The Spell Progresses
When Andrew walked into Rayne's muggy little hideout with Garnerbot, he was afraid the Englishman would detect his ruse and angrily pitch him out . But Rayne just looked at the handsome robot and nodded approval.
Andrew said, "My friend here looks a lot like an actor, doesn't he?"
Rayne shook Garnerbot's hand with indifference. "Nice to meet you, lad. Yes," he replied to Andrew, "this young chap has something. Have you ever done any acting?" he asked Garnerbot.
Garner set his jaw in annoyance and said, "I'm one of the most beloved actors of all time."
Rayne laughed heartily and slapped his shoulder. "You've a wonderfully droll sense of humor, young man. Gentlemen, follow me."
Rayne led them to his pentagram room and shut the door.
Andrew made a negative sound.
"What?' Rayne demanded.
"I don't want to use this room. It's your-" he whispered, "Surgat room."
Impatiently, Rayne said "That means everything but everything is set correctly. I'm not paying you to perform elsewhere and make assurances to me. I have a lot at stake here, and I need to know the spell is done correctly. You must do the summoning here. I insist."
Andrew agreed with glum resignation. "I can smell that … other demon."
Garnerbot exhaled heavily. "When do I meet this lady?"
"That's up to Andrew," Rayne answered.
Andrew spread colored sand around the pentagram and chanted in a low voice. Rayne and Garnerbot stared at him. He met their eyes and stopped.
"I usually do this alone, so stop staring at me, it freaks me out."
Rayne and Garnerbot exchanged glances, and small nods. They turned away from Andrew.
"Got any cards?" Garnerbot asked.
Rayne's eyebrows shot up and he happily pulled out a deck from his pocket. "Are you a gambling man?"
"I've drawn to an inside straight or two," Garnerbot answered slyly. Rayne went to his worktable and started shuffling.
Andrew watched for a second, wondering if the psych profile Warren put in would give Garnerbot the card sharp skills of Brett Maverick.
"To work, boy." Rayne bellowed.
Andrew smiled, hoping Rayne would lose his shirt.
Buddy was awakened by his mom's voice.
"Buffy, you have company."
He rolled over and saw Joyce at his bedside. "Who is it?" Had to be Spike.
"Come and see," Joyce replied, and pulled the blankets off.
He plod downstairs in his bed wear, sweats and tee, and saw Angel, whose face fell as he saw him. Buddy felt disappointed it wasn't Spike.
"It's true then," Angel said solemnly.
"What," Buddy retorted, "you thought this was some practical joke on you?"
"No. In fact, I already saw Spike. It's just strange to see you as a man."
"It took me a while to get used to it, too." Buddy went to the couch and sat. "Take a load off."
Angel chose the chair. Dawn sat down beside Buddy. Buddy harrumphed, then again, loudly.
"What? I can stay. Mom?"
Joyce's face appeared from around the corner. "Dawn, help me with dinner."
Dawn chittered in pique. "Why can't I visit with Angel too?"
Angel looked grim. "What did you mean, 'took you a while' to get used to it? You're actually used to it-used to being a man?"
"Don't hassle me over it, dude. I didn't ask for this to happen."
Angel sank back in his chair. "Dude?"
Buddy rolled his eyes. "Catch a falling word and put it in your pocket, save it for a rainy day."
Angel smiled lightly. "Invoking Perry Como? That's the Buffy I know."
Buddy raised his arms in a flourish. "Here I am as a man, is it what you expected?"
Angel shook his head. "In all my imaginings, I never thought of you as a man."
"A blonde Johnny Depp at that. He's a big actor, you wouldn't know him. Maybe I can get a job as his double. Oh, I just remembered, "I'm Buddy now. Buddy Lee Morrison, courtesy of Mr. Giles."
"What d'you mean?"
Giles thinks it'll take a long time to reverse this spell, so until then he got us all false idents, something to fool the world at large. I robbed the name of some baby who died. I hafta get a picture I.D. to match my new birth certificate."
Angel leaned forward.
"What about patrols?"
"Gotta keep those going. I grabbed some sleep, now I'll eat some dinner. At dusk I'll be out there."
"I can do it for you.""I appreciate it, Angel, but I'm in a man's body, not sick. I'd rather not sit around, anyway. I'll be fine."
"You're right. I'll go with you, then."Buddy calculated the chance of talking him out of that. He decided it would be better to allow it, counting on Spike not to be a pain and spill anything.
"That'll be great," Buddy said, "like old times."
Dawn sauntered into the room. "Mom says, 'soups on', and she wants Angel to stay for dinner."
Buddy gave Angel a lopsided smile. "Will you fall on a roast for the team?"
Angel rocked back and forth, biting his lip. He hated eating. Then he rolled to his feet. "I'd love to," he said as convincingly as he could.
Willow waited until Xander went to the bathroom to chastise Tara.
"What were you thinking, inviting him without checking with me first?"
"He's your best friend," Tara whispered back, "and he has nobody. I would've thought you would want him to come."
Willow's manly features revealed guilt. "Oh, you're right. I don't know why I feel weird about it. When're those pizzas coming, anyway? I'm starved." She pushed a fist into her gut and vented a loud belch.
"Geez Louise," Tara commented.
"I can't help it. I'm a man. A big, stinking, hairy man. I'm rotten made of cotton." She touched Tara's cheek. "You're handy, made of candy."
Tara smiled dubiously. Slowly, she reached up and patted Willow's hand, then pulled it gently away.
"What?" Willow demanded.
"Company," Tara hissed, and Xander came back. "I love your parents' bathroom," he told Willow. "Does your dad mind all the frilly towels and soaps?"
"No, he just dumps wherever there's a toilet." She gave Tara a big overstuffed grin. "He's a man, after all."
After the pizza came they turned on TV and watched an episode of 8 Simple Rules.
"This is such a good show," Xander commented. He took small bites from the slice on his plate, chewing each bit, slow and thorough. Tara did the same, but longed for more. She usually let it hang out with Willow, chomping her way through four or five slices, but around Xander she felt inhibited. Or maybe she was just too aware of her wide hips and bottom. Xander's new body was so fit and nimble-looking. He was Megan Fox, or some kind of fox, it seemed to her. She didn't mind the toey thumbs at all. The fact that Xander worried about it was kind of endearing.
"Sorry." Willow took a massive bite of her pepperoni slice, then alternated to her loaded veggie slice. "Ugh, it's the veggies," she said through her stuffed mouth. The onions make me fart."
"I hate that word," Tara reminded, and Xander tittered to lighten the mood. Tara appreciated him even more, for that.
"All right. The onions make me blat. Make me toot. Make me float an air biscuit. Make me whistle-"
Xander laughed some more, but Tara set her eyes on the TV screen and tried to ignore Willow. When Willow was finished eating she set her plate on the coffee table and stared morosely at the TV until the show was over.
She yawned and stretched. "I'm getting tired.
Xander stood. "I should be getting home."
Tara said, "I need a walk. Why don't I go with you?"
Willow scowled. "We need to look over those books. Giles is expecting it."
"I thought you were tired."
Xander looked from one to the other. "I can help with the research, guys. I can hand you books, paper, pens. Maybe look at some pictures."
Tara looked expectantly at Willow.
"Fine, go walk your boyfriend home," Willow waved at them. "Maybe I will hit the sack."
She flatulated as she turned to walk away.
"I was holding back," she threw at them, "but you took too long."
Xander laughed. Tara shook her head.
On the way to Xander's Tara poured out her frustrations. "She's acting more and more like a guy, a jerk. I always get the feeling she's mad at me. She seems brutish, so mean all the time. She gets too physical."
"How do you mean, physical?"
"Well, she's not hitting me, she never would do that. But the way she walks around, the things she does. It's like she's got too much energy. Too strong. Banging around, pushing, shoving things."
"Like a man."
Tara touched some leaves that hung low from a tree. "You think that's all it is?"
Xander pulled a sprig from the tree, began pulling the leaves off one by one. "Sure it is. You're used to gentleness, and Willow's the most gentle girl I've ever been around."
"I-I miss her, you know."
Xander put a hand on Tara's arm. "She's still there. And she needs you."
Tara shrugged one shoulder sadly. She felt for Xander's arm and held his elbow as they walked.
At his place she waited as he unlocked his basement door.
"Thanks for walking me home. This tiny body would look real vulnerable to any night beasties.""And my big fat body would scare them away."
"No, not at all, don't say that. You do know you're beautiful don't you? You should."
Tara looked at the ground shyly. "You have to say that."
Xander pushed open the door and went in, and Tara followed. He turned on the lights. "That's not true. Or well, it's true I would tell you that, even if it weren't true. But it is true, which means I don't have to lie."
"Well, I think you're nice for saying it, and that's no lie." Tara pulled the much smaller Xander to her in a hug. He relented, then returned the hug, patting Tara's back sympathetically. Then Tara kissed his ear, and a warm, unexpected and completely foreign sensation came over Xander. He felt his body melt like an ice cream in a furnace, and shocked himself as he heard his pleasurable moan come from his own mouth.
Tara pulled back and smiled at him. Xander tried to blast discouragement with his still unaccustomed feminine face. What Tara saw must have failed to get the message across.
She kissed him.
"Tara,' he panted after the best kiss he could recall his whole lifelong, "Willow is my friend."Tara hesitated. "She's my lover. I love her very much, so we're even."
That oddly seemed like airtight logic to Xander, who eagerly turned up his face to kiss Tara again.
Shortly after, the lights went out at Xander Central.