heavy hands in horror.

“Didn’t think you’d actually have to face the Slayer and her mates, did you?” The other woman snickered. “Poor plannin’ on your part.”

And suddenly the cues the woman was sending made sense.

“Spike?”

The woman stopped posturing to look at Buffy curiously. “I know you, mate?”

“Spike, you have breasts.”

“What? I do not . . .” But her hands flew instinctively to her chest, catching palmfuls of soft round flesh as her pants slid earthward, revealing pale, toned slender legs. The t-shirt was long enough to hide her intimate parts, but Buffy hid her eyes anyway.

“Bloody, buggering . . .” Spike pulled her (his, Buffy corrected herself) his pants back up, looking at her questioningly. “Slayer?”

She just nodded.

He started swearing again, but Buffy suddenly remembered with horror.

The others.

That shockwave had been strong enough to knock the Slayer and a Master vampire unconscious for who knew how long. What would it have done to the humans?

“Xander and the girls,” she breathed.

Spike stopped in mid-rant, sniffing the air. “Over there,” he pointed, moving in the same direction.

“Blood?”

He shook his head. “But wrong.”

They found them moments later, all laying on their backs where the shockwave had flattened them. One girl, plump and curvy with wavy dark hair. A young man with a lean figure and short titian hair. And off a little further another man, thickset and tall, mouse hair falling in his eyes.

Xander, Anya and Tara. All transformed.

Buffy knelt over Tara, checking for a pulse while Spike moved instinctively to the only woman down, obviously forgetting that “she” was Xander, his constant tormentor. Buffy couldn’t help but grin at his unconscious chivalry. She sighed in relief as she found the flutter of heartbeat in Tara’s throat, thready and fast but strong. “She’s okay,” Buffy called back to Spike. “How about them?”

“They’ll live,” he confirmed, his soft contralto sounding odd to her ears.

“We should wake them up. We need to get somewhere safe to figure out what’s going on, and you and I won’t be able to carry all three of them.”

“Oh, this should be fun,” Spike said, regarding the insensible brunette at his feet. “Can’t wait to see the whelp’s reaction, waking up as such a tasty morsel.”

“You aren’t so hard on the eyes yourself,” she said snippily before she could catch herself.

He grinned. “Like what you see, do you?”

She rolled her eyes, not caring to admit that any woman looking like Spike did, Buffy normally would have instantly seen as competition. “Just wake them up. Gently.”

“Ruin my fun,” he groused before bending down next to Anya.

Buffy leaned back over Willow’s girlfriend. “Tara,” she said softly, laying one of those bulky, awkward hands on the other girl’s shoulder. “Tara, are you awake?”

She groaned softly, a rich bass baritone sound. “What . . . what happened?”

“There’s been an accident, Tara. Don’t open your eyes just yet.”

Tara struggled to try to rise, but Buffy held her down. “Am I blind?” There was fear in the words.

“No,” Buffy said comfortingly, wondering what her voice sounded like to them. “But I want to make sure you aren’t hurt first, okay?” Tara nodded hesitantly. “Okay, does it hurt anywhere?”

She tipped her head, eyes still closed mentally running through a checklist similar to Buffy’s. After a couple of moments, she said, “No, I don’t think so. I feel . . . off. Not quite myself. But nothing’s broken.”

“Okay, good. Now I need you to take a deep breath and listen to me. There’s been an accident. A magical accident. You and the others have changed.”

“Changed? How?”

Buffy drew in a deep breath. “You’re a man, Tara.”

Her eyes flew open, warm brown eyes that were still Tara, that saw through deceptions and illusions to truth. “Buffy?”

“Yeah, it’s me. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. The others?”

Buffy helped her to her feet. “They seem to be okay. We’ll know better after . . .”

“You mean I can pee standing up?” an excited tenor said from behind them.

Tara smiled shyly, a faint blush on her cheeks. “I guess Anya’s okay.”

Buffy chuckled as well, turning to see Spike helping the redhead to her feet. She was a little put out to see that even with the changes effected by the transformation, Buffy was still the shortest of the women. Now men.

They gathered around Xander’s supine body. “You alright, Anya?” Buffy asked, confirming.

“Spike already determined that. Can we wake Xander up now? I don’t like seeing him like that.”

“Unconscious?”

“Female.”

Buffy bent down. “Xander? Xander, wake up.”

“Not yet, Dad,” he mumbled. “Don’t have school today.”

“Alexander Lavelle Harris, wake up right now!” Anya snapped.

He sat bolt upright. “I’m awake! I’m awake!” He blinked wide-eyed, looking around him half seeing. “Who are you people?”

“These are your friends, I’m your girlfriend. You’ve been changed into a woman. A not unattractive woman. Now we have to go find out what happened so Buffy can fix it. So please get up.”

“But you’re all guys.” He was still groggy.

“And you’re a girl, sweetie.”

“I’m a . . .” His hands came up automatically to his chest, cupping his generous breasts through layers of flannel and t-shirt.

His cry was high and piercing. In other words, he screamed like a girl.

“Oh, do it again, Harris,” Spike scoffed. “That air raid siren of your screams damsel in distress. Let’s see who comes to answer it.”

“Spike, shut up.” Buffy looked around. “We’d better go to my house. It’s closest. We can call Giles and Willow from there.” She helped Xander to his feet. “You okay?”

He held up his loose jeans, a haunted look in his eyes. “I don’t think I’ll ever be alright again.”

Chapter Text

Joyce finished up the last of the dinner dishes, enjoying the night’s quiet. Dawn sat at the dining room table, finishing her homework, her headphones on and presumably playing full volume. Joyce had a brief pang wondering where Buffy was. Hopefully tucked up in her dorm room doing schoolwork, but she knew better than to count on it. She closed her eyes and breathed a soft prayer for her warrior daughter and picked up a dishtowel.

She was disrupted by a thump and soft voices on the back porch. Her heart skipped, but she grabbed her most effective weapon, the phone, and went to peer out into the night.

Joyce knew they were safe from vampires, as there were only two that currently had invitations into the house. But there were other things, things she didn’t like to think about. And there were regular, everyday prowlers better left to the police.

What she hadn’t expected to find was a group of college kids sneaking onto her porch, looking like they had swapped clothes with each other.

Joyce opened the door, but very carefully didn’t step across the threshold. “Can I help you?” she asked in her sternest voice of authority.

“Um.” One of the young men sidled forward, uncomfortable in his open trousers and too tight feminine blouse. “Hi, Mom.”

And it hit her that this young man looked exactly like Hank had when they had started dating twenty years before.

“Oh my god.” Joyce’s hand flew to her mouth. “Buffy?”

“Yeah.” He (she, Joyce revised) looked mortified. “Can we come in?”

“Of course, baby!” She wrapped her arms around her suddenly taller child, guiding her in. “But who . . .”

“What, you don’t recognize my friends?”

Joyce looked again, and suddenly she realized she did know them. At least some of them. “Good heavens, Xander?”

The curvy brunette cast down her eyes. “Hey, Mrs. Summers.”

So the strawberry blond with his arm around Xander must be . . . “Anya. Please come in.”

But Joyce couldn’t place the ash blond athletic boy. “Mom,” Buffy took pity on her, “This is Tara Maclay, Willow’s girlfriend.”

Joyce felt a double tug of discomfort. She had known about Willow’s change in orientation, of course, both from the girls and from Sheila Rosenberg, Willow’s mother, who was certain this was simply another attempt at rebellion, like the musician. But Joyce had had a chance to talk with Willow about it herself, and didn’t share Sheila’s assessment. She wasn’t altogether comfortable with it, but she accepted it as real.

But this young man, shy and unassuming, with soft eyes and shaggy hair, seemed all she would have hoped for Willow in a normal relationship. Frankly, he seemed to be what she would have hoped for her own daughter.

Who was now the spitting image of her father at that age.

With a deep mental sigh, Joyce set aside her own issues and gave Tara a comforting smile. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Tara. Willow has told me a lot about you.”

He blushed, turning away. “It’s nice to meet you, too, Mrs. Summers.”

Dawn appeared in the doorway. “Hey, Mom, what’s going oh wow! Spike?”

Joyce swung her head back around to see one of the most stunning women she’d ever seen standing in her porch door. The oversized clothes did nothing to hide her hourglass figure, and her electric blue eyes, high cheekbones and barely full mouth were arresting. Even with no make up save a touch of eyeliner, she looked amazing.

But the leather coat and the smirk could belong to no one but Spike.

“’Lo, Joyce. Hey, Niblet. Mind if I come in?”

Joyce noticed he didn’t seem as self-conscious as the others, as though his gender was of supreme indifference to him.

She also found she was getting a headache from all the pronoun switches she was having to make.

“Your invite was never revoked,” Buffy huffed, “more’s the pity. Get your undead butt in here.”

Joyce shot Buffy a stern look. Her daughter had no way of knowing the small rituals Spike and Joyce had established when he had started coming here occasionally for hot chocolate and comfort. “Of course, Spike. Please come in.”

He smiled and crossed the threshold, gently closing the door behind him.

“What happened?” Dawn asked, still staring at all of them in wonder.

Buffy sighed. “Do you mind if we only tell this once? It’s not such an interesting story I want to have to repeat it.”

“Of course, honey. What can I do?”

“Call Giles. He’s going to ask me a bunch of annoying questions to prove who I am, and I just want to get into some clothes that fit me. Come on,” she said to the others. “Let’s go see what we can find clothes wise.”

Joyce punched speed dial twelve into the handset and lifted the phone to her ear. After two rings, Rupert’s soft baritone came through the line. “Hello, Rupert Giles.”

“Good evening, Rupert. This is Joyce Summers. I hope I didn’t wake you.”

“Joyce, what a surprise! No, not at all, I was just settling in to wait for a report from Buffy. Is everything alright?”

Joyce glanced up the stairs where she could hear the kids rummaging around, drawers banging shut and doors slamming closed. So much for her nice, quiet evening. “Something happened while they were out on patrol. They’re here now, but they’re . . . different.”

“Different how?”

She drew a deep breath. “They’ve changed genders. The girls are boys and the boys are girls.”

“Oh dear lord!” She heard him pause, heard the click of something against the phone. “Buffy?”

“Is a photographic copy of her father when we were in college. It’s eerie, Rupert. What could do this?”

“Not many things. Joyce,” his voice lowered a pitch in concern, “are you certain it’s her?”

“Who else could it be? Rupert, you didn’t see . . .”

“Joyce, there are many more things out there that could mimic the appearance of someone familiar than could affect the kind of change you are talking about. May I speak with her?”

“She’s changing clothes right now.”

“Joyce, for your and Dawn’s safety, I need to speak to her.”

She glanced at where Dawn had been working, and where she no longer sat. She must have followed the others upstairs. Fear clutched at her heart as she called up the steps. “Buffy? Mr. Giles would like to speak to you.”

She could hear the sigh all the way down the stairs, but a moment later the extension picked up. “Hey, Giles.”

“Buffy, your mother was telling me about your mishap.”

“Mishap. Now there’s an understatement.”

“You understand that I have to be certain . . .”

“I understand if you don’t’ get over here and get this straightened out, you’re going to be on the receiving end of another not-so-silver knife stabbing without benefit of Fyarl.”

“Buffy!” Joyce protested.

“No, Joyce,” she thought she heard amusement in his voice, “that’s exactly what I needed to hear. I’ll be right there.”

“Stop by the dorm and get Willow on the way. She had class tonight, so she’s probably off the hook, but if she’s been dabbling again and something went wrong . . .”

“I’ll call her immediately I get off the phone with you. Joyce, do you mind if we hold a team meeting in your living room?”

“Not at all.” She glanced into the living room to confirm it was tidy enough for visitors. “I haven’t gotten to see you all in action before.”

“There won’t be much action,” Buffy complained. “This is the part where we spend a lot of time sitting around and talking. I hate this part.”

“I know,” Giles said consolingly. “We’ll get to the action part as quickly as possible. I’ll be over as soon as I have Willow.” And he disconnected.

“Better make it fast,” Joyce heard Buffy grumble, her new voice resonant in frustration, before her daughter hung up the phone.

Chapter Text

Giles and Willow arrived twenty minutes later to find the others seated around the living room in various emotional states and various modes of dress. They had resorted to the expedient of swapping clothes with each other. Xander wore an old oversized pair of sweats of Buffy’s (which were still too small for him) and Tara’s blouse. Anya was dressed in Spike’s jeans and Xander’s t-shirt while Tara wore Xander’s jeans, which were about three inches too short, and his flannel work shirt. Buffy was dressed in spare fatigues Riley had left in case of emergency. They were a little big all over, but they covered her. Spike had raided Buffy’s wardrobe for a pair of jeans that fit him like he was painted into them and a plain white t-shirt with the word “Bitch” printed in simple block letters across the chest. Joyce was more curious how such a shirt had ended up in Buffy’s dresser than that Spike had chosen to wear it. While the others were all barefoot, Spike was wearing a pair of red canvas low tops that looked suspiciously like Dawn’s.

Buffy was pacing the room in frustration, but Joyce found she couldn’t look at her daughter like this for too long. She was reminded too much of young romance, first kisses, whispered promises that were destined to be violated.

Everyone was relieved when the doorbell rang.

“I swear it wasn’t me!” Willow insisted vehemently as she came into the house. “I was in the programming lab all . . .” She froze in her tracks in the door. “Holy goddess.” She scanned them, assigning names to new faces, focusing on one. “Tara?” She crossed over to the couch to sit next to her partner, taking Tara’s hand and touching her face. Tara tried not to flinch.

Giles remained in the doorway, evaluating. And coming up with an observation he was none too happy with. “What is Spike doing here?”

Spike grinned. “Why, Rupert, ‘m touched you recognize me, what with the new digs ‘n all.” His sweet soprano shimmered with amusement.

“Shut up, Spike.” Buffy backhanded him on the shoulder.

“Oy, watch the upper body strength, Slayer, I’m a delicate little flower now.”

“You’re a vampire, Spike.” She paused. “You are still a vampire, aren’t you?”

He gave her a sour look, then gently shook his head, allowing his vampiric features to slip into place. Joyce had only seen him look like this once before, that night at the high school, and she had been too full of adrenaline and too ignorant of what she was actually seeing to remember it well. She often completely forgot that he was anything other than an unusual young man who occasionally enjoyed her company. But now . . .

He looked feline, his long, feminine features focused in along his nose and eyes. He ran his tongue ferally over sharp, ragged teeth and grinned, looking for all the world like a kitten toying with a mouse. “Still all monster, Slayer.” His voice was harsher now. He probably had to be careful of his tongue around those teeth. “You never could put an end to me as a man. Think you can do me as a girl, pet?”

“That is so cool!” a juvenile voice came from the dining room before anyone could respond to Spike’s innuendo.

“Dawn!” Buffy echoed Joyce’s exclamation.

With a stern look at her eldest, Joyce turned to her youngest. “Is your homework done?”

Dawn nodded, unable to take her eyes off of Spike as he shifted back into his human face.

“Then it’s bedtime.”

“But Mom . . .”

“Now, please.”

The girl turned, grumbling, to storm up the stairs to bed, ignoring the soft chorus of “Good night” from the assembled group.

“She’s just going to listen from the top of the stairs,” Buffy complained.

“You let me worry about that. You have other things on your mind.”

“Quite,” Giles intervened. “Let’s start with what happened tonight.”

Buffy narrated the events in the cemetery, punctuated by contributions from the others.

Willow squealed in excitement as Tara related the effects of the working she’d done. “So the thicken spell actually worked? That’s so great! Now we can . . .” She looked around at the others, abashed. “Talk about something else because this is so not the point now.” But Joyce saw her squeeze Tara’s large hand in excitement.

With a stern look, Giles returned to the conversation. “So this shockwave you felt, it was after you decapitated it?”

Buffy nodded, and Spike added “Felt like it came right up the handle of my axe when I slammed it in her gut. Felt like I could feel it with all my senses at once.”

“His,” Buffy corrected.

“No,” Spike replied, looking at her as though she were stupid, “her.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about. At the last minute, the creature changed into a guy. About six feet tall, strong looking, blond . . .”

“I was standin’ right there, Slayer,” Spike insisted. “It turned into a girl. I’ll grant you the blonde, but she was five two if she was an inch, and she had a figure that would stop traffic.”

“Spike’s right,” Tara interjected. “It was a woman, but not quite so . . . statuesque.” She flushed. “And she had more auburn hair.”

Xander jumped in. “They’re both right. Dark hair, stacked. Only more athletic. And taller, five five or six.”

“Am I the only one that saw this thing as male?” Buffy complained.

Anya raised her hand. “Only your description is completely incorrect. He was tall, six foot four or so, with black hair and lots of muscles.”

Giles diligently noted down each description. “Did any of you see its face?”

They looked at each other, all shaking their heads negatively.

“It went back to normal after we killed it, anyway,” Buffy added.

Giles looked over his notes critically. “Well, there isn’t a great deal here to go on. I think our next step will be for me to examine the remains before the groundskeepers clear away the body . . .”

“Oh!” Buffy remembered, snapping her fingers. “We brought you the head.”

Joyce was surprised to see him roll his eyes with a smile. “You are too good to me, Buffy.”

“Well, hey, since you missed out on all the excitement . . .”

“And a right fetching little pepper pot you would have made, Rupert,” Spike taunted.

“But Giles,” Xander said before Giles could reply, “what’s happened to us?”

The Watcher set aside his notebook and thoughtfully removed his glasses. “It could be any of a number of things. It could be a simple glamour, although I doubt it. Too much detail of your original selves remain. Spike’s and Anya’s hair color treatments, Buffy’s vampire bite scars,” Joyce looked up at her daughter at that, who turned her head uneasily, revealing the three distinct sets of scars on the right side of her neck, one still pale from recently fallen scabs. She’d been bitten again, and recently. One more thing Joyce hadn’t known about. But Giles went on, “These are all signs of the body’s physical experience, and not something a sorcerer is likely to include in an illusion spell. It may be a genetic alteration, which wouldn’t alter any of the physical changes you’ve experienced except those directly related to . . . um . . . your gendered characteristics.”

“Such as?” Buffy asked.

Giles turned several shades of purple.

Spike snorted, amused at the Watcher’s discomfort. “Piercings, for one. Hard to have a Prince Albert when you’ve got no peter to put it in.”

“Yes, thank you, that imagery should lull me peacefully off to my rest tonight.”

“Priss.”

“Well,” Willow said, rising off the couch. “I guess I’ll start working the illusion spell angle. Just to confirm what we know it’s not.” She took Tara’s hand in hers, looking a bit confused when Tara seemed to resist. But the girl allowed her new, unwieldy body to be pulled up off the couch as well, and they headed toward the door.

“Will you have any troubles with your dormitory?” Giles asked, concerned.

“Nah,” Willow waved his concern aside. “It’s co-ed housing. Boys and girls are in and out of each other’s rooms all the time. Um,” she caught Joyce’s eye in embarrassment, “in a strictly platonic sense, of course.”

“Of course,” Joyce nodded knowingly, hiding her smile.

Spike rose from his slouch in the armchair as well. “May as well see what I can find out about this thing.” He looked down at himself. “Got the perfect disguise for a change. I’ll see what I can pick up.”

“Or who,” Buffy responded snidely.

He just grinned. “Jealous that I’m prettier than you now, Slayer.”

“Not hardly.”

He winked at her, then slipped out the French doors silently, presumably to leave through the kitchen door.”

“Not much we can do tonight,” Xander said, also rising from his seat on the arm of the chair Anya sat in. “We’ll help you with corpse detail in the morning, Giles.”

“What do you mean we?” Anya complained, following him out of the living room. “You don’t look strong enough to carry a bag of groceries.”

He held the door for her, an incongruous sight. “Well, you always did want to wear the pants in the family, honey.” He winked at the adults and closed the door behind them.

“Mom, do you mind if I stay here tonight? Since I’ve got a single, it might be harder for me to explain things.”

“Of course, honey. I just put clean sheets on your bed the other day.”

“Thanks.” She sighed, a deep, tired sound. “They may be different muscles, but they all still hurt. I’m going to go take a hot shower and crash. Night, Mom. Night, Giles.”

When she was gone, Joyce moved over to collapse on the couch. “They’re really good at this.”

Giles moved to lean against the fireplace. “They’ve had a lot of practice. But yes, they are.”

“I mean, if something like this had happened to me, I’d be a wreck.”

“We’ve all had experiences at being something other than ourselves. Buffy’s been another girl entirely, Xander’s been possessed by demon hyena spirits and split into his positive and negative selves. Willow’s seen herself as a vampire dominatrix and I spent thirty excruciating hours as a Fyarl demon. And of course we became one amalgamated group entity when we brought an end to Adam last year. We have different markers for self than most people.”

“So it would seem.” She let her head fall back against the cushions for a moment, then looked back up at him, concerned. “They’re going to want to take these new bodies out for test drives, aren’t they?”

“I shouldn’t wonder. They’re of an age for sexual experimentation. Except for Spike, of course. But as he’s a vampire . . .”

“Don’t you think we should speak to them? About safety and protection . . .”

“I hardly think that’s necessary.”

“But what if . . .”

“Perhaps you’re right. I’ll sit down with the lesbian witch, the thousand year old ex-vengeance demon and the One Girl in All the World, who just happens to be your daughter, and discuss a young man’s responsibilities as a sex partner, while you review the birds and the bees from a woman’s perspective with the master vampire and your daughter’s best male friend.” She must have looked horrified, because he smiled. “They’re smart kids, Joyce. They’ll be fine. Besides,” he drew in a breath to sigh, “by the time we could sit down with them, it will probably be too late. I would imagine Anya and Xander will have fairly effectively deflowered each other by morning.”

“Good lord! Do you really think so?”

“I’m fair certain of it. Anya still hasn’t forgiven us for denying her the chance to explore the possibilities of having two Xanders at her disposal at once. I don’t see her missing a second opportunity for experimentation.”

Joyce thought about that, perhaps a little too hard. “I don’t think I can remember the last time I was that uninhibited.”

The look he gave her was potent, but his voice was velvety soft. “I can.”

She felt a delicious shiver run through her as her body remembered being that free. With him.

“Joyce,” he said softly, “just because the male population is too bloody ignorant to take you down off the shelf, don’t ever think that you are anything but a desirable, attractive and incredibly sensual woman.”

She met his gaze, saw a spark of the intensity that had drawn her to him that night. “Do you ever . . .” She hesitated, then brazened it out. “Do you ever think about what if? For us, I mean?”

He never took his eyes off her. “Every time I see you.”

Her heart was pounding now. “And?”

“And.” He dropped his gaze. “It’s my job to send Buffy into harm’s way, and yours to protect her. It wouldn’t have worked, however much we might have wished otherwise.”

They were both silent then. What else was there to say?

Giles was the first to shake it off. “Well, I have an early morning. And apparently a severed head waiting for my inspection.” He gathered up his books and papers, stuffing them back in their satchel, then straightening up again. “I’ll just leave through the back. No sense risking something foul leaking on your floors. Thank you for having us.”

She nodded, smiling sadly. “It was my pleasure. I learned a lot.”

“Good night, Joyce.”

“Good night, Rupert.”

And he was gone, leaving her alone in the house with her daughters and her memories.

Chapter Text

Buffy wiped the steam off the full-length mirror in the bathroom and looked at herself, really looked, for the first time.

The man in the mirror was attractive in a wholesome, all-American sort of way. Spike had called her “corn-fed,” and that wasn’t far off. She and Riley could be cousins. She wasn’t too tall, six feet or just a little shy of it. Her face was more oval than Riley’s square visage, and her hair more pale, parted on the left and away from her forehead.

She had a decent physique. Muscled but not freakishly so. No flab, but she wasn’t a hard body, either. Not someone you’d expect to be able to bench press five hundred pounds. She flexed an arm and watched the muscle pop out. Amused, she assumed the traditional body builder’s pose, arms curled and flexed in front of her, and she watched in satisfaction as her pectorals rose up, firm and round. Not steroidal scary man-breast round, just . . . strong looking. She was built much like she had been as a girl. Averagely athletic, but nothing unusual.

She straightened up to toy thoughtfully with the downy white hairs scattered along the midline of her chest, darkening as they descended over her stomach to a straw color that continued down her legs and clustered at the junction, providing a nest for what lay there.

Finally, embarrassed, she forced herself to look at it. Her penis nestled there, all soft and retracted, framed by her testicles and the curling hair, looking for all the world like an Easter basket treasure. She poked it tentatively. It stretched out its head a bit in response, then retreated back. “Okay, that’s just creepy.”

She shook off the fascination and wrapped the large towel around her chest, grateful Mom had splurged for bath sheets. The regular bath towels they used would never have covered her. She ran a comb quickly through her still-damp hair and went back to her bedroom.

“Not that one. The color’s terrible on you.” Dawn’s voice came from Buffy’s room.

Buffy threw the door open and stormed in. “What are you doing in my room?”

Two pairs of surprised eyes turned to her. Spike was holding a brown leather miniskirt up to his slender waist and a yellow sleeveless turtleneck to his chest while Dawn held two more tops for him to try.

He laughed when he saw her. “You’re wearin’ your towel like a girl, Slayer. Got nothin’ up top to show anymore.”

“I don’t care, Spike! Why are you here?”

“He needed some clothes,” Dawn volunteered, “and he asked me to help.”

He shrugged. “No reflection. Couldn’t tell what looked good.”

“You can’t just take my clothes!” She snatched the blouse out of his hand and stuffed it back in the closet.

“What’s the problem, Slayer? ‘S not like you can wear any of it now. I’m not keepin’ it or anything.”

“Dawn, please go to bed,” she said through gritted teeth.

“But we aren’t done! He still needs . . .”

“Dawn, go to bed before I tell Mom you’ve been hanging out with vampires. Again.”

“Fine!” she sulked, slamming the door behind her as she left.

Buffy turned to see Spike stuffing the skirt and a red handkerchief top into a nylon duffel bag sitting on the bed. “So you’re just helping yourself to my wardrobe?”

He shrugged, crossing over to the dresser. “Well, except for your shoes. You have freakishly small feet, even for a bird.” He fished around in the top drawer, coming up with three colorful sets of panties.

“Oh no!” She snatched them away from him. “You are not borrowing my underwear!”

He shrugged again. “No bother. Don’t usually wear them myself. Bet the inseam of your best leather pants’ll feel real interestin’ on my bare girly parts.”

She grimaced and handed them back. “Here. Just . . . burn them when you’re done.”

He smirked at her as he added them to the bag. “Good thing I don’t need any lift-and-separating. Don’t think there’d be enough room in your tiny little things for my full figure.”

What infuriated her the most was that he was right. He had probably two sizes and a cup on her usual chest measurements, and they were high and firm in the way only silicone could recreate in a human woman.

“How can you be so comfortable with all of this?”

“Oh, come on, Summers!” He stopped, leaning back against her dressing table. “This is a merry romp. Even you have to see the humor in bein’ the one bloke in all the world. You’re the first male Slayer in the history of Slaying. It’d give your ruddy Council twelve kinds of fits if they knew it. You and the Watcher and your Scoobies’ll figure it out in a day or two, and in the meantime you get to walk on the other side for a while.”

“I like the side I was on.”

He cocked his head at her, studying her for a moment. “Yeah, I gotta admit you carry the other better. This look is a little too white bread for my liking. But you seem to like that.” He turned and began poking through her makeup basket, finally choosing a lipstick which he pulled the cap off of to check the color.

“What good is makeup going to do you?” she derided. “You can’t even see yourself to put it on.”

He cocked an eyebrow at her, obviously taking her words as a challenge. With a deft twist of his wrist he exposed the lipstick, raising both brows in a knowing, amused manner. Then he brought his hand to his mouth and slowly, almost sensually, wiped a smooth swath of deep crimson across his full lower lip. Then he delicately curled both lips over his teeth and rubbed them gently into each other before releasing them with a soft pop. With a quick run of his pinky down the divot in his upper lip, he was done, his bow of a mouth perfectly outlined in scarlet. Buffy felt as though all the blood had rushed away from her head. “When I wasn’t applying Dru’s makeup myself, I was watching her do it.” He sauntered over to the bed, dropping the lipstick into the duffel and zipping it shut before turning back to her, eyes bedroom soft. “I love watching a woman put on her face. She touches all the places I love best.” He looked lost in the memory for a moment before shaking it off. “Lighten up Slayer. A couple of days and you’ll be back to your old, uptight, stick up the ass self, no worse for wear.” He grabbed Buffy’s favorite leather coat, single breasted with a cinched waist, off the back of the closet door and slipped it on. “Relax and live a little.” He started towards the window. “Oh, and Slayer?”

“What?” she replied, trying to control her breathing.

He grinned and let his eyes drop. “Your towel is saluting.” And with that he disappeared back over the windowsill.

Chapter Text

Tara waited until Willow went down the hall to the bathroom before undressing.

She paused as she was about to slip into the t-shirt and boxers Buffy had loaned her from Riley, then slowly and hesitantly turned to face herself in the closet mirror.

She was just so . . . big. All over. She was built like her brother, barrel chest, narrow waist, heavy arms and legs. But she was taller, more like her mom’s brother Milo. Her hair was like Milo’s as well, all ash blond and shaggy, as though someone had cut it with a knife. She just looked so different. Hard where she should be soft. Coarse where she should be smooth.

And right in the middle, the primary symbol of what she was now and what she’s ceased to be. Thrusting, invasive, dominating, subjugating . . .

Actually, it was pretty pathetic looking.

Red and wrinkled, barely larger than her testicles but heavy, nestled into the ash blond curls. Frankly, it looked ridiculous. This was what the big deal was about? She didn’t seem to be missing out on much.

Embarrassed at her self-examination, she slipped on the boxers and the t-shirt. Both of them stretched near the edges of their give, but they covered her.

She crossed to their bookshelf and the small altar there where she did her daily prayers and meditations. She lit the small tea light in the womb of the amethyst-bellied goddess that sat there, and then a half stick of patchouli incense, the remains of what she had used that morning. These small rituals, done every day in the same way, helped calm her mind, settle her spirit, and she closed her eyes, murmuring the words of her own personal blessing, giving thanks for the day as she magically connected herself to the energy of the earth, grounding and centering herself as she did every night.

The instant she made the connection, the energy that she drew on roared up into her flooding all the quiet places in her aura, whirling and swirling, all the spheres along her internal axis flaring open in coruscating implosions to receive, process, use, shape, work, do, do, DO.

She staggered back with a gasp, dropping instantly out of trance. The energy drained away immediately, but she stared at her meaty hands, still able to feel it pulsing beneath her skin.

By the goddess, what had she become?

The sound of the doorknob shook her out of her horror, and she slipped into bed before Willow could see her like this.

Willow closed the door gently behind her, then hung her robe on the closet before peeking at Tara. “You asleep already, baby?”

Tara didn’t meet her eyes. “No, not yet.”

Willow sighed. “I wish I could join you, but I’ve got to be magical research girl.” She turned on her desk light and the computer before turning off the room’s overhead fluorescents. “I’ll try not to make too much noise so you can sleep.”

“Thanks,” Tara mumbled.

Willow pulled a couple of Giles’ magickal tomes out of the locked cabinet over the desk and logged into the university’s computer network, quietly organizing her notebook and writing tools. But Tara could feel the tension building, the sensation that meant Willow had to ask a question. And right now there was only one question it could be.

“So, what does it feel like?” her partner finally blurted out.

Tara squeezed her eyes shut and tried not to bury her head in the pillow. How did it feel? To be the polar opposite of who she was, how she defined herself? It felt freakish, horrifying, frightening beyond words. Like she was some kind of parasite invading someone else’s body. “It’s . . . you . . . I don’t really want to talk about it.”

“Okay, I understand. It must be kind of weird.” Willow turned back to her computer, keys clicking as she started entering keywords into her search engine. “Xander and I used to talk about what it would be like if we were the other way around when we were kids. Then I could see what the inside of the boys’ bathroom looked like. And he thought if he was a girl, maybe he could finally take me in arm wrestling.” Willow snorted. “As if. Did you see him? I could so still take him. But he turned out a lot prettier as a girl than I would have thought. I think it’s the eyes.” She whirled around in her chair. “And did you see Spike? Oh sweet goddess! I thought my eyes were going to pop out of my head! I wonder if his chest looks that good when he’s a man. Gods!” She turned back to the desk. “If he gets stuck like that, at least he could make a decent living as a model. Runway models keep night hours, right? Or maybe doing Playboy spreads. He seems even more slutty as a girl than he was as a guy, which, hey, color me surprised, so maybe pervy photo spreads are more his speed. And Buffy! Wow . . .”

But Tara didn’t hear the rest of it. Stuck like this? Her stomach and heart seized up, blood pounding in her ears, deafening her. She couldn’t stay like this, not forever. A scream of horror burbled up in her throat, strangling her as she fought it down. She wouldn’t panic. They would fix this. They had to.

Didn’t they?

Finally, she managed to say “Sweetie, please.”

“I’m sorry baby. Go to sleep. I’ll try not to wake you up when I come to bed.”

But Tara didn’t sleep. She lay silently in the dark, trying to find the small sparks of herself, that held her identity.

When Willow crawled into bed hours later, Tara waited until she fell asleep before grabbing the spare blanket and her own pillows to slip quietly from the bed, making a pallet for herself on the floor.

She lay there, alone and awake, until dawn finally came.

Chapter Text

“I look like Velma.”

Xander studied himself critically in the fogged bathroom mirror. His hair, still damp from his shower, curled in soft waves around his ears and neck. His face, reflected clearly in the small space he had wiped dry, was hopelessly round. But he had a nice mouth . . .

He tipped his head, trying to see his figure better through the condensation. Finally he gave up in frustration and wiped a bit more of the fog away, just enough to reveal his shoulders and . . . slightly lower. He turned left, then right, studying the slope of his neck and shoulders. Then, with a glance towards the bathroom door, he bounced up on his toes.

Whoa. Breasts.

He turned a little on his toes, studying them from all sides. Round, not too high, large rosy nipples spread out like melted silver dollars over the center of them. He lifted them, pulling and squeezing, watching them mold in his hands. He was surprised to see the nipples slowly contract into tight crinkly nubs with a slight tingle of electricity that shot somewhere near the base of his stomach. He’d seen Anya’s do this in response to his kisses and touches, but hadn’t realized the sensation wasn’t localized.

He ran his hands down over his round stomach. Not flabby (well, not entirely), and not skinny flat like Anya’s, just softly rounded, with gentle hips curving in at his waist. He looked down at his hands, small with delicate fingers resting on the curve of his stomach.

“Oh, what the hell.” He grabbed a dry facecloth and quickly wiped down the whole mirror.

And there he was in all his feminine glory.

The best word he could find to describe himself was plush. Gently curved waist, full hips, velvety full thighs. Not an example of womanly perfection by any means. But . . . nice.

“Did you say something?”

He squealed and snatched up his towel as Anya peeked into bathroom. “Honey!” he said, trying to arrange the towel to cover all the relevant bits. “I thought you were getting ready for bed?”

“I did.” She came all the way into the room, and Xander realized she was naked. Completely naked. And hard as a rock.

“Um.” He swallowed hard. “I think you forgot your pajamas.”

She looked down. “No, I didn’t. We hardly ever wear clothes to bed.”

“Don’t you think this should be one of the exceptions?”

“Why?” She looked genuinely confused.

“Because, sweetheart, we aren’t quite ourselves at the moment.”

“Yes we are. You’re Xander and I’m Anya. We love each other, and therefore we have sex.”

“Even though we’re . . .” He couldn’t finish.

She shrugged. “We’re still a boy and a girl, aren’t we? Which avoids your silly same sex taboo. I don’t’ see any reason for us not to have intercourse tonight.”

“But, Ahn . . .”

She frowned. “You don’t find me attractive in this form, do you?”

Xander didn’t know how to tell her it was quite the opposite. He-Anya was built long and lean, like a distance runner, all muscle, her chest bare of the soft, dark hair that welled up between her legs and framed her erection. He didn’t know how to explain that his old brain still recognized her as Anya, comfortlovercompanionpartnermate, and his new body reacted accordingly, making him hot and electrified in new and interesting places. He did want her, even like this, and he wasn’t sure what that said about him.

So, as usual, when faced with the unexplainable, he went for humor. “Isn’t that supposed to be my line now?”

Backfire. She stepped closer to him, and he could feel her cock prod gently into his stomach. “But I find you very attractive like this.”

“You do?” He stepped back and turned to look in the mirror again. “You don’t think I’m too . . . heavy?”

She moved behind him to meet his eyes in the now clear mirror, her warmly tanned skin contrasting starkly with his pale flesh. She rested her hands on his shoulders and then let them slide down his arms. “I think you are beautiful. All soft and round and feminine.” She bent her head down and kissed him softly at the base of his neck, and he was surprised when his whole body trembled. “Aren’t you curious?” she asked, gently placing kisses across his bare shoulder as her arms slipped around his waist. “Haven’t you wondered what it feels like for me when you touch my breasts, my derriere, my vagina? I’ve always wanted to know what it feels like to get an erection.” She glanced down between them. “Although it seems to be more a matter of having than getting. Does this thing ever go away?”

“As much as you think about sex?” he breathed. “Probably not.”

“Hmm.”

“Anya, I’m just not so sure about this . . .”

It will be educational.” Her hands slipped upwards to cradle his breasts, letting her thumbs stroke across his nipples. He hissed and leaned back into her. “I can show you all the things I like, and you can show me all the things you like. When we’re back to our normal selves, think about how much better our sex life will be.”

“Unless I realize I’m gay.”

“You won’t,” she said certainly.

“How do you know?”

She turned him around and boosted him up to sit on the counter. “Because you like breasts too much.”

With that she kissed him, gently nudging between his thighs as she slowly explored his new mouth. Her lips felt strong on his, firm but gentle as she teased and coaxed him into returning the caress. Slowly he succumbed as the sensations of just their mouths meeting shivered through his body. He was the first one to attempt tentative forays with his tongue, which she eagerly reciprocated.

“It’s the man’s role to initiate these activities, isn’t it?” she asked against his mouth.

He slid his lips along to nuzzle at her ear. “Traditionally. But then we’ve never been traditional.”

“Still.” She pushed him back gently to let her mouth course down over his neck and shoulder to place pliant kisses and caresses along the curve of his breast. With a sharp catch of his breath, he closed his eyes to revel in the sensation. It was like static electricity under his skin, radiating out to his whole body. She gently massaged the left as her mouth focused on the right, lipping around the full curve of it in a descending spiral until her tongue whipped across the nipple. At his gasp of pleasure, she smiled and sucked the suddenly erect nipple between her teeth.

“Oh my god!” He clutched her head to him as she suckled at him, sending lines of hot fire shooting through him. She bit down lightly and he cried out at the sharp jolt that fired into his brain. With a long, languid lick, she shifted her attention to his other breast, repeating the work she had done on the other until he was whimpering over her head. She looked up at him with a slightly smug smile. “Did that feel good?”

He nodded weakly.

“Do you know what else feels really good?”

He shook his head.

She smiled brightly, then dropped her head even lower to run her tongue up through his folds, tapping his clit as she went by.

Something deep inside him flared and erupted, sending his body into convulsions. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t speak, could only let the waves of pure joy wash through him, leaving him limp and spent against the bathroom mirror.

Anya looked up at him with a soft smile. “Was that what I think it was?” he gasped out.

She nodded. “Did you like it?”

He knew his expression was incredulous. “Yes, I liked it. I liked it very oh fuck Anya!” he moaned as she went back in for another taste. “What are you . . .”

“You aren’t a man anymore,” she explained patiently between short, delicate licks. “You aren’t done after one shot. Now just relax or this won’t feel as good.”

Holy god, this could feel better? He didn’t know if he could survive it. But she braced an arm over his stomach to fondle his breast as she pushed him back, so he leaned against the mirror again and let her have her way with him.

He head bobbed gently as she worked, her nose nudging against his clit with tiny electric pulses as her strokes became longer, more exploratory. It was amazing. As the sensations became more and more intense, her felt more and more diffuse, as though he were expanding. His heart pounded erratically, his breath coming in eager, unsteady pants. It was hard to differentiate her tongue from his own wet, hungry flesh, but each pass she made wound something tighter and tighter in him.

Suddenly something hard, edged, almost sharp began working its way into his tender flesh, and he realized Anya was sliding one long finger along the trail her mouth had just laid down. “Anya, no, I don’t. . .”

“Shh” she murmured soothingly, and her breath sent chills along his hypersensitized skin. She continued to probe with the finger, penetrating him slowly, as though she were looking for something. The gentle stretch, the friction of the rougher skin of her hands against his own soft tissue was astounding, and his hips began jerking in time to her gentle strokes as she focused her mouth on his nub, sucking and licking as she introduced a second finger into him. The small room was filled with sounds now, echoing off the tiles to reverberate in his ears. The last rational shred his mind retained was astonished to realize that the high whimpering pleas of desperation were coming from his own mouth, before Anya did something with the fingers she had buried deep inside him and the whole world disappeared in white hot blackness, his body bucking and sliding on the counter, knocking aside toiletries and appliances as he came and came and came.

When the world stopped spinning, he opened his eyes to see her still kneeling there, a proud smile on her face. “Do you see now why I like that so much?”

He drew a deep, shuddering breath and nodded as vigorously as he could.

She rose up, still standing between his slack legs, gathering him close to her chest. “And when we’re back to ourselves, you’ll do it more often?”

“I swear.” He nodded again, slowly finding breath to speak. “Every morning when you wake up and every night before you go to sleep. More on the weekends.”

“See?” She said against the crown of his head. “Something good did come of this.”

They were just quiet, holding each other as he finished coming down. But Xander quickly became aware of her erection prodding into his stomach. It couldn’t be comfortable for her. He let one hand fall to slide tentatively along her length. Her breath hitched slightly. “That feels good.”

He sucked up his courage and pushed her back, slipping to his feet and taking her hand to lead her to the bedroom. “Let me show you something that feels even better.”

He could do this, he psyched himself, grabbing two of the pillows and dropping them on the foot of the bed. If she could do it, he could do it. He laid down on his stomach, propping his chest up on the pillows to elevate his head as he held it past the edge of the bed. “Now come here.”

She did, her eyes wide, and it gave him some comfort to know she was unsure about this as well. He took her narrow hips in his hands, drawing her into position. Her cock jutted straight out from her body, so he didn’t even need to use his hands to guide it as he roughly tongued the seeping head.

It didn’t taste awful, and her groan of pleasure more than made up for it. He loved it when she went down on him, sucking and gobbling at him like he was the sweetest treat until he shot down her throat. He wanted her to understand how grateful he was every time she did this for him. After what she’d just done for him, he needed to.

He observed distantly as he wrapped his fingers around her shaft that she was shorter and chubbier than he was. Well, than when he had one. He propped his elbows up on the mattress and drew her closer, letting his tongue work firmly all around the head. She thrust automatically, and he put a hand on her hip. “Baby, I’m going to make this as good for you as I can, but if you do that, this is going to end early and with a horrible mess. So you’re going to have to hold really still, okay?”

Eyes even bigger, she nodded.

He smiled up at her. “You can make all the noise you want though, okay?”

Her high tenor voice nearly broke. “Okay.”

He bent back to his work, sliding his tongue along the vein and down to his coiled fingers, tightening his grip as he slowly started jacking her, taking her head fully into his mouth.

With an earth-shaking groan, she knotted her fingers in his hair, and he could feel her fighting her body’s instinctive need to force its way into him. “Oh, Xander,” she whimpered, and just getting those words out seemed to release a cascade of them as he resumed, sliding his mouth down and his fist up, to meet in the middle and retreat again. “Oh god, Xander, that feels so oh yes do it again oh please Xander yes please . . .”

She felt interesting in his mouth and in his hand. Like warm suede over cast iron. There was no give to it at all as he squeezed and stroked, a familiar motion that felt so odd with his smaller, softer hands. He pulled his mouth off, letting his hand slick up to the head, coating it in juice and saliva as he flexed his jaw, already a bit tired. This was a lot harder than he’d thought.

She moaned softly in complaint at the loss of his mouth until his now slippery hand began stroking hard and fast. She swore fiercely and let her hips move in time to his strokes. But when he encircled her again, she froze. He slid his mouth down to meet his fist, but when his hand retreated, his mouth followed. He braced himself but tried to stay relaxed as he took her deeper and deeper into his mouth. It was one of the benefits of this position, that it tilted his head up and opened his throat. They had used it often, but of course he’d never seen it from this perspective.

A steady, low stream of curses issued from Anya’s mouth, rewarding him for his hard work. He could feel subtle shifts under his hand and knew what they meant. She seemed to figure it out at the last moment, because she ripped herself away with a gasp.

“Anya?”

“Not the first time,” she gasped out, chest heaving, eyes wild. “I want . . . inside, the first time.”

His heart clenched. Point of no return. But god, she looked so desperate, so needy. He’d been left like that more than a time or two. He loved her too much. He couldn’t do that to her.

He rolled over and offered her his hand. “Come here, baby.”

She took his hand in hers, bending down to kiss him hungrily. He indulged in the sensuous slide of their lips, tasting himself faintly on her, wondering if she could taste herself on him. She pulled away and turned to open the bedside table, drawing something out. He heard a tearing sound, then saw her struggle with something.

He sat up. “What are you doing?”

She struggled a moment longer. “Oh, I can’t get this on!” She turned, and he saw she had a condom in her hand.

He smiled. “We don’t need those. You’ve been on the pill since before we started dating.”

“But I’m not the one who can get pregnant now.”

“Oh.” That was a bucket of cold water. “Let me help you with that.”

He took it from her and tightened it back up, then situated the center over her tip and with one deft hand motion rolled it down over her.

She groaned, and he was surprised to feel himself respond to the gesture as well. “Are you ready?” he asked her huskily.

She nodded. “Are you?”

In answer he drew her down onto the bed next to him, catching her mouth as he rubbed his body against hers. He reached down to cup her balls in his small hand and found them high and tight and so, so ready. He knew he was ready, too, could feel the muscles in his pussy clench and release. God, even just thinking the words sent shocks through him.

Anya loved it when he talked dirty. Maybe she still did?

“I want to feel you inside me, Anya.” The words came awkwardly at first as he switched roles and genders in his head. “I want to feel your cock inside me. I want to know what it feels like for you.”

It wasn’t inspired dialogue, but she responded to it nonetheless. “Yes, Xander, right now. Please now.”

“Yes, baby, now. You can do it.”

She shifted her weight onto one arm and leaned to the side so she could see what she was doing, grasping her cock with her free hand to guide it to him. He gasped as it stroked along his tender slit, the head seeming to touch everywhere at once. Then suddenly she sank a bit. “There,” he gasped. “Right there.”

They both cried out as she surged into him, halfway down in a single stroke. “Oh my god, Anya!” He felt so full, so completely connected to her.

She held him tight, face buried in his hair. “Xander, oh sweet oh this is so good.” He nodded and rocked his hips against her. When she moaned her pleasure, he continued, encouraging her. “You can move now, baby. You can move all you want.”

She nodded, pulling back as he did to draw her cock almost out of him before forcing it back in, more slowly but deeper than the first time.

“Oh yeah again,” he pleaded hoarsely. “Fuck me, Anya. I want you to fuck me so hard.” He instinctively wrapped his legs up around her hips.

She growled and gripped one of his hips as she began to find her rhythm. “I’ll fuck you, Xander Harris. I’ll fuck you till you can’t walk.” She dipped and pulled in long, wet strokes, the sweat running off them, making their bodies slip over each other in delicious suctioning sounds.

And they forgot. They forgot who was male and who was female, that one of them was supposed to be one thing and the other something else. They simply were male and female together. Just as it was meant to be.

She came first, with a shuddering cry and a slam of her hips that drove her even deeper into him, and then again to tear him apart in gasping screams of release. He arched up against her, clutching at her back and arms until she collapsed on top of him, totally spent.

They lay together like that for long moments before she finally rolled them over onto their sides, slipping out of him. She looked down in distaste and uncertainty at the heavy condom slipping off her now soft cock. He breathed a laugh and took pity on her. “Just grab it by the collar and pull back out of it. It can go in the trash can.” He watched as she did as he directed, then grabbed the hand towel under the bed to clean herself off as she must have seen him done any number of times. As she discarded the towel, he asked, “Why do you have condoms, anyway?”

She shrugged. “They make cleaning my sex toys easier.”

“Sex toys? Plural?”

“Well, a girl likes variety. And you don’t want me to sleep with other men, so . . .”

He shook his head and curled up in her arms, falling into their usual embrace automatically.

“Xander?” she asked tentatively.

“Mmm hmm?” A comfortable lethargy was stealing over him, a combination of exertion and comfort sapping his energy.

“Was I . . . did you like that?”

That roused him. He lifted his head. “Why, didn’t you?”

“No, I did! Very much! Maybe . . . too much.”

He hugged her, kissed her firm lips gently. “There’s no shame in enjoying it. We’re just pretty incredible together, no matter what bodies we’re in. I admit to being a little weirded out. But it’s not that I like giving head, it’s that I like giving you head. I love you, and I want to make you feel good.”

“Even if it means being submissive to me?”

“Anya.” He looked her in the eye. “When have you ever not been the dominant one in our relationship?”

“So you liked it?”

“Yeah, I did. It felt . . . amazing.”

She smiled, a touch of the predator in the curl of her lips as she pushed him back onto his back. He could feel her hardening against his thigh as she partly covered his body with hers. “Just wait until you see how it feels when you’re on top!”

Chapter Text

The Promenade was empty as Spike cut through. Not surprising, actually. The shops had all been closed for hours, and at three in the morning, even the human bars had been closed for an hour. But it was the quickest way to get to Willy’s from his crypt, where he’d stopped to drop off the clothes and accoutrements that Dawn had helped him nick from the Slayer.

And how was that for a kick in the balls? He’d been lusting after the little bitch for years, and for a month had known he was actually in love with her. And now he was wearing her clothes. He pulled the lapel of her leather jacket up to his nose and inhaled the pungent aroma of her perfume and her sweat. God, it was enough to make him hard. Assuming he could get hard.

He glanced down at his new curves. He’d done as well as he could, but the best he’d been able to figure was that he was pretty good looking. Mirrors were obviously no help to him, and the Little Bit hadn’t been able to find Joyce’s Polaroid. But he could see for himself that he had great tits (and how much fun was it that they were bigger than Buffy’s?), a board-flat stomach and strong, supple thighs. He just couldn’t put all the pieces together.

He was about to turn off the mall when the small photo booth caught his eye. It was one of those self-serve things the girls liked to get their blokes into to remember their evening by. Sentimental rubbish. But it was lit, which meant it was still plugged in.

Spike looked around. The Promenade was still empty, the only sounds he could hear coming from Main Street and the highway beyond. He pulled out his wallet. A ten, a five and a handful of singles. Was it worth it?

Yeah.

He shucked off the coat and sneakers and chucked them into the bottom of the booth, following them in and drawing the curtain behind. Next came the jeans and the blue and purple plaid bikini panties he’d swiped out of the Slayer’s drawer. When he was down to his T-shirt, he leaned out through the closed curtain and fed the five into the slot. Dropping into the seat, he whipped the shirt off and smiled just as the flash went off. He stood up and the flash fired again, hopefully catching his chest. He jumped up on the bench as the booth shot again, and on impulse he turned around for the last shot.

He pulled the clothes back on quickly, tied the sneakers up and pulled his hair out of his collar before grabbing the strip of photos out of the slot.

Nice.

 

He sat at the far end of the bar at Willy’s, studying the photos in front of him. The face especially. He sort of looked like his mother, he thought. Same pointed chin, same broad forehead. Or maybe more like his Aunt Claire. But the rest . . . well, it was all still just pieces, wasn’t it? He pulled a switchblade out of his pocket and began to very carefully slice along the lines. “Oy, mate!” He called for Willy’s attention. “You got any scotch tape back there?”

The greasy barkeep sauntered over, looking down at the pictures. “You know, babe, you want naked pictures of yourself, I know a guy . . .”

“Willy, that line couldn’t buy you jail time, let alone time with me. Now you got any tape or not?”

He narrowed his eyes. “You know, if you want something, sweet knees, you might wanna think about being a little nicer.” The emphasis he put on the last word left Spike in no doubt about what the snitch thought was nice.

Spike leaned forward and caught Willy’s shirt, pulling him closer. “And you might wanna think about getting me that tape and a whiskey and beer, or I’m going to tell all your mates and that obviously brain dead specimen of a girlfriend of yours about the incident between you and the duck. Got it?”

Willy’s eyes went wide. “How do you know about that? Nobody knows about that! Nobody but . . .” He stopped, realizing what he was seeing. “Ho-lee . . . Spike?”

“Yeah, and if you breathe a word of it to anyone, I swear I’ll find a way around this chip and kill you myself.” He shoved him away. “Now get me my drink.”

Willy came back a moment later with the stein, shot glass and a plastic roll of tape. Spike ignored him to put the final cuts in the pictures and began piecing them together. He glanced around. No Clem, none of his other usual contacts. A pair of Draygo demons by the jukebox, a handful of vamps scattered around, a Nerinian at the other end of the bar and, clustered around a table by the back door, three human guys, obviously slumming. Terrific. He slammed back the whiskey and a mouthful of beer before going back to his project.

Spike pulled off two pieces of cellophane from the roll and deftly stuck the pictures together along the back edges before turning it over. The results were less than satisfactory. His shoulders were missing, as was his navel and the ends of his legs. With a growl, he pulled the head off and stuck it in his wallet, wadding up the rest to toss over the bar into the trashcan.

He snapped his fingers to get Willy’s attention. “Give me a pen.”

Willy handed over a blue ballpoint and Spike grabbed a napkin to quickly sketch out the demon he and Buffy had taken on. “You see anything like this before?”

Willy studied the drawing before shaking his head. “Nah, nothin’ like that’s ever come through here. I can ask around for you, though.”

“You find anything, take it to the Watcher over at the Magic Box. He’s good for it.” He returned the pen and pulled out his wallet again to hand over the ten.

Willy stopped him. “Your tab’s already been paid.” And he pointed to the table by the backdoor.

Spike looked to see one of the guys wave as the other two checked him out.

“Oh bloody perfect.”

He shoved the money back in the wallet and stuffed the leather billfold back in his pocket as Willy grinned. “Just like you said, Spike. I didn’t say a word!”

“Wanker,” he growled, but it didn’t seem to have the usual effect. Gathering his dignity, he stalked out.

He hadn’t gotten further than the other side of the street before he heard the first voice behind him. “Now, baby, is that any way to show your gratitude?”

Spike didn’t turn around, just kept walking.

“Hey, bitch, I was talkin’ to you!”

He heard the feet moving behind him and turned to face the three thuggery bastards.

“You haven’t said anything yet I want to hear.”

“You know, a pretty thing like you should know better how things work. I scratch your back, you scratch my itch.”

“Mate, a pint and a shot about pays for the time I’ve wasted on you already.”

“Stuck up cunt.” He grabbed Spike’s arm and yanked him close.

Damn. What had he been thinking? He couldn’t fight these bastards without his head exploding. And he’d be buggered if his first sexual experience in this body would be getting pawed over by these wanks. Well, for a change he wouldn’t actually be buggered, depending on what they had in mind, but that was beside the point. How to get away? What would the Slayer do? No good, she’d pound the piss out of them. But what about the others? Red, or the demon bird? Well, Anya was easy. She’d just . . .

He dropped his shoulders and cocked his hip. And smiled. “You’re right. I forget myself sometime.” He lifted his hand to drift it down Head Thug’s arm. “You and your mates here look like a right party.”

Head Thug grinned at Thug One and Thug Two. “Yeah, we know how to show a lady a good time.”

Spike refrained from rolling his eyes. “Do you like . . . games?” He was using his best Marilyn Monroe routine, but didn’t know how well he was pulling it off.

It must have been good enough, because Head Thug licked his lips. “Oh yeah,” he breathed. “We really like to play.” And released Spike’s arm to reach for his ass.

That was what Spike was waiting for. With all his speed, he ducked under Head Thug’s arm and leapt for the fire escape five paces behind them, surging up to the roof. He stopped and turned to look down on them with a smirk. “Game’s catch me if you can, you bleeding ponces. Enjoy fisting each other, cuz it’s all the action you’ll see tonight!”

He laughed at their howls of frustration. It was easier to ignore how close a call it had been without a heartbeat pounding in his chest to remind him.

Chapter Text

When Buffy came downstairs the next morning, her mother was already up.

Joyce hesitated only a moment before smiling brightly. "Good morning, sweetie. I didn't expect you up quite so early."

Buffy shrugged. "I couldn't sleep anymore." She wasn't about to admit that that was because she'd woken up with an erection hard enough to pound through steel.

"Well," Joyce went on, "how about some breakfast? I can make eggs, or . . ."

Dawn bounded in. "Pancakes? I love pancakes for breakfast."

"Not for you." She kissed her daughter on the head. "You have school. Eggs I can do. You want some?"

Dawn sighed. "Nah, I'll just have cereal." She reached into the cupboard for a bowl. "Buffy has classes too, you know."

Joyce gave Dawn a stern look. "Buffy also has extenuating circumstances."

But Buffy groaned. "Oh god, classes! And I've got a history midterm on Friday."

"Mr. Giles called this morning to say he was working on that," Joyce said, breaking eggs into a bowl, "so you don't need to worry. He also said he might have a lead on the head you brought him, and wanted you all to meet him at the shop this afternoon."

"Go, research man." Buffy dug into the fridge for the orange juice. "So now I just have to kill the morning."

Joyce put a plate of scrambled eggs in front of her. "Which you will do by going shopping with your mother."

Buffy froze with her fork halfway to her plate. "What? No! I'm not setting foot outside this house until I'm a girl again!"

Joyce gave her the mom look. "Well that's obviously not true, because you have to go to the Magic Box this afternoon. I'm not going to embarrass you, Buffy, but you need clothes that actually fit you. At least for a couple of days."

"Oh god." She looked up at her mother with pleading eyes. "I don't want to be a guy for a couple of days."

"Well, you are. Now eat up, and then you can call your friends. We'll all go together and you can commiserate."

"Don't forget Spike," Dawn said with her mouth full.

Buffy’s eyes widened in horror. "Oh, I am so not taking Spike to the mall!”

"Mom!" Dawn protested. "Spike needs things, too! He borrowed my best sneakers last night, and I don't want him to get gunk all over them fighting whatever for Buffy."

Joyce's voice was calm. "Of course, Spike is coming, too. He probably needs as much support as the rest of you."

It was Buffy's turn to talk with her mouth full. "Did you see him last night? Did he look like he needed support? He's such a big girl anyway, he probably didn't even notice the difference."

"I did," Dawn mumbled under her breath.

Buffy had to admit she did, too. And this body had responded accordingly. Which she didn't want to think about.

"Spike is coming, and that's final. Now finish your breakfast. You have phone calls to make."

"Can I come, too?" Dawn asked innocently.

Alto and baritone voices both replied with a resounding "No!"

 

Wrapped up in her oversized bathrobe, her shower caddy clutched in one meaty hand, Tara stumbled down the hall towards the bathrooms.

She was just reaching for the door when it was jerked open and out of her grip, revealing one of her floor mates, bundled up in two large towels and nothing else. She glared at Tara. “The housing is co-ed, not the showers. Little boy’s room is across the hall.”

Tara blushed furiously, backing away from the door. The girl sighed and brushed past her to go back to her room. Tara was tempted to do the same, just go and hide in her room until this was all straightened out.

But Willow was in their room, too.

And this new body desperately needed a shower.

With a deep breath and a prayer that the men’s showers were set up like the women’s, she pushed her way through the door.

It was early enough that there were only a few people up. She was grateful to see that the facilities were set up like the women’s for the most part, with a row of stalls and urinals facing a row of sinks and beyond that the showers in their individual stalls with privacy curtains. So she wouldn’t have to bathe in front of all these guys.

She paused in front of the mirror, her hand lifting to touch her rough beard. She was going to have to shave. Fortunately, she had a new razor in her caddy. But didn’t she need to use shaving cream? Maybe her conditioner would work.

“Hey.”

She looked up to see Mitch Brewster looking at her. “Didn’t I see you come in with Rosenberg last night?” he asked.

“Um, yeah.”

Mitch grinned. “Knew it. Didn’t figure it would take her long. Do you know if her girlfriend straightened out, too?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Well, she’s really cute, when you can get a word out of her. And if Rosenberg’s gone back to guys, maybe Tara’d be willing to give it a shot, too.”

Tara was offended, disgusted, confused. Is that what he thought? That her sexuality was something she could just “get over”? But all she said was, “I think Tara’s just gone for a few days. Willow’s letting me crash until she comes back.”

“Oh.” He looked disappointed, but shrugged. “Oh well, maybe next time.” And he wandered off.

Tara stumbled into the first empty shower stall and dropped her caddy, pulling the curtain to ensure her privacy as she collapsed on the shower bench, shaking. She’d been so lost in her own issues of identity that Willow’s reaction hadn’t even registered. She’d been so open, so accepting of Tara’s radical change, as though it made no difference. But what if it didn’t? What if Willow preferred her like this? She had never complained about being unhappy, unsatisfied in her relationship with Oz. What if Tara was the exception for her, a bit of experimentation before finding a real relationship?

She let the water sluice over her alien body, washing quickly and with no attention as thoughts whirled chaotically in her head.

What if Willow preferred her this way?

She returned to the room without shaving, too lost in her disquiet to risk a blade near her skin.

Willow as just hanging up the phone as Tara came in. “That was Buffy,” she said with a smile of greeting. “Her mom’s taking everyone shopping for new clothes to tide you over. They’ll be here in a little bit.” She studied Tara in concern. “Are you okay?”

Tara looked away, hiding her agitation. “I’m fine. Shopping. That should be fun.”

 

The bathroom was still steamy from their shower as Anya stood in front of the mirror, studying her penis critically. It was only about six or six and a half inches long, but with a thick girth that made her wish she could be on the receiving end of it. She wrapped her hand around it, enjoying the feel of her coarse palm on the sensitive skin. It had felt even better buried in Xander, though. No wonder guys thought about sex all the time if it felt that good.

Her jawline caught her eye and her attention shifted to examining her face carefully, running her hand along her cheeks. Her beard was coming in her natural dark shade, but it looked like it might be fairly sparse. No point in growing in a beard if it wasn’t going to be full.

She reached for Xander’s shave cream and squeezed some out into her hand, slathering it heavily over her neck and jaw like she’d seen him do any number of times. Double checking that everything was covered, she took up his razor and began wiping it off.

Xander came back in from answering the phone, wrapped up in her robe. “That was Buffy,” he started, then stopped at the sight of her. “What are you doing?”

She met his eyes in the mirror. “Shaving.”

“Hari kiri by razor is more like it.” He plucked the razor from her fingers and sat her down on the toilet. “You’ve got too much cream on.” He wiped it off carefully, spreading the remainder around and letting her see in the mirror. “You just need enough to make the razor slide.” He picked up the razor and began working gently, rinsing the blade regularly. “You just go slowly and lightly. Pushing down hard won’t get more hair, it’ll just get your skin. Now push your cheek out like this.” He stuck his tongue in the inside of his mouth, rounding his cheek out. Anya did the same, and he began moving over it. “And you always go in the direction of your beard. Other side.” She moved her tongue. “If you go against the grain, it’ll just catch the hairs under the skin and itch like crazy.” He tilted her chin up and began working up the long column of her throat. “That was Buffy on the phone. Her mom’s taking us all shopping for new clothes.”

“That’s nice of her.”

“Hold still. I’m almost done.” He stroked the blade gently over and around her Adam’s Apple. Then he wet a facecloth and wiped away the remnants of soap and stubble. “There. All done. What do you think?”

She caught his curved waist and drew him close. “I think I’m hard again.”

“Anya,” he protested, but let her draw him close enough to straddle her legs. Even through the towel she wore about her hips, his softness felt good, welcoming against her rigid cock. He draped his arms around her neck. “Not every erection is a mandate for sex.”

She untied the knot at his waist and pushed his robe open, the silk falling away to frame his ripe curves. She rubbed one hand along the full curve of his breast. “It should be.”

Xander’s breath caught slightly at her caress, but he continued. “Having been on the other side, I have to agree, but it’s really not—oh god!” He cried out, clutching at her head as she bent to lick and suck eagerly at one tight nipple. She thrust up against him, grateful that this body knew instinctively how to pursue its own pleasure.

He groaned as she shifted her attention to his other breast, and he reached down between them to release her towel. “They’re going to be here any time,” he whispered hoarsely, sliding his damp pussy along her length, looking for the head. She could tell he wanted this as badly as she did, despite his protests.

“Then we’ll have to hurry,” she murmured as she found his channel and steadily forced her way into him.

“Just . . . oh god . . . don’t hurry . . . too fast,” he grunted as he began riding her.

Anya let her hand slip between them to circle his clit, making him scream as she felt the force of her own orgasm building. “Don’t worry,” she promised, sucking his nipple back between her teeth. “I won’t ever leave you unsatisfied.”

 

Buffy pushed open the crypt door without knocking and marched in with a peremptory “Spike!” When he didn’t respond right away, she called again. “Spike! Don’t make me come down there after you!” She paced the length of the room, hearing him moving around downstairs.

“What is it, Slayer?”

She turned towards the sound of his voice. “My mom insist . . . oh my god.”

He was dressed in the red sneakers and brown leather miniskirt, topped off by one of his own black t shirts. His eyes were carefully outlined, emphasizing his dark lashes and brilliant blue eyes, and his mouth the brilliant red he had taken from her collection the night before.

And his head was covered all over in enormous sausage curls.

She covered her mouth, but it didn’t prevent her laughter from escaping. He raised his hands to his head self-consciously. “What? What’s wrong?”

“You look like Shirley Temple,” she snickered.

“Can’t be. Niblet wouldn’t do that to me, and she said this would help.”

He looked so disconsolate that she took pity on him. “It would, if you had the patience to do it right. You have to do little pieces at a time. Come here and sit down. I’ll fix it. Have you got a pencil or a sharp stick or something?”

He dug through a pile on the table by his chair and pulled out a chopstick. “This do?”

“Perfect. Now sit down.”

He did as she said, and she carefully began separating each fat curl into a half dozen loose tendrils. Dawn must have given him some kind of conditioner for it, because it was soft and less fly away than it had been last night. She drifted into a comfortable trance as she worked steadily. He was unresistant, just sitting quietly under her hands.

“I’d never realized how wavy your hair is,” she said softly.

He didn’t open his eyes. “’S why I slick it back. Too hard to take care of when I can’t see it.”

“It’s nice.”

“Thanks.”

“My mom wants you to come shopping with us,” she added.

“Hmm?” His query was a soft, relaxed purr.

“To the mall. She’s taking us all to get new clothes, stuff that fits, and she wants you to come with us. God knows why,” she tacked on, but there was no malice to it.

“Cuz she’s a good woman. Don’t know how she ended up with a shrew like you for a daughter.” But his tone was equally mild.

“Are you going to come or not?”

“Yeah, I’ll come. For Joyce.”

“There.” She stepped back to examine the results of her work. Long, loose ringlets now framed his soft face, emphasizing his mouth and cheekbones. She felt her body reacting to his appearance and stepped back.

He reached up to touch it apprehensively. “Well? Does it look better?”

“Yeah, you look fine.” Her defensiveness was back in place. “Are you coming?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, grab your blanket and come on.”

He shook his head. “I’ll meet you there. No sense risking the daylight when I don’t need to. Where’s she taking you?”

“Macy’s, I think. She can get things for all of us there.”

“I’ll meet you there in half an hour or so.”

“Don’t be late. You don’t want my mother mad at you.” Why was she looking for excuses for him to come? She didn’t want him there.

Did she?

He smiled, a surprisingly gentle expression that softened his features. “No, that I don’t. You tell her I’ll be there.”

Buffy hated the sense of relief she felt as she closed the door behind her.

Chapter Text

Spike lounged in the atrium outside the entrance to the department store, hiding under the escalator from the late morning sun. Bloody malls and their bloody skylights.

The bench he reclined on had a good view of the foot traffic, and he leaned back against the arm, sprawling over the whole bench, as he watched the people coming and going. All overfed, underactive, plump, juicy . . . His stomach rumbled. He should have remembered to eat before he came, but Buffy’s appearance that morning had distracted him.

He thought about that. He might have expected a lot of things from Buffy, but not the gentle compassion she had shown in the face of his fashion disaster. Even as large as they were, her hands had been gentle as she worked to correct his error. His scalp still tingled from her contact. And he knew she hadn’t been unmoved by it, either. He loved her in this body. It was so much harder for her to lie to him now. Spike was fully aware of her response to him in her own form, but it was subtle and difficult to prove without reaching into her pants, which, while tempting, would do nothing so much as guarantee him a good staking. But now her reaction was plain to anyone with eyes. She wanted him. Bad. And judging by the view, the Summers genes had been generous. He tipped his head back and closed his eyes, imagining what it might look like, thick and long, heavily veined, the tip glistening, his smaller hand closing around it as he slowly began jerking her off . . .

“Is this seat taken?”

His pleasant fantasy was interrupted by a male voice standing next to him. He opened his eyes to glare at the twenty-something man, dressed oh so suburban in khakis and a green polo and eyeing Spike like he was some pretty piece of candy.

“Yeah,” Spike replied rudely. “Me.” He tried to close his eyes again, but the guy was persistent.

“Do you mind if I join you?”

“Nah, I don’t mind. That’s why I’m doin’ all this not moving.”

“You don’t need to be rude.” The guy sounded offended, not that Spike cared. “I just thought a pretty girl like you would want some company.”

Spike raised his head again and glared. “What do my looks have to do with it? You think plain girls don’t want company, too? Go bother one of them and leave me alone.”

“Look . . .”

“I just can’t leave you alone for a minute, can I?” Buffy’s now familiar baritone spoke up behind him.

With a sneer at the suburban nightmare, he swung his legs over the side of the bench and rose gracefully to his feet, straightening his skirt and jacket and pushing his hair back off his neck before turning to her. “Took you long enough.”

Her face was hard. “You got a problem, talk to the management.”

Mr. Perfect looked put out. “I didn’t know she was with anyone.”

Buffy gave him a glare of pure menace, which actually looked more intimidating than usual on this face. “You didn’t really try very hard to find out, though, did you.” It wasn’t a question.

With one last furious look at Spike, the man slunk off.

She turned on Spike. “You just can’t help yourself, can you?”

“Oy, not my fault, Slayer!” he protested. “I was just sittin’ here, mindin’ my own . . .”

“Save it.” She held up one hand to stop the flow of his words, an unusually feminine gesture for so masculine a hand. “Just come on. The others are waiting for us.”

They skirted the large areas of sunlight to get to the entrance to the store where the rest of the Scoobies and Joyce were waiting. A bare instant was enough for him to read body language and size up the current situation. The witches, who normally were never more than a few inches apart even in public, were now feet away from each other. Tara had her arms folded uncomfortably over her chest while Red kept casting moon eyes her way. Every time Will tried to move closer, Tara would move away. Somebody wasn’t adapting well.

The whelp and his lady, on the other hand, seemed to be coping very effectively. She had her arm draped around his shoulder in a gesture of affection and possession that Spike had never seen them share before. And the boy, normally so reticent about showing his affection in public, was very relaxed in her embrace, leaning back against her chest in a very feminine expression of feeling.

“Well, you certainly seem to have adapted,” Spike growled. But he had the feeling it didn’t have the same effect with this voice.

“Yeah, well, I’ve discovered the greatest side benefit to being a girl,” Xander replied smugly.

“And what’s that?”

He paused for a moment, obviously for effect, before saying, “Multiple orgasms.”

All of the natural born women nodded in affirmation, even Joyce, who was blushing furiously. Spike just scowled at the boy. “You’re a right bastard is what you are.”

“What’s the matter, Spike,” Buffy taunted. “Couldn’t get picked up last night?”

He turned on her coolly. “I’ll have you know I got several offers last night. But none of them caught my fancy. I can be particular, you know.”

“Which is why you were with Harmony,” she derided.

“Buffy,” Joyce interrupted, “that’s enough.”

She dropped her head apologetically, although her eyes still flashed fire. “Sorry, Mom.”

“Now,” Joyce continued, addressing everyone, “I know everyone’s a little tense and unsure, but you have to stick together and support each other through this until Mr. Giles finds what you need to know to straighten this out, alright?”

There were nods and murmurs of agreement from all over, including Spike.

“Okay then. Tara and Anya obviously need pants and shirts. Do you think you can work together to find what you need?” The two girls nodded, Tara hesitantly, Anya with more enthusiasm. “Xander, do you know what you need?”

He grimaced. “Frankly, Mrs. S, I haven’t got a clue.”

Willow chimed in. “I do. I’ll take care of him, Mrs. Summers.”

Joyce smiled warmly at her. “That’s wonderful. I’ll take Buffy with me to get shoes and whatever else she needs. Spike? What about you?”

He shrugged. “I just need a decent pair of head bustin’ shoes and I’m good.”

“Why don’t you come with us, then.” Buffy looked like she was about ready to protest before she was stopped by another look from her mother. “Alright then, let’s all meet back here in half an hour, okay?” More nods of agreement, and the little group broke up.

Tara went off with Anya, leaving Willow to watch her go forlornly before following Xander into women’s intimates. Spike shook his head sadly and trailed after Joyce and the Slayer.

 

“I shop for Xander all the time,” Anya said as she and Tara picked through the racks of casual menswear. “He has terrible taste in clothes, so he lets me do it for him. What sort of things do you think you want?”

“I don’t care,” Tara replied listlessly, sliding hangers aside without really seeing what was on them. “Whatever’s on sale.”

“Xander said I should stick to trousers. Something about them having more room in front.”

Tara looked up at her. “You mean, you . . .”

Anya rolled her eyes. “I haven’t been able to get rid of it. And believe me, I’ve tried.” She looked at Tara curiously. “You mean you haven’t had one yet?”

“No.” Tara flushed awkwardly. She wasn’t looking forward to the first time she did get an erection, to feel that out of control of her own body for everyone to see. But she had to ask. “Is it uncomfortable?”

Anya thought about that for a moment before replying, “No, not really. Although it does come with that erection imperative. You know, I’ve got it, now where can I put it? Fortunately Xander’s been very accommodating about that.”

Tara spun and began vigorously searching through the rack of shirts in front of her.

Anya sighed. “I’m sorry. It’s just so much harder to understand the appropriate boundaries like this. In my other body, I know I’m not supposed to talk about sex at all.”

“Nnno,” Tara apologized, “it’s mmmy fault. I shouldn’t have asked.”

Anya shrugged. “I don’t mind.”

They continued picking through the racks, and somehow Tara felt her interest lifted. She found the courage to ask, “Don’t you feel like you aren’t yourself anymore? Like part of you is gone?”

“No.” Anya turned to a rack of shirts.

Tara looked at Anya in disbelief. “But you’re always going on and on about sex and orgasms and all that. You can’t tell me none of this changes that.”

Anya looked at her in confusion. “I still have orgasms in this body. Very pleasant ones. You should try it.”

Tara froze. “What?”

“I said you should try it. I’m sure Willow wouldn’t mind. She enjoyed the orgasms she got from Oz very much.”

Tara felt that cold fear clutch at her heart again. Willow liked sex with men. What if she didn’t want Tara when she went back to just being a mousie girl again? What if she decided she really didn't like men? Would she want anything to do with her at all now, or would she look for a new girlfriend? What if Willow only wanted her for her magics? Those were gone now, weren't they? What if . . .

Anya seemed to realize that once again she’d overstepped. “Mrs. Summers is going to be wondering what happened to us. Let’s find someone to measure us so we can pick our things and go.”

“Yeah,” Tara agreed faintly. “Lets.”

 

Willow fought down a giggle at Xander’s shell-shocked reaction to the range of choices before him in the women’s intimates section. “Come on,” she took his hand and dragged him through to the counter. “The first thing we have to do is get you measured, or we’ll be all day figuring out your right size.”

“Oh god, Will, I don’t know if I can do this.”

“Xander, it’s not the first time you’ve seen women’s underwear.”

“Browsing the Victoria’s Secret catalog doesn’t count,” he protested. “And besides, I wasn’t going to wear it.”

“Come on, you big baby. It’s not like anyone’s going to see it except Anya.”

“Will, please . . .”

She sighed. “Look, Xander, just get measured and try a couple of things on. If you don’t like it, we don’t have to get anything.”

Before he could protest further, they were set upon by an older woman bearing the nametag Nora. “How can I help you ladies this morning?”

Willow gave Xander a small shove forward. “He she needs to get measured.”

The woman looked puzzled at Willow’s odd pronoun use, but smiled and gestured for them to go ahead of her. “Certainly. Let’s go to the fitting rooms, shall we?”

With one final pleading look, Xander gave in and followed the woman forlornly.

Nora unlocked one of the changing room doors and ushered Xander in. “Now, dear, if you’ll undress, this won’t take long. You can leave your bra and panties on.”

“Um.” He looked hesitantly from the clerk to Willow and back. “I haven’t got one on.”

“I thought as much.” She sighed, shaking her head. “We’ll you’ll need to undress anyway. This will just be a little personal for a few moments.”

“Willow?” He fairly whimpered.

Nora looked at her impatiently. “Is there a problem?”

“No, no problem,” Willow insisted with a smile. “Her parents are hippies. On a commune up north.” She began to get into her story. “She grew up hearing about the patriarchal subjugation of women through lingerie. She’s never even worn tights.”

Xander looked mortified, but the woman’s impatience melted away into sympathy. “You poor dear. Well, we’ll have you dressed like a proper young lady in no time.”

Xander kicked off his shoes and dropped his slacks, and with a last uncomfortable glance at Willow, began to take off his top.

She couldn’t help but chuckle as she turned aside to give him privacy. She heard Nora say, “Oh, my dear, with the right foundation garments you could have such a nice figure. And those panties will never do. They’re almost three sizes too small.”

Willow would imagine they were. They were probably Anya’s, and the girl was a stick. Xander was built round and soft, more like Tara.

Thoughts of Tara sobered her instantly.

But before she could sink into self-pity, Nora spoke from the dressing room. “Alright, dear, your friend is a thirty-four B and a size 5 panty if you wanted to pick out a few things for her.”

“Okay. I’ll be right back.” She went through the racks quickly, picking plain things that looked comfortable. On her way back to the dressing room, she stopped on a whim and picked out a satin set in his favorite color, a deep blue. When she got back to the fitting room, Xander was peering over the top of the stall door as Nora stood in the corridor, smiling benignly.

“Did you find everything you need, dear?”

“Yes, thank you. I think we’ll be fine now.”

“Alright. Just find me if you need anything else.” And the woman took herself off.

“I thought she’d never leave,” Xander sighed in relief. “She was trying to educate me on civilized women. Remind me to find a way to get even with you for that cockamamie story.”

She grinned. “You can try.” She handed the undergarments over the door. “You can’t try the underpants on, but put the bras on and see how they fit.”

She heard hangars clicking and a bit of grunting and stumbling before he said, “Um, Will? I might need Nora again.”

“What’s wrong?”

“I have a hard enough time unhooking these things. I’ve got no idea how to actually put one on.”

“Here, let me help you.” And she pulled the door open.

“Hey!” He dropped the bra and covered his chest modestly.

“Oh relax,” she said, scooping the bra up off the floor. “I’m not going to do anything.”

“Yeah, but I’m your type now.”

She cocked an eyebrow at him. “Xander, you’ve always been my type. And just because I like girls now doesn’t mean I go around jumping them all. I mean, I’ve seen Buffy naked lots of times and I never put the moves on her.”

“Okay, that image is very, very disturbing. Or else very arousing. Given the current situation, I’m not exactly sure which.”

She smiled. “Look, you hold it like this, upside down with the good side towards you.” She demonstrated. “That way you can make sure nothing’s twisted. Then you put it around your back, with the hooks in front.” She caught the little wire hooks in their matching eyes. “Then you hook it up, turn it around,” which she did, “slide your arms in the straps and voila.” She turned him to face the mirror, his breasts snuggly enclosed in the white lycra cups. “Lifted and separated. You take it off the same way, only backwards. Unless someone else does it for you. Now you try.” She stood back and observed as he repeated the process on one of the other bras. “You seem to be managing things okay.”

He shrugged, observing himself in the mirror. “It’s easier with Anya along. She kind of puts things in perspective for me. How are you and Tara doing?”

She sighed and dropped onto the fitting bench. “Not so good. She won’t talk to me, will hardly even look at me.”

“Well, this can’t be easy for her.”

“But she’s completely cut me off. How can I help her if she won’t even talk to me?”

“Will, what could you say to her that would make this any better for her?” He turned to face her, leaning back against the wall, his arms still crossed defensively. “It would be different if it was you. You have a lot of positive male presences in your life, of which I include myself. Oz, Giles, even your dad in his weird disconnected, over-zealous way. Who’s she got to model herself on? A loser brother and that misogynistic, emotionally abusive father. And she’s always been a lesbian. No boyfriend experience to fall back on.”

“But that doesn’t matter to me . . .”

“Willow, this isn’t about you. This is about her. Part of her is probably worried you won’t want her like this. Part of her might be afraid you’ll like her better this way. The best thing you can do for her is give her space and be supportive. She has to figure out the rest for herself.”

She took in what he said as he tried on the blue satin bra. Finally she smiled self-deprecatingly. “How did you get so empathetic?”

He cocked his head for a moment and then grinned. “Women’s intuition, I guess.”

She chuckled as he turned back to the mirror. “It suits your coloring.”

“You think so?” He turned from side to side. “I kind of like how it feels.”

“It looks good.” A devilish impulse came over her and she added, “Do you want to be my girlfriend?”

He glared at her in the mirror. “Okay, now, that’s not even a little bit funny . . .”

 

“Oy, Slayer, what about this one?”

Buffy sighed and turned away from the incredibly dull array of men’s shoes towards the makeup counter where Spike stood, rubbing his lips together and puckering softly. She shook her head. “Too orange.”

He grinned and turned back to the clerk with a small shake of the head.

The girl behind the counter shook her head enviously. “It’s so sweet how your boyfriend helps you pick out your makeup.”

Buffy heard the smirk in Spike’s voice. “Yeah, innit?”

“Here, honey,” Joyce appeared behind her, “why don’t you go try these on.”

She sighed again and took the armful of trousers and dress shirts from her mother. “Thanks, Mom,” she said, trying to keep the resentment out of her voice as she turned and trudged back towards one of the men’s fitting rooms.

She hated this. She just felt so awkward and bulky. And it was so not fair that Spike was just sliding into his new skin like he’d been born to it. She couldn’t wait for training this afternoon. That at least shouldn’t have changed too much.

She pulled on a pair of khakis and a dark blue polo before going out for her mother’s inspection.

Her mom was talking quietly to Spike when Buffy came out. He took one look at her and burst out laughing, a high glissando sound that made every nerve in her body stand on end. “What’s so funny?” she protested.

“You!” he collapsed into a waiting chair in his usual loose limbed sprawl, which in this body took up almost no space and in that skirt threatened to reveal. . . “You look so white bread!”

“Spike,” Joyce said sternly, slapping his knee, “sit up straight. If you’re going to insist on dressing like a young woman, you have to start sitting like one.”

It was Buffy’s turn to snicker as he sheepishly drew himself up, closing his knees.

“Now,” Joyce continued, “I think she looks fine.”

“Yeah, now,” he replied, a bit cowed. “First fight she gets in, those pants’ll get ripped all to hell and that shirt’ll get stained in somethin’ that won’t wash out. She’s not goin’ out anywhere like this. Hell, she’s not even goin’ to school. She doesn’t need fancy threads, she needs fightin’ clothes.”

“What would you suggest?”

“Mom!” Buffy was appalled. “You aren’t taking fashion advice from him, are you? He wears the same clothes day in and day out!”

“’S because they’re practical, innit?” He turned back to Joyce. “Get her a nice shirt or two, a decent pair of trousers if it makes you feel better. But she needs heavy duty jeans with some room in them to move. And plain t-shirts she can bleach the hell out of but that are cheap enough it won’t hurt if she has to throw them away. And forget the loafers. She needs heavy tread oxfords. They’ll still look decent with the dressy stuff, but they’ll give her an edge fighting.”

Her mother turned to her. “Buffy?”

She wanted to argue. But all his points were valid. She’d seen enough of her wardrobe end up in the trash over the years to know that clothing a Slayer was an expensive proposition. “Oh, fine. Let’s just get this over with.”

Ten minutes later, she had a full stock of jeans, three packages of white cotton t-shirts, socks and boxer briefs (which Spike had wisely refrained from teasing her about), but still no decent shoes. The others came back together, each with their own armload of fabrics. Joyce scanned over everyone’s collection. “Now everyone’s got shoes that fit? Socks? Underwear?” Buffy rolled her eyes at her mother’s bluntness. The others all blushed but nodded. “Alright then. Buffy, while we get checked out here, why don’t you and Spike go down to Nordstrom’s and each get a decent pair of Doc Martens.” She fished a credit card out of her wallet and handed it to Buffy.

Buffy wasn’t the only one to protest this. “Joyce,” Spike insisted over Buffy’s complaints, “that’s not necessary. I can make do with . . .”

She forestalled him. “Think of it as doing Dawn a favor, Spike. She’s been after me for months for these shoes. She’ll just get them already broken in, okay?”

He conceded. “Well, if it’s for the Little Bit . . .”

“Good, then we’ll meet you at the food court when you’re done.”

Buffy glared at Spike as they headed back out into the mall. “You’re a real pain in the ass, you know that?”

He just smiled arrogantly. “Mum always did like me best.”

“She’s not your mother.”

She wanted to knock the smug grin off his face. But she couldn’t hit a girl.

Chapter Text

The bell on the Magic Box door jangled cheerfully as Riley came through it.

He was eager to see Buffy again. She’d seen him off with a kiss and a smile the previous afternoon before her English class, and since she had to patrol that night and had three more classes today, they had agreed to get together here to go out. Just the two of them.

It would be nice to go out without her friends for a change. He liked Xander and Willow and their girlfriends well enough, but he just felt so out of place with them. The three of them had been through so much together, and he could never be part of those experiences. So when these opportunities came up to spend some time alone together, he was grateful.

The shop was mostly empty. Mr. Giles was behind the counter, reviewing a ledger book of some kind. Willow was at the reading table with a few kids he didn’t recognize. They all had books and notebooks open in front of them, and they were all watching him. The girl was cute in a perky, pixie-ish sort of way, and one of the two guys was big. Like bigger than him big. Riley wondered if this kid played football. That might explain it. This was probably one of Willow’s tutoring sessions.

“Hey, Mr. Giles,” he said cheerfully, skipping a step as he came down to the counter. “Is Buffy around?”

“Riley.” The older man took his glasses off and set them on the counter. “Yes, yes, she’s here. She’s in the back room, training. But I should warn you, she’s not quite herself today.”

“It’s okay,” he smiled sympathetically, “I’m kind of getting used to her moods.”

Giles picked his glasses up and put them back on. “Yes, well then, by all means, please go through. I’m sure the two of you can manage things.”

“Thanks.”

He noticed the study group look at each other oddly before watching him go. “Hey, Willow.”

The redhead showed all her teeth when she smiled. “Hi, Riley!” But her eyes looked nervous, somehow.

He shook his head slightly as he pushed open the door marked “No Admittance” and let himself into the training room.

“Buffy, I hate to say this, but your friends are acting a little—oh.” Riley stopped at the sight of the young man practicing spinning back kicks against the heavy bag. He wasn’t a big guy, but was getting enough force behind his attacks to make the bag swing within the confines of its restraining chains. He was dressed in a plain white t-shirt and blue jeans with heavy low top boots on his feet.

This guy looked like someone who was ready for a fight.

“I’m sorry,” Riley said uncertainly. “I thought Buffy was in here.”

The man stopped the bag with his foot, turning to face Riley with a not quite smile. “She is.”

Riley looked around again. “I didn’t see her. . .”

“Riley, it’s me.”

Riley looked at the man in confusion.

“It’s me. I’m Buffy,” he said, tapping his chest. “I’m surprised they didn’t try to tell you out front.”

“I think Mr. Giles tried to, but I just didn’t . . .” He hesitated, looking harder. “Buffy?”

She sighed and seemed to relax. “Yeah, it’s really me.”

“You know, if you’re going to keep having these out of body experiences, we maybe should come up with some kind of code or something.”

“Believe me, I’d rather give up the switching. It’d be a lot less traumatic.”

“What happened?”

“An accident on patrol last night. We’re still trying to figure out what it was.”

“We?”

“Didn’t you see the others when you came in? No,” she interrupted before he could answer, “you probably didn’t realize what you were seeing. Come on, let me introduce you around.”

All five heads went up when the door opened and the two of them came back into the main shop. “That’s Anya,” Buffy said without preamble, pointing to the whipcord lean guy next to Willow, “That’s Xander,” the sweet faced girl he had admired waved sheepishly, “and that’s Tara.” The football player dropped his eyes shyly.

“Wow.” He shook his head, trying to take it in. “That’s just . . .”

The front door crashed open with a cacophonous clatter of bells, and they all looked up in surprise.

Riley was thunderstruck.

The girl standing there, hiding under a dark canopy she held over her head, was absolutely breathtaking. Snow white hair in delicate ringlets, enormous eyes, high cheeks and a perfect bow of a mouth topped a curvy figure, breasts and hips accented by the leather coat tied tight around her waist, long, muscular legs set off by a criminally short skirt. Riley couldn’t help his body’s instinctive reaction to this girl, and stepped back so Buffy wouldn’t see.

“Excellent,” Giles said, coming around the counter. “Now that Spike’s here, we can get started, shall we?”

Of course it was Spike. Who else could it possibly be? His stomach churned at the arousal still making his skin tingle.

“About time you got here,” Buffy sniped at the newcomer as Spike dropped his duster (the canopy he’d been using as a sun shield) on the counter before moving over to straddle one of the chairs backwards.

“Sorry, Slayer,” he mocked. “Next time you want me here early, remember to command the sun to set sooner. Got here as soon as I could.”

“Um, Spike?” Willow said hesitantly.

“What?”

She squished her eyes closed and pointed. “I see London, I see France . . .”

“Huh?” He glanced down to where she was pointing and realized how much he was exposing. “Oh bloody . . .” He stood up and turned the chair around, sitting back down properly.

“Are we through?” Giles said sternly, sounding like there was only one answer he expected. When no one protested, he continued. “Alright then, judging by the studies I made last night of the head Buffy so thoughtfully provided and our examination of the rest of the remains this morning . . .”

“At a ridiculously early time of day,” Anya groused sotto voce.

He glared at her and continued as though she hadn’t interrupted. “I’ve been able to determine that the creature was not in fact an actual demon.”

“You’re sure?” Xander asked doubtfully. “Because it looked pretty demony to me.”

“Well yes, it was fairly ferocious looking.” He caught Anya’s malevolent glare and hurried on. “But it appears to be an n!Graaltoch.” He said the word in a harsh, guttural tone, popping the glottal stop after the initial consonant sound. “It’s more of a highly intelligent underworld animal than an actual demon. It functions on a fairly basic set of drives. Eat, mate, reproduce. It’s kept as livestock by certain demon circles, for its secretion and its skin.”

Buffy looked offended. “You mean a demon cow did this?”

Giles thought about that for a moment. “Yes, I suppose you could say that. But these cows, if you will, have a fascinating reproductive variation. They appear to be omnisexual.”

“They’ll sleep with anything?” Xander grinned. “Sounds like Spike.”

Spike’s look was withering. “Ha bloody ha.”

“I’m not referring to their sexuality, although in a sense Xander is correct.” Giles removed his glasses and began his ritual polishing. “What I’m referring to is their physical gender.”

“You mean they’re both male and female?” Willow asked.

“No, that would be more hermaphroditic. In this case, they are male or female, depending on their mating partner and their own . . . desires.”

They all thought about the implications of that for a minute.

Buffy was the first one to shake it off. “How? And how did it manage to do this to us?”

“n!Graaltoch have a sort of a gland, right about here,” Giles indicated a spot just at the bottom of his own ribs. “It’s more of a collector and storage unit for magical energies which it uses in the transformations. The change is physical, but it has a mystical catalyst. I believe that it attempted to determine your preferred partners as a means of distraction, which would account for the varied descriptions of the creature in its final moments. Tara’s was actually the most telling, as she was the only one to see the creature as her own gender.”

“So why did she get changed?” Willow asked.

Giles shook his head. “That wasn’t the transformation. That was simply an evaluation, like a kind of sonar. The actual change was unintentional. I believe the creature’s morphing gland was ruptured during the course of the fight. The flash and shockwave you all describe was most likely the stored energy being released abruptly. The creature had probably been transforming in response to one of you, giving the energy intention so that it changed you instead of dissipating harmlessly.”

“So it’s Spike’s fault,” Anya said succinctly.

“Thanks a lot, Spike,” Xander groused, throwing a wadded up sheet of paper at his head.

Spike caught and tossed it back, catching Xander right in the forehead. “Following Slayer’s orders, wasn’t I? Besides, you weren’t complaining so much before.”

“Yeah, well . . .” He had the grace to look sheepish.

“But how do we undo it?” Tara interrupted.

“Ah, well,” Giles returned his glasses to his face. “There are actually several possibilities. The Teirganan, one of the demon races that herd these creatures, use the collector gland and some of its other secretions to make an elixir that does on purpose what you have managed to do by accident. We could also find our own n!Graaltoch and make the elixir ourselves. They are extremely rare in this realm, however. To find two in this area would be unlikely, but I don’t discount anything around the Hellmouth. Of course, should you find another, you could attempt to reproduce the original accident, although the chances of success would be higher capturing it for manufacture of the elixir.” He looked at them all. “Or conversely, you could stay the way you are. The change occurred at the genetic level. You could live out your lives as the men and women you are. Just not as the men and women you were.”

Tara went pale, and Xander slowly raised his hand. “Let me be the first from the it’s a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there brigade to say I’d like my old body back, please. What do we have to do to get there?”

“I have calls out to some of the shop’s more esoteric suppliers to see if we can obtain some of the Teirganan elixir. Spike, you might also ask among some of your contacts if they know a source.”

“’m on it,” Spike confirmed.

“In the meantime, I suggest you go back to your lives as much as you can. I’ve arranged for medical absences for you all, so you won’t need to worry about attending school or work like this.”

“But . . .” Anya looked horrified.

Giles sighed. “Except you, of course, Anya. You needn’t be concerned with your secret here, and the work you do isn’t dependent on your body type, so I expect you in here first thing in the morning.”

She slumped back in the chair. “Oh, thank heavens.”

“And Xander,” he turned to the person in question, “I’ve spoken to your shop steward and he assured me that your long term disability will cover you while you are out sick.”

“Oh, man, that’s a relief,” Xander said, running his hand over his short curls. “I just got this new apartment. I wasn’t looking forward to missing my first rent payment.” He hesitated. “Wait. I’m sick? What am I sick with? You didn’t give me the funny syphilis again, did you?”

The glasses came off again, although Riley though he saw a touch of mischief in the older man’s eyes. “After much consideration, mononucleosis seemed the only illness that would cover the time required and not leave some kind of physical effect afterwards.”

Buffy was aghast. “You gave us all mono?”

He fought down a grin. “Well, technically, I suppose you all gave it to each other . . .”

“Giles!”

“Just consider it a vacation,” he said placatingly. “No classes, no work. It would seem to be a dream come true.”

“Yeah, except some of us don’t get days off,” she grumbled. “Can I talk to you for a minute?” She drew her Watcher away, leaving the rest of them to their own devices.

Riley watched as Xander got up and moved over to sit with Anya, kissing her lightly on the lips before leaning back against her chest and pulling her arms around him. He found the whole thing . . . disturbing, somehow. He shouldn’t. It was just a guy showing his girl affection in public, right? But he knew what was beneath their shapes, what they really were. Yet they were so comfortable together like this. He had always accepted the absoluteness of gender identity, and Xander had always struck him as a guy’s guy. If the roles of male and female were this fluid, was there anything that was concrete? He looked over to Buffy, talking with concerned intensity to Giles, their eyes nearly level for the first time ever. Riley tried to imagine kissing her now . . .

He was surprised by the hand on his arm, and looked down into Willow’s concerned eyes. “You’re looking a little shell shocked,” she said compassionately. “How are you doing?”

“I’m . . . overwhelmed,” he admitted. “What about you?”

She shrugged. “I’m just happy Giles proved it wasn’t me.”

“Why would it be?”

“I have a reputation for magic gone awry. You remember last year, when Buffy told you she was engaged to Spike? That was me. And at the Alpha Delta party last Halloween? I tried casting a guide spell, only it made thousands of little guides that tried to smother me. And this other time . . .”

He stopped her. “I get it. Dangerous when charmed. You’re sure you didn’t do this?”

“Nope!” She grinned cheerily and plopped down on the loft steps next to him. “You know, it’s okay to be freaked out by this.”

“Is it? I mean, I look at them,” he gestured to Anya and Xander, “and they’re so comfortable with it already that they’ve changed roles. And Spike . . . God, look at him. You’d think he’d always been a girl. I just don’t know how to act around Buffy, you know? I mean, Tara’s at least in a body that’s supposed to like girls, while I . . .” It took a moment to register what he’d just said, and he turned to Willow in horror. “Oh my god, I am so sorry. That was the most incredibly insensitive thing I could possibly have said.”

She looked hurt, but brushed it aside. “Buffy needs you to be her friend right now. She’s coping the way she usually does, by pretending nothing’s happened until it gives up and goes away. She’s still her. Let her be herself.”

“I’m not much good at being friends with girls.”

Willow looked pointedly at Buffy. “So maybe this is the chance to get to know your girlfriend better.”

He followed her gaze, saw the athletic young man Buffy had become finishing her conversation with Giles. “So why do I feel like I have the butchest girlfriend in Sunnydale?”

“Riley.” Willow looked at him seriously. “If you’re only just figuring that out now, you really are a dummy.”

“Okay,” Buffy’s commanding voice prevented him from replying. “I’m off to patrol. Who’s with me? Riley?”

He glanced at Will, then nodded. “Yeah, I’m in.”

“And we’re out,” Anya said emphatically.

“It was an early morning for us,” Xander explained, softening the bluntness of her words.

“Yeah, us too.” Willow stood up. “Tara didn’t get much sleep last night.”

Tara looked startled at her comment, but didn’t say anything.

Spike rose up gracefully out of his chair. “Walk a lady as far as the pub, Slayer?” His tone was mocking. “I’d feel so much safer escorted by two strapping fellows.”

“Oh, give it a rest, Spike.” But she didn’t deny his request.

Chapter Text

Willow came back from the bathroom, teeth brushed and changed into her red plaid pajamas. Normally that would make Tara smile. Willow always looked so cheery and cozy in those pajamas. They made her look like home.

Tonight all Tara could think about was how to stay out of their bed.

Willow looked surprised to see her still in her street clothes. “Aren’t you coming to bed? I thought you’d be tired.”

“Nnnno,” Tara said nervously, cursing her stutter. “Sssince we’ve got all this tttime off, I thought I’d start working on my cultural aaaanthro paper.” She didn’t look at Willow as she turned on the computer.

“Tara,” Willow said in concern, laying a hand on her shoulder.

Tara couldn’t help flinching.

“Okay, that’s it.” Willow spun her around and pushed her back to sit on the bed, bringing their eyes more even. “I’ve given you a twenty-four hour grace period, but time’s up. What’s going on?”

“Nothing,” Tara replied sullenly, trying to push her away. “I’m just not tired.”

“Well, considering you slept on the floor last night, I know you aren’t well rested.” She sat down on the bed. “Baby, talk to me. I know you’re probably really confused. I want to help . . .”

“Help?” Tara rose up and turned on her girlfriend. “What can you possibly do that would help? Nothing. You can’t do anything. Everything that makes me me is gone Willow. I don’t know who or what I am.” She let the fear and anger wash over her. “This isn’t some game, Will, some great adventure we’re all on. And I’m not one of your science experiments you can observe and evaluate.”

“Is that what you think I’m doing?”

“Isn’t it? Isn’t that what all the questions were about? The way you’re always watching me? Does the freak make for an interesting case study?”

“Stop it!” Willow surged up into Tara’s face. “I’ve been watching you because I was worried about you. You’ve been a basket case since this whole thing happened. Now, I know I wasn’t the most sympathetic girlfriend last night, and I’m sorry. I just didn’t realize how freaked out you were until I woke up to find you on the floor.” Her voice softened, and she sat down on the bed, trying to draw Tara down with her. “I’m sorry, baby. But really, I just want to help you. You don’t have to go through this alone.”

“You couldn’t understand.”

“Of course I can’t. Nothing like this has ever happened to me. That doesn’t mean I can’t listen to you talk about it, try to help you work things out for yourself. We’ve never kept anything from each other before.”

Tara felt a small blossom of hope flower in her heart, and she sank down on the mattress next to Willow. “It’s just all so confusing. I mean, I’m a man now . . .’

“No, you aren’t,” Willow denied.

“What? Look at me! Of course I am!”

“Sweetie, didn’t you pay any attention in Dr. Mills’ Gender and Society class last year? I know you did, you got a better grade in it than I did.”

“I don’t . . .”

“Gender is a product of biology, cultural pressures and self-identity. Your body isn’t what makes you a man or a woman, it just makes you male or female. You still think of yourself as a woman, don’t you?”

“Well, yes . . .”

“And your friends all still think of you as a woman?”

“I guess. . .”

“Well, there’s two of the three right there! And the third doesn’t count, because it’s temporary.” She emphasized the last. “All the things that I love about you are still the same. You’re still my sweet Tara.”

“But I can’t . . . I’m not . . . the physical part of our relationship . . .”

Willow sighed softly. “I guess we probably should have talked about this before. But I wasn’t sure how you’d react and it just didn’t seem to matter since we were together and I didn’t want anyone else . . .”

Tara grew concerned as Willow got more and more agitated. Finally, she reached out and covered Willow’s hands with her own.

She looked up, her eyes pleading for understanding. “I’m sexually attracted to both men and women,” she said finally. “I didn’t just swear off boys when I fell in love with you. I mean, my sex life with Oz was good. Great, in fact. But my feelings for you are just as strong, and you were so pretty and soft and I just wanted to touch you so much . . .” She looked down again, embarrassed. “So it doesn’t matter to me what body you’re in. I love the person inside the skin. Everything else is just packaging.”

Tara reached up and stroked her lover’s cheek with her thumb. “I wouldn’t even know how to make love to you like this.”

“You still have fingers, don’t you? And a mouth? That’s all we’ve ever needed before. Granted, I’ll miss your wonderful boobies, but a penis has its good points, too . . .” She realized what she was implying and backpedaled in horror. “Not that we’re going to do anything! Totally no naughty touching is perfectly fine with me! Unless you want to . . .” Sheepishly she caught herself. “Okay, so I’m a little nervous. This is your experience, and I want to support you any way I can. So if you want to explore your masculinity, I’m here for you. And if you don’t, that’s okay, too. Okay?”

Tara smile softly for the first time in what felt like days. “Okay. I don’t think . . . but thank you.” She took Willow’s hand then, grateful for the physical contact. “Honey, why didn’t you tell me about this before now?”

“I was scared,” she admitted. “I didn’t want you to think I couldn’t make up my mind. I can. I choose you.”

Tara’s eyes welled up with tears, and she responded naturally in the only way a declaration like that could be acknowledged.

It was a brief, gentle kiss, but Tara could feel how much softer Willow’s mouth was against her own firmer lips. When they pulled apart, Willow giggled.

“What?” Tara asked defensively. “Am I a bad boy kisser?”

“No!” She giggled again, reaching up to stroke Tara’s jaw line. “No, it was nice. But you really need to shave.”

“Oh.” Tara rubbed her face. “I meant to do that this morning, but I had a meltdown in the bathroom and forgot. Should I do it tonight, do you think?”

Willow thought about it for a minute. “It sort of depends. How much body hair do you have?”

“Um.” She thought back to her first self-inspection. “Kind of a lot.”

Willow grimaced. “You may have to resign yourself to being a two shaves a day guy. Gal. Unless you grow a beard.”

That actually made her grin. “Wouldn’t it be funny if I could grow a better beard than Ronny?” The reminder of her brother sobered her. “But I think I’d rather be clean shaven.”

“Well, since you don’t have a heavy date or any chance of serious smoochies, I have it on expert authority that you can slack off on the facial hygiene for the night and start fresh in the morning.”

“Oh? And who’s this authority?”

“Xander. It’s the excuse he always used when he was scruffy.”

Tara smiled. “Then it must be true.”

Willow grinned back. “So, you’re smiling again. That’s good, right? You’re feeling better?”

“A little bit,” she conceded. “I still don’t feel like me. My body and my magic are both gone, so what’s left?”

Willow looked confused. “Your magic? I don’t understand.”

“I can’t control it anymore.” The desperate sense of loss threatened to overwhelm her again. “Just doing a basic grounding and centering made it all go haywire.”

“But you can still touch the energy?”

Tara nodded.

Willow thought about that. “Okay, well, maybe the new body isn’t programmed to handle magic the way your old one was. Or maybe it just can’t, and you have to figure out the new ways it can work. Kind of like a circuit board before the pathways are laid out. The energy just kind of goes everywhere.”

Tara nodded. “And it wanted out. It wanted to make something, anything happen.”

“Well, that’s the penis imperative for you.”

“The what?”

“The penis imperative. If it moves, kill it or fuck it. If it doesn’t move, break it. It’s all about action. Guys have to do, to act. The natural flows in your male body may be directed to action. You just have to relearn how to control it.”

“My mom taught me magic from the time I was four. I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

“Well, lucky for you, I’m a witchy come lately. Come on,” she scooted back into the middle of the bed to sit cross legged in the middle, holding her hands out in invitation.

“Right now?”

“No time like the present,” she encouraged. “Nothing complicated, just a simple chakra clearing. It’ll make you feel better.”

With a resigned sigh, Tara toed off her sneakers and climbed up onto the bed, arranging her awkward body into a reasonable facsimile of Willow’s posture before taking her hands.

“Okay now,” Willow began, her voice dropping in pitch and volume as she took up a soothing cadence. “Take a deep, slow breath. Let it fill your lungs, stretch them out. And when you can’t hold any more, blow it out, blowing away all the stress and negativity of the day.” With the exhalation, Tara felt her shoulders sag in relief. “And then slowly breathe in to a count of four . . . and hold it for one two three four . . . breathe out two three four . . . hold two three four . . . in two three four . . .”

As they settled into a steady, measured breathing, Tara felt her head grow lighter, her mind detached from her body in the familiar sensation of trance. It was a comforting sensation.

“Now, focus on your root chakra,” Willow continued. “See it as a dark red circle of light at the very base of your spine.” Tara felt the sphere of it, deep at the base of her pelvis, sensed it dim and tightly closed. “Now fill it with light, watch it slowly open, brighten, begin glowing.” The nearly black circle turned blood red under Tara’s visualization, then crimson and vermillion until it became a bright, pulsing, true red. And as it opened, she felt a sense of safety, security, the hallmarks of this chakra, flooded through her. She savored it, encouraging the circle to glow brighter and brighter.

“And now move up to your belly chakra,” Willow’s words carried them on. “See it as a perfect orange circle just below your belly button.’ Tara visualized it, seeing it dull, dusky orange. “And fill it with light, see it open, swell and pulse with pure light.” As before the sphere shifted colors, ending as a glowing, ripe pumpkin color. And to her surprise, as the chakra opened, she felt her cock twitch and swell in response, the sexual energy of the second chakra filling her. It seemed to pulse in time to the pulsing energy of the wheel of light within her.

“Now picture your solar plexus chakra, a brilliant yellow circle between your navel and your ribs.” This one wasn’t as dark, not as closed. “And fill it with brilliant light, allowing it to open.” As it swelled, it became almost a yellow gold, and Tara felt again, but softer this time, the call to action, to do, that was the purview of the third chakra.

“And when you’re ready, move on to the heart chakra. See it as a sphere of perfect green light glowing just over your heart.” This sphere, as she studied it, shifted on its own, opening and closing, dark and light, all on its own. Her fears of rejection and pain closing it, her love and caring opening it again. “Slowly fill it, opening it with brilliant emerald green light.” She did, and the oscillation stopped, stabilized as the circle opened fully, supported that way by her visualization and all the light feeding into it. She wanted to weep for all the love, the compassion and caring that overwhelmed her.

“And move up to the throat chakra, a dark blue circle of energy over your vocal chords.” This was always the smallest, tightest of her chakras, but perhaps because of finally having opened up to Willow tonight, it was a little bluer than she’d seen it. “Fill it with pure blue light and watch it open.” As it expanded and brightened, she felt like talking, like singing, like shouting.

“And now move to your third eye chakra, that perfect indigo circle in the middle of your forehead. Fill it with brilliant indigo light, opening you mind and your intuition.” Her thoughts, such a jumble before, cleared as the denim blue circle expanded and she was able for the first time to think clearly, to see all the aspects and elements of the problem in an orderly, methodical fashion.

“And finally your crown chakra, a perfect circle of purple light just above the top of your head. Open it, filling it with perfect violet light.” This was always Tara’s strongest center, and as she fed the light into it, it irised open easily, filling her with a sense of wholeness, of completion, of communion with the divine that she had most been missing these last few days.

“And when you have them all open, gently set them spinning.” One by one, each circle began to move, alternating clockwise and counter-clockwise from one to the other until they all spun together like gears without cogs, a perfectly meshed unit.

“And knowing that you are safe in this magical space, and that I am here to help you, connect with the earth beneath you, and allow her energy to flow into you.”

Tara felt a twinge of trepidation, but gripped Willow’s hands more firmly and reached down to tap into the energy of the Mother, letting it rise up into her.

It flowed eagerly into the pattern they had set for it, like water through a channel cut in the sand, flowing over to soak into the edges but keeping the same basic shape. She felt Willow reach out with her aura to check Tara’s balance. She nudged back gently to show she had everything under control. She could feel Willow’s pleased smile as she began speaking again. “Let the energy rise up through the chakras, clearing away any debris, brightening any dark spots, evening out any rough patches, until each circle is spinning as smoothly, shining as brightly as you can possibly make them.” And there they were, a perfect column of swirling rainbow lights, energy flowing from one to the next easily, naturally, just exactly the way she knew it was supposed to be.

She almost giggled from the sheer joy of it.

Willow gave her a moment to enjoy before continuing. “Starting at your crown, let the energy flow out, let the wheel slow to a stop, closing gently as the light fades, leaving a clear, perfect violet circle. And follow the energy down to the third eye. Let the energy drain out as the wheel slowly stops spinning, closing gently as the light fades, leaving a clear, perfect indigo circle. And the energy empties from your throat chakra, slowing the wheel to a stop as it gently closes with the fading of its light, leaving a clear, perfect blue circle. And now let the energy drain out of your heart chakra, let the wheel slow to a stop, closing gently as the light fades, leaving a clear, perfect green circle. And now the energy fades from your solar plexus, allowing the wheel to stop spinning and gently close, leaving a clear, perfect yellow circle. See the energy flow out of your belly chakra, let the wheel slowly stop spinning, closing as the light fades out of it, leaving a clear, perfect circle of orange. And finally let it drain out of your root chakra and back into the earth, allowing this last wheel to spin to a stop, closing gently with the fading of its light, leaving a clear, perfect red circle. Just let yourself rest for a moment, feeling your body perfectly quiet, perfectly aligned. And as you come back to yourself, you will remember how this feels and be able to find your way back to this balanced state with easy. When you are ready, open your eyes and come back.”

Tara slowly fluttered her eyes open, surprised at how bright the room was. She’d forgotten they hadn’t turned off the lights. Willow’s face was glowing when Tara finally looked at her. “Well? How was it?”

“It was . . . good.” She relished the blissful peace that suffused her body and spirit. “I think . . . I think I feel a little bit like myself again.”

Willow let out a whoop and threw her arms around Tara’s neck. For an instant, Tara didn’t know how to respond, but she gave in to her natural instinct and closed her arms around her lover, holding her close, inhaling the fresh smell of her shampoo, the neroli oil she used for perfume and her own natural scent, all as familiar to Tara as her own. She felt like she’d been away for a lifetime, and not just over a day.

Willow was the first one to pull away. “Are you hungry? You haven’t eaten all day.”

“Yeah, I am, a little.”

Willow bounced up off the bed. “Why don’t I run downstairs and see if I can get a decent sandwich out of the machine for you while you get ready for bed. I put your new pajamas away in your nightie drawer.”

“I didn’t get any pajamas.”

“Yeah, I know,” Willow paused in the door to smile at her. “I picked them out for you. I hope they fit.” And with a shy smile, she closed the door behind her.

Tara stood up and crossed over to the mirror, looking at herself again with a less critical eye. She could do this, she thought with more confidence than she had felt before. She had Willow. And the others would help, too. And her magic wasn’t gone, just . . . different. Maybe Mr. Giles could help her with that.

She pulled the top drawer of her dresser open and laughed in surprise.

Her new pajamas were red plaid.

Chapter Text

They had been sniping at each other all night.

About their clothes.

“You look like a bleedin’ Gap ad.”

“Well, at least I won’t be mistaken for the June Hustler centerfold. You look like a five dollar hooker, Spike.”

“They’re your clothes, Slayer! What does that say about you?”

About where to go.

“I haven’t been through St. Michael’s in a week.”

“When have you ever found anythin’ in St. Michael’s? Vamps hate it there. Not enough cover, and it floods like a sieve when it rains. Now Grace Hills is prime real estate . . .”

“Oh, what do you know?”

“Hello, vampire.”

About how they fought.

“Keep your bloody left up, Slayer! You aren’t . . . so fast now . . . you can’t dodge so easy!”

“Mind your own damn fight, Spike! I’ve got enough problems . . . without worrying about you fighting . . . like a girl!”

“Depends on the girl, doesn’t it?”

Finally Riley couldn’t stand it anymore. “Why is he along again?” He still had to lean a bit to speak softly in her ear.

Spike heard anyway, and threw a brilliant wicked grin back over his shoulder. “Bait.”

“Better you than me,” Buffy grumbled. “I hate bait duty. Makes me miss Cordelia.”

“Who?” Riley asked.

“She was with us back in high school. Xander dated her for about a year. She’s down in LA with Angel now.”

“How is the cheerleader, anyway?” Spike didn’t look back as he spoke.

“Good, I guess. You talked to her more in the last year than I did.”

Spike knew Xander’s old girlfriend?

“Yeah, but I’d kidnapped Peaches and was threatenin’ her, so there wasn’t much meaningful conversation.” He glanced over his shoulder curiously. “You made two trips there yourself last year. Never made time for the girlish reunion?”

She shrugged. “The first time I was too upset.” She glanced surreptitiously at Riley, then pulled her eyes away quickly. But Riley caught it. She had been upset about Angel. About something Angel had done. “The second time I went, Cordy was smart and got as far away from Faith’s ground zero as she could. And even if she hadn’t, with all the arguing and running and fighting for our lives, there really wasn’t a lot of time for socializing.”

They walked on quietly, but after a minute Buffy asked curiously, “How do you know Cordelia? I didn’t think you two ever actually met?”

“I introduced myself, one night in the Watcher’s library while you lot were out Scoobying. Thought she’d make a pretty toy for Dru, send you a right clear message. Chit didn’t think too highly of that and pointed a crossbow at my privates. I got the hell outta there.”

Buffy chuckled at the image. “It wouldn’t have killed you, you chicken.”

“No, but it would have hurt like a son of a bitch. A special pain only a bloke can know.” He grinned wickedly. “I hope you get a chance to experience that during your visit to man land.”

“Shut up, Spike.”

Riley listened to them, and felt again that sense of isolation he always got around her friends. Everything in her life always returned to her high school years and all the experiences she had acquired there. But there was no way for him to break into that. He could never be a part of that, and so there would always be a part of her he didn’t have access to. Even Spike was more privy to it than he was.

“Shouldn’t bait be a little further out in front?” he asked, surprised at how sharp his words came out.

And Spike, damn him, picked up on it. “Wouldn’t want to interfere with your quality alone time. You two lovebirds have a cozy walk in the moonlight. I’ll be up ahead out of hearin’ range. Call you if I need you.” He turned and faded into the shrubbery. “Don’t break him, Slayer.”

“You’re a pig, Spike!” she shouted after him.

A soft, female “oink, oink” drifted back through the trees.

Buffy looked up at Riley, embarrassed, then turned away, her hands tightly clasped behind her back.

There were days he really hated that guy.

Chapter Text

Buffy had to admit that one of the nice things about being a guy was the easier maintenance.

She rubbed shampoo through her short hair, lathering it so much more quickly than her long hair. It rinsed out again just as quickly as she backed under the water again.

She just stood there for long minutes, letting the hot water ease all her tight muscles. The magic that had changed them carried over her strength and ability, but it couldn’t mimic the muscle memory that made her fighting easier. Male muscle groups worked together differently than female muscles to get the same results. Different centers of gravity, different points of balance, all made for one achy Buffy. Not enough to slow her down, just enough to make all this hot water feel really good.

She grabbed the bar of soap and a washcloth, rubbing the soap into the fabric and then using the cloth to wash herself. Arms and armpits (Hairy. Ugh.), throat and the back of her neck, down over her chest. She hesitated when she got to her groin. How the heck do you wash that thing? It was half erect, aroused by the sensual feel of water and soap running down over it. She washed her thighs and legs as she pondered the problem. There were lots of folds and creases she figured she’d better get into. Which meant handling it. She sighed.

She started at the bottom and worked her way up, rubbing the washcloth in and around her testicles. Not wanting to even think about what she was doing, she allowed her thoughts to turn to their current situation.

She felt terrible that this had happened to her friends. Somehow this seemed worse than one of them being hurt. That they all expected, had accepted and endured as part of doing the work. But this was such an invasion, stripping them of their identities like this. Especially Tara. She seemed so unhappy. She was so new to the group, it just seemed unfair for her to get caught up in this. Buffy had observed her yesterday, withdrawn and alone even in the group. Tara didn’t have a partner sharing the same experience the way Xander and Anya did. And Buffy had no clue how her sexual orientation was impacting her mental state. Did this make things easier for her? Harder? Either way, she shouldn’t be going through this alone. Buffy resolved to touch base with her tonight when they all got together. Share some girl-guy bonding time.

It was actually kind of amusing watching Xander and Anya interact, she thought, her hand still working automatically. She would have expected Xander to be the one to have the biggest problem with the change, but, while he wasn’t happy about it, he seemed to have come to terms with it. His multiple orgasm comment yesterday morning still made her blush. She was uncomfortable with her new equipment enough as it was without adding the overwhelming terror of performance anxiety. And she had to admit to being a bit jealous. She’d only achieved multiples a couple of times with Riley, so Xander having experienced it at all, let alone several times in his first night as a woman seemed grossly unfair.

She didn’t notice her breathing hitch as her attention drifted to Spike. Him she wouldn’t feel bad about. It was his own damn fault getting changed. If he’d minded his own business, none of this would have happened in the first place. And why did he have to be so damned comfortable with it, anyway? What had he been thinking, letting that guy hit on him? And trying on makeup and wearing that skirt of all things. Her skirt! Xander wasn’t turning all girly, what the hell was Spike’s problem?

She was suddenly assaulted by the image of Spike sprawled in the chair at the department store, legs splayed, pale, muscular thighs leading her eye up to the shadowed secrets under his skirt. His whole posture was voluptuous, inviting, purely and naturally sexual.

Her whole body clenched, and she could barely draw breath. “Oh god,” she groaned. “Oh my god, what . . . what . . .” Her head fell forward and for the first time she noticed what she was doing. “Oh god!”

Her hand, still holding the soap saturated facecloth, was working eagerly up and down the length of her cock, squeezing and pulling as though it were the most natural thing in the world. The soft slipperiness of the lather and the nubbly friction of terrycloth only added layers of sensation to each stroke.

“God, no!”

But it was too late. Her body jerked and seized, and with one last shuddering gasp she came, shooting opalescent semen across the shower tiles.

She leaned her forehead against the tile of the tub surround, panting, her face flushed in mortification.

She had just gotten herself off. As a man. Thinking about Spike. As a woman.

Grimacing in embarrassment, she wiped the mess off the wall. Maybe being male wasn’t so great after all.

But if that were true, why did she feel so incredibly relaxed?

Chapter Text

Xander slept to the decadently late hour (for a construction worker) of ten in the morning before dragging himself out of bed and into the shower. He didn’t linger, but did enjoy a quick breast fondle. These things were kind of nice to have all the time instead of just getting to play with them occasionally. He wondered in passing if Anya felt the same way about her new toys.

He toweled off and ran a brush through his hair, grateful that whatever made the magic make them the way they were decided to give him short hair. His coarse waves held a nice shape without the use of all of the mystifying products and tools Anya seemed to need every morning.

Dress for the day was blue jeans and a t-shirt, not all that different from what he normally wore. Except for how he filled it out, of course.

He had breakfast and washed up the few dishes. Then he looked around for something else to do. Well, it was garbage day for the complex. One of his domestic duties was trash guy, no reason that had to change just because he was a she. Unless it was in the Rules for Being a Girl Handbook somewhere and he didn’t know it.

He had to get a copy of that book.

As he started gathering up the trash, he realized sheepishly that each can provided a map of their sexual activities over the last several days. Two condoms in the waste can in the kitchen, three in the living room. Seven in the bedroom. “Go, us!” None in the bathroom.

Wait, that couldn’t be right, could it?

He thought back. No, that first time they had made it back to the bedroom. And last night in the shower, they hadn’t actually . . .

And then it hit him.

Yesterday morning, after he’d helped her shave. They had . . . and she hadn’t . . . and he didn’t . . .

He sank down onto the toilet seat in horror.

“Oh my god.”

Chapter Text

Tara woke up feeling warm and comfortable and relatively at peace.

The fact that Willow was in her arms probably had a lot to do with that.

They must have moved automatically in their sleep the way they did every other night. This was the way they always woke up, with Willow spooned up against Tara’s chest, Tara’s arms holding her protectively. The body may be different, but the sense of comfort was just the same.

Willow felt so small in these bigger arms, though, so much softer against Tara’s hard body. She bent her head and inhaled the soft fragrance of Willow’s hair. Better than any aromatherapy, this was the scent that eased her heart. She pulled Willow nearer, snuggled closer.

And suddenly realized that her body wasn’t the only thing that was hard.

The soft curve of Willow’s ass pressed back into Tara’s pelvis, creating friction of the flannel pajamas against her very erect and prodding shaft. She moaned softly and instinctively ground harder against her girlfriend’s backside.

It felt . . . oh goddess it felt so good.

“Good morning,” Willow said huskily.

Tara jerked back in guilt, but Willow just followed her, humming softly.

“I’m sorry,” Tara apologized, shame flooding through her.

“For what?”

“For taking advantage.”

Willow rolled over, a look of horror on her face. “You took advantage? Was I asleep? Did I miss it?”

“No,” Tara replied, her shame transforming into confusion.

“Oh, good!” Willow sighed in relief, draping an arm around Tara’s ribs and nestling up under her chin. “If you’re going to take advantage, I don’t want to miss any of it.”

Tara let her arms close around Willow’s small form. “I don’t understand how you can be so comfortable with this. But I’m glad.”

“Honey, I love you. I’d want to be with you even if you’d been turned into a goat.” She thought about that for a moment. “Although they don’t really allow animals in the dorms. And I think bestiality is illegal in California . . .”

Tara couldn’t help but chuckle.

Willow squeezed her tighter. “You are feeling better this morning, aren’t you?”

“Yeah.” Tara squeezed her back. “Yeah, I think I am.”

“Good! Because you still have to brave the horrors of the men’s showers. You’ve got more than half a beard going already.”

Tara reached up and stroked her jaw, feeling how the stubble had turned into some substantial growth. “And this is normal?”

“Oh yeah.” Willow slipped out of bed and stretched lithely. “My dad can grow a full beard in two days.”

“Wow.”

“Uh-huh.” Willow looked around, thinking. “So, why don’t you go down and shower first, and then I’ll go when you get back so you can have some privacy to get dressed and do your meditation.”

Tara felt her throat tighten at Willow’s thoughtfulness. “Thank you for understanding.”

Willow smiled. “I had a good teacher. And Xander hit me with a clue by four. That helped, too.”

“I’ll have to thank him later.”

“Just be careful how you do it. You’re a good looking guy, you don’t want to make Anya jealous.”

Tara couldn’t help but blush.

 

This morning was much more successful than yesterday morning.

Tara had no uncomfortable encounters in the shower, and by stealing glances at the other guys working, managed to figure out how to give herself a decent shave without incurring too much blood loss.

Her morning meditation was also much better. The energy flow that had so frightened her before came again, but now that she understood it, she could direct it through her channels, then allow it to pool in her center as she gave thanks for the day ahead and asked for guidance and support. When she finished, the extra energy flowed out of her and back down into the earth, just the way it was supposed to, leaving her feeling grounded and centered and totally at peace.

Willow had to dash off to her IT class right after breakfast. Rather than sit around the room all day, Tara decided to go to her own classes. She couldn’t take any exams, but there was no reason she couldn’t at least sit in on the lectures and keep up with the coursework. Most of her professors wouldn’t even notice her presence.

Cultural anthropology was covering fieldwork theory, and the discussion on participant observation got heated, although Dr. Klymyshyn looked pleased by it. But Tara didn’t quite see the possibility of “going native”, being so affected by the community you were watching that you gave up all sense of detachment and became a part of them. She was who she was, wasn’t she? She might take on the trappings of her subject group, but underneath, she was still Tara Maclay. Nothing would really change that.

And wasn’t that what Willow had been trying to tell her?

She and Will met back at the cafeteria for lunch. Tara listened attentively but with little actual comprehension as Willow went on excitedly about some aspect of grouping theory they had covered. She didn’t realize how quickly she was eating until suddenly there was nothing left on her plate, and she was still hungry. “I’ll be right back, baby. I guess I need to eat more now.”

Willow smiled playfully. “Well, you are a growing boy!”

She grabbed a couple of hot dogs and a salad, then as an afterthought added a handful of chips and a piece of chocolate cake. But when she turned back to the table, she saw that Willow wasn’t alone.

Katie Myers was the hall skank, with no plans for her college career but to spend as much of it in as many beds as possible. She didn’t make a secret of it, and didn’t have time for anyone she saw as competition. She’d never paid any attention to Willow before. So why was she talking to her now?

Tara got her answer as soon as she got within hearing distance of the table. “You know, Willow, you could do us all a favor and make up your mind. Jumping back and forth like this just makes you look tacky.”

“It’s none of your business, Katie,” Willow replied coldly. But Tara could see the tears welling up in her eyes. Something inside her rose up, hot and strong.

She stormed over to the table, dropping her tray on the surface and making both the women jump. “Is there a problem here?”

Katie’s face shifted snake-like into what she saw as her best come-hither expression. “Not now. My, you’re a big one, aren’t you?”

“Willow?”

“I’m fine. Really.” Tara knew the brave little toaster face when she saw it, though.

“Oh, forget about her,” Katie brushed her off, laying a hand on Tara’s chest and pressing her breast against Tara’s forearm. “Let’s go somewhere and I can show you what a real woman is like.”

“I’m not interested in your definition of womanhood.”

“Oh, come on!” She stomped her foot. “The only reason she swings both ways is because she can’t get a date otherwise.”

“The reason she swings both ways is that both sexes find her attractive. Unlike some people who have to be cheap and obvious to get any kind of attention at all.”

“Fine.” Katie backed away, her face livid with fury. “But don’t be surprised if she forgets who she’s screwing and tries to fuck you like a girl.”

“It’s better than being fucked like a piece of meat.”

“You . . . you . . . FAGGOT!” And she stormed away.

Tara turned to Willow. “Now, that just didn’t even make sense.”

Willow was looking up at her with shock and wonder. “Where did you learn to talk like that?”

Tara took her hand and drew her to her feet, caressing her hair softly. “No one is mean to my girl.” And she bent her head to capture Willow’s lips.

The anger within her instantly transformed, taking the kiss with it. Her arms enfolded Willow, crushing her close as her firm lips devastated Willow’s petal soft ones. This was right. Willow was hers, and now everyone with eyes knew it.

It was the thought of all those eyes that brought her back to herself. She gentled and finally pulled away. Willow’s eyes were dark and glittering, although her jaw hung loosely on its hinges. Tara smiled sheepishly. “Sorry.”

She felt Willow’s fingers in her hair an instant before her lover smashed their mouths back together.

This time it was a little less primal, but no less intense. Willow guided and let herself be led, this time a much more active participant. Tara felt signals coming in from all parts of her new body saying this was a good thing, but one spoke more loudly than the others. Willow noticed it, too, and ground her hips subtly against Tara’s burgeoning hard-on. Tara groaned.

Finally, it was Willow who pulled away. Her eyes shone in a way that was all too familiar to Tara, but with a sigh Willow stepped away. “I would really like to continue this conversation, but I have a calc exam in ten minutes. Would you . . . could we maybe pick this up later? If you want?”

Tara swallowed, nervous and giddy and aroused in a whole new way. “Um. Yeah. I think maybe I might like that.”

Willow grabbed up her book bag. “Are you still going to the Magic Box?”

Tara just nodded.

“How about I meet you there. We can get some dinner downtown before the meeting.”

“That sounds . . . good. Yeah.”

Willow smiled and stretched up on her toes to kiss Tara again, lightly this time. “I’ll see you then.”

As Tara watched her leave, she began to think she might need to revisit her position on participant observation.

There seemed to be something to be said for going native, after all . . .

Chapter Text

“Again. Faster this time.”

Giles winced as Buffy’s knee came up into the sparring pads on his hand, followed by fists and foot in rapid succession. Her strength had certainly increased. “Higher,” he said sternly, raising the pads. “Again.”

She braced herself at the ready and glared at him. “Geez, Giles, what am I, spaghetti? I’m getting them as high as I can.”

He stepped back, dropping his hands with a sigh. “Buffy, even in this arguably less flexible body, you should still be able to throw a decent side kick. You’re barely reaching my hip.”

“It’s the stick up her bum,” Spike’s musical snark piped up. “Pokin’ her in all new ways.”

Giles glanced back over his shoulder at the peanut gallery that had formed along the fringes of the training room. Normally combat training was even less interesting to them than research, but the oddity of the current situation had them all curious. The only one not there was Anya, who had refused to leave the register as long as the store was open. Willow and Tara sat on the sagging love seat, books open but ignored in their laps. Riley leaned against the wall near the door, arms folded across his chest as he watched critically. Xander leaned over the empty counter, watching but somehow distracted. Spike perched atop the vaulting horse, his hands fidgeting on the pommels, his legs swinging. Somewhere he had come up with a tight baby doll t-shirt with the words “I’m not a princess, I’m a goddess!” emblazoned across the chest. He was smirking widely, obviously enjoying carping at their training attempts.

Giles turned his back to Spike without responding. “Riley, would you care to demonstrate?”

Riley looked surprised, but pushed up off the wall to cross to the middle of the floor. Buffy backed off, positioning herself to observe better. Riley settled himself into fighting stance in front of Giles, raising his fists. “All out?” he asked respectfully.

Giles braced himself, positioning the pads again to protect his head and chest. He’d taken enough missed shots from Buffy to be defensive. “Full speed, half strength.” No need to take foolish chances.

Riley just nodded, focusing on the pads as he bounced on his toes once, twice, before his fists lashed out, tagging the bags in rapid succession before snapping out his right leg, catching the pad just as Giles got it in front of his chest. He instantly pulled back into ready stance.

Giles nodded his approval. “Excellent.”

Buffy was impressed. “How did you do that?”

Riley relaxed his posture. “You’re used to being able to kick without any major adjustments to your torso. I can only kick so high, so I lean to raise it up higher.”

“Show me again.”

He demonstrated it slowly several times and then again at full speed. Buffy copied him, and by the fourth time seemed to be getting the difference. But meanwhile Giles’ hands were starting to buzz. He pulled them out of the mitts and shook them lightly. “Why don’t you two spar with each other while the feeling returns to my fingers.”

Buffy grinned and quickly moved back into the middle of the floor to face off against Riley. “Think you can take me this time?”

He grinned back, already in motion. “Well, you’ve lost your advantage.” He threw a punch at her head that she easily dodged.

“Oh yeah? And what’s that?”

He blocked her combination, catching her wrist for a moment. “You aren’t a girl, so I’m not going to feel bad hitting you.”

And then there was no more talking.

Giles was impressed with the grace of their fighting. Riley’s military training showed clearly. Every punch he threw was precise, every kick going exactly where he intended. Buffy simply responded, purely defensive. But Giles could her studying him, learning until she was able to predict his next attack. And that’s when she struck.

Riley had been prepared for the kick they’d been practicing. The palm heel strike in the middle of his chest surprised him, flinging him backwards to crash into the wall and then to the floor where he lay, stunned.

Giles reached him at the same time Buffy did, and between the two of them they helped him sit up. He simply sat there, head between his knees, wheezing, before he was finally able to lift his head and smile ruefully. “Well, at least I can still sort of hold my own against you full strength.”

Giles glanced at Buffy in surprise. That hadn’t looked like full strength, even for her female form. She didn’t say anything, just surreptitiously shook her head.

Finally Riley was able to get to his feet. “I’m fine. Just needed to catch my breath.”

“Yes, well, I believe Buffy has gotten the hang of things. Perhaps we should take a break.”

“But what if she comes up against something smaller than her?” Xander spoke up curiously from his position behind the counter.

“I think I can take the little guys, Xander,” Buffy said impatiently.

“But that’s just it. You’re so little yourself, you’ve never fought anything smaller than yourself except Gaknar, and he really doesn’t count.”

“But still . . .”

“No, Buffy,” Giles interrupted, “I think Xander has a point. You are used to aiming above you. A miscalculation at the wrong point could be catastrophic.”

“Well, what do you want me to do, fight on my knees?”

“Spike . . .”

“Oh, no!” Spike protested from his perch on the horse. “‘M not your punching bag, Watcher. Can’t hit back, remember? I’m not gonna get worked over just so your girl can learn how to kick my ass better.”

Giles sighed. “Fine. Will you at least let us use you for a demonstration with Riley? Just so Buffy can see the difference?”

“I think not.”

“What’s the matter, Spike,” Buffy taunted. “Afraid you’ll get hurt now that you’re just a girl?”

He glared at her. “You should know better.”

“Yeah, but do you?”

His eyes narrowed, but he slid down off the vault. “Fine. Come on, Cardboard, let’s show the lady what you can do.”

Giles saw Riley’s face shift through emotion quickly—anticipation, embarrassment, just a touch of anger—before he focused himself. “My pleasure, Toothless.”

Their first moves were feints, designed to feel each other out. Giles moved behind Buffy to comment as they watched. “Fighting a smaller target isn’t just about aim,” he said quietly, never taking his eyes off the fighters. “You always have to remember that an opponent who is smaller is probably also quicker and more dexterous.” The two moved across the floor slowly, Spike defending as he retreated, Riley pressing his advantage a little harder each time. “They are more likely to dodge you, and if they can get hold. . .”

It was as though Spike were following Giles’ coaching. Frustration finally overcame him, and when Riley launched a side kick at him, Spike caught Riley’s calf in both hands without thinking and yanked with all his might, throwing him end over end to land in a crashing heap on the mat.

Spike didn’t twitch.

Everyone froze, the implication dawning on them all in an instant. They all surged into sudden action, but Spike was the fastest. Fisting both hands together, he drove them down at Riley’s head with a feral screech.

The screech turned into a scream of agony before the attack could ever land.

An instant later, Buffy tackled him, driving his twitching body to the floor feet away from Riley. Giles snatched a sword off the wall behind him, cursing the fact that they didn’t actually train with stakes. A quick glance showed him that everyone in the room was on their feet and armed, Xander with a small labrys, Tara and Willow with crossbow and knives snatched from their storage locker near the couch.

Spike didn’t move, just echoed Riley’s groans of pain. When he didn’t struggle, Buffy abandoned him, going to help Riley back to his feet. Giles offered the same service to Spike, then cursed his automatic chivalry that had him treating Spike like the woman he wasn’t. Fortunately Spike ignored the offered hand, sitting up just enough to hold his obviously aching head. “What the hell, Rupert?”

Giles set the sword aside, hearing the others do the same, releasing a collective sigh. They wouldn’t have to fight an unchipped Spike today. “Did you feel anything when you threw him?”

Spike gingerly shook his head.

“But you obviously did when you attacked.”

Spike swallowed painfully. “Yeah. It was like the first time it happened. Searing, blinding.”

Giles rose to his feet, looking around him as he reviewed the events of the fight. “Riley,” he asked finally, “do you know if Professor Walsh did gender based comparisons on the efficacy of this chip?”

Riley stood up, rubbing his neck. “I don’t think so. We never had a lot of female vampires to work from.”

“Yeah, why is that?” Willow interjected curiously. “Is Sunnydale the sports bar of hellmouths or something?”

“Nah,” Xander pitched in, hanging the axe back up. “The girl vamps were all just smart enough to ask for directions to get outta town.”

“People, please,” Giles sighed. He turned back to Spike. “Without better information, this is strictly conjecture. But some gender theorists believe that in the instinctive human mind, when threatened, male brains are wired more for fight, while women’s are more for flight. When you threw Riley, it was an instinctive defense maneuver which probably processed itself in your brain chemistry as preparation for escape, bypassing the chip’s detection of hostile intent. You didn’t intend to hurt Riley, so regardless of the outcome, it didn’t fire. Only when you actively sought to do harm did it register and discharge.”

“That’s a hell of a loophole,” Xander whistled.

Giles shrugged. “It’s an indication of how little we really understand the finer physical differences between the sexes. It would be interesting to document the differences . . .”

“Why do I always end up a bloody science experiment around you lot?” Spike complained, finally dragging himself to his feet.

“Because you’re a freak of nature?” Buffy replied snidely.

“Well, now I’m a scientist. Come on, Slayer. Let’s do this.”

“Do what?” she asked suspiciously.

“Wanna see if I can control this, keep the chip quiet while handing you your ass.”

“You have got to be joking.”

“Do I look like I’m jokin’?” he asked, readying himself for her attack.

She looked to Giles, but he just shrugged to indicate it was her decision. If Spike wanted to risk the pain, it certainly couldn’t do her training any harm.

Her face focused and she moved once again into the center. “Okay, Spike, let’s see what you can do.”

They had barely started when he winced and stepped back. “Bugger.”

“Didn’t think so.” She started to back away.

“Come again, Slayer,” he commanded, preparing himself once more.

“Spike . . .”

“Come. Again.” There was something cold, controlled in his voice.

She looked at him curiously, but stepped back up and attacked again.

They got only a little further this time before he grabbed his head in pain.

“Oh, for pity’s sake.” The pedagogue in Giles could stay quiet no longer. “Stop anticipating her. The chip is reading it as an attack response. You need to empty your mind and simply respond to what she does.”

Spike glowered at him from behind his fist. “Who are you, Mr. soddin’ Miyagi now?”

“Spike, if you want to master this, you’ll listen to me. Otherwise the rest of us should very much like to go home.”

“Fine, fine.” He shook it off, releasing the frustration that had built up in his whole body. Then he took a deep, unneeded breath in through his nose and slowly blew it back out.

Interesting. Perhaps just the action of cleansing breathing had an effect on vampires, regardless of the exchange of oxygen. He’d have to ask . . .

Spike was right. They did treat him like an experiment.

“Don’t anticipate, just respond,” Spike repeated several times, focusing and relaxing as he prepared himself. Finally he looked to Buffy and just nodded.

She came at him with a quick one two punch which he easily blocked. She kicked low and punched high, both of which he easily dodged.

They both grinned ferally. And cut loose.

Giles had never seen the two of them fight before. The only time he had been present at one of their battles, he’d been busy fighting for his own life. If her match with Riley was graceful, this was pure artistry. It was as though, having mastered all the rules of combat, they were now able to disregard them and let their well-trained bodies direct them. Spike held his own admirably despite his limitations, advancing as much as he retreated, even managing to land several blows without triggering the chip. Buffy for her part seemed exhilarated. Giles had never seen her fight so well. Spike challenged her, forced her to draw on all her training, using techniques Giles had taught her but didn’t know she had retained, and some he wasn’t even aware she knew. And unlike her fight with Riley, these two were far from silent, taunting and insulting each other freely as they moved about the floor. A part of Giles shuddered. If this was how they sparred, their life and death battles must have been ferocious.

They struggled back and forth for almost fifteen minutes before Buffy was finally able to get an advantage over him, gripping his arm as she swept at his feet, dropping him to the mat with his wrenched arm still in her grip. “Give?”

With a panting laugh he nodded, and she released his arm.

“I’ll always be the better woman, Spike,” she towered over him, mocking.

“Oh yeah?” He closed his eyes and with a surprise kick, he smashed her knee out, making her tumble and drop on top of him. “But don’t forget I’ll always be the better man,” Giles thought he heard him mutter.

When Buffy didn’t instantly move away, Giles had a sudden premonition of what was to come, could almost feel the implacability of fate pushing it along.

Not again. Not another one. Oh lord, not this one.

After a moment’s hesitation, she got to her feet, leaving him sprawled on the floor as she grabbed her workout towel.

“Thanks for the rough and tumble, pet,” Spike smirked, getting to his feet himself. “I learned a lot.”

“Alright, everyone,” Giles interrupted before Buffy could respond, “that’s enough for tonight. Buffy, you still need to patrol, but the rest of you can head home. I don’t think we can do any more here tonight.”

Buffy nodded. “Riley, you with me?”

“Sure. Just let me get our coats.”

“My turn tomorrow, Slayer,” Spike said when Riley had left the room. “Want to see if I can put these new skills to good use.”

“Whatever, Spike. It’s not like there’s a sign up sheet.”

He picked up his coat and turned to her with a smirk. “Maybe there should be. Might help you keep track. Keep from forgetting where your interests are supposed to be.” And before she could retort, he had disappeared out the back door.

“Buffy.” Giles caught her attention before she could follow Riley.

“Yeah, Giles?”

He moved to her, removing his glasses uncomfortably. “Buffy, I hate to bring up such a delicate matter . . .”

“Uh-oh.” She looked horrified. “Are you giving me The Talk? This is The Talk, isn’t it?”

He grimaced sheepishly. “You have a young man’s hormones now, and you aren’t used to dealing with them. I just wanted to remind you that starting any kind of relationship or experimentation right now could have . . . awkward consequences.”

“Giles, I’m already in a relationship, remember? No need to start one. And I’m sooo not interested in experimenting. I just want to get things back to normal and get back to the good old Buffy bod.”

“So you haven’t felt any attraction to anyone since you were changed?”

He caught her eyes darting to the back door before she met his look. “Nothing worth worrying about. I’m not the type to jump sorority girls at the Bronze. So you can relax, Dad. Now if you don’t mind, I’d really like to go out and kill things.”

“Be careful,” he said to her retreating back. And knew despite her reassurances that she was going to need it.

Chapter Text

It had been a mentally and emotionally draining day.

Buffy had started it out right, by sleeping in.

Lying in her own bed in her own room, listening to the sounds of her mom and Dawn rustling around starting the day, she could almost feel normal. She let herself drift back comfortably to sleep when she heard the Cherokee pull out of the drive.

She finally got up several hours later and showered and shaved without incident. Then, stuffing her gear into her backpack while bemoaning the social pressures that robbed her of her good Coach handbag, she headed out to meet Tara for lunch at the student union.

“It’s getting a little easier,” Tara said over her tuna sandwich. “It’s nice to get to eat whatever I want.”

Buffy looked at her cheeseburger and fries. “This will be the only thing I’ll be sad to leave behind.”

“Silver linings.”

“Don’t you have to use the community showers, though?” Buffy took a bite out of her burger. “That’s got to be weird.”

“Yeah, it’s embarrassing. But it’s not so bad. I think it would be worse if I were straight. Naked boy parts don’t interest me, so I don’t have to worry sending the wrong signals.”

Buffy nodded sympathetically as she swallowed. “I’m starting to understand why guys seem so dumb. It’s distracting having this thing popping up between your legs all the time. And it doesn’t even do anything useful. Like point north or find water or something.”

Tara couldn’t help laughing. Finally she said, “Well, I’ve been lucky. Mine hasn’t been too intrusive. Although Anya says she can’t get rid of hers.”

“She must be thrilled,” Buffy commented wryly. “Poor Xander will probably be walking like a cowboy for weeks. I keep waiting for her to ask to compare sizes.”

Tara looked horrified. “She wouldn’t, would she?”

“This is Anya. It’s not a question of if, but when.”

They ate quietly for a few minutes before Tara asked, “So, how are you and Riley managing?”

Buffy was surprised at the question. “Fine, I guess. We still hang out together, go patrolling, that sort of thing. We can’t really do much else, not with me being like this. I guess we’re just kind of on hold until this is over.”

“Oh.” Tara flushed, looking like she wanted to say something else. Instead she focused on her lunch, letting the conversation turn to more mundane topics.

After lunch, she walked Tara out onto the quad en route to Tara’s next class before saying her goodbyes. “I’m glad we got a chance to talk,” she said, hugging Tara supportingly.

Tara squeezed back. “Yeah, me, too. It helped a lot.”

From just behind her, Buffy heard someone mutter, “Faggots.”

Without even looking, Buffy lashed out with her foot, catching someone in the knee and dropping them like a rock. She turned and looked down at the guy lying on the sidewalk next to her, his pimply face shocked. “You should be careful who you insult,” she growled menacingly. “Some faggots aren’t afraid to fight back.”

Tara caught Buffy’s upraised forearm. “Don’t,” she said softly, the pain and resignation clear in her voice. “He’s not worth it.”

Buffy backed off, and the kid skittered away, clutching his backpack. “Freak!” he yelled back over his shoulder.

Buffy felt embarrassment, anger, hurt well up inside her. “Have you had to deal with that a lot?” she asked Tara.

Tara just nodded. “Since I was sixteen.”

Buffy suddenly had a lot more respect for Tara.

When she got to the Magic Box, Giles put her to work training, running drills over and over and over until they were as natural in this body as they were in her own. He wasn’t having any success locating an n!Graaltoch or any of the Teirganan elixir, and she could tell he was feeling the failure personally. It was one thing to joke about watching the first male slayer, but quite another to have to consider the possibility seriously. She could tell she would be working hard until they found a way to reverse this or until he was satisfied she was as good a Slayer as ever.

So now she was heading through Peaceful Meadows Cemetery to meet Spike for patrolling. She didn’t really need to take him, any more than she needed to take Riley. Riley she took for quality time, a nice evening walk with her guy punctuated by occasional violence. She didn’t examine her motives for taking Spike too closely.

The main chamber of his crypt was empty, but she found the ladder going down to a lower level and climbed down.

She had expected to find him still in bed. She hadn’t thought he’d still be awake.

The room was dimly lit by a half a dozen candles burning on the bedside tables and a nearby dresser. Spike was sprawled artlessly across the bed, naked and amber in the candlelight, the sheet tangled around one long leg. His right hand pulled and rolled the nipple of one perfect round breast, his full lower lip caught between his teeth as his left hand delved and stroked between his legs. From her place about thirty feet from the foot of the bed, she could see everything clearly. The honey blond curls covering his mound, the heavy rise and fall of his chest, the moisture glistening on his fingers. He was panting and moaning softly, his head pitching against the pillows.

The rational portion of her brain insisted she get out now, that she had no business seeing this, watching this, responding to this. The primal male voice hard wired in her screamed for her to move forward, take what he was offering. The two instincts warred against each other, locking her in place.

She saw him begin to tremble, the moans turning to soft mewling cries as he rubbed faster and faster, his fingers focused on one spot, his whole body suddenly writhing across the linens. And for one flaring instant, she visualized what that writhing would feel like pinned beneath her larger body, her cock thrusting into him over and over . . .

He came with a string of curses, his body arching against the bed before he collapsed, panting and limp. She couldn’t do anything but watch him as he lay there enjoying his recovery. Eventually he sat up with one last sigh and swung his legs over the edge of the bed to drift sinuously over to the dresser, taking a pair of her panties out of the drawer and stepping into them gracefully one foot at a time before sliding them up to cover all his intimate places. Reaching into another drawer, he pulled out a navy blue t-shirt and slipped it on, scooping his tousled waves out of the neckline. When he turned around, she saw that the shirt read “God, I wish these were brains.”

“You can come out now, Slayer.”

She stepped out of the shelter of the entry, mortified but determined to brazen it out.

“Did you enjoy the show?”

“I can’t believe you just did that.”

“Why not?” He went back to the dresser for jeans and a pair of socks. “I was always good at pleasuring the ladies, thought I should take advantage of it for myself.”

“That’s disgusting.” But she couldn’t help watching his legs as he sat on the edge of the bed to pull his socks on.

“Oh, don’t tell me you haven’t taken yourself in hand, Slayer. Curious about the other half and all that.” He purposely misread her flush of embarrassment. “Or maybe you got Soldier Boy to take care of it for you. I always did have him pegged as a bit light.”

“Shut up, Spike.”

“Ooo, maybe not. You know, Slayer, you wouldn’t be so cranky if you’d get a decent shag once in a while.” He stood up, pulling up the jeans to button them, then glanced at the front of her pants. “You don’t give that a seeing to, you’re gonna end up all kinds of uncomfortable.”

“Mind your own business.”

He smirked, studying her up and down as he sauntered closer. “Maybe you’d like me to help you with that.”

Buffy saw the promise in his eyes as he caught the tip of his tongue between his teeth. The blood roared in her head, blinding her, deafening her, stealing away all thought except of grabbing him and burying herself in him.

And then, with the realization of how close she was to actually doing that, the mind numbing fear closed in. She backed away from him in horror.

“No?” He followed her. “Are you sure?”

She broke and ran.

“Have a nice wank!” drifted down the tunnel after her.

Chapter Text

For the first eight hours, Xander was able to ignore the possibility that anything was wrong. Training and research had helped provide distraction for a little while. He had several chocolate bars. That seemed to help, too.

Anya made love to him that night. While they both enjoyed it, he just wasn’t able to focus properly. But he made certain she used a condom.

He didn’t remember dreaming, but he must have, because he woke up more than once in a cold sweat. Anya complained in the morning about how much he tossed and turned. When she tried for another round of sex, he begged off, giving her a blow job to keep her from getting upset. He was grateful when she went to work.

He’d never realized before how many ads related to pregnancy and babies there were on TV. Finally he gave up and turned it off.

He couldn’t be pregnant. It just wasn’t possible. You couldn’t get pregnant from just one time. The chances of it happening had to be astronomically bad.

Didn’t they?

But he should know if he was, shouldn’t he? Women always seemed to just know when they were pregnant. He didn’t feel any different. But maybe he wouldn’t. Maybe he hadn’t been a woman long enough for whatever it was that told them to work for him

Oh god, he was pregnant.

His mind went round and round like that for hours despite his best efforts of self-distraction. He cleaned the entire apartment, including scrubbing out the bathtub. He baked a chocolate cake from one of the box mixes Anya had in the cupboard. And ate half of it. By the time she got home, he had made dinner as well. She was pleased at his thoughtfulness. He didn’t correct her.

After dinner, they settled down on the couch to watch television, and for a while he was able to relax in the comfort of her arms, his mind empty of all concerns.

Until she started kissing meaningfully along his neck and shoulders.

He pushed away from her and moved down to the other end of the couch. “I’m really not interested tonight, Anya,” he said defensively.

“All right, Xander Harris, what is wrong with you?” She asked indignantly.

“Nothing! Why does something have to be wrong with me because I don’t want to have sex all the time?”

“Because you do want to have sex all the time. Even since the change, you’ve been ready every time I have. You’re one headache away from a cliché, Xander. If I did something to make you angry, tell me so we can fight fair about it.”

He sagged beneath her words. “It’s not you. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

She moved closer, taking his hand. “Then what is it?”

“I think . . .” he studied her fingers, unable to look her in the face. “I think I’m pregnant.”

“Oh.” She thought about that for a long moment before asking, “Why?”

He looked up at her in confusion. “What?”

“Why do you think you’re pregnant?”

He hesitated.

“Well,” she continued impatiently, “are your breasts tender?”

“No.”

“Do your stomach muscles feel weak?”

He sucked in his gut. “Not that I can tell.”

“Are you sick to your stomach in the morning?”

“Not so far.”

“Then what makes you think you’re pregnant?”

“Well, we had sex the other morning without any protection.”

“Oh.” This time the word sounded more knowing. “You aren’t afraid you are pregnant, you’re afraid that you might be pregnant.”

“And there’s a difference?”

She nodded. “Might be means you probably aren’t, but you’re afraid to find out for sure, just in case you are. That explains the oral sex this morning, and the lack of interest tonight.”

“It does?”

“In the might-be mindset, having sex only makes it more likely that you are pregnant, but if you don’t, you’re more likely not to be pregnant.”

“Ahn, that just doesn’t make sense.”

She studied him critically. “Have you felt very rational since you found out?”

He looked sheepish. “No, not really.”

“Do you want to find out? We could go out and get you a home pregnancy test.”

“Will it help?”

“Not really,” she shrugged. “If it comes back positive, at least you’ll know.”

“What if it comes back negative?”

“You won’t trust it.”

“So then what do I do?”

“What women have done for centuries. Pray for your period.”

“What? No! I don’t want to have a period!”

She looked at him sternly. “I’ll bet that’s not true right now, is it?”

And he realized it wasn’t. As embarrassing and disgusting as it would be, he would be grateful for it as long as it meant he didn’t have to make all the hard decisions a pregnancy would make him face.

She saw the truth in his face. “Times like these are the only reason a woman ever looks forward to her monthly cycle.”

“God, Anya. Do you go through this every time?”

“No. Just if I’ve missed a pill during the month. Or if I’ve been sick. Or if I’m late, but that usually fixes itself in a day or two.”

“Why do you do it? Why do you keep coming back for more?”

She shrugged. “I like sex. And I love you. Sex with you is worth the risk.”

He let her enfold him in her arms then, stroking his hair gently. “I was really freaking out there,” he said quietly.

She nodded against his head. “I know.”

He looked up at her. “How?”

“You cleaned the apartment. And you ate half a sheet cake.”

“Yeah, I guess I did.” He chuckled wryly. “I’m starting to understand you women and your thing with chocolate.”

She pulled him close again. “And you thought I was making it up.”

After a moment, he added, “I’m still pretty scared.”

“I know.” She squeezed him comfortingly. After a while she gave him a gentle nudge. “Come on.”

“Where are we going?”

“To a drug store. To buy lots of pregnancy tests and several gallons of your favorite ice creams.”

“Will that help? Make me feel better, I mean?”

“The tests? Probably not. But at least you’ll know you did something. The ice cream always helps. Something about endorphins and round molecules and milk solids. It makes the world seem like a better place.”

Xander let her help him to his feet. “I’m beginning to think you women have a really good coping system.”

“You’re a woman, too, now, sweetie,” she reminded him. “And don’t worry. By morning, you’ll be worrying how much of it went to your hips . . .”

Chapter Text

The Bronze was crowded. All the college students who had managed to avoid Friday classes, or just didn’t plan on going, were there, crowding out the local high school kids. They had always resented it when they were those local high school kids, but now somehow Buffy was grateful. High school girls on the prowl were frightening, and she didn’t know if she was up to fending them off.

They had all decided they needed a night out. A chance to at least pretend to be normal for a few hours. Here were people who didn’t care what they had been, just what they were now. No pressure from Dawn’s curiosity, Mom’s concern, Giles’ sympathy.

She glanced over at the bar. Riley’s discomfort was still on her menu for the evening. When they had decided to go, Riley had insisted on coming along. Just to hang out. She sighed. It was nice that he wanted to be a part of her life, but his presence was awkward. She could almost feel the force of his attempts to keep an open mind, not to judge. But he never quite looked at Anya and Xander when they were affectionate, watched Willow’s interaction with Tara closely, ignored Spike altogether. Buffy got the feeling they were all one big psychology case study to him.

She watched him come back across the room to the circle of chairs they had claimed for the evening, drinks in hand. A part of her kind of felt sorry for him. He was trying, but he just wasn’t sure whether to treat her like a girlfriend or a buddy. Like the drinks. He had insisted on getting them, but then had been surprised when she didn’t want a beer. It was kind of cute. And very tiring.

He gave her her Coke with a friendly smile and sat down next to her. “So,” he started, then seemed to realize he had nothing to say. “Um.” Another long pause. “Oh!” He smiled brightly suddenly as he thought of a topic of conversation. “You know, I’ve never asked you, what kinds of sports are you interested in?”

“Figure skating, mostly,” she answered enthusiastically. “Some gymnastics. I like to watch soccer, but that’s mostly to check out the players.” She blushed a little when she realized she’d said too much.

“Oh.” Obviously none of their interests aligned.

They sat silently, watching the dancers for a while before he tried again. “So, how are your classes?”

“Pretty good, actually. I think I’m going to regret taking Astronomy for one of my science requirements. But my poetry class is pretty interesting.”

“You’re taking poetry?” Riley looked surprised.

“All semester.” Didn’t he remember her telling him about it when she’d registered?

“So, Slayer’s studyin’ poetry,” Spike’s amused soprano spoke behind them. He came around and dropped into the seat opposite them. She waited for him to start ridiculing her, but he only asked, “What have you covered?”

Surprised by his question, she hesitated. “Um. We started with epic poetry. The Iliad, the Kalevala, and Beowulf. Then we did Chaucer, and we just finished two weeks on Shakespeare.”

“Two weeks?” He brushed it aside, appalled. “No wonder you Americans are so ignorant.”

“Well, it’s only a survey class. There are four other classes dedicated just to his work.”

“This survey cover anything besides British writers?”

To her surprise, she found she actually enjoyed talking about this with Spike. He seemed genuinely interested. She really looked at him for the first time. He wore the ubiquitous Docs and her leather skirt and jacket. Underneath he had on a deep purple halter that showed generous amounts of skin and made her wonder how much more it revealed under his coat. His eyes and lips were carefully made up, and he seemed to have taken the chance of adding mascara as well. He’d mastered the hair which hung in loose waves around his head, pulled back from his face by two silver clips that looked remarkably like the ones her dad had given her for her fourteenth birthday. Dawn was in so much trouble.

But they looked good on him.

“You’ll probably like Walt Whitman,” he was saying. “Not a lot of structure, but more joyous passion than you’ll have seen anywhere except maybe in Old Will’s work.”

“How do you know so much about poetry?” she asked, surprised that she actually cared.

“Been a round for a while, haven’t I? Had to do something to pass the time.”

She was about to pursue that when they were interrupted by a dark haired waitress tapping Spike on the shoulder. “Excuse me. The gentleman at the bar sent this over.” She offered him the tray on which a shot of whiskey sat.

“Thanks, pet.” He took the glass and lifted it in the direction of his benefactor. Then he knocked it back in one shot.

The pickup artist’s eyes widened in awe.

She turned on him. “Have you been doing this all night?”

He shrugged. “Haven’t been here that long.”

He was spared her lecture by the arrival of Xander and Anya, who flopped in chairs as well. Anya wore slacks and a blue poet’s shirt, and had apparently talked Xander into a shopping trip, as his jeans and sneakers were topped by a purple paisley silk tank top. He leaned forward to grab the cup he had left there, chugging down half the contents. “This was a great idea, Buffster. I feel better than I have in days. But you should be out dancing!”

“Probably not tonight. I’m a little shy on partners of the opposite sex. And I’m not as brave as Tara and Willow.” Not to mention the fact that Riley would probably bolt if she asked him.

“Tell you what,” he swallowed another mouthful of beer, “As soon as I get back from the little girl’s room, I’ll dance with you. I figure I owe you for all the pity dances you’ve given me over the years.”

She smiled. “They weren’t pity dances, Xander.”

“You’re cute when you lie. C’mon, Spike.”

Spike looked up in surprise. “C’mon where?”

“To the bathroom.”

“’M not goin’ to the bathroom.”

“You have to. Girls go to the bathroom in packs, and I have to go, so you have to go with me.”

“You’re out of your tree, Harris. I’m not gonna stand in line with a bunch of twittery, whispery bints for who knows how long just so you can make water and powder your nose.”

“Please, Spike, you have to. It’s going to be embarrassing enough going into a public restroom like this without standing out like a sore thumb by being there all alone.”

Spike studied Xander for a long moment before conceding. “Why didn’t you say abject humiliation was involved in the first place?” He unfolded himself gracefully from his seat. “I’m in.”

As the two squeezed through the crowd in the direction of the girls’ room, Riley spoke up, reminding Buffy of his presence. “Why do girls all go to the bathroom together?”

Buffy looked at Anya, and Anya at Buffy before Buffy answered. “So we have someone to talk to while we’re standing in line.”

Anya nodded. “And there’s always a line.”

“But if only the people who needed to go went, wouldn’t that take care of the line?” Riley asked reasonably.

They just stared at him.

“Oooookay, maybe not.” He slouched back in his chair, hiding behind his cup.

Xander was back within five minutes, although Spike had disappeared. Xander kissed Anya affectionately and whispered something in her ear before coming over to claim Buffy. “I believe this is our dance.”

She laughed. “Aren’t I supposed to be saying that to you?”

He grinned, making his smaller face look even more pixie-ish. “It’s the new millennium. Things change.”

“Yes, they certainly do.” She took his hand and let him lead her out onto the dance floor, looking back apologetically into Riley’s thoughtful face.

She hadn’t held anyone in this new body, so it surprised her how small Xander seemed. She started to understand why men felt so protective of women. He just seemed so fragile. They didn’t dance close, but she rested her hands on his waist while he put his on her shoulders and they just moved comfortably to the quieter song the deejay was playing. She took the opportunity to look around. Off to one side, she saw Tara and Willow in a posture similar to hers with Xander, only much more intimate. They swayed slowly in time to the music, hands lightly stroking over each other’s backs, reaching up to toy with each other’s hair. Every once in a while, Tara would drop her head to steal a soft kiss, leaving Willow smiling shyly.

“They seem to be doing better,” Buffy said close to Xander’s ear so he could hear her over the noise.

“Finding silver linings, like the rest of us,” he replied. “I don’t think Tara was coping to well at first.”

Buffy nodded in agreement. “We had lunch a couple of days ago.”

“And I talked to Will. But it’s getting easier. And at least now they can show how much they care about each other without worrying about getting attacked.”

Buffy nodded again. “Sometimes I’m not so sure I like living in a world where people like them, who love each other that much, aren’t allowed to show it in public. That just seems so wrong somehow.”

He nodded and rested his head against her shoulder for a moment. When he looked up again, he asked, “Do you think we’ll forget?”

“What do you mean?”

“Do you think if we stay like this long enough, we’ll forget that I was a boy and you were a girl, forget what that was like?”

She shook her head and hugged him fiercely. “That will always be a part of us. It’s defined who we are for twenty years. That doesn’t just go away. So, you’ll be a butchy girl, and I’ll be an effeminate guy, and no one will want to have anything to do with us because we’re such freaks.”

“Wow. Way to go for the silver lining, there, Buff.”

She squeezed him again. “Giles will fix it.”

He nodded. “You’re right. I know. G-man always comes through in the pinch.”

“He does. He will. He has to.”

As soon as the music ended, Anya was right there, her lean face sharpened by an overly bright smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Did you have fun? Are you finished now?”

Xander rolled his eyes, but Buffy just smiled. “I did, very much. Thank you for sharing him.”

Anya’s smile now was genuine. “You’re welcome! But I would like him back now.”

Buffy stepped back. “All yours.” She watched as Anya swept Xander away, holding him indecently close as she re-established her territory. Buffy shook her head, smiling. Those two had such an odd relationship, but somehow it was also very romantic.

She glanced in the direction of Willow and Tara. Despite the increased tempo of the music, they continued to drift lazily in each other’s eyes. It still moved her to see how much they cared for each other.

With a sigh, she turned to head back to their table where, presumably, Riley was waiting for her. But raucous laughter from behind the catwalk stairs drew her attention. She peered around the column to see what was going on.

It was Spike, surrounded by half a dozen guys, holding court like some decadent princess or movie star. He had shed the jacket to reveal bare shoulders and arms pale as milk, the soft blue veining barely visible. He had a beer in one hand as he gestured with the other, emphasizing his words and his willowy limbs. These guys weren’t entranced, Buffy thought. They looked more like a pack of wolves waiting for their prey to not notice them so they could attack. One of them in particular was overly aggressive, feeling free to coast the back of his fingers down Spike’s arm or lay a hand across his upper thigh. Spike didn’t seem to notice, so intent was he on the tale he was spinning. He was just asking for trouble.

She pushed her way through the crowd to stand in front of him. “Spike!” She had to shout to get his attention.

Spike looked up at her, surprised. “Oh, hey, pet. I was just makin’ some new friends.”

Buffy crossed her arms over her chest. “I’m not sure I like your taste in friends.”

Mr. Hands rose first. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Just about what you might think.” She reached out and caught Spike’s wrist. “Come on. You need to dance.”

As she dragged him away, he swallowed a last mouthful of beer and dropped the cup on the table. “Thanks for the drinks, fellas. We’ll have to do this again sometime.”

Buffy didn’t stop until they were in the middle of the floor, far away from the admiring throng, before turning around and pulling him into her arms. “You’re just asking for trouble, you know that?” she said, moving them naturally into the flow of dancers.

“Those guys?” He scoffed. “They’re harmless.”

“They’re harmless unless they put enough booze in you to think that they’ve earned something and that you’re too drunk to stop it.”

“Won’t they be in for a surprise, then?”

“Won’t you be if your little concentration trick doesn’t work and you can’t fight back.”

“Jealous, Slayer?” he smirked at her.

“I’m just trying to keep you from getting beat up. Or worse.”

“I think you saw me talking to those blokes and got jealous that I was payin’ all that attention to them and none to you.”

“You’re delusional,” she said derisively.

“Am I? Then why are you hard?” And he ghosted his hips lightly against hers, showing her the truth of his statement.

Buffy blushed but kept her face stern. “That doesn’t mean anything. That thing goes up and down for no reason at all.”

He didn’t quite laugh at her. “Oh no, Slayer, it goes up and down for very specific reasons. It’s a part of you, not its own separate entity. And it’s responding to what goes on in your head, consciously or unconsciously. You want me.”

“You’re out of your mind.”

“Oh, you think so? Let’s take a little survey, eh?” They were moving automatically to the rhythm of the music, but Buffy gave not thought to actual coherent dancing. “Did it come up, as you put it, when you were dancin’ so close with Harris?”

“No, of course not! He’s my friend, I don’t . . .”

“What about Red? Nice girl, pretty package, hell, you probably saw her naked a time or two when you were roomies. She get a standing ovation?”

“I don’t think of her like that . . .”

“Okay then, what about Soldier Boy?”

“That’s just disgusting!”

“The male body’s renowned for inappropriate responses, luv. You love him, or so you say, and you’re still Buffy in that noggin of yours. Be perfectly natural for all those squishy feelings to make their presence felt. But nothing, huh?”

She didn’t answer him.

“But you know what’s interesting? Every single time you’ve been around me in the last five days, you have been hard as nails. Don’t think I haven’t noticed.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

He tipped his head up to look at her, moistening his lips with the tip of his tongue. “You can lie to me all you want, but you can’t control your reaction. You want me. You want me bad.”

She could hear the blood pounding in her ears, feel it coursing straight into her khakis, her eyes nearly crossing from the sudden pressure of her fast swelling cock. God, she did want him. So much.

And then he moved a little closer. “So you know, pet, I want you just as much. Maybe more. Want to know what it feels like to lie with you, touch you, feel you slide into me . . .”

She pushed him away like a viper, trembling with her own reaction, the desperate need sucking her in to do everything he was suggesting. He looked at her, hopeful, suggestive, and she felt herself weaken.

In a panic she turned and ran, leaving him alone on the dance floor. She fled back to the table where Riley was talking with Xander and Willow.

“Buffy?” Riley rose, laying a hand on her forearm. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine.” She snatched a cup up off the table and quickly swallowed some of the flat beer inside, hoping to settle her nerves. “It’s just really hot out there.”

Riley was about to pursue his concern when they all heard from nearby a very familiar accent insisting, “Shove off! I’m not goin’ anywhere with you!”

“Think you can tease us like that all night and not have to follow through?” a raspy, angry male voice responded.

“That’s exactly what I think, you . . . Hey, let me go!”

As one, they all turned to race towards the sound of the argument.

They found Spike in the grip of Mr. Hands near the pool table, obviously en route to being dragged out of the club. Riley grabbed Spike’s arm and yanked him out of Hands’ grip, shoving him back behind them to relative safety. “I don’t think the lady’s all that interested in leaving with you.”

“Yeah?” came the surly reply. “What’s it to you?”

“She came with us.”

“Big fuckin’ deal. She’s leaving with me.”

“No,” Buffy stepped forward, “she really isn’t.”

“Try and stop me.” And he lunged forward to grab Spike.

Buffy grabbed his arm and with a fierce twist, threw him spinning into the air to land on the pool table, sending balls shooting off in all directions.

“Hey!” one of the bullies with Hands protested. “You can’t do that to Steve!”

“Looks like I just did. Want some for yourself?”

Three more guys charged them, this time intent on her and Riley, giving Spike no thought. Buffy cold cocked the first one as Riley grappled with the second. The third nearly tripped over his fallen comrade trying to get to Buffy, and she used his imbalance to fling him against the far wall, fighting to limit her strength so as not to kill him despite her fury.

Steve was just starting to rise from the pool table when the bouncers arrived. “What’s going on here?”

“Sorry, Gary,” Riley apologized. “These guys got overly familiar with the lady and weren’t going to take no for an answer. We didn’t mean to cause trouble.”

Gary, the head bouncer, looked at the dazed and fallen thugs, examining the situation. “Okay,” he said finally. “There isn’t any serious damage, and no blood, so I’ll let it go since it’s you, Riley. But I’m still going to need you to make a statement for my incident report. And the rest of you should head home. I think your evening’s done.”

“I think you’re right,” Riley confirmed.

“I’ll go find the girls,” Xander offered, quickly disappearing into the crowd.

“And I’d better walk Spike home,” Buffy said grudgingly. “Make sure his admirers don’t come looking for him.”

“Don’t need any favors from you, Slayer,” Spike grumbled, obviously embarrassed.

She sighed. “It’s in the job description, Spike. You helpless, me protect. Now get moving before I decide to stake you and spare myself any more aggravation.”

She ignored the looks she got from Riley and Spike, one quizzical and one very, very smug.

Chapter Text

“That was brilliant!”

Spike walked ahead of Buffy, bouncing on the balls of his feet as he moved. He was invigorated, aroused, and totally wired.

The Slayer, on the other hand, was looking very dour as she marched determinedly through the back alleys that led out of the industrial district where the Bronze was located.

“Oh, come on!” he responded to her expression. “Tell me that wasn’t a fun little fight!”

She just glared at him. “What are you talking about, Spike? You didn’t do anything. Just stood there while the rest of us defended you.”

“I know!” he beamed, bouncing in place. “My bloody heroes! Musta killed soldier boy to have to come to my rescue.” He laughed. “God! I feel like Helen of bleedin’ Troy! No wonder some birds get off on pittin’ blokes against each other.”

She stopped. “Are you telling me you did this on purpose?”

“What? No!” Then he added truthfully, “I hadn’t thought of it. But I woulda picked better than that ponce if I had. Don’t know where he got delusions of adequacy.”

“Maybe from the fact that you let him put his hands all over you.”

“We were just talking.”

“For future reference, Spike? If you don’t want to sleep with a guy, you don’t let him put his hand up your . . . leg.”

He studied her with a smirk. So she’d noticed that. “Well, you showed him the error of his ways right and proper, didn’t you? The only thing missing was the possessive kiss over his fallen body.”

“You really are insane, aren’t you?”

“You feel it, Slayer. I know you do. That primitive male brain of yours is screaming at you to take what you fought for, and it’s pumping a lovely cocktail through you to do just that. Adrenalin, testosterone, endorphins, all that blood. God, I wish I could taste you right now. Bet you’d taste incredible.” Just the thought of it made his whole body itch, as eager to be possessed as he knew she was to possess him.

He saw her tremble at his words, but all she said was, “It’s not going to happen, Spike.”

“Why not? It’s not like its any secret I want you. That fight turned me on as much as it did you. Aren’t you curious to find out what it feels like to feel all that soft flesh wrapped around your hard cock? Hell of a lot better than your hand, I promise you that.”

“Just shut up, Spike,” she growled fiercely.

He stopped, turning to face her with a smug grin, narrow challenging eyes and a cocked hip. “Make me,” he said very succinctly.

It was the final line for him to cross.

With a snarl of rage, she grabbed his shoulders and slammed him up against the brick wall. And he knew this was his moment. If he could just keep her from thinking . . .

He gripped her head with both hands and crashed their mouths together.

Buffy froze, but Spike didn’t stop, devouring her firm, supple lips with his own, not letting her pull away. He could almost feel the moment she gave into it, felt the tension in her body relax into something different.

When she opened her mouth, he almost wept.

He matched her, teasing her lips with his teeth and tongue before slipping inside to toy with hers, luring it out until she was thrusting back. Her hands slipped under his jacket to skim up over the bare skin of his back, her warrior calluses rough and warm, making him shudder.

There was nothing gentle about this. It was all passion and hunger and possession. He didn’t mind, just so long as he got to have her just this once. He ground against her, and she moaned, a warm rippling baritone that made him tight in all the right places. He didn’t dare say a word, make any of the promises or endearments welling up in his throat, for fear of bringing her to her senses and sending her fleeing into the night. He knew he didn’t have long as it was.

He reached one hand behind his back to release the knot holding the back of his halter closed, then caught her wrist to drag her hand up under the soft fabric to fondle his breast. He gasped as her rough palm abraded his puckering nipple, her hand naturally cupping and pulling on his firm round flesh. Instinctively her hips thrust against his, grinding him hard against the wall, her bulge stroking against his clit through layers of denim and leather. He couldn’t stop himself as he ripped his head away from her mouth with a hoarse cry of “Oh, god!”

She hesitated, and he saw the flicker of Buffy come back into her eye. He was out of time.

With a deft hand, he reached between them and popped the buttons on her jeans, reaching under the fabric to wrap his fingers around her blood-heated cock.

This time they both moaned.

She felt better than he’d imagined, thick and long, filling his small hand with the waxy satin of it. With each stroke, he pushed at her jeans and briefs until her hips and thighs were bare. Catching his arm around her neck, he lifted himself up to wrap around her hips as his other hand guided her to his center, pushing aside the sodden fabric of his panties as he rubbed her head against himself, positioning her perfectly to drop himself down her length.

She roared ferally at the feeling of penetration. He could barely whimper.

He could feel her everywhere, as though every sensory nerve in his body was linked to the soft channel she now filled. He had expected the stretch, but hadn’t realized how every small surface within him would be touched by her. The friction of dry skin on wet tissue was electrifying, and he needed to feel it again. Using the muscles of his legs, he rose up, sliding almost off her before pushing against her again, taking her a little deeper. By the third time, her body’s instincts kicked in and she began moving as well until they were fucking each other feverishly against the wall.

“Christ, Buffy,” his mouth began running, disconnected from all thought. “Feels so good. Didn’t know it could feel like this. Don’t stop, love. Oh god please don’t stop. Harder. Oh god, yes, fuck me harder.”

“Shut up, Spike,” she growled against the side of his neck as her hands clenched into his flexing thigh muscles, lifting him through each stroke.

“I can’t,” he panted, his head thrown back. “It’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever felt. I can’t stop. I have to . . .”

She silenced him herself, her mouth grinding over his as she slammed him hard against the wall with each stroke.

Her climax surprised them both, although it shouldn’t have, considering it was her first time. She froze in mid-stroke and he briefly saw her eyes roll up in her head before her hips jerked sporadically against him. The feel of her come shooting into him in warm, wet spurts was enough to trigger his own orgasm, wrenching a soft cry from him as he clutched her tightly, his body trembling and spasming against hers.

They stood like that for long moments, supporting each other with her soft cock still cradled inside him, arms and legs tangled around each other as their bellowing lungs slowed, her heartbeat settling slowly down to normal.

She backed up slowly, slipping out of him with a soft moan before lowering him to his feet. She didn’t look at him as she carefully straightened his skirt for him before drawing her pants and underwear back up. He was too overwhelmed by what they had done, how amazing it had felt, to do anything but lean against the wall, awestruck.

Buffy backed away slowly. “I . . . I have to . . . I can’t be here. Will you . . . will you be okay getting home?”

Spike swallowed, trying to regain speech. “Yeah,” he forced out, his soft voice husky, “I’ll be okay.”

She didn’t look at him again as she disappeared into the darkness.

He let himself sink to the ground, no longer able to support himself standing.

And Spike realized that no matter how he tried to convince himself, once was not going to be enough with her.

Chapter Text

It had been a good night.

If Tara were honest with herself, she had to admit that it was nice to be able to be demonstrative with Willow in public without worrying who might see.

But now they were back home, where it was just the two of them. And she wasn’t ready for the evening to be over.

She closed the door behind them, mirroring Willow as she kicked her shoes off and dropped her coat over the back of the desk chair. They met at the foot of the bed and Tara reached out to draw Willow close.

“I had a really good time tonight,” she said quietly, kissing Willow’s lips softly.

Willow smiled. “Me, too.”

“I’d like . . .” She paused. “I really want to make love to you.”

Willow’s breath caught. “You do?”

She nodded hesitantly. “I just have missed touching you so much.”

“I know.” Willow stepped close to kiss her tenderly, her fingers moving to undo the buttons on Tara’s shirt. “I’ve missed it, too.”

Tara hesitated. “Willow, wait. I don’t think I’m ready . . .”

“Shh, shh, shh,” Willow whispered against her lips. “I won’t do anything you don’t want me to, I promise. But can I take off your shirt? I just want to feel your skin.”

Tara drew a deep breath, her eyes wide and nervous, but she nodded slightly. Willow smiled that soft grin that touched Tara’s heart every time, and she found herself relaxing. Willow worked the buttons quickly, pulling the tails out of Tara’s jeans before coasting her warm, soft hands over Tara’s skin. “You still have a nice chest,” she said, her voice rich with reaction.

Her hand trembling slightly, Tara reached out to pull Willow’s sequined t-shirt up and over her head, revealing the pretty floral demi-bra that cupped her breasts. Tara let her fingers trail down over the curves of them. “So do you.”

Willow’s breath hitched and she caught Tara’s wrist, holding her in place. “More.”

Tara smiled. This was familiar territory. She cupped her hand around one round globe, so much smaller in these bigger hands, and stroked her thumb over the covered nipple. Willow closed her eyes, tipping her head back in pleasure, and Tara took advantage of that to kiss tenderly along the column of her throat, sucking and nibbling at random intervals, wringing pleasurable gasps from Willow as she gripped Tara’s shoulders. Finally she heard Willow whisper, “Take it off. Please, I want to feel you.”

Tara’s free hand coasted up to the hooks on the back of Willow’s bra, deftly unhooking them despite her larger fingers. With a shrug and a shimmy, Willow shook it off and dropped it to the floor before wrapping her arms around Tara’s neck to rub their chests together, groaning into each other’s mouths as they met in hungry kisses.

Tara had always thought Willow was so soft, but never more so than now. The contrast of their bodies now just emphasized her every curve, every softness. “You feel so good, baby.”

“You make me feel better,” Willow murmured back, her hands eagerly exploring the expanses of bare skin on Tara’s back and chest.

Tara let her hand fall to the button at the back of Willow’s waist, releasing the peasant skirt to fall in a pool at her feet. Willow broke away, stepping back so Tara could see her fully, clad in nothing but the delicate floral bikinis that matched the discarded bra.

“You are so beautiful,” Tara breathed, watching her in wonder.

Willow blushed, ducking her head at the compliment. Her head down, hair falling over her face, she hooked her thumbs into the loops of her panties and pushed them down, revealing her neat auburn thatch of curls to Tara’s hungry eyes.

“Beautiful,” she repeated, awe struck.

Willow reached out and took her hand, drawing Tara with her as she mounted the bed. “Touch me,” she begged softly, lying down against the pillows.

Tara’s cock throbbed at the request, but she ignored it, transfixed by her lover’s beauty, spread out before her like a banquet. She dipped her head to run her tongue over one tightly crinkled nipple, her hand tugging and rolling at the other one. Willow moaned, her hands resting on Tara’s bobbing head.

Tara moved her hand down to coast along Willow’s thighs, making her gasp and spread her legs in invitation. She let her fingers tease and torment lightly as she suckled hard on one nipple, rolling her tongue over it and nipping lightly in the way she knew drove Willow crazy.

Tara was so focused on pleasuring Willow that she was completely unprepared for the warm hand that brushed across the front of her jeans.

She cried out in surprise, in panic, in pure, instinctual encouragement, her fingers digging hard into Willow’s thigh. Willow froze, panting.

“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean . . .” her desire heavy eyes widened in horror. “I’m sorry. I really didn’t . . .”

“Shh." Tara nuzzled against her hair, resuming stroking her thighs gently. “I know you didn’t. It just surprised me.”

Willow gripped Tara’s shoulder, her hips arching to guide Tara’s hand as her eyes closed again.

Tara tried to focus on Willow, but the brief contact made her cock pulse, wanting and hungry. She tried unsuccessfully to ignore it.

Willow didn’t help. She had tipped her head aside to watch Tara attend each breast when she asked, “Did it feel good?”

Tara let her hand fall between Willow’s open legs to trail over the soft curves of her ass that showed through her thighs. Under cover of her gasp of pleasure, Tara confessed, “Yeah, it did.”

Willow gripped Tara’s wrist to guide her closer to her center. Tara continued to tease, stroking her finger over the thick flesh of her mons without making contact with the juicy labia swelling in anticipation. Shifting up onto one hip, she moved her head across Willow’s chest to lavish rough attention on her other breast, wringing whimpers from her writhing body. It was half of a familiar dance of ecstasy they played so often together. Tara was grateful to still have this much.

“Do you . . .” Willow started, panting the words roughly. “Can I do it again?”

Tara’s hips bucked in reaction, her erection crushing against Willow’s soft thigh, drawing a moan from her own lips.

“Please!” Willow begged desperately.

Finally, hesitantly she nodded her head.

This time the caress came with slow deliberation, fingertips and palm sliding firmly over blood-swollen flesh, burning her even through the heavy denim of her jeans. Tara’s head snapped back as she thrust into the caress, groaning.

“Again,” it was her turn to beg.

Willow needed no further encouragement, sawing along the bulging length, experimenting with pressure and pace to see what pleased Tara more. In reward, Tara finally slipped her lead fingers in along Willow’s narrow slit, swallowing her scream of delight behind a hungry kiss.

When Tara released her mouth, Willow started babbling. “Oh, my god, that feels so different, so good. Your fingers are so much bigger, so warm, the skin’s just a little rough, oh god, baby, harder! So different, but you still know how to make me feel so good. You feel so good, baby, so good in my hand, so full and solid and hard. I want to feel you, baby, please, just want to hold you Tara, please!”

The demands of Tara’s body had pushed aside all fear, all uncertainty, leaving only the pounding drive of need. She pulled her supporting arm out from under herself, lying down on the pillows as she used her now-free hand to unfasten her fly, pushing the fabric down as much as she could.

Willow needed no further encouragement, her hand dipping in eagerly to slide along bare, straining flesh.

Tara’s world irised down to that contact, the feel of Willow’s hand wrapped around her cock all that mattered. Her hips worked naturally, thrusting and retreating in her lover’s tight grip, keeping pace with her own fingers as they delved into Willow’s liquid heat.

Willow began to tremble, and then suddenly bucked against Tara’s hand, a stream of curses erupting from her as her orgasm took her. Tara was grateful Willow had released her grip on Tara’s cock, as she saw the strength Willow clutched at the sheets with. But a part of her was resentful of losing the pleasurable stimulation along her shaft. She leaned forward and kissed Willow’s temple and throat softly, easing her back down to earth with their usual care, wondering what would happen next.

She didn’t have to wonder long. Willow rolled up on her side to wrap her arms around Tara, catching their mouths in slow, languid kisses as she rubbed her torso and hips voluptuously against Tara’s length. Tara let go and reveled in it, stroking her large hands over Willow’s back and hair, reaching down to cup her ass. She slipped her thigh between Willow’s in their familiar frottage position. Willow quickly began riding it, her own thigh rubbing against Tara’s aching balls and shaft. She growled and pressed harder.

“I want to make love to you,” Willow murmured into Tara’s ear, her teeth nipping hungrily at the lobe. “I want you to feel me holding you as close as I possibly can. I want you to feel as good as I do.”

Tara couldn’t help but roll her head back, grinding down harder in response. “I . . . I don’t know . . .”

Willow caressed her face. “If you don’t want to, it’s okay. But if you do, that’s okay, too. All acts of love and pleasure, remember? And I love you so much. I just want to make you feel good.”

Tara wanted to protest. There had to be a reason this was wrong. But she couldn’t think of any. All she could think of was how hard she was and how good Willow’s hand had felt. With a growl of surrender, she rolled them over, pinning Willow to the mattress as she ravaged her mouth.

Willow became a frenzy of activity, hands and feet working to finish undressing Tara as she let her tongue delve into her mouth. She flexed her hips against Tara’s, and Tara felt coarse auburn curls rasp against the tender skin of her shaft. Her hips moved eagerly, desperately seeking something she couldn’t name.

Willow seemed to understand, and with a sharp push rolled them so she was on top, straddling Tara’s hips and pinning her to the bed with one hand as she leaned forward to pull open her bedside drawer. Tara heard her fishing around for something, but only had eyes for the soft swell of breasts dangling before her face. She caught one in her mouth, tonguing fiercely at the nipple as she strained upward.

Finally Willow found what she was looking for and settled back to sit on Tara’s thighs as she tore open the little foil packet. Tara rested her hands on Willow’s hips as Willow’s left hand wrapped around the base of Tara’s cock, standing it up to stroke evenly up the length. “God, baby,” she breathed, her hands sliding along it in exploration. “You are so big.”

Tara wasn’t sure how to take that. “Is . . . is that okay? Can you still . . .”

Willow smiled at her eagerly. “It’s fine, baby. We’re going to take it nice and slow and you are going to fit me just perfectly.” Her left hand still softly jerking, she set the condom over the tip with her right, rolling it down over the flared head until her other hand caught the ring of it to continue to pull it down in long slow strokes. When the entire length was covered, Willow rose back up to position herself, catching the tip in her warm, wet center. “Are you ready?”

Tara’s fingers dug in, trying to pull Willow down, her eyes locked on the point where the two of them met. “Goddess, yes!”

The both cried out as she pushed down, Tara’s swollen head stretching the ring of muscles into Willow’s channel. Willow rose up slightly, then lowered herself again, taking it a little further each time. Tara could feel sweat beading up on her face, could see glistening drops of it trail between Willow’s breasts. Willow was absolutely focused on taking her whole cock in, controlling Tara completely until she sat easily on Tara’s hips, only the barest hint of the root of Tara’s cock showing between her splayed thighs. “Does that feel good?” she panted, not moving, although Tara could feel muscles contracting all along her shaft.

Tara couldn’t speak, so simply nodded fervently.

Willow slowly rose back up the full length, coming back down in one hard, even stroke.

Tara roared.

Willow just looked smug as she did it again eagerly, allowing Tara to guide their movements with her grip on Willow’s hips. Her own head lolled back as she rode, mouth falling open at the sensations. “Oh god, baby, you feel so good inside me. Fuck me, Tara, fuck me please!”

It was pure instinct the way Tara moved with her lover. Every sensation, every thought was focused on the feel of Willow wrapped tight around her cock, clutching at her with each eager thrust. Tara had expected the lust, the pure animal drive of the act. What surprised her was how much of a comfort it was as well, being safely nestled deep inside Willow, protected and loved. She gripped Willow’s arms and pulled her down, wrapping her arms around her as they rocked frenetically against each other.

The change was subtle but unmistakable. “Willow,” she gasped, holding her lover close, “something’s happening. Feel . . . tight inside . . .”

Willow turned her head to rest her mouth on Tara’s ear. “It’s okay, baby, that’s what’s supposed to happen. Just let it go.”

Tara wouldn’t have known how to stop it if she’d wanted to. Then tension built and built inside her with each stroke until it turned itself inside out and she came with a hoarse cry, clutching at Willow’s sweat slicked body.

Willow moved faster, harder, swearing and babbling as she brought herself off as well.

They lay there for long moments afterwards before Willow gently lifted herself off with a soft groan to collapse on the bed beside Tara. She just looked at Tara with wonder in her eyes. “My favorite thing in the world is to make love to you.”

Tara twisted her head to meet Willow’s gaze. “Even like this?”

“Regardless.” She reached out a hand to lay it on Tara’s chest. “It feels like our souls connect whenever we’re together like that. The bodies just don’t matter.”

Tara reached out to trail gentle fingers along Willow’s face, her eyes brimming with happy tears. Willow turned her head to kiss Tara’s fingers softly, then rolled over to reach under the bed, coming up with a hand towel. She wiped herself up quickly, then attended to Tara, tossing the condom in the trash and dropping the towel on the floor before collapsing across Tara’s chest with a giggle. “That was fun!”

Tara smiled and stroked her head, enjoying the feel of their bare flesh against each other. She felt at peace for the first time in a week. Willow loved her, and she loved Willow. Nothing could change that. They were together, just the way they were supposed to be. She could deal with the rest.

A stray thought drifted through her brain. “Sweetie?”

“Mm hmm?”

“Why do you have condoms?”

Willow raised her head, looking sheepish. “They’re leftover from Oz. I just never got rid of them. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Of course not. Right now I’m actually kind of grateful.” Willow laid her hand down again and Tara when back to toying thoughtfully with her hair. “Do you have any more?” she asked hesitantly a few moments later.

When Willow looked up again, she had a wicked glint in her eye. “Do you think we might need them?”

Tara blushed and dropped her eyes. “Mmmmaybe. If you wanted to . . .”

Willow caught Tara’s chin and lifted it. “If you want to, we’ll get as many more as you need.”

Tara leaned forward and caught Willow’s mouth with her own, putting as much love and gratitude into it as possible.

It was a very good night.

Chapter Text

Riley didn’t let his feet slow as he approached the house on Revello Drive. He had thought this through carefully, had lain awake most of the night because of it. He knew he had made the right decision. But telling Buffy was going to be the hardest thing he had ever done.

“Hey!” Buffy smiled warmly when she opened the door. “I didn’t expect to see you until tonight.”

“I know. But I needed to talk to you. Can I come in?”

“Sure.” She stepped back to let him pass, looking quizzical. “Is everything okay?”

He couldn’t quite look at her. “Everything’s fine. I just. . . Look, why don’t we sit down?”

She sank down on the couch, watching him intently. “Okay, now you’re starting to scare me.”

“I’m sorry.” Riley sank down next to her. “I don’t mean to. I’ve just been doing a lot of thinking the last few days. And I wanted you to know about it.”

“Well, thinking is good, I guess.” He could see she was trying to be supportive but was mostly just puzzled. And he realized the best way to do this was just to say it.

“I’m leaving, Buffy.”

She looked confused. “But you just got here.”

“No.” He looked down at his hands, his fingers twisting together. “I mean I’m leaving Sunnydale.”

She stared at him in shock.

He continued on before she could speak. “My friend Graham. . . You remember Graham?” She nodded imperceptibly. “Well, he’s gotten in with a team of paranormal special ops and wants me to join them. It’s the same kind of work I was doing with the Initiative, although hopefully with less . . .”

“You’re leaving me,” she finally croaked out.

“It’s not like that.”

“You’re leaving me!” Her voice rose in anger. “God, Riley! I’ve been changed a week. You can’t wait longer than that? It’s not like I’m going to be like this forever!”

“It’s not about that, Buffy!” His voice rose to be heard over hers. “I don’t care about the change. I really don’t. But it’s given me a chance to understand some things better.”

“Oh?” She crossed her arms over her chest defensively. “And what insights have you gathered in the last week that you couldn’t before?”

He sighed, surprised that he had expected this to go any better. “We don’t have anything in common,” he plowed ahead manfully. “And if you were honest with yourself, you’d know it, too.”

“We have a lot in common!” she protested.

“Like what? Besides the fighting and the . . . physical part of our relationship, what do we have?”

She tried to answer, but seemed to struggle.

“It’s okay, Buffy, really. I’m kind of grateful this happened, although I know it hasn’t been any fun for you. But for me, looking at you and not seeing your beautiful face, your soft smile and your incredible eyes, I’ve had to talk to you like a person for a change.” Riley dropped his eyes. “I’m not sure I like what that says about me very much.” She didn’t interrupt him, so he soldiered on. “We don’t talk because we don’t have anything to talk about. I hate foreign movies, even to make fun of. And you have no interest in sports. We like different things, different people. And that’s okay, but it doesn’t make for a very solid relationship.”

Finally, Buffy nodded faintly in agreement.

Her acknowledgement allowed him to relax a bit. “And it’s not just that,” he continued with a little more confidence, but a bit more resignation. “We come from different worlds. Mine’s very black and white, with clear definitions and responsibilities. It’s the way I was brought up, the way I was trained. But your world is all gray areas and compromise. Your best friend is dating a vengeance demon, and you keep a handicapped vampire around out of pity.”

“She’s not a demon.”

He hesitated. “What?”

She looked up at him, and he could see the resignation in her eyes. “Anya’s not a demon. Not any more.”

He sighed. “See? That’s what I mean. This is your world. Sunnydale, the Hellmouth. I try to live in it, but I just get confused about who I’m supposed to kill and who I should protect, who’s good and evil, what’s right, what’s wrong. And a part of me is scared that I’m going to get so confused I do something stupid and get you killed. Or worse, make you hate me. The world makes more sense out there. I just. . . I think its time.”

She looked back down at her hands. “So what will you do?”

“I’m going to go home, see my family for a couple of days. The team is going to pick me up from there.”

“In Iowa?” She looked back at him incredulously.

He smiled at her. “I’m good at not asking questions, remember?”

She smiled wryly. “Yeah, now that I think about it, I do kind of remember that.” She drew a deep breath. “When do you leave?”

“I’ve got a three o’clock flight to LA and then on to Des Moines.”

“So soon.” Her voice was flat. “Do you need any help? Packing or anything?”

He shook his head. “I’m not taking much. I arranged with the landlord to have Goodwill come and take the rest. Unless there’s anything you wanted.”

After a moment, she shook her head.

They sat together in silence for a long time. He wanted to say more, but he just couldn’t find the words to express himself. Finally he got to his feet. “I should go.”

“Yeah.” She followed his lead. “You probably have a lot to do before your flight.”

“Yeah.”

They walked silently together to the foyer before Buffy stopped him, laying a hand on his arm. He looked down, and was disturbed to see tears forming in her male face. “I still love you,” she said with quiet uncertainty.

“I know you do.” He gathered her close, holding her unfamiliar body tightly, offering the comfort he didn’t feel. “I still love you, too. But that just isn’t always enough.” He squeezed her gently and then backed away. “At least if we do it this way, neither one of us has to be the bad guy. Although I understand if you talk trash about me to your friends.”

She barked an abrupt laugh through her tears. “Count on it.”

“Take care of yourself, Buffy.”

“You, too. Stay in touch. If you can.”

“If I can,” he agreed. He paused on the porch, looking back at her. “Bye.”

She just raised a hand and waved weakly.

He heard the door shut behind him, heard a second thump as he walked down the path that could only be the sound of her back hitting the door and sliding down. And in his head he saw the beautiful, perfect girl that he loved curled up on the floor crying.

Chapter Text

Buffy told everyone else that night.

They all looked as shocked as she felt. There were a lot of questions that she answered as best she could, but her heart wasn’t in it.

Spike didn’t show up.

Willow put her arms around Buffy. “Do you want some girl time? Lots of ice cream and Lifetime movies to remind you how much worse things could be?”

She gave Willow a watery smile and hugged her back. “I don’t think so. I think I need to go out tonight.”

Thankfully, no one pushed her. She’d had all day to come to grips with Riley’s departure, find some measure of peace with it. It still hurt. She’d made herself vulnerable to another man who’d left her. She should have learned better by now.

An image flashed in her mind of Spike, small and fragile, a stunned look on his delicate features as he leaned against the wall in that dark, dirty alley where she’d left him all alone and defenseless.

She really wasn’t any better than the rest of them.

But she was going to be.

Buffy made her way through the graves to his crypt, praying silently that no surprises popped up at her. If she had to stop and fight, she might change her mind about doing this. But she had to. It was the right thing to do.

She didn’t knock. She never knocked. But she opened the door quietly, almost respectfully. She must have caught him going from the TV to the fridge, because he stood in the middle of the floor, looking at her in surprise. He was dressed simply in jeans and one of his own black t-shirts, Dawn’s red sneakers untied on his feet. His hair was tousled loosely, pale against the black of his shirt. Unable to meet his gaze, she turned and closed the door just as carefully as she’d opened it. Finally she couldn’t avoid him anymore.

“Hey.”

He glanced around uncertainly. “Um. Hello.”

“You didn’t come to the shop tonight.”

“Didn’t realize I was expected.” He recovered himself and continued on to the refrigerator, pulling out his breakfast. “I miss anything interesting? You put soldier boy through a wall again?”

“No, Riley’s gone.” She sagged down onto the sofa.

“Oh well. I’ll get a shot at him next time.”

“No, I mean he’s left. For good. We won’t be seeing him anymore.”

“Oh.” She heard the sound of ceramic on stone behind her before he moved into her line of sight. “Are you okay?”

Buffy just shrugged.

“Is it because of what happened last night?”

“I don’t think so. If it was, he didn’t mention it. He just said he was finally able to realize how little we had in common. That we’d both be better off if he left.”

Spike sank down on the couch next to her. “Lousy time for him to leave, with your mum sick and that beast thing out there and you changed and all.”

“Is there ever a good time to break up with someone?”

“Probably not. Still seems wrong, though.”

She took a deep breath. “Speaking of wrong. . .”

Spike flinched.

“I just . . .” she forged on. “I wanted to apologize for last night.”

Now he stared at her. “You want to apologize?”

She blushed and looked away. “It was your first time. It should have been something special for you, not a quick bang in an alley somewhere.”

He continued to stare at her. “You really care about this, don’t you?” he asked finally.

“Of course I do! I’m not the kind of person to just use someone and leave them in the street. You deserved better than that. I deserved better than that.”

“Well.” He rubbed the back of his neck uncertainly. “I appreciate your concern, Slayer. I’m truly touched. But you didn’t need to worry. I didn’t expect anything from it. Just wanted it to be you. And it was still gentler than my very first time. For vampires, sex is rarely a hearts and flowers proposition.” His smile was wry.

“Your first time wasn’t until . . . after?”

He shrugged, looking embarrassed. “Well brought up Victorian gentleman, wasn’t I? I was lucky to know what all the parts were. Dru gave me quite the education.”

“Did it hurt?”

“Some. There was a lot of blood, not all of it mine.”

“Oh. So I guess last night was better.”

He smiled at her curiously. “Are you fishin’ for compliments, Slayer?”

“No!” she blustered, uncertain of her own motivations. “Of course not! I was just worried . . .”

Spike caught her chin in one slender hand. “Last night was wonderful,” he said, staring into her eyes intently. “The only thing I regretted was that you couldn’t stay.”

“I’m sorry,” she repeated breathlessly, unable to tear her eyes away from his. “I should have taken better care of you . . .”

Something had changed between them. Buffy could feel it sparking like a live thing, tangling around them. Slowly, as though not to spook her, he moved his face closer and closer to hers, until their mouths were bare inches apart. He stopped there, so close, his lips lightly parted, focused completely on hers. She felt the intensity of it through her whole body, and realized that he was right. Every time she came near him she did get hard. And this time was no exception. She wanted him, wanted to experience in slow motion what she had taken so fast last night. And somehow his gender was unimportant. He was still Spike, who knew her better than any other person on the planet, who didn’t want to kill her anymore than she wanted to kill him, even though they both still talked a good game. Who somehow always seemed to be there to help, even when she didn’t want him to be. He was Spike, and he wanted her, any way she would have him.

She touched her mouth to his, and moaned in relief.

With a soft mewl he shifted, adjusting himself to press close against her, tangling his arms around her neck as he opened his mouth to her kiss. She held him gently, her fingers playing with his long, soft waves as she slanted her mouth slowly over his, enjoying the feel of his kiss as she hadn’t been able to last night. Spike was an amazing kisser, given the chance, slow and lingering, soft sucks and tender nips counterpointing the supple caress of his lips over hers. It wasn’t demanding or aggressive, just a simple act for its own pleasure. And it showed Buffy something she’d never seen before, the subtle difference between passion and eroticism. He was an artist, and she found that she wanted to explore that more, regardless of the consequences.

She had no way of judging how long they held each other, indulging in each other’s mouths like that, before he finally, reluctantly pulled away. His blue eyes were hooded and dark with desire, his mouth scarlet against his pale skin as he reached out a hand to her. “Come downstairs with me,” he pleaded. “If we only have tonight, let’s do this right.”

She trembled, as much in fear as in need. “This isn’t real,” she murmured softly.

Pain flashed behind his eyes, but his hand didn’t move. “It is for tonight. It’s as real as we want it to be.”

She reached out hesitantly and took his hand.

He held it as he guided her down the ladder and through the passage to his bedroom. The bed was still rumpled from his day’s sleep, although Buffy wondered if he ever actually made it. Candles were still lit here and there, casting a ruddy aura about the room.

Spike stopped at the foot of the bed, her hand still tightly held in his, but when he turned to face her, she was surprised to see that the king of cocky arrogance actually looked nervous. For some reason, that made her feel better. She squeezed his hand. “You don’t have to go through with this. Maybe it would be better if we didn’t.”

He chuckled softly. “You sound like a guy talking a virgin into bed, Slayer. Wanting you is not the problem. Just . . . didn’t quite think about it so much last night. ‘S different when you think about it.”

“No,” she said softly, stepping closer to him, her heart hammering erratically in her chest. “I think it’s mostly the same. You just get to enjoy it more this way.”

“I can hear your heart pounding,” he breathed. “You’re scared too, aren’t you?”

“Yeah.”

“Will you . . . Buffy, will you kiss me again?”

She bent her head to catch his mouth with hers, and they both stopped thinking.

It was so different this time. Their mouths caressed instead of tearing at each other. Hands that had been rough were now slow and gentle. She kicked off her boots, dropping an inch closer to his height as he pulled the hem of her shirt out of her jeans. His hands were cool, but warmed quickly against her skin, and she reveled in his touch. Was his neck as sensitive as hers? She dropped her head to the side of his throat to find out. He gasped and arched his head away, offering more of it to her, and she couldn’t help but smile.

“Want to see you,” he demanded hoarsely, pushing the cotton up her torso. She let him undress her, drawing the shirt off over her head to cast it aside, his eyes following his hands back down over her bare skin. She drew a shaking breath and did the same to him, the backs of her fingers brushing along his rib cage making him jump. His hair fell loosely about his shoulders as the collar of the shirt went over his head, and she was moved to touch that first above all else, her fingertips trailing along the soft tendrils.

He caught her wrist and drew her hand down to his bare breast, hissing at the contact of her palm with his tight nipple. The sound of his response went right through her and she turned her hand to see if he would do it again.

“Show me.” His soft soprano was rough and deep. “Show me what you like a man to do to you. I want to know.”

She cupped his breast, allowing her thumb to tease back and forth over the nipple. What did she like? What made her excited, aroused, desperate? There were so many things, she couldn’t show him all of them. But some . . .

She bent down and ran the flat of her tongue over his nipple.

He cried out and arched against her, his fingers locking in her hair to hold her in place. With a quick grin of pride, she latched on and gently began suckling, alternating with hard draws and love bites until he was writhing against her. She turned and sat on the edge of the bed, bringing her face even with his breasts so she could lavish the same attention on the other. He stroked her hair and rubbed eagerly against her, whimpering in soft pleasure. She slipped her leg between his thighs and pressed up, drawing another hoarse cry from him as he rubbed himself impatiently against her. The front of his thigh rasped hard against her erection, making her growl against the warming velvet of his breast. He only moved harder, pressing deeper into her pelvis.

She was struck with the memory of him lying on this same bed, pleasuring himself, and in that instant knew what she had to show him. Still nuzzling at his breasts, she reached down and unfastened his jeans. Pushing aside the fabric, she was surprised to find him bare underneath, but it suited her purposes just as well. She laid her palm against his flat stomach and slid her fingers straight down over his mound and into his soft, wet slit.

He tried to breath. She saw him, eyes enormous, head back, forcibly try to inhale. She spread her fingers, allowing them to explore all his folds, opening him up to her touch. He was absolutely rigid, his only motion riding up and down on her hand. She released his breast to move her mouth to his ear. “No matter how good it feels to touch yourself,” she instructed in a soft rumble, “it always feels better when someone else does it for you.”

“Fuck yeah,” he whispered reverently. “Please, don’t stop. Please.”

“I won’t,” she promised. “Take your pants off. It’ll be easier.”

He got his feet back under himself to rise off her thigh, never moving out of range of her hand, and pushed the jeans down over his ripe hips. He had to lift his knees high to step out of them, which opened him up to her exploring hand. She slipped two fingers into him, felt him tighten around her as he cursed. The curses changed to whimpers as she let her thumb trail over his lips and clit, his reactions flowing down through her arm and straight to her cock. She caught his head with her free hand and drew him down to her eager mouth.

She was so lost in his mouth and his response that she didn’t notice his hand copying hers to open her trousers and push its way in to wrap around her cock. She groaned into his mouth as he firmly stroked her while working her pants down. Growling in need, she wrapped her free arm around his waist, holding him tight to her as she stood up, her hand never slowing its pulsing drive inside him. Understanding, he pushed khakis and underwear off her hips and down her legs to fall in a heap on the floor. With a twist she turned and lowered him onto the bed, lying down next to him to continue her fervent exploration of his sex.

His own hand slipped lower on her to gently roll her testicles between his fingers before moving on to massage . . . something. A muscle or magic spot she hadn’t known existed but made her cry out in pleasure at it. In retaliation she let her thumb grind down on his clit.

“God, Buffy!” he swore against the curve of her throat. “I can’t wait anymore, love. Please, I need to feel it again.”

She needed it, too. Needed to feel like a part of someone. There would be more time for play, for exploration later. But now she needed to be inside him. She moved to push him onto his back, only to be surprised when he pushed back, pinning her shoulders to the mattress as he leaned over her. “You led last night, Slayer. It’s my turn now.”

She hesitated, then slowly nodded.

With a look of serious concentration, he straddled her hips, his hands moving to brace himself on the mattress beside her head. He flexed his hips, making her cry out as his wet slit slid along her aching shaft, teasing her with the promise of comfort. “Are you ready?” he asked intently, his hand already reaching between them to position her at his opening.

She clutched at his hips, found them perfect handles to guide his descent. “Yes, oh god yes, I’m ready. Want to feel you. Need to feel you so bad.”

“Want to feel you, too, Slayer. Gonna feel so good inside me.”

It was like sliding into ice cream, cool and rich and dense, pushing out of her way but clinging to every inch of her as he slowly moved down her length. She wanted to cry out in frustration at his pace, but the expression of tortured ecstasy on his face kept her silent save for the soft grunts of her own pleasure.

She was panting by the time he was seated on her hips. When he rose up and slid back down, faster this time, she groaned. He balanced himself with his fingertips on her chest as he did it again and again. She clutched at his hips to increase his pace, but he reached down and caught one hand, bringing it back up to his breast. She instinctively palmed it, feeling the heavy roundness pull in her hand as he rode her. Giving herself up to it, she let go of any last attempts at thought and plunged up into him.

His hoarse cry of surprise drove her to do it again. And again. With a low growl, she wrapped her arms around him and rolled them over, pinning him to the mattress with her hips.

“Pushy bitch,” he gasped, clutching at her shoulders as he arched into her strokes. “You always gotta be on top, don’t ya?”

She buried her face in the junction of his shoulder, her hips moving eagerly between his thighs. “With you?” she breathed. “Probably.”

His cool, slender legs tangled up around her back, opening him up to her more. “Just don’t stop.”

In response, she moved faster, harder, drawing sweet curses from his lips. The friction was unbearable, twisting up inside her, tightening everything in unbreakable knots. She bucked against him, the muscles of her stomach and thighs burning with the effort. He thrust back just as hard, and their pelvises slapped together with the erotic sound of skin on skin.

A slow, gasping wail started to rise from his throat, catching on something inside her and dragging her along with him. He arched and shuddered, and then suddenly burst out. “Oh, Christ, Buffy! Oh god oh fuck don’t stop it’s coming for the love of god oh god Buffy!” He clutched at her, his whole body flexing, the muscles wrapped around her cock trembling spastically. The memory of that sense of relief was all she needed to put her over the edge.

“God, Spike!” And all the knots released, the energy spending deep into him in burning electric streaks that left her weak as he stroked her hair and back, whispering breathless nonsense against her throat as she lost herself in him.

Chapter Text

“So what’s the deal with the t-shirts?”

Spike lay curled up in Buffy’s arms with his head resting comfortably on her chest, enjoying the slow, steady beat of her heart and the feel of her gently fingering his hair. He suspected this position would have held true regardless of their genders. He couldn’t picture himself giving up the opportunity to be this close to her breasts without getting pummeled.

“Hmmm?”

“Your t-shirts,” she repeated, her voice thick with contentment. “You’ve never worn ones that said anything before. Why now?”

He chuckled. “Cuz it seemed like the only place anyone ever looked at me. Figured if my chest was going to get all the attention, it ought to have something to say.”

“Ah.” Her tone was knowing. Another shared experience for them.

He thought about that, what it must be like for her every day. Thought about their first fight, how sexual he had made it. How she hadn’t shown any of the fear that he now knew she must have felt from that, fear that had nothing to do with living or dying. Thought about how he had felt that first night in the alley, threatened by men he couldn’t defend himself against.

“You ever have a guy not take no for an answer?” Spike found himself asking.

Her heart sped up a little. “Once.”

“What did you do?”

“Stopped him. Tried not to kill him.”

“Why did you care? A bloke that would try something like that. . .”

“It was Xander.”

He pushed himself up on one arm to look at her, shock obvious on his face. “Harris tried to do that to you?”

“He wasn’t himself. He’d been possessed. And he doesn’t even remember it now, so don’t say anything to him about it.” Buffy pulled him back down to her chest. “Why? Did something happen to you?”

He shrugged, letting his fingers drift over her pectorals. “First night. Couple of guys at Willy’s were insistent. I got away, but . . .”

She nodded. “The kind of fear only a woman can know.”

“Even a Slayer?”

She nodded, and he was surprised to feel her squeeze him for comfort. Spike turned his head to plant gentle kisses along her muscles.

She sighed softly at the contact.

He rolled over to support himself on his arms over her chest, their faces intimately close. “Like that, do you?” He smirked when she nodded. “Me, too. Know what else I like?” When she shook her head, he lowered his mouth to stroke lightly along the junction of her neck and shoulder before gently sinking his teeth into the corded muscle there. She gasped, jerking as though electrified. He looked even more smug when he lifted his head again. “That.”

“Oh yeah?” She seemed to take it as a challenge. “Are you ticklish?”

He shrugged. “A bit. In the right places.”

When her fingers stroked feather-lightly along the outermost curve of his breast, right where it flattened into his ribs, he knew he emulated her electric spasm.

“Oh yeah? Well . . .” He lowered his head to lick roughly over her flat nipple, sucking it hard between his teeth, earning him a groan.

“What about this?” she replied throatily before mimicking his action, blowing lightly over the damp flesh.

“Oh,” he moaned, “that is good.”

They continued that way, exchanging light caresses and painless taunts until finally he ran out of inspiration. “I can think of one thing,” he murmured against her ear. “Do you trust me?”

She hesitated, then faintly nodded.

He straddled her legs, a little nervous himself. “This is going to feel so good,” he encouraged her and himself, “you are never gonna want to go back to being a girl.”

He rubbed his breasts lightly over her shaft as he moved down, and she sighed. “Oh, that does feel nice.”

“It does,” he agreed. “But that’s not what I’m talkin’ about.”

Her eyes went wide. “You aren’t . . . Spike, no!” She started trying to grab at his shoulders, but he was just out of reach.

He looked up at her from his position hovering over her swelling phallus. “You said you trusted me.”

“I . . .” She couldn’t complete her thought and simply stared at him with wide, nervous, uncertain eyes.

Never breaking their gaze, he ran the flat of his tongue up the underside of her shaft.

Buffy’s response was instantaneous. Her head snapped back with a deep, guttural moan that shook her whole body, her hips arching up for more. And he gave it, wrapping his hand around her to stroke along the shaft as his mouth paid fervent attention to the head. She went wild as he licked and sucked all over the tip and around the rim, drawing the whole thing into his mouth before releasing the suction with a wet pop. He dropped his mouth over it, sliding her against his tongue as he moved down to meet his fist. She surprised him by thrusting up, nearly choking him in the process. “Uh-uh, pet,” he chided. “I’ll take you as deep as I can, but you’ve got to hold still for it, yeah? It’s not polite to strangle your lover, even if I don’t need to breathe.”

She was wide-eyed with horror and desire. “I’m sorry. I . . . I won’t . . .”

Spike didn’t let her finish, just bent back to his very pleasurable task.

Taking her deeper now, he slowly pulled off in long sucking strokes, feeling her fingers clutch in his hair as she fought not to move. He could feel that she was close, felt her balls clench against the side of his hand and he moved faster, sawing up and down her length, lips tight, tongue wet and firm. He felt her jerk with a cry and suddenly her warm come was filling his mouth in short, fierce spurts. He swallowed as quickly as she filled his mouth, stroking her hard to milk every last bit of it until she collapsed limply back against the pillows.

He released her with a gentle pat and moved up to enjoy her expression of shocked wonder. “Pretty good, huh?”

She barked a short, breathless laugh.

Smiling, he reached up to brush loose strands of her hair off her face and was surprised to see her expression darken. “What is it, pet?”

“I can’t . . .” she turned her face aside in embarrassment. “I can’t do that for you. I wouldn’t know . . .”

“Shh, sh.” He caught her chin and turned her face back to his, bending down to kiss her comfortingly. “Didn’t expect you to. I just wanted to show you. What you can show me,” he turned over to spoon against her chest, drawing her arms around him, “is that incredible thing you were doing with your hands.” And he moved her right hand down between his legs.

She moved it lower, stroking lightly along his thighs as she nestled closer against his body. He could feel her cock swelling against his ass already. Apparently Slayers had short refractory periods. Good to know. “You liked that, did you?” she asked softly, kissing the sensitive skin along his throat. He gasped as she slipped up to brush imperceptibly lightly along the junction of his thigh and hip.

“Oh, yeah,” he purred, rubbing backwards encouragingly. She moved her hand over to comb lightly through the tangled thatch of curls, the tug teasing and electric. She kissed along his bare shoulder as she caressed his inner thigh again, encouraging him to open his legs.

“The trick,” she whispered, working her gentle way up, “is to take your time. It all wants attention, not just the highlights.”

“Show me,” he murmured, but already she was trailing over the rounded mounds of his mons, lightly massaging the muscles there before moving over the exposed edges of his labia. He bucked and moaned softly, feeling her smile against his shoulder. The pads of her fingers were thick and coarse as they slid through his folds, separating and moistening the tender flesh as she went. She took her time, moving back to his thighs to whip him up before slipping back in. He reached up to wrap an arm around her neck, using the leverage to ride against her hand, completely given over to the sensation of warm friction.

When she brushed over his clit, he cried out.

“Oh, god what was that?” he whimpered.

“A taste of things to come,” she rumbled in his ear before doing it again, this time with slow deliberation. He pushed back eagerly and she gave him what he wanted, circling the nub in unhurried strokes. “Isn’t this better than doing yourself?” she asked softly.

“Feels so different,” he breathed. “All warm and rough and oh god don’t stop.”

She chuckled richly. “What makes you think I’m going to stop? I want to see you as out of control as you made me.”

“I don’t think I’ve been in control since the day I met you, love.”

She seemed to hesitate at that, but a moment later he felt one meaty finger slide into him, stretching and filling him as she massaged firmly along his inside walls. He couldn’t keep his hips still as she pushed a second finger in with the first, and he gradually began fucking himself on her hand. “That’s right,” she murmured encouragingly in his ear as she thrust up into him. “Just like that. It feels good, doesn’t it? All hot and tight.”

He clutched at her wrist as they moved together. “I can feel it everywhere.”

She nodded. “I always feel it in the bottoms of my feet. They get hot when someone does this for me.”

He liked the way she said for, like it was a gift she had received. It certainly felt like one to him.

She pressed up with her fingers inside him and down with her thumb on his clit and that was the end of it for him.

He roared in surprise as the violence of the orgasm took him, his body seizing around and against her as he totally lost all sense of himself in the ecstasy of the moment. Finally he collapsed, limp, wrung out, panting unnecessarily, unable to even open his eyes for long moments.

When he did, Buffy was propped up on her elbow, watching him smugly. “So?”

Spike just smiled tiredly and pulled her down to kiss him. He opened his mouth and turned it into a slow, sensual experience that she quickly gave herself up to, slanting languidly back and forth over his lips, nibbling and licking in the way that had become so familiar to them both. He took her hips in his hands and moved her between his legs, lifting them to wrap around her waist as he drew her in. She didn’t hesitate, didn’t question, just positioned herself and slowly, deliberately pushed her way in.

He moaned softly at the connection, the sense of wholeness he felt wrapped around her. She began moving steadily, so tight inside him that he could feel every nuance of her. He just held her close, and she wrapped her own arms around him so that only their hips and mouths moved, both slow and deep, comforting and overwhelming. His last orgasm still so close, it wasn’t long before he felt another one building in a warm honey-thick wave within him. Buffy whimpered and jerked, pulling her mouth away to bury her face in his shoulder as she erupted inside him, sending him over as well with his own weak cry.

They lay wrapped around each other like that for long moments, just holding each other, stroking each other’s head, exchanging soft, soothing kisses. When she finally pulled out of him, she didn’t release him, pulling him close to hold him as sleep claimed her.

He joined her moments later, lulled by the gentle rhythm of her heart.

 

As soon as Spike woke up, he knew something had changed.

He pulled the sheet up over him like any modest woman and watched Buffy moving about the room, gathering up her clothes. “I have to go. Mom’s going to be worried about me.”

It shouldn’t have hurt so much, but it did. “Yeah.”

She looked at him guiltily. “I’m sorry. I don’t want . . .”

“Don’t. No expectations, right? Just . . . a bit of cold comfort. I get that.”

She stopped, her eyes sad and compassionate as she reached out to stroke his cheek. “Not comfort. It wasn’t about that. I swear. But it wasn’t real. It can’t be. You knew that.”

“I know you think that.”

“Spike . . .”

He pulled away from her to climb out of the bed. “Go on, Slayer. Don’t want your mum to worry. Just . . . do me a favor, will you?”

“If I can,” she replied uncertainly.

He moved over to the dresser, unconcerned with his nudity, and opened the top drawer, pulling out the disposable camera he had hidden there. “I can’t see myself, and I want to know what I look like like this. Will you take my picture? Like this? I just. . . I want to see.”

She smiled understandingly, reaching out for the camera. “Where do you want it?”

“Um.” He looked around, uncertain, then shrugged. “Here, I guess. ‘S as good a place as any.”

She lifted the camera, lining up the viewfinder as he drew a deep breath to relax himself. But she lowered it again without taking the picture. “Spike?”

“Yeah, pet?”

“You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.”

The simple declaration of her words took his breath away. “Really?”

She smiled. “Yeah, really.”

When she snapped the picture, his smile was innocently genuine.

Chapter Text

Buffy couldn’t patrol alone with Spike. Not after all that had happened. He’d want to talk about it, and she just wasn’t ready for that yet.

So the others were with them, or at least most of them. Anya couldn’t be persuaded to leave the shop, but Tara, Willow and Xander had been just as happy to get away from the enforced confinement of research and the frustration of just waiting for something to happen.

The things that had been happening were too disconcerting for Buffy’s peace of mind.

She tried to make sense of it. The hours she had spent with Spike had been . . . a comfort. Not consolation for Riley. To her shame she could honestly say she hadn’t thought about Riley at all when she had been with Spike last night. But she had felt at ease with him in a way she never had with Riley. Or with Angel, for that matter. Like she didn’t have to pretend anything. Good, bad, ugly, beautiful, he just accepted it all. And wanted more.

And that scared the hell out of her.

She glanced back over her shoulder. Willow was talking to Xander, but she was surprised to see Spike walking with Tara, talking quietly. He looked so fragile next to Tara’s much larger bulk, but he had her smiling softly at something he’d said. He seemed to feel Buffy’s eyes on him and turned to study her, eyes glittering knowingly.

She looked away quickly.

A few minutes later, Willow joined her up front. “How’s it going?” she asked quietly.

Buffy shrugged. It’s not much of a patrol if nothing comes out to play.”

“Not that,” Willow looked at her sympathetically. “I meant Riley and, well, everything. We haven’t really talked.”

Buffy couldn’t meet her eyes. “It’s . . . really confusing, mostly.”

“Yeah, I can appreciate that. I’m just sorry it ended like that for you. Especially now.”

They walked on together in comfortable silence. Buffy could almost feel Willow’s desire to help, to be a sounding board, and she felt herself weaken. “Will, do you think . . . I mean, is it possible for the right guy to really be the wrong guy, and the wrong guy turn out to really be the right guy after all?”

“Is Riley the right guy in this equation?”

Buffy kicked an imaginary stone out of her way. “Yeah.”

“And is there a wrong guy already?” Buffy could feel Willow studying her intently.

“Maybe . . .”

That’s when she was flattened by a mountain of snarling muscle and scales.

Spike was on it in an instant with a growl of his own, his smaller stature not hindering his strength as he ripped the creature off Buffy, tossing it aside.

The wonders of the Hellmouth held true. It was another n!Graaltoch.

“Shit! Where are these things coming from?” Buffy cursed. “Some stupid demon farmer forget to close the pasture gate?”

Xander backed up as the creature menaced them. “I think how it got here is less important than how we stop it. Unless we want a repeat of last time.”

“You’re right,” Buffy said decisively, never taking her eyes off the creature. “Willow, get out of here.”

“What? No, I can . . .”

“No arguments. If we screw this up, you’re the only one not changed. And we don’t know what the range on that effect is. So go!”

She went.

“What about Anya?” Xander asked from behind the others.

“We’d better not screw this up then, eh?” Spike snapped, snatching up a brass urn to use for a cudgel as Tara began muttering.

“You’d better not screw up, you mean,” Buffy retorted, grabbing her own makeshift club. “Stick to the head, maybe we can knock it . . .”

“Release!”

A blast of light burst from behind them at Tara’s exclamation, tearing through the dark to slam into the creature.

With a startled roar, the creature flew backwards across the plots to smash into the side of a marble crypt with enough force to crack the stones. It tried to stagger to its feet before collapsing in a pile.

Surprised, they all turned to look at Tara, who stood braced, arm still outstretched. She lowered it, an uncertain smile curving her thin lips. “Willow was right. Male magic is based on the penis imperative.”

As Spike and Xander chuckled in relief at that, Buffy approached the creature carefully, prodding it with her foot. It didn’t move. “Well, guys, I guess our prayers have been answered. Assuming any of us actually prayed. We’d better get this back to Giles and see what he can do with it.”

She ignored the look Spike gave her as he bent to help her lift the beast to carry it back to the Magic Box.

 

After that, all they could do was wait.

Anya of course kept busy working, totaling up the till, preparing the week’s orders, tidying up after the day’s sales.

Xander distracted himself sharpening stakes. He didn’t have the same muscle strength as before, so it was a more difficult proposition. Buffy expected Anya to make a fuss about the chips that went flying everywhere, but she just looked at him sympathetically and went back to her accounts.

Tara seemed to be trying to study, but more often than not her eyes wandered to the shop’s landing and the door to the basement that lay there.

Spike just sat on the steps up to the restricted section, rolling a small crystal ball back and forth endlessly between his hands, never looking at anyone. Today’s t-shirt read “Speak softly and wear a tight t-shirt.”

Buffy paced. She felt like a caged animal, tracing the same path over and over, the movement pointless but unable to just sit still. Finally she stopped in front of Spike, crossing her arms over her chest as she glared at him. “How can you just sit there?”

“A century’s practice lyin’ in wait. You should try it, Slayer, before you drive the rest of us round the bend. You got so much energy, go out back and burn some of it off.”

“I can’t,” she sighed in frustration. “I can’t concentrate enough. I’d probably just hurt myself if I tried.” She began pacing again. “How long is this going to take, anyway?”

Tara was watching the landing again. “It’s a complicated ritual, extracting the energy into the base liquid. It could easily take several hours.”

Xander glanced at his watch. “It’s already been two.”

Tara shrugged. “So they could almost be done.” But she didn’t sound very optimistic about it.

“Or they could be three more,” Anya completed the thought. “We could just go home and come back in the morning, see if it worked. Change back after a good night’s sleep.”

Shaking her head, Tara turned to face the counter. “The spell is too volatile. The Teirganan are able to stabilize the mixture, hold the energy in for long periods. Willow and Giles won’t be able to. We’ll have twenty minutes, maybe half an hour after they complete it to ingest the infusion before it goes inert again.”

With a frustrated sigh, Xander turned and dropped the stake and knife on the table. “Well, that’s it for me, then. I don’t think I’ll be going back with the rest of you.”

Buffy stopped in surprise. Surely of all of them, Xander would be the most eager to go back. “Why not?”

He glanced at Anya uncertainly, but she only smiled kindly. “There’s a chance, a small one, but a chance, that I might be pregnant.”

“Oh, goddess!” Tara breathed as Buffy sank down at the table as well.

Xander twiddled with the stake, unable to look at anyone. “Anya and I weren’t as careful as we should have been. The tests all came back negative, but it might be too early in my cycle to show. It might just go away when I change back, but I . . . It’s just . . . it’s too much like . . .”

“You aren’t pregnant,” Spike interrupted him.

Xander looked up in surprise. “What? How can you tell?”

“Cuz you’re at the end of your cycle, not the beginning,” he said with certainty.

Buffy dismissed him. “Spike, there’s no way you can know that.”

He looked indignant. “Sure I can. I know all your cycles. It’s a bleedin’ calendar. If you’ll pardon the pun.”

“You are so full . . .”

He rose to his feet indignantly. “Sure, I do.” He pointed to Tara. “Glinda’s always first, with Red following in a day or two. She started this mornin’, didn’t she?” Tara nodded in surprise, and he went on. “Slayer starts a day after that, and Anya within three days of her. The little bit and Joyce have usually started by then as well. Makes for a hell of a week.”

Buffy was as fascinated as she was disgusted by his recitation. “How do you know this?”

He shrugged. “Can smell it. I’d say you get cranky, but with you no one would be able to tell.”

Before she could retort, Xander interrupted. “But what does that have to do with me?”

“You never noticed how moody you get when the girls are on their monthlies? You’ve got as much a cycle as they do, Harris. Between the time Will starts and the Slayer, you start whinin’ and complainin’ about every damn thing.”

“He’s right, Xander,” Anya interjected. “You do get very moody.”

“You’ve been hangin’ around this flock too long, mate. You need to go out and get some male friends before you completely turn into a woman.”

Buffy couldn’t help it. She snorted.

Tara hid her giggle behind her large hand, amusement evident in her eyes.

Spike realized what he’d said and just grinned wryly, shaking his head before he started chuckling as well.

Xander took a moment longer as Spike’s gaff sank in before he started laughing as well.

“What is it?” Anya asked, confused. “I don’t understand.”

They all laughed harder.

That was when Willow burst in. “We’ve got it!” She paused, taking in their near hysteria. “I missed something, didn’t I?”

Tara rose and wrapped her arms around her lover. “Nothing important, sweetie. We were just letting off some steam.”

“Oh.” Willow still looked like she felt left out.

Giles came in then, carefully holding the flask of opalescent blue liquid in both hands and moving with a cautious slowness. “Is everyone ready?”

They all looked at each other uncertainly, and Buffy understood why. They’d been like this for over a week. It had started to fit, despite all the confusion and fears. They all wanted to go back to what they were before, but what they were now had gotten a hold on them as well. She glanced surreptitiously at Spike. She could understand that hold.

She stepped forward, hopefully sounding more confident than she felt. “I’m ready.”

Giles smiled at her with a combination of pride and compassion. He set the flask carefully down on the counter. “Anya, hand me the chalices there behind you. The glass ones.”

She turned and started pulling them down. “All of them?”

“Just one for each of you. You each need a consistent dose, so I don’t want to risk just handing the bottle around.” He carefully divided the elixir between the five etched glass goblets, then turned to offer one to Buffy. “To your very good health.”

She took it gingerly in both large hands, looking from him to the others who were all watching her expectantly. “This is going to taste foul, isn’t it?”

“Doesn’t it always?” His tone was amused but sympathetic. “Take it all at once. You need to get it all into you system at one time.”

She stared into the swirling viscous liquid for a long moment before lifting the glass and swallowing it down quickly.

She tried to grimace, but her muscles wouldn’t work. Something powerful had a hold of her. She could feel it twisting through her, forcing the changes into every cell. She barely registered the look of shock on the others’ faces as Giles caught her. She wasn’t sure why. She must have fallen. But she hadn’t felt it, could only feel the contortions of her insides.

And then suddenly it stopped.

She hung, sagging with exhaustion, supported only by Giles’ arms. Weakly she raised her head to look at him. “Did it work?”

He brushed the long tendrils of hair off her face with a gentle palm, his eyes damp as he smiled at her. “Yes, it worked. Welcome back, Buffy.”

As he helped her over to the table, Xander and Tara took up their cups and, looking to each other for fortification, swallowed them down together. Through weary eyes, Buffy watched the change take them, twisting their outsides the way it had her insides. What had felt like forever took bare moments before their shapes bled away, their natural forms collapsing into the arms of their girlfriends.

As Anya and Willow helped them to sit down, Spike approached the counter, studying the goblet as he turned around. Then he looked Buffy in the eye. “You’re going to miss me when I’m gone.”

“No, I won’t,” she said more harshly than she’d intended. She softened it by adding, “I prefer you the other way.”

He didn’t look as though he believed her, but he braced himself and swallowed down the potion. The transformation took him just as quickly. The ringlets retracted, the curvy chest flattened and suddenly he was Spike again. Buffy was the one to catch him, her own recovery uncertain. But she supported him until he had the strength to shrug her off, leaning back against the register weakly rather than rely on her questionable help.

That stung.

Giles picked up the final goblet and turned to offer it to Anya.

“No,” she refused flatly.

“Anya!” Xander’s voice was loudest over the cries of surprise.

“I don’t want to go back!” she insisted.

Giles approached her carefully. “Anya, don’t be ridiculous. You can’t remain like this. The natural order must be restored.”

“Why? People change every day. Into demons, into vampires, into Slayers. Nobody tries to change them back. And this is such a little change. It hardly makes any difference at all!”

“But why would you want to?” Willow asked. “Stay like this, I mean?”

“People accept me like this.” There was a pain Buffy had never seen in Anya’s eyes before. “No one treats me like I’m delicate or fragile. I spent a thousand years eviscerating men with my thoughts, I don’t need them to protect me now! And no one thinks the things I say are out of place or inappropriate when I’m like this. It’s just what guys do, right? Talk inappropriately about sex and scratch themselves in public?”

“But what about me?”

She turned to face Xander, her anger fading into confusion at his words. “Don’t you . . . couldn’t you love me still like this?”

“Of course I could.” He dragged himself to his feet and crossed over to her slowly, his movements awkward in the too tight clothes. “I’ll always love you, no matter what you look like, no matter what you do. But Anya, if you stay like this, I won’t ever be able to make love to you again.”

Her eyes welled up with tears. “Why not?”

He reached out and gently wiped her cheek. “Because, sweetie, I like breasts too much.”

There must have been a deeper meaning to his words than Buffy was aware of, because Anya barked a laugh through her tears and threw herself into his arms. Unselfconsciously he held her, stroking her hair as he went on. “I love that I get to be the one to protect you, even when you don’t need it, even when I know you’re humoring me. And I love that you talk to my friends inappropriately about sex, even when I’m embarrassed. It means I don’t have to brag myself. After all the lies I told in high school, they probably wouldn’t believe the stuff you say anyway if it was coming from me. And I love how you fit me just right in all sorts of ways. When we make love and just when I hold you. I love you the way nature made you, warts and all. And I want my Anya back.”

After a moment, she stepped back, wiping her face with the sides of her hands in a surprisingly feminine manner before taking the goblet from Giles and drinking it down in one swallow, her eyes never leaving Xander, who just smiled supportingly. He was the one to catch her, guiding her to a seat on the bench and holding her, caressing her head comfortingly as her newly female body sagged against him.

Buffy glanced at Spike, who was watching her intently. She looked away again quickly.

Giles left them to their recovery, cleaning up quickly and restoring the goblets to their shelf.

Buffy was the first one to speak. “Should we expect any side effects from this?”

He stopped working to study her thoughtfully. “Physically, no. You’ve basically reset back to your original specifications. The girls may find that your . . . cycles,” he said the word uncomfortably, removing his glasses as per usual, “are not quite regular, as the progress has been interrupted, but that should re-establish itself within a month or two.”

Tara, Willow and Buffy all couldn’t help smiling faintly. A quick glance at Spike showed Buffy he was smirking. He waggled his eyebrows at her.

“Mentally,” Giles continued, “well, you have all had an intense experience. Only time will show the impact that has had on you, emotionally as well as intellectually.” He returned his glasses to the bridge of his nose. “I’m finished here for the evening. Can I offer anyone a lift home?”

Spike finally pushed himself up off the counter, wincing as the too small jeans cut into his hips. “Since I know you weren’t includin’ me in that invite, Rupert, I’ll just take myself off. I’d say it’s been fun, but . . . well, it’s had its moments.” He didn’t look at her as he turned to leave.

“Spike!” She stopped him.

He turned back, a small flicker of something in his eyes.

She didn’t want to know what. “My coat?”

His eyes darkened as he shrugged off the leather. Buffy noticed that the shirt clung as tightly to his male muscles as it had to his female curves. The message was still appropriate.

“You want the rest, Slayer, you’ll have to come fetch it yourself,” he growled, tossing the coat her way.

She caught it, nearly losing her pants in the process. When she looked back, he was gone.

“A ride would be great, Mr. Giles,” Tara spoke up.

“Yeah,” Xander confirmed. “I wouldn’t like to try walking home like this.”

“Home,” Buffy said abstractly, still watching the back door. “Definitely need to go home.”

Chapter Text

They had barely gotten into the dorm room before Willow had Tara pressed up against the door, devouring her mouth enthusiastically. Tara couldn’t help but smile as she brought her hands up into Willow’s hair, humming in pleasure.

Willow pulled back just enough to murmur, “I missed you,” before plunging back in, mouth mobile and eager as her hands began tugging at Tara’s shirt. Moments later she was moving down, away from Tara’s mouth down over her throat and shoulders.

“What are you doing?” Tara gasped, cradling Willow’s head as she moved.

“Just saying hello to the girls,” she purred against the swell of Tara’s breast before sliding over to the tightening nipples. “Hello,” she said, placing a lingering kiss on the peak of the left one, rubbing her face over it gently before turning to the right. “Hello you, too,” she repeated on that one, the kiss turning into a more intense caress. Her tongue flicked over the crinkled flesh eagerly, sending electricity sheeting through Tara’s body at the sensation as Willow drew it into her mouth, sucking softly, then fiercely, then soft again, her hands fondling both in tandem before her mouth shifted back to the left to repeat the same treatment there.

Tara panted and moaned, her fingers locked in Willow’s hair to guide her actions. There was no insecurity in her response now, no guilt at all as she reveled in Willow’s attentions. Her head fell back against the door as Willow pushed the loose trousers down off her hips and began to drop to her knees. “Where do you think you’re going?” she growled softly.

Willow grinned up at her impishly. “Just making sure everything’s all gone back to normal.” The briefs followed immediately after. “Everything looks okay here.”

Tara glanced down. The button down oxford hung open, revealing her womanly curves for the first time in almost two weeks. Her full round breasts, the nipples dark and erect from Willow’s attentions, the soft swell of her belly and curve of her hips, the rolling hollow of her navel. The ash blonde triangle of curls framed by her heavy, lush thighs where Willow brushed her cheeks, looking up in joy and wonder. Tara was herself again, but not unaffected by the change.

“Are you sure?” She said thickly, her hand guiding Willow’s head in. “I think maybe you’d better check more closely.”

Willow chuckled joyously as she let herself be guided in. The first touch of her warm, mobile mouth to Tara’s labia told Tara all she needed to know. The fire that erased all thought was so familiar, yet all new from its absence, reminding Tara that she was a woman through and through, and she had a lover who appreciated that. “Goddess, I love you!”

Willow pulled her face away, her lips glistening in the dim room light. “I love you, too, baby. And I’m going to show you how much all night.”

Tara’s throat tightened at the intensity of her words. She stroked Willow’s hair tenderly. “Do I get to show you, too?”

“You’d better. Or I might get really cranky.”

Tara shook her head. “No cranky. Only happy. Very, very oh god Willow yes!”

 

Xander lay in bed, enjoying his last minutes of sleep as the sunlight crept across the bedclothes. Last night had been wild. Every waking moment had been spent reacquainting themselves with each other’s bodies, fresh eyes bringing new insight to every touch, every caress, every position, until finally they had collapsed from sheer exhaustion.

From Anya’s enthusiasm, he had thought they might pick up again this morning, but when he woke, Anya was already up and in the shower. He could hear her blow dryer running now. With a groan, he dragged himself out of the bed to join her.

She had started applying her makeup by then. Careful not to bump her arms, he wrapped his own around her, enjoying the slightness of her against his wider, larger body again. “Good morning.”

She met his gaze in the mirror, her eyes dark with disappointment. “My period started this morning.”

“It did?” Well, Giles had warned them.

She nodded.

He studied her in the mirror, then smiled warmly into her reflected eyes. “Congratulations.”

With a laugh, she turned to hold him tight. “I thought you’d be disappointed. It means we can’t have sex for a few days. Just when we got back to normal.”

He leaned down to kiss her softly. “I don’t mind. Besides, there are other things we can do, right?”

She looked up at him sideways. “Yes, yes there are. But that’s the first time you’ve ever offered. It’s very thoughtful of you.”

Smiling, he kissed her again. “Being a woman has made a new man of me. And speaking of which,” he moved closer to her ear to rumble seductively, “I think I made you a promise. Every morning when you get up . . .”

He enjoyed the way she trembled at his words, her eyes full of wonder. “Oh! But I didn’t expect . . . especially today . . .”

He caught her under the arms and lifted her up onto the counter, pushing her legs apart to stand between them. “I promised you, Anya, and I’m going to do everything in my power never to break a promise to you ever, ever again. I know how much you’ve given up for me. You mean everything to me, and I always want you to know that. Always.”

The tears in her happy eyes were all the reward he would ever need.

Chapter Text

Morning came early.

Buffy found it strange, moving around in such a small body after being the Hulk for ten days. Well, maybe not that bad. Tara probably earned that title. But nonetheless.

It was a relief to get reacquainted with her own shape in the shower. Curves in all the right places, no dangly bits, and no hairy chest. It was a relief, at least, until the image flashed into her head of caressing Spike’s breasts like this, cupping and squeezing them as he writhed against her . . .

Turning off the hot water dispelled the images quickly.

She dried her hair and fluffed it, primping it around her face before catching it back in simple clips.

Remembering her silver clips holding Spike’s curls back off his face as she kissed him in the alley . . .

Her hairbrush shattered when she slammed it down on her vanity.

Her mother smiled at her when she came into the kitchen. As usual, Dawn ignored her. “Good morning! I didn’t expect you up for hours yet.”

“I couldn’t sleep any longer,” Buffy said, sliding onto one of the bar stools and pulling a bowl over for cereal.

“So, what should I pick up from the store for the party tonight?” Joyce asked as she passed the milk over.

“Hmm?”

“I know you guys will probably just want pizza, but I could do something on the grill if you’d rather.”

“Oh, whatever." She pushed her cereal around the bowl aimlessly. “You know my friends. They aren’t fussy.”

Dawn didn’t look up from her bowl. “Is Spike going to be there?”

Buffy looked up in surprise. “What?”

“Oh, that’s a good point.” Joyce leaned against the counter, thinking. “I should stop by the butcher’s if Spike’s going to be here. So grill it is.”

“Mom, you really don’t have to . . .”

“Don’t be silly, it’s no trouble.”

“Well, see, he doesn’t really know about it.”

Joyce stared at Buffy with the look that told her Mother was not pleased.

“Sooo,” Buffy went on as though she’d intended to, pushing her bowl away, “I’ll go over there this morning and issue the invitation myself.”

“That’s the daughter I’m proud to call mine.”

 

Buffy cut through the Promenade to stop in at Starbucks for a frappaccino to wash down the cheerios. She walked along slowly, sipping from the waxed cardboard cup and watching the shops open, trying to avoid thinking about what waited for her at the other end.

When she noticed the t-shirt shop setting out its wares.

She couldn’t help but stop to read the various slogans hanging in the window. One in particular made her laugh into her coffee. She thought for a moment about what Spike had said, about his chest getting all the attention, and an idea formed. Before she could think better of it, she went into the store.

 

Spike’s crypt was quiet and dim when she let herself in. She didn’t bother looking around for him, instead heading straight to the ladder downstairs, moving quietly so as not to disturb him.

She’d expected him to be asleep this late in the morning, but instead he was sitting up in his bed, reading of all things. He didn’t have a shirt on, just his old jeans, and for the first time she was able to admire the sculpture of his torso. The candlelight gave him a tanned quality that belied the pale cast of his skin, and he hadn’t taken time since the change to reapply the gel he used to slick his hair back. What previously had been long, curling tendrils was now short, soft waves tumbling about his head, giving him an almost angelic look.

“What are you reading?” she asked uncertainly.

“Oh, this?” He tossed the book aside carelessly. “Nothin’ important. Just couldn’t sleep. What’re you doin’ here, Slayer? Come for the rest of your things?”

“Um, no, actually,” she fidgeted with the package in her hands before offering it to him. “I brought you this.”

He took it from her hesitantly, his face a mixture of uncertainty and amusement. “Buyin’ me presents, Slayer?”

She shrugged. “Just wanted to make sure you didn’t get the wrong impression.”

His expression darkened, his hand clenching momentarily on the package before he forced himself to unwrap it.

And laughed.

She relaxed, relieved as he held up the black t-shirt to better read the inscription. “Your chest gets noticed either way. I just thought you should know.”

“I appreciate that, pet,” he said, still chuckling as he folded the shirt back up.

“Everybody’s decided to have a welcome back to our bodies party at my mom’s house tonight, if you’re interested,” she added nonchalantly. “It probably won’t be anything more exciting than movies and munchies, but Mom wanted me to invite you.”

He sat down on the foot of the bed. “And what about you? You want me there?”

She averted her eyes. “I wouldn’t mind if you showed.”

Rising quickly, he advanced on her. “Not good enough. You didn’t come down here this early, knowing I’d be asleep, with your presents and your invitation, and not want something more.”

Mortification turned to anger in an instant. “Fine, don’t come, see if I care.” And she grabbed for the shirt.

He caught her wrist. “Just say it, Buffy. There’s no shame in it.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said breathlessly.

“Liar.” He let his free hand coast lightly over her cheek. “So soft. I knew you’d be soft. Tell me you don’t want to know what it feels like, from the other side. We were so good together before. I’d let myself be staked to find out if we still are.”

His eyes were so dark, so ardent, she forgot herself in them, her whole body trembling at his intensity. “I don’t,” she whispered.

He started to pull away.

“But . . .”

He froze, turning slowly back to meet her gaze. “But?”

She dropped her eyes, shame and mortification suffusing her face. “But I can’t seem to stay away. I can’t stop thinking about . . . I shouldn’t want this so much.”

His hand still wrapped around her wrist, he pulled her close enough to feel the cut of his stomach muscles through the silk of her shirt. “I want you, Buffy. I want you so bad I can taste you already. But if we do this, this time there’s no deniability. It’ll be you, and it’ll be me. No masks, no excuses. Not this time. This time it will be real.”

He was right. She knew it. And a part of her didn’t care. She had tasted him once already, with her body, with her mind, and she wanted that intimacy again. Didn’t she deserve that?

She shifted her hips just a little, but it was enough to softly grind her pelvis against his erection, and that was all the signal he needed.

His lips weren’t full anymore she realized as his mouth moved hungrily over hers, but she was surprised to realize how soft they still were. She wrapped her free arm around his neck, holding him close as she returned the kiss with equal fervor. The bodies may be different, but the passion was still the same, fiery and demanding and completely overwhelming. He released her wrist to coast his hand down over her back, pausing at the small of it to press her closer into him. She gave in to curiosity and moved her hand over the cool marble of his chest, outlining the solid muscles exposed to her touch. He responded by pushing his hand up under her shirt, the chill of his skin on the heated flesh of her back making her shiver. He broke away from her mouth to caress his mouth along the side of her neck, making her gasp. “Sometimes it doesn’t matter the sex, eh?” he murmured against her ear.

In revenge, she pinched his bare nipple.

He groaned, his hands becoming a flurry as he pulled her top off over her head, capturing her mouth again as he tossed it aside. The first feel of the bare skin of their bellies caressing each other made her moan into his mouth.

“Want to ravage you, Buffy,” he admitted, his voice low and heady against her neck as his deft hands quickly divested her of her bra, leaving her breasts bare to his busy hands. “Like that first time behind the Bronze. Want to show you the animal you bring out in me.”

She clutched his shoulders, torn between fear and a burning need to let him do exactly as he suggested.

“But I want you to know how good it can feel,” he continued, “how good we can be together.” His fingers toyed with the button on her jeans, popping it open. “We can be better together than anything either of us has ever experienced. Ever.”

Her eyes widened at the certainty in his words. He didn’t know anything about the kind of lover she was. How could he be so sure?

“I know you, love,” he went on as though reading her thoughts, pushing her jeans down off her hips. “You like it slow and gentle, but you aren’t afraid to play rough. I’ve seen it in you, the wild joy in your eyes when you don’t have to hold back. You don’t have to hold back with me, Buffy. I can take whatever you’ve got to give. Give it to me, Buffy, Give it to me good.”

She tore herself away from him, chest heaving, eyes wild as she looked at him. His soft, heady words were breaching her defenses, and she knew she was close to losing herself to him. But when she looked in his eyes, all she saw was desire and awed vulnerability. He didn’t want to hurt her, he just wanted her.

Kicking away her jeans and shoes, she caught the elastic of her panties in her thumbs and, never breaking eye contact with him, slowly pushed them to the floor. He caught the tip of his tongue between his teeth, his eyes narrowing appreciatively. She caught the waistband of his jeans and pulled him closer, unhooking the buttons to push them down as well. When he was naked, she pressed up against him, closing her eyes to indulge in the feel of his rigid cock pressing into the soft curve of her belly. “Show me,” she said clearly, voluptuously.

With a snarl, he swept her into his arms to carry her to the bed, devouring her mouth in promise of things to come.

She bounced once when he tossed her onto the mattress, quickly crabbing her way up to the pillows as he stalked her. His hands were already warm from touching her, and he ran them lingeringly over every inch of her. She lifted one leg to stroke it along his hip encouragingly. “Hmm, where to start?” he purred, with a look on his face that told her he knew exactly what he planned to do. Sure enough, a moment later he dropped his head to slide his tongue over and around one tightened nipple, his fingers drifting lightly along the sensitive curve at her ribs. The electricity of the combination made her cry out softly. She felt him smile against her breast as he continued, tongue and lips exploring every gentle curve of first one and then the other, his thigh nudging her legs apart to rest in between, putting the gentlest pressure on her center. She tangled her fingers into his curls, using them as a convenient handle to guide his head. He didn’t resist her, let her direct him until she was a writhing, quivering wreck. When he finally lifted his head, he looked so smug she wanted to slap the expression off his face. But something primal inside her encouraged her to fight fire with fire. She gave into that urge.

He wasn’t expecting her sudden shove, rolling him so their positions were reversed. She pinned him there, letting her hair fall around his head as she explored his mouth from this angle, rubbing her sensitive breasts against his chest as she rocked back and forth. He gripped her hips, and she let him shift her to straddle him, having no intention of giving him what he wanted. Not right away. But she couldn’t keep from moaning into his mouth at the feel of his cock prodding between her legs.

Later, she reminded herself firmly, forcing herself to keep from mounting him then and there. Plenty of time for that after she had made him beg for it.

She broke free of the enticement of his talented mouth and slowly began kissing her way down his body, lingering over the places he had shown her when she was the male. His hands stroked her head while his thigh moved up to press into her center as she continued down over his stomach.

When she reached his groin, he gathered her hair up to hold it to one side. She looked up to see him looking intense, focused, his mouth open slightly in anticipation. “I want to be able to see it,” his husky words came out roughly, making her weak all over.

She hadn’t done this often, and so was unsure of herself as she began, lifting the length to gently kiss the tip. His sharp intake of breath was encouraging, so she flicked out her tongue to stroke over the head. She dared a glance back up at him and saw wonder competing with lust in his eyes as he stared transfixed. This time she didn’t drop her eyes as she ran her tongue up and down the length of him, and so she saw his head snap back with a grunt as he fought to keep his hips from moving. She giggled at the sense of power that gave her.

“Think that’s funny, do you?” he growled, clutching at her hair.

She backed of, letting her hand continue to work as she smiled teasingly at him. “Just remember, it’s not polite to choke your lover.”

“Oh, Christ, pet,” he whimpered. “Just do it. I want to feel it.”

She smiled again, more tenderly this time, before lowering her head again to coax him into her mouth.

“Fuck, love, your mouth is incredible. So soft and hot and wet god! Oh yeah, just like that, sinful what you can do, it is.” His stream of words was endless, every motion of hers encouraged and commented on, rewarding her for every bit of attention.

Suddenly he jerked away, moaning as he grabbed her arms and pulled her up to his mouth. “Not the first time. I’ll come wherever you want from now on, but this time it’s gonna be inside you.” He rolled her onto her back, and she found she had no interest in fighting him for position. Instead, she caught his length in her hand and guided him in.

It took a lifetime for him to bury himself in her. She whimpered and arched through every inch as he stretched her to fit him, until both of them were mewling at the sensation. He fit her in a way no other man had, tight and deep and iron hard. She moved against him and he responded by thrusting deep, making her cry out. “That’s right, Buffy,” he murmured, his head next to her ear as he supported himself. “No holding back. I want to see it, I want to feel it, I want to know how much you’re enjoying this.” He began moving then, slow, steady strokes that drove him impossibly deeper. She cried softly at each thrust, clutching at his shoulders as she arched in time to his rhythm, building the speed and force. “You feel like nothing I’ve ever known,” he chanted roughly as he moved. “Only thing better than your mouth is your precious little quim, so tight and hot, just making me never want to leave it. Just perfect, you are. Everything I’ve always wanted.”

His words drove her as hard as his body was. She could feel the sounds ripping from her throat, guttural, animalistic sounds of ecstasy that deepened as her climax twisted through her guts. “Spike,” she growled hoarsely. “Oh god, Spike, I’m gonna . . .”

His response was to slam into her harder. “Come for me, Buffy. I want to feel you coming all around me. Will you do that for me?”

The scream escaped her before she even realized it was building, her whole body spasming under the weight of his. With a muffled curse, he jerked his head back, his mouth falling open as he bucked against her in violent thrusts as his own release overtook him.

They collapsed on the bed, a loose pile of slack, sweat-sheened limbs panting in blissful exhaustion. He shifted off her, pulling her into his arms as they slowly recovered. “That was . . . you were amazing,” he said, his voice rich with admiration.

“Yeah?” She looked up at him uncertainly.

“Yeah,” he smiled softly back, leaning in to kiss away her uncertainties.

She nestled in closer to his body, holding him tighter. “Well, I had a good teacher.”

“I’ll have to do something nice for that teacher. Oh, wait, I already did.” She shivered as he ran his hands over her possessively.

When his hands continued exploring, she looked up at him critically. “What do you think you’re doing?”

He didn’t take his eyes off the pattern his hands were drawing on her body. “You know what a refractory time is, love?”

She shook her head, closing her eyes to indulge in the feel of his rough palms on her tender skin.

“It’s the time it takes a man to recover after sex. Vampires have an almost nonexistent one. And I found out Slayers do, too. Wanna see if that holds true from male to female?”

“Spike,” she breathed a protest.

“Because I learned something from my teacher that I’m just dyin’ to try out.” And he slipped a hand between her legs.

She didn’t even think about protesting after that.

 

They went on like that for hours, experimenting with everything they had shown each other, until they were slick with each other’s fluids and incapable of movement. Buffy didn’t know when they fell asleep, only that she woke up, languid and relaxed, her body still entangled with his, his head resting on her breast as he held her close. She let her hand reach up to play with the tangle of his curls, soft and sensuous under her fingers. She waited for the guilt to come, but it didn’t. Just resignation.

With a quiet sigh, she slipped out of the comfort of his arms and dressed silently. He still had a hairbrush sitting on his dresser, which she worked through the snarls in her hair. She reclaimed her silver barrettes, slipping them into her hair as best she could without benefit of a mirror.

She paused beside the bed, studying his peaceful features. He looked almost innocent like this, all the hard edges softened, the snark quiet. Instead of reaching out to caress his face, she bent down to pick up the book he had tossed aside. It was a well-worn copy of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. Looking at the flyleaf, she was surprised to see it was a first edition signed by the author. She looked at him in surprise, then back to the book. She had known him this long and didn’t know he liked poetry? What else didn’t she know?

Everything, probably. Buffy could spend a lifetime with him and never know everything about him.

But they didn’t have a lifetime, did they? She had a couple of years at most, while he would live indefinitely. Or until his chip died and she had to be the one to kill him. All she saw was all kinds of bad.

She set the book gently down on the bedside table, blowing out the candle so she couldn’t see him as she walked out of the crypt, leaving his sleeping form behind.

Chapter Text

The party was like Christmas and a birthday all rolled into one. Mostly Dawn’s birthday. Everyone came bearing bags of freshly laundered clothes, which Dawn promptly snatched and dumped on the dining room table, picking through to choose her favorites from both the male and female collection. Her enthusiasm was infectious, and soon they all were looking through between trips to the kitchen and living room, selecting items they were interested in with Dawn acting as fashion advisor.

Willow gave Xander a raised eyebrow as she looked through the movies he’d picked up. “Some Like it Hot, Tootsie, and Yentl?”

He grinned unashamedly, tossing a handful of popcorn in his mouth with unerring precision. “Who am I to argue with a perfectly good theme night?”

Buffy was getting silverware out of the credenza when the front door opened to let Spike in, unusually subdued. He turned and shut the door behind him before meeting her eyes, calm, resigned, unthreatening. Very un-Spike-like.

“Spike’s here!” Dawn’s voice squealed from the living room. A herd of elephants pounded through the house and suddenly she was in the foyer with him, bouncing excitedly on her toes. “Did you bring me something? Mom said you were bringing something for me.”

Buffy couldn’t help noticing what a nice smile he had when he wasn’t smirking. “That I did, Kitten. I want to thank you for the use of your sneakers.” He pulled the red canvas shoes out from the collection under his arm. “I promise they came in contact with nothin’ foul or unmentionable.”

She looked disappointed as she accepted them, trying to be gracious. “Oh. Thank you.”

He grinned. “These were the ones that saw the worst of it.” And he handed her the boot box.

“Oh, wow!” She dropped the sneakers to snatch it out of his hands, collapsing onto the stairs to throw open the box in excitement. “My own Docs! And you fought in these?”

He shrugged. “A couple of times.”

“Oh wow!” she repeated. “Thank you thank you thank you so much!” And she threw her arms around him, shoes and all.

He closed his eyes and held her briefly, then gently pushed her away. “Not my doin’. Go thank your mum.”

“I will. Thank you!” And she disappeared down the hall to the kitchen.

“That was nice of you,” Buffy said quietly, not wanting to start anything.

He brushed her compliment aside. “Just what I promised Joyce, innit? Didn’t cost me anything. Brought you somethin’, too.” He stepped into the dining room, shifting the black duffel bag into his hands. “Your things. Thought you might like ‘em back. You left them behind this morning. Or this afternoon. Whenever it was . . .”

She set the silverware down on top of the credenza and moved towards him to take the bag. “Thank you.”

He shrugged. “Didn’t cost me anything,” he repeated. Then he turned and followed Dawn into the kitchen.

She took the bag upstairs and opened it. All her clothes were neatly folded, everything freshly washed and still warm from the dryer. The only exception was the leather skirt. She blushed at the sight of it, ignoring the scuffmarks on the back of it. When she returned the other things to their drawers, she was surprised to find he had included his slogan t-shirts with the other shirts he’d borrowed. After a moment, she put those in the drawer, too.

In the bottom of the bag were various and sundry other things. A bottle of leave-in hair conditioner, which he must have used to control his curls. Her hairbrush, the one she had used that afternoon in his crypt. There were also several hair bobs, including the ones she had been wearing this morning and hadn’t been able to find afterwards.

It was the lipstick that stopped her. She sat down on the bed, just looking at it. Taking the top off, she twisted it all the way up. He’d used about half of it in the ten days he’d had it. The image of the first time she’d seen him apply it burst into her memory. Slow, sensual, decadent. Just like his kisses. All those kisses confused themselves in her brain, hard and gentle, soft and full or firm and lean, always intense but never quite the same. Closing her eyes only focused the images, refined them, sucking her in so she was lost.

“How are you doing?” Willow’s concerned voice came from the doorway, breaking Buffy’s trance.

Buffy closed the lipstick with a sharp twist as she rose abruptly to toss it back on her vanity. “Fine. I was just putting a few things away.”

Willow looked from her to the vanity and back again. “It must be hard. Nothing’s the same for you now as it was before the change.”

Her friend’s sympathy made her vulnerable. “I’m just . . . I’m really confused, Will,” Buffy confessed. “I don’t understand anything right now.”

“It’ll get easier, Buffy,” Willow comforted. “You just have to give it time. Right now you need a distraction. I think the brownies and ice cream your mom has for dessert ought to do the trick.”

Buffy laughed, moving to hug her friend. “Thanks, Will. I needed that.”

Willow patted her shoulder. “You know, you never hugged me as a guy.”

Buffy shrugged with a smile. “Guys aren’t into all that touchy feely stuff, remember?”

Willow snorted. “Yeah, right.”

When they came downstairs, her counter-example was sitting on the couch. Xander sat to one end, reclined against the arm, holding Anya uncharacteristically close. She looked bemused but happy, and Buffy couldn’t help but smile. Spike sat on the hearth, a beer in one hand as he leaned forward to talk to Tara who was sitting in the armchair. He had taken his duster off, and for the first time Buffy could see he was wearing the shirt she had gotten for him, the words “I was an atheist until I realized I was God” standing out in bold white letters from the black cotton clinging tightly to the sculpture of his chest. He didn’t interrupt his conversation, but she could feel him watching her.

Dinner was rowdy and relaxed. They all sat at the table, crowded close together to make everyone fit. They all ate heartily with minimal throwing of food, and even Joyce and Giles got caught up in the spiritedness. But Buffy could feel the weight of Spike’s regard on her the whole time, even though she avoided looking at him.

Somewhere between the entrée and dessert, he disappeared.

She held out until the dishes were all cleared away and people had moved into the living room for the movies before she went looking for him.

She found him out on the back porch, ignoring the cigarette slowly burning down between his fingers as he stared out into the night. She sat down at the top of the stairs above him, her knees close to his shoulder.

“Scoobs’ll miss you,” he said, not looking up as he cast the stub out into the yard.

She shrugged. “They’ll find me.”

There was a gentle tension to the quiet between them, not uncomfortable but not entirely at ease, either. She looked down and studied his white hair, once again slicked severely back, so stiff that the marks of his comb were still obvious through the tresses. Almost of its own accord, her hand drifted up to touch it, sliding gently beneath to the softer hairs at his scalp. “You should wear your hair the other way.”

He grimaced, but leaned almost imperceptibly into her touch. “All those curls? Too nancy.”

“You’d be surprised. I bet you’d have the girls falling at your feet.”

“You think?”

She tipped her head to the side, studying him critically. “Oh, definitely.”

“Cuz, you know,” he said hesitantly, scuffing his boot against the ground, “there is this one girl I wouldn’t mind having give me a tumble. Beautiful, funny, sharp as a whip. Mean right hook.”

“Spike,” she pulled her hand away, “you know we can’t . . .”

He turned and caught her wrist, looking up at her finally. The intensity of his storm blue eyes took her breath away. “We can. We have. Buffy, the world didn’t come to an end because you let yourself feel something for me. And I know you did. No man makes love to a woman the way you made love to me without it meaning something.”

“Well, what about you?” she replied defensively.

“I’m not ashamed of how I feel about you.” He let his fingers come up to dance lightly over her cheek. “’M scared to death of it, but I’m not ashamed.”

She couldn’t breathe. “How? How do you feel?”

His eyes widened, in fear and innocent vulnerability. “I love you, Buffy. You’re in my heart, you’re in my gut. I’m drownin’ in you, Summers.”

“Why?” She clutched at comprehension with both hands.

He shrugged. “Couldn’t help myself. Why does a man do what he mustn’t? I just woke up one morning and realized, ‘God, I love this woman’.”

“But Spike, you can’t love . . .”

A dark shutter crashed over his eyes. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Angel loved you, didn’t he?”

“But he had a soul . . .”

“And I loved Dru for over a hundred years without one. It’s no different. Love and hate are two sides of the same coin, Buffy. Vampires are as vulnerable to it as anyone else. You can’t tell me you haven’t noticed it. How I’ve been changing to fit into your life.”

“The chip . . .”

“Doesn’t force me to help you. Doesn’t make me protect your friends. Doesn’t demand I tutor your sister. I want to do those things. Well, most of the time, anyway.”

“But still . . . Wait, you’re tutoring Dawn?”

He shrugged sheepishly. “Once in a while. Bit’s got no comprehension of literature.”

Buffy smiled at the image of the two bent over a book. But quickly the humor faded. “Spike, you and me, it just couldn’t work out. You know that.”

“Seen some damn funny relationships turn out pretty well in my day. And some solid ones crumble away to nothing. You never know until you try. If you want it bad enough, you find a way.” He touched her hair gently, twisting one curl around his finger. “What do you want, Buffy?”

Her emotions roiled inside her, desires, fears, insecurities, wishes, all tangling around each other to squeeze her heart, her throat, allowing no words to escape despite all attempts. Finally she leaned back against the porch rail post in frustration.

“You know what I miss most already about being a guy?” she asked.

He leaned back as well, obviously disappointed. “What’s that?”

“No one expected me to be in touch with my feelings. I suck at feelings, Spike. I just . . . feel them. I’m no good at understanding them. I never have been.”

Shaking his head, he denied her words as he took her hand and drew her towards him gently. “Well,” he said, his voice honey-rich and tender, “what say I have a go, shall I?”

She allowed him to settle her on his lap, his arms loose around her, holding her but not confining her.

“I know you’re scared,” he said softly against her hair, his hand stroking her arm soothingly. “I know you feel something for me. It’s not love, but maybe it could be. And you feel guilty about it, afraid of what your mates are gonna think. And the Watcher.”

She pressed into him gently, and he nuzzled her hair. “That all?”

He shook his head. “You aren’t bad at feelings. You’re scared of them. When you let yourself feel, you get hurt. And you have enough pain in your life. Angel, Riley, even your old man, they all left you. You don’t want to be left again. But let me tell you a secret.” He moved closer, resting his lips on her ear as he whispered, “I don’t leave.”

She trembled at his words, fisting the fabric of his shirt for support. “I know,” she said hoarsely. “I keep trying to make you go and you won’t.”

“Not going to, either.” He shook his head. “Watcher’s threats, Harris’ insults, dirty looks from Red, as long as I know you want me, I’ll be here. It’d be worth it for just the chance of winnin’ your heart.”

“It might not be worth having.”

“Course it is. ‘S a little worse for rough treatment, but it’s still just as beautiful as the rest of you.”

His words tore at her, punching through the walls of her defenses. Hope began bleeding into the rear, which made the fear flare all the brighter. So she silenced him the only way she could, the only way that ever worked.

He tangled his fingers in her hair as they gently devoured each other’s mouths. Her own small hands cupped either side of his face, directing the kiss. He adjusted her so she straddled his lap, freeing his hands to coast over the planes of her back.

They both leapt to their feet in surprise when the back door opened to reveal Joyce, who quickly averted her eyes. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt anything.” She thought about that, then looked at them critically. “Or maybe I did.”

“Mom, it’s not . . .”

“Don’t.” Joyce held up her hand to stop Buffy’s exclamation. “You’re a grown woman now, Buffy. You don’t have to justify your life to me. I think you know better than I do what you’re in for. Just make sure it’s what you want.” She turned to go back inside. “Your friends are looking for you. Don’t be long.”

Spike watched Buffy for long moments after the door closed. “Is it?” he asked simply.

“I shouldn’t.”

“Not what I asked, Slayer.”

“So many things could go wrong, are wrong with even thinking about doing this. You know that, don’t you?”

“Don’t care. I’ll take the bad with the good. It’ll be worth it, if it means a repeat of what we’ve done the last couple days.”

She blushed. “All of it?”

“You mean the before and after? Course I do. You were bloody marvelous as a bloke. Gave me somethin’ to aspire to.”

She blushed. “No, I wasn’t. Not really.”

He lifted her chin to look down into her eyes. “Yes,” he said with an intensity that took her breath away. “Yes, you were.”

“We weren’t meant to be together, Spike. Vampire and Slayer, good and bad, it just . . .” She couldn’t finish it.

“So you don’t want me.”

“I didn’t say that!” she replied instinctively, then, realizing what she’d confessed, dropped her eyes as she blushed in painful confusion.

He chuckled and pulled her close again, wrapping his arms around her. “I learned a couple of things in the last ten days,” he said, studying her face lazily. “Chivalry isn’t condescending, it’s respectful. If more guys were chivalrous, more girls would go out with them. I learned that a pretty girl is just as lonely in a crowd as anyone else. That even the strongest girl likes to know that someone is willing to defend her, even if she doesn’t want them to. And that thongs are much more pleasant for the admirer than for the wearer.”

“You didn’t.” She couldn’t help smiling.

He shrugged, smiling back sheepishly. “I also learned a lot about you. About what it’s like to live in your head, the kinds of choices you have to make that nobody else understands. The things you give up to be you. Now, I know I’m not a perfect man. I can be a right bitch at times.”

She grinned against his chest. “So can I.”

He kissed the top of her head. “You can also be a total bastard, pet, don’t think I don’t see that clearly now. But so can I. It’s why we fit so well. The two of us, within ourselves we’re both halves of the whole battle of the sexes. We don’t have to suppress part of who we are to fit with the other. We’ve shown how well our boy and girl parts get along, but our boy selves love scrapping and fightin’ with each other, and our girl parts like doin’ the whole I Feel Pretty routine together. There’s no part of us that’s closed to the other. Think about how good we could be if we stop fightin’ that?”

She did. She thought about the last two weeks, the sense of purpose she’d felt taking care of him, the comfort she’d found in his presence that had nothing to do with convenience. The challenge she always felt around him, the challenge to best him that made her better at everything she did.

She relaxed in his arms. “Will you wear your hair loose?”

“No,” he denied adamantly.

She smiled. “Will you tell me why you like poetry?”

This time he chuckled. “Oh pet, you have no idea. I was a bloody nancy mama’s boy poet when I was alive . . .”

As he opened up to her, she realized finally that he was the only man woman enough to take her, and she was the only woman man enough for him.

And she was surprisingly okay with that . . .