It's that time of year.
Xander: "Okay. *So* over this."
Willow tries to comfort him: "It's not that bad." Adds in a bright-side tone of voice: "At least you're warm."
Xander glares at her with baleful red eyes from out behind a shaggy curtain of fur that extends to cover his entire body like the coat of a yeti. "You know," he seethes, "time was, your resident evil had *no* sense of humor. It came, it bitch-slapped you, it tried to dominate the world. You knew where you stood then."
Willow begins reminiscently: "Well, the mayor actually--" Then catches his look. "Shutting up now."
Xander: "This warlock of yours plays pranks like a brain-damaged five-year old."
Willow: "He's not *my* warlock. But don't worry. We'll get this fixed." She pats his thickly furred shoulder and smiles, way too fucking cheerful for Xander's liking. "Hang in there!"
A week later, she rages and fumes, pacing the magic shop in a scary, manic, pissed-off-witch way: "Okay, this is *so* not funny any more."
Xander, eyes glazed with twisted fascination, has to agree. Dawn has not yet stopped gaping.
Spike, sharply: "Be careful." Willow is holding the Churakkan orb tightly and using it to gesture with. "You don't know your own--" There's a cracking sound and a brilliant flare of light, and then the orb is crumbling from her hand. "--strength," Spike finishes, while the dusty, fragmented remains sift and trickle to the floor.
Willow: "Ohhhhh." She stares at the orb, and then her startling blue eyes--eyes of Spike--lift in horror at them all.
Spike, in Willow's pissy tones: "Oh, well done. Could you *try* to remember you're a vampire, please?"
So the body-switching--the switching *back*--is obviously not going to happen that night. Xander, having been returned to his normal non-yeti self, is sympathetic but unsettled. No one can quite figure out how to handle the practical side of things, so all of them end up at Xander's house, retreating from the world into its bunker. Becca in particular seems shell-shocked, and her gaze ping-pongs back and forth between the Willowy Spike and the Spikey Willow as if she isn't quite sure which one she's supposed to focus on. Xander, after the initial disorientation, focuses on Spike--who, Willow bod or not, is his personal priority.
Xander: "You okay?" They've slipped outside to the deck. Inside, the three women--one of them a male vampire--are having an increasingly anxious conversation about blood. As in the consumption of.
Spike, bemused: "Guess so. Haven't been alive in a while. Lost my baseline." His edgy, clipped style of talking is weird in Willow's voice, and the British is bleeding in too. "I think..." Willow's face frowns, but looks like Spike to him.
Spike sighs. "Think I'm hungry."
When Spike raids the fridge, Xander can tell it's as if he's seeing its contents for the first time. He makes a huge, dripping sandwich with just about everything in there. Willow looks on with an almost comical mix of horror and resentment, her mug of blood sitting untouched on the table by her hand.
"You can't eat all that!" she exclaims, when Spike sits down with the Dagwood.
Spike, smirky: "Watch me."
Vampy Willow is disgusted--and, weirdly, manages to look even more like herself, which is subtly different from how Spike looks when he's disgusted. They both seem to be sapping their hosts from the inside. Xander starts to feel disoriented again.
They pair up for bed with a great deal of discomfort all around.
Willow to Xander: "If you have sex with my body, I will turn you into something warty and small." Eyes narrowing. "Or maybe just parts of you."
To Spike, in terse warning: "Don't look down."
In bed, Xander's wig reaches beehive proportions. Here's a Willow-shaped person going through the nightly rituals, then sitting next to him, wearing a faded tee and sweats. He has a momentary sense of what it might have been like if he and Willow had hooked up way back when, become sweethearts, gotten married. And yet he can't sustain this alternate reality in his mind for more than a moment or two, because Spike's gaze locks with his, and Xander sees him, looking out from the inside, from behind the face of his oldest friend.
Then, as if irresistibly magnetized, Xander's eyes descend to the tee-shirt and those high little breasts outlined underneath.
"You checking out my rack?" Willow asks in a low, amused voice.
*Spike!* Xander catches himself as his eyes jerk up in shock. Just Spike. He groans and flops back on the bed. "This is so fucked."
The switcheroo lasts two days, just enough time for Xander to become reacquainted with his old heterosexuality, at least in name. When he and Spike sneak a Willowy cuddle each morning, it's a weird kind of nice, friendly and soft, and he doesn't feel the urgent need for sex. Which is a *good* thing, he tells himself. Right? Because, Willow. They're years past that.
On the other hand: Spike. What if he gets stuck like this? Or what if someday he gets tricked out in another womanly form, with all the usual working parts? Would Xander still want him? ...her?
He tries to divert his mind away from such complicated questions, but there's a moment, when Spike comes shower-fresh from the bathroom in one of his own robes, hair sticking up all over in wet licks, and they pause next to each other--and Xander has to kiss him. Just has to. And it's Willow, lips of Willow, but Spike burns through. The kiss feeds Xander an unholy surge of lust that wants to bury itself in bad places, good places. He draws his mouth off gently, breathless, then jumps back with his hands raised as if to say: *not touching*!
The Willow eyes are huge and amazed. And then Spike looks down, running a hand south over his robe, as if he's suddenly gotten a lot more curious about his borrowed body.
Xander: "Oh...god. You'd really better not."
Spike blinks, gives him a slow, wicked smile.
Later Xander hears soft little cries coming from the bathroom and runs away. He says nothing to Willow. Ever.
When he's got Spike back, vampire and very male, Xander's relief is staggering. He hasn't realized how freaked he's been until the moment he slides his arms around Spike and they stand there in loose, latched intimacy, heads held close, their bodies saying hello without words. This is the body he wants. That's just how it is.
He can't stop touching Spike: strokes his chest and belly through his tee-shirt, palming the hard muscles and then mouthing them, dragging his teeth across Spike's shoulder. Takes him to bed and sucks wet spots at Spike's black-cotton-clad nipples until the vampire is gasping. Naked, it's Spike's dick Xander wants everywhere. He can't get enough of it rubbing across his entire body, sliding into his mouth, forcing its way into him from behind while he holds himself trembling and taut and steady. He cries out as Spike fucks him with hard, relentless strokes and when Xander comes it's a sweet one, the kind you get after you've held off for a few days.
You might *think* this would be enough bizarrity and psychological trauma to tide a man over for a month or two, but the next week it's a whole new kind of fucked, when a warlock's minion hits Spike with a spell that leaves him vamped out and unable to change back.
It's that time of year again, Xander thinks. It'll be a ten-car pile-up by the time it's all over.
Turns out Willow can't undo the warlocked mojo, but after some research she believes it will just wear off in time. Three, four days.
Spike is keeping his distance, upset, and Xander wants to comfort him, but senses that there's more going on here than he can understand. Spike took his turn as Willow more or less in stride. This, on the other hand, appears to be fucking him up. He's been through the pacing, roaring, kicking stage a few times now, but he can't seem to unwind and prowls through the house like a caged lion, snarly, almost afraid.
He is afraid, Xander suddenly sees, as Spike begins abusing the Soloflex, doing rep after rep, his body vibrating with dissatisfied tension.
After an hour, Spike is in the kitchen, where Xander seeks him out. The work-out doesn't seem to have helped much. If he'd been trying to exhaust himself, it hasn't worked--Spike's shoulders are still bunched and rigid. Xander isn't sure, but he thinks the exercise may actually have honed Spike's edge instead of taking it off.
Spike is heating up blood, his movements sharp and angry. *Bang* goes the microwave door, and Xander briefly thinks that Spike might punch his finger right through the buttons as he sets the timer.
Spike's voice is startling--he hasn't spoken in hours, and his flat, normal tone suggests nothing of the furious storm he's been inflicting on his surroundings: "Xander, leave me alone."
Xander has too much to say, though, about how Spike doesn't need to cut himself off and go through this alone. It's the boyfriend speech, the supportive friend speech, and he's almost glad of an opportunity to offer it, because for months Spike has needed so little--facade of financial dependency aside, and despite their relationship roller coaster, the other man has been without any real demands.
Xander begins: "I just want to--"
Spike whirls and grabs him by the shirt collar and there's his warped, demonic face inches from Xander's own, familiar but terrifying on some instinctive level. Fangs and fury.
Spike, shouting: "Fuck off!" His shove sends Xander skimming a few yards--illusion of a skater flying across ice--into the kitchen counter, which smacks his lower back hard, a sudden flare of pain. "Stay the hell away from me," he follows up with a snarl, and leaves without his blood. He leaves the house, doesn't take the car, vanishes into the night.
And Xander has to follow, because what if his vampiness isn't just stuck--what if Spike's being hyped up by darker magics? Xander can't let Spike hurt someone. He's had this nightmare and he won't accept it. He goes searching unsuccessfully, calls Willow on his cell as he tries to track Spike. She's got a spell, and they run him down, find him huddled in a rock crevice on the bluffs. He doesn't want to see them, but it'll be morning eventually, and they're not just going to let him crawl into that tiny crack and hide. ("Like some kind of vampire crab," scolds Willow.)
He goes home with Xander, silent and locked up. Locked up inside, not outside. But he suggests chains, and Xander is beginning to feel that this might not be a bad idea. Willow, as if *trying* to complicate things, tells them that Spike isn't suffering from anything but normal vamp "hormones." Her word. "You've always managed to control it," she reminds him. Post-soul she means.
She goes, leaving the decisions up to them.
Spike, back turned: "I'm not going through it again."
Spike, low: "You hating me."
It's shocking, the idea of that hurt, and by some weird, inversed proportion it makes Xander that much more calm when he says: "That's not going to happen."
Spike: "I could hurt you."
Xander: "*That's* not going to happen."
Spike, turning angrily: "And you *know* this." It's a question, a challenge. He's close now, nose to nose again, his own curling away into serpentine brows. "You know this--" He jabs a finger into Xander's gut to make a point. "--or you *think* you know this," and with *think* his finger is like a gun to Xander's temple. At issue is the difference between gut and head, faith and mere optimism. Xander gets it, and answers--
And he's got his arms around Spike, one hand tight at his neck, forcing him to accept the fact that he's going to stay right up in Spike's face, no matter what face it is.
Over the next twenty-four hours Spike throttles down to something approaching calm, and it seems obvious to Xander that most of that sound and fury was baseless--fear of what Xander would think, of whether or not he could control himself. He gets used to seeing Spike's demonic face far more quickly that Spike gets used to wearing it.
Xander's never had the opportunity to study those other, stranger features for this long. Usually, it's dark and Spike's a swirl of punches and kicks somewhere off to Xander's side. Now and then in bed--only ever in handcuffs--he loses it, that wild snarl of features blossoming up from inside with a crunching sound as he writhes. It always shoots a bolt of triumph through Xander's dick, because it means he's pushed Spike right to the edge. But Spike's usually twisting his head as he shudders out his orgasm, and shakes his face off as soon as he's done. Once or twice, Xander has tried to hold that mask on, stroking it with his fingers, trying to persuade Spike that he doesn't have to dress himself in human skin again so quickly. But Spike always turns his face to the side and gets all avoidy, as Willow would say.
Once, Spike looked at him steadily and said, "Some clients used to pay for it special. Big kink, doing it with a demon--if you're human." And though Xander was undoubtedly paying ten times what those nameless men had and could have demanded anything, he of course bent over backwards to prove he wasn't like that. Just as Spike intended.
Once, Xander asked, "Which one's the default?" No need to clarify. Spike got it and turned away, saying dismissively, "Depends on how you look at it." And Xander wanted to shake him in frustration and force him to clarify, but didn't.
Does he shake his demon face off, remove it like a Halloween mask? Or is the demon the nakedness underneath that Spike's human face covers?
Though calmer, the demon makes Spike restless. Even when he's sitting still he's wired. He doesn't touch his computer, doesn't read. Mostly he slumps and watches TV and drinks. A lot. And Xander watches *him*, when he can, trying hard not to be obvious or offensive. He doesn't want Spike to feel like some freak in a freakshow. It's just that he wants to *see*.
Xander on the other end of the couch, magazine on his lap. Spike, sighing, eyes fixed to the TV: "Might as well get your fill."
Spike shifts toward Xander, his body a lean sprawl of outstretched arm, twisted torso, legs legs legs. "Take a closer look."
Xander does. He tosses the magazine, moves close--easing to Spike's side the way you approach a wary animal, a horse or a dog you're afraid of spooking. The TV continues to talk to itself as Xander reaches up and touches Spike's face. He looks angry, even though he probably isn't. Ridges glare at Xander even when he's just sitting there motionless and resigned with a beer in one hand. His lips remain tightly sealed, hiding his fangs. His eyes glow, golden and strange. Xander does nothing but stroke him for a while, fingers moving slowly around his eyes, across his forehead, down his nose. After a few minutes, Spike's eyes close and he makes a soft groaning sound.
A thrill goes through Xander, and he realizes he's hard. Painfully hard. He shifts and tries to breathe steadily, and it's hopeless.
They end up in the bedroom, and the kissing is a little scary. Fangs scraping his tongue. But he keeps getting harder, achy.
Spike: "You should tie me down."
Xander: "Not tonight."
It takes some convincing, but in a little while he's face-down on the bed, his own hands cuffed to the rail, every hair on his body electrified as Spike, poised unseen behind him, breathes on his back. Xander can feel every movement even when he's not being touched--the turn of Spike's face, cheek hovering against his shoulder blade--and then, some time later he can't measure, his inner clock incoherent and dazed--Spike rubs his cheek down his spine and Xander cries out. His dick, stifled in the pillow underneath him, hums like a live wire every time Spike drags the ridges of his face across Xander's skin.
It takes forever to come, in the best possible way. Spike never bites him. There's one point when Xander is desperate for him to, struggling against the sheets as Spike rams into him again and again, wildness rising in his own body like the quick, fever-red shot of a thermometer, and sharp fangs are at his neck and he's crying out, doesn't even know if he's asking for it, just hears himself begging, "oh god, please--please--" and Spike growls, snaps his hips forward, and Xander sobs and comes.
"Oh yeah," Spike says afterwards, as they're heading down the twilight road to sleep. "You'd like it." He's lying behind Xander, arms around his sated, unshackled body, and one hand rises, a finger tracing Xander's neck along the bite zone. "But later, love," and his lips brush the back of Xander's neck, "when all's said and done, it's just another ugly wound."
Two days later he's perfectly composed. Spike, the male model, lashes brushing blinks across his clear eyes, lips a sedate line. He's strangely ordinary. It's hard to get used to.
But Xander switches gears again. Smiles, and kisses him.