The Big Reveal
Buffy was back on patrol. It took a couple of nights to eradicate the horde of itinerant vampires who had taken Sunnydale to be an easy conquest. She threw herself wholeheartedly into her work, reassured by familiar routine. She set aside everything else: preparation for college, Mom's ill health, Dawn's intransigence. These she relegated to a worrisome future, but for now it was enough to prowl for vamps and obliterate them coldly and without remorse.
She carefully avoided the area around Spike's crypt.
Her third night back was exceedingly slow, so she walked to Giles' apartment.
"Come in, come in," he greeted. Willow and Anya were there, doing something on the computer.
"Hiya," Willow waved.
"Hey." Buffy waved back.
"Good to see you again, Buffy." Anya got up and enthusiastically patted Buffy on her shoulders. "I've missed you. We're rebuilding the Magic Box, you know. The workers are really slow. They're really ugly too. Even the muscular ones have bellies and wear their pants so low you can see their butt cracks."
Buffy dropped contentedly into a chair. This was familiar.
Giles went to the kitchen and spoke through the dining slot. "I have tea if you like, or coffee. Would you like something to eat?"
Buffy always refused Giles' hospitable offers of comestibles, although her usual m.o. was to filch whatever he brought out for others. "Thanks," she said this time, "I'd love some tea. And maybe a cookie to go with?"
Giles got to work assembling her order. Buffy craned her head over the computer monitor. "You're looking up strip clubs?"
"Mmm-hmm," Willow hummed.
Anya said, "Searching for Xander. We can't find mention of Kendra Hughes, but he's probably wiggling to a different handle now."
Willow clicked onto a site. "We're looking at pictures. I never realized there were so many strippers with facelifts and Botox. Like every one of them have boob jobs, too. Ugh. Some should quit stripping and collect social security."
Giles brought Buffy tea and five shortbread cookies, which were good dunked in the tea, which she proceeded to do. Giles' mouth turned down at the sight.
"It makes the tea sweeter," Buffy said defensively.
"So do lumps," Giles replied, offering the sugar dish.
Buffy cocked her head. "Leave it to the country that boils all their food to attach the word 'lump' to sugar and make it sound gross."
Willow giggled and Anya copied her, although she found no humor but only truth in the observation. She made a mental note that negative truth was humorous, and could even get a laugh from the lately deadpan Willow.
"Giles burped yesterday, and it smelled really bad. Like onions." She giggled and waited for the others to laugh, but instead they all gave her sour looks. She imitated the belch, a soft one which she had only noticed because of her acute observation skills. She imitated Giles' dyspeptic rapping of his chest and huffing.
"And it really smelled," she finished, irritated that they maintained a silent embarrassment. She had an inkling they were embarrassed for her. So she made a further mental note that people were really really mean and stupid and she hated them.
Buffy soaked half a cookie in tea and tongued it against the roof of her mouth. Willow tap-tapped on the keyboard, Anya watched, and Giles assiduously stirred his tea. Buffy withstood the awkward silence for about two minutes.
"All right," she blurted. "Let's have it out."
Willow stopped typing, Anya looked up, and Giles withdrew his spoon.
"Everything's so weird I can't take it."
Giles said, "Of course. We are all studiously avoiding mention of the spell. Thank you Buffy, I think we should discuss it and clear the air."
Anya brightened. "Yeah, because I –"
"Not you Anya," Giles said hurriedly. "You're a major reason we're avoiding the subject. Please refrain from recounting the more painful aspects of the past weeks. In fact your silence would be a welcome virtue."
"Okay, fine. Great." Anya made a keying motion in front of her lips. "I'll be silent as a dead bunny."
"Whew." Willow wiped pretend perspiration from her brow. "I've been so weirded out lately. I mean, I woke up with my mom poking my boobies to see if they grew. Hey, don't bother looking guys, they're the same size as always."
Giles dropped his eyes guiltily.
"That's kind of spooky," Buffy agreed. "My mom's been pretty together about it. Like she took it all in stride, like."
"Aw, she's so cool," Willow said.
Anya overcame her locked lips. "Better than Giles. Sleeping with another guy? Whoosh."
Giles dropped his spoon angrily. "It was just a robot though, wasn't it?"
"Sure, but you didn't know the difference."
Willow said gently, "Anya. Weren't you going to keep quiet?"
"Yes," Giles blustered. "What about that?"
"You're right," Anya made a zipping motion across her lips. "I'm mute. Go ahead."
Giles sat silent.
"See, you've ruined it, Anya." Buffy dunked another cookie.
"No, I'm all right," Giles assured them. "Perhaps we can discuss what happened in … let's say general terms, eh?"
"I'm uncomfortable talking to Tara," Willow said glumly. "After all the betrayal, the sneaking around. We're all weird together now."
Buffy nodded and masticated soggy shortbread.
Giles took off his glasses. "It was because of the spell. Even though Tara wasn't technically under it, her actions were certainly impacted."
Willow turned her eyes to him hopefully.
"That being the case, I think it's important not to let the recent upheaval ruin a close relationship. Simply discuss your feelings honestly, and I'm certain you'll reach common ground again."
"I agree with Dr. Phil, here," Buffy snuffled, spraying cookie vestige onto the table. She grabbed her napkin and daubed up the mess. "Oops."
Giles handed her a few more napkins. "Thank you."
Willow bobbed her head positively. "Okay. Tara and I can have a session tonight. Of talking," she added hastily.
Buffy stirred her last cookie into her tea to make a sweet broth. She drank it while enduring another silence.
Willow gave her a winsome smile. "Your turn, Buffster. Anything you want to say?"
Buffy shrugged. "About being a man? It was weird, yeah, yodda yodda."
"No, about Spike."
"Yes," Giles concurred. "What do you intend to do about him?"
Willow and Giles nodded quietly.
Anya broke silence again. "That's no answer. No, I'm sorry," she insisted, waving off their protests. "I can talk about this. I stayed for your reversal, Buffy. I bailed for the others, but I stayed and witnessed everything with you and Spike, and heard everything that was said afterwards."
"So are you really immortal?"
Giles stood up. "What do you mean, immortal?"
Buffy shrugged. "Just something Spike said."
Anya saw their interest and gloated over new status. "Spike said you guys exchanged blood and vows."
Giles paled. "Oh dear. You didn't …?"
"What, are you afraid I'm a vampire now?" Buffy screwed up her face and snarled. "Grrr. As if."
"Of course not." Giles reflected as he put on his glasses. "But did you in fact exchange blood with Spike?"
"He says so. But it's Spike, he's lying."
"You don't know for sure?"
"Some alcoholic beverage may have been consumed by me. Look, he said we … licked a little blood. Like, ew, don't wanna think about that."
Anya piped up. "And claimed each other, don't forget that."
Buffy turned on her. "Do you want to tell it?"
"Ooh, yes," Anya crowed, oblivious to sarcasm. "Spike said that they claimed each other in marriage, so now Buffy will live as long as he does and never age. But if he dies Buffy will die too, and vice versa. Can you believe it?"
Giles pressed his temple, feeling a headache coming on. "What do you remember of … of this claiming … ceremony, for want of a better word?"
Buffy sighed, "Not much. I think he's lying."
"Well, you must have your doubts since you wouldn't stake him."
Buffy was becoming very annoyed by Anya, and her fingers curled into talons.
"She told Spike to leave Sunnydale," Anya said. "Or she's gonna stake him. She was mad because he was saying they would have eternity to draw together again and Spike opened his shirt and said go ahead, stake him and she'd die too, then they'd be together anyway."
Giles wordlessly picked up the dishes and took them to the sink. Buffy mouthed rebuke at Anya, who couldn't fathom her meaning, so she scowled back and silently gobbled gibberish. Buffy's hands closed to fists and she was sorely tempted.
Giles came back. "There, is eh, not too much in the books about this, as far as my experience. In documented cases of marriage between human and vampire, the human wound up being turned. I suppose anyone so far gone as to marry a vampire wouldn't balk at becoming one.
"Oh," he added apologetically, "I'm sorry, Buffy. I wasn't referring to you."
Buffy spread her hands ruefully. "I know. I was under a spell."
"Would exchanging blood really bind them?" Willow asked.
Buffy let out a strangled grunt. She stalked to the door and opened it. "Spike isn't binding me to anything!"
Giles winced as the door slammed. "I hope she doesn't do anything rash."
Anya nodded. "Like stake Spike. That might kill her."
"I believe she's off to see him, anyway. That's understandable. Vampire marriages are rare but there is some lore, and there's supposed to be psychological pain when they're apart. They will be inexorably drawn together."
"Great," Willow said. "Rayne really screwed everything up. We should've handed him to Surgat."
Giles smiled indulgently. "It would have made been amusing, yes. But Rayne is completely broken. He's back in England now, in his own sort of hell."
Willow exclaimed triumphantly, "Found him!"
"No. Xander." She turned the monitor around and showed him a strip club website. A picture showed Kendra posing on a stripper's pole, topless.
Giles looked away. "I could happily have not seen that."
Anya cackled. "That's great. I'll go shake him out of it. This is too precious."
"Where is the club?" Giles asked.
Willow swung the monitor back again. "Arizona. It's called the Bambi Forest, at an Indian casino. Why do they call it that, it should be 'Native American casino.' When are people going to get in their heads –"
"Look," Anya interrupted, fingering the base of the pic. "Xander's taken another name. Helena. Helena Bone-Him Carter, can you believe it? That's the idiot we know so well."
"Someone probably gave her that name," Willow protested.
"Like the Marquis de Sade," Giles quipped. "Let's reserve a flight for Anya, as soon as possible."
"No, I'll rent a car tomorrow and drive there," Anya countered. "I have to do some shopping."
"Clothes for Xander?" Giles asked.
Anya clucked humorously. "Among other things."
Spike's crypt was unlocked, and Buffy shoved through the door. It shrieked rustily on its axis instead of slamming open, an unsatisfying result. She launched a hook kick at it as she passed the threshold.
Spike sat on a sarcophagus with his guitar. His eye had been repaired during the spell reversal, along with the myriad wounds he had sustained in that brief time. He wore his familiar jacket now, with black jeans and tee shirt. "Cor," he exclaimed. "So flaming aggro. What's the problem now, Slayer? "
Buffy withdrew Mr. Pointy from her inside pocket and brandished it. "You're the problem, Spike. And you're either going to stop being a problem, or you're going to marry Mr. Pointy."
He shrugged and gave his guitar a resonant strum. "I'll stop being a problem, then. And I can't marry Mr. Pointy." He held up his left hand and wiggled the wedding ring Buffy had worn as Buddy.
"Already hitched, remember?"
Buffy leaped onto the sarcophagus and stood over him. "You are going to be a problem, then."
Spike put down the guitar and hopped to the floor. "I was under the same spell as you, Buffy."
She performed a side flip that dropped her in front of him, with her pet stake thrust up to within an inch of Spike's throat.
"You weren't drunk when we got married though, were you?"
Spike rolled his head and grinned disbelievingly. "Yes, I was drunk. As drunk as a vampire can be. Do I remember going to the altar with you? Yeah sure. But you were sober enough to say 'I do'. And by the way, you've got Mr. Pointy pointing at the wrong place."
Buffy shifted the stake to Spike's crotch. He jumped back in alarm. "Don't even think it."
"I'm not talking about that sham at the Little White Church, I'm talking about this claim you think we made."
"You weren't drunk when we did that, Luv. Unless you were drunk on desire."
Buffy ground her teeth. She flung Mr. Pointy and the stake burrowed into Spike's thigh.
"Ow! You little bitch." He gripped the stake and pulled it out with a pained snort. "You missed it," he sniggered.
"Hard to hit such a small target." She moved on him threateningly. "I don't know what kind of hold you think you have on me, Spike. If I am in some kind of vampire marriage, either divorce me or I'll just have to make myself a widow." Her hand flashed and she snatched Mr. Pointy from his hand. Spike moved away cautiously, putting the corner of the sarcophagus between them.
"Fine, you don't need that, you just have to unclaim me, and I unclaim you."
"Vampires aren't big on obligations. We're not like you silly mortal wankers. There's no vampire divorce court." He stopped and shifted his eyes reflectively. "That would be a show worth watching though, wouldn't it?"
"Then I unclaim you."
"And I unclaim you."
"Good. Now get out of town."
Spike met her level gaze and saw she meant business.
"Okay. But there's one more thing to the ritual."
"What?" she snapped fiercely.
He gestured helplessly. "I didn't invent it. The idea is, if you divorce a mortal you're supposed to make sure you're not unleashing vengeance on all vampires."
"What the hell do you mean?"
"Divorces are more risky than just killing your mate."
Buffy held up Mr. Pointy.
"We have to kiss, that's all."
"What?" she blurted. Accusingly she said, "You're lying."
He shrugged. "I didn't make the rules, did I?"
Buffy inhaled deeply and let her arm drop. "Who does, anyway? Is some vampire supreme court sitting around coming up with crap rules on how vampires live?"
"Sure feels that way. It's all just trial and error, I suppose."
Buffy moved toward Spike.
"Uh-uh. Lose your wood first."
Buffy set the stake down. "You too."
Spike shook his head amusedly. "You flatter yourself, you silly bint."
He put out his arms.
Buffy stepped back. "You didn't say anything about touching."
"How will we kiss without touching?"
"If I have to put my lips to yours, that's all I'm gonna do. Keep your hands to yourself."
"My pleasure." Spike locked his hands behind his back.
"Isn't that the truth." Buffy leaned forward and puckered. Spike's lips met hers and Buffy felt something akin to an electric jolt – a small one, but enveloping. An irresistible aroma fed her senses, Spike's scent. It was salty sea and sunshine, night breezes and pineapple. Her skin tingled; she had the sensation of being swept in the air by smooth and diaphanous silk wings. Somehow her arms were around Spike and she felt his arms close in around her. She had broken her own rule first.
She didn't care. A corner of her mind cried protest, but the diaphanous wings swept it out the door and across the universe. Their tongues mingled, and Buffy's body responded with its own will. Stars winkled in the sky and purple clouds gathered only to be blown away by sweet, cascading winds that refreshed and zested her as she climbed mountains and tumbled joyfully down each new peak. Time was a footnote. She heard her own distant laughter, surprised by the unique pitches and notes and it was Spike conducting her and the music was in the two of them, a symphony that led to shattering crescendo. She was caught up in turbulent waves that drove her senses to unbelievable heights, then falling, falling deeply into a delightful, sleepy blackness that at last enfolded her with gracious, nurturing warmth that she surrendered to, as she had surrendered to Spike.
She woke up blinking and drowsily rubbing her face. She was in bed. Not her bed.
She whipped around. Spike lay there asleep.
Anya felt a little out of place in the audience at Bambi Forest, and she drew attention from some of the slavering perverts. She figured they might take her for a lesbian, but that was just as well. She didn't want them hitting on her.
A short, chubby man in an expensive suit hit on her.
"You'd really like my wife," he winked. "We have a water bed."
"I don't like people," Anya retorted. "I make it with animals."
"I have a horse at the stables," he persisted.
She moved to the other side of the stage. The medallion that hung at her cleavage itched terribly. The cord that ran from the hidden lens in the medallion to the camera pick-up in her hip pocket chafed her. Her discomfort was necessary, so she just scratched furtively and listened to an unseen announcer introduce Helena Bone-Him Carter. Kendra took the stage wearing a purple teddy Anya immediately coveted. She remembered her mission and lightly bumped her chest with a fist.
Kendra performed for the pervs, amassing many bills in her thong and garters. Anya pressed the shutter button on the medallion again and again, and anyone watching would think she had heartburn. She held up a twenty, hiding her face as Kendra shimmied over languorously and presented a thigh. Anya stuffed the twenty in her thong. As Kendra undulated away Anya called out, "Let's see the goodies."
Kendra removed her teddy to the appreciation of the gawkers. She performed a series of stretches and pole acrobatics that impressed Anya immensely. She wondered if Xander would be able to do any of these moves after he reversed.
Kendra teased up to the big reveal. She tempted and suggested and swayed with fluid grace until the thong was tossed aside.
After taking several primo shots with the hideaway, Anya cupped her hands to her mouth. "Hey Kendra," she called gaily. "You're not a girl, you're really a man. Your name is Xander Harris, and the spell is over."
She felt a stab of anxiety, knowing Xander would soon be writhing in pain and passing out up there. She may not be able to get any more good photos if a crowd encircled him.
There was a loud pop, and a blast of air blew in a wave from the stage, causing every eye to blink and activating every tear duct. The audience recoiled. They wiped their eyes and focused again to see Xander blithely wiggling his booty up there. Anya didn't pause to wonder why the reversal had worked so differently, but assiduously banged away at her chest.
Epithets and beverage containers were flung. Xander recoiled and gaped down at himself. His eyes went sunny-side-up. A beefy biker lumbered onto the stage, inspiring others to follow. He stomped toward Xander with mayhem etched in his burly face.
Xander turned and disappeared through the tinsel curtains with a posse on his tail. An alarm signaled his escape through a fire door. Anya beat a hasty retreat, laughing heartily. She pulled the rental car out and saw Xander, sprinting although no one pursued, making great time down the boulevard. She zoomed after him, slowing as she got close.
"How 'bout a ride, sexy fella?"
Xander's relief when he saw her was so gladsome that Anya felt a little guilty for setting him up. He ran to the passenger side and opened the door. Anya gunned the engine and the car jerked forward. She applied the brakes and listened to Xander swear.
"Drive," he begged as he clambered in. "Omigod, Anya, I've never been so happy to see anyone in my whole life."
Anya reached into the back seat.
"Here, wear this." She flipped some clothes at Xander. He stared at the garments dubiously, apparently put off by all the frillies and feathers.
"Sorry Xander, it's all I have. And you can't stay naked."
Xander sighed and gave in. He took the little pink number Anya had bought for him yesterday and pulled it over his head. He grimaced as he squeezed it down his torso, regretting that he hadn't put on the bottoms first.
"Watch the road," he wheezed, wondering why Anya was turned to face him. "What, do you have indigestion or something?"
"No, I just never want to forget these precious moments."
Xander shook his head and picked up the paisley loincloth with rainbow suspenders.