A Cock and Bull Story
FEEDBACK: Very welcome, and my email is in my profile.
BETA: Miss Murchison
SETTING: Buffy Season 5, during the events of 'Triangle'
DISCLAIMER: I’m borrowing these characters, and I promise to put them all back in good condition, and only slightly used.
NOTES: This fits between the scene in ‘Triangle’ where Giles announces he is to go away for a few days, and Willow confides in us that she has given up marking her lecture notes with coloured pens, and the scene where Anya and Willow quarrel so disastrously while minding the shop, which may or may not have been 24 hours or more later.
Big thanks to Miss Murchison for the beta, and for the title (and our joint apologies to Laurence Sterne).
Dawn stared longingly at the clock on the wall. Another half hour to go. A shabby pile of broken-backed books and tatty scrolls lay in front of her, with an incongruously modern and shiny plastic flatbed scanner glowing beside them.
Just this afternoon she had been press-ganged into Willow’s great Grimoire Archiving and Scanning Project (GASP for short). Right from the outset she’d thought it sounded suspiciously like a lot of boring hard work. Willow had insisted it would be exciting, and fun, but this was from the woman who thought colour coding her lecture notes onto index cards was a rollicking way to spend a Friday night. Dawn groaned. She'd been right, GASP was even more boring than most of her actual homework. Of course, it was good that Tara had persuaded Willow that the whole lecture notes/index cards thing was nutso. It was just too bad it had given the witchy one more free time to find ways of making other people miserable.
She opened the scanner and turned over another page in the ugly brown book lying inside it, and with a martyred sigh, she placed it on the scanner, and pressed ‘start’. She stared at the scanner as it whirred, and spilled light around the imperfectly closed cover. Her eyes were getting sore, and it was sooo boring. Plus her hands were getting dry and dirty, all at once. She spared a moment’s thought for the people who did this for a living. If this was the sort of stuff librarians like Giles did all the time, it was no wonder they had to wear extra thick glasses, and acted so bitter and twisted about other, younger, people enjoying themselves.
And then there were the badges. Tara had just bought Willow one of those badge making kits for some private soppy anniversary, and a whirl of pink, pastel and flower-decorated activity had begun. Willow had made the badges for GASP with loving care. Pink, of course, with flowers and herbs on. Magical ones, naturally.
Dawn’s badge (‘I’m a GASPer! Ask Me Why’’) lay glowing on the table in front of her. Oh yeah, she thought, like I’m wearing that ever.
“Hey, hey, it’s the scannerific Scoobie.” Xander leaned over her shoulder. “How’s it goin’ Dawnster? Plenty of pixels for the pixilated pair? Whoah!” He beat his chest. “Xander make play on words, plus that thing where the words start with the same letter. Xander plenty smart.”
Dawn chucked her Gasper badge at his head, and he caught it neatly, flashing her a grin.
She couldn’t help grinning back. Xander was, well Xander. Big, and cute, and with the floppy hair. She liked the floppy hair.
Xander was reading the badge, a big smile on his face. “I’ve gotta wear this to a party sometime. Though I don’t know. Does pink really suit me?” He held the badge up against his paisley patterned chest, and Dawn winced.
“Just promise me you won’t wear it with that shirt. In fact, please promise you won’t wear that shirt again. Ever.”
“Ah,” said Xander, “You may think this is an ugly shirt, young Bit, but let me put you right there. This is a beautiful shirt. This is my favourite shirt and I will wear it always, and when it is too old and ragged to wear any more I will weep bitter tears and bemoan my fate to the stars." He fell to his knees and raised his clasped hands miming anguish, then just as quickly leapt to his feet again. "Because, you see, this is the shirt my girlfriend bought me with her own wages, and I want to live.”
“Hey!” said Dawn, “you called me Bit. That’s what Spike calls me.”
Xander’s face shut down, and he moved away. “Spike,” he said, “Don't start with me about Spike. He hangs around here pretending to be our buddy. But he couldn't wait to stick a knife into Riley, could he? He should have been dusted long ago." His shoulders drew together. "Right now, I have the two main women in my life working together like a well-oiled team to drive me crazy," Xander paused a moment to savour the image this threw up, "and then I have to rub shoulders with the evil dead.” He looked at Dawn, and shook his head. “Don’t be fooled, Dawn, and don’t get fond of him. He’s not some harmless fluffy housepet.” He turned, distracted by the sound of people arriving at the front door.
Tara and Spike walked in, each carrying a pile of books and papers. Xander scowled and moved away.
"Tara!" Dawn jumped up to her feet, surprised. "I thought you were helping out Willow and Anya at the Magic Box this evening."
Tara shrugged, looking embarrassed. "She and Anya are running things together." She cast a glance at Xander. "They'll be fine."
Spike dumped his load of books on the table. "Right, well that's my good deed for the day. Helping the witch here carry all these heavy books - which are probably full of vampire dusting spells, come to think of it. I laugh at danger, me. No need to mention it to Buffy, or anything. I don't need thanks."
"Thanks, Spike," said Dawn brightly.
"Thanks, Spike," said Tara, bobbing a little uncertain smile at him.
"No word from the Ice Cream King?" Spike raised a scarred eyebrow at Xander, and smirked. Xander's hands twitched. Satisfied he had landed a barb, Spike ruffled Dawn's hair, winked at her and wandered out of the door.
Xander let out a long sigh of frustration. "Why, oh why, oh why, is it that I can't work out my insane-womenfolk-related frustrations by beating the crap out of Spike? It would be fun." He stalked away, tossing Dawn's Gasp badge on the table, where it fell with a sad little 'ping'.
Tara picked up one particularly tiny little book from the pile Spike had put on the table. She flicked through it, and smiled ruefully. "My personal contribution to Willow's project," she said brightly. "I inherited this spell book from my grandma. She got a lot of use out of it back on our farm, back in the days when cattle had a bit more frisk in 'em. Meant to stop your livestock from falling out with each other in the byre on long winter nights, and keep the bulls from goring anyone unlucky enough to meet them in a field." She shut the book, and put it back on the table. "Happy spells. Pity they're for cows, not people - all this personal conflict vibe is giving me a headache. Speaking of which," she put a hand on Dawn's shoulder, "want a cup of camomile tea?"
Dawn shook her head, and Tara gave her a little wave and moved after Xander towards the kitchen. As soon as she was out of the room, Dawn grabbed up the book and stared at it. Happy spells, eh? Tara was right. It was sorely needed right now. Her eye fell on the collection of herbs and powders Willow had put together for her badge making efforts, and then on the book again. She read the first paragraph, her lips moving as she spelled out the unfamiliar Latin words, looking for 'taurus' and 'campus' or something that looked like them - because Latin had all those weird word endings to make things complicated. It probably wouldn't work, since Spike and Xander weren't Longhorns; but after all, how much harm could it do?
Xander stepped out of the back door, and sat on the porch step, unscrewing the cap from a bottle of Fanta. The stars were twinkling down at him, and he glared back at them. What did they have to be so twinkly about? He hunched his shoulders. This Willow/Anya needle-fest was driving him crazy. He liked both of them, and they both liked him. Why couldn't they both like each other? It was one of those eternal mystery things. Someone probably wrote a poem about it sometime, or a song, or something. He snorted, and chucked the cap from his Fanta out into the darkness.
"Hey!" said a familiar voice. "Watch where you're throwing your litter, dummy." Spike emerged from the gloom, bleached hair shining in the starlight, cheekbones sharp as blades. He took a last draw on his cigarette, then crushed the end and tossed it at Xander's feet. "Disgraceful, the way people just chuck their rubbish on the floor these days. No community spirit, that's what it is." He stepped forward, placed a booted foot on the bottom step of the porch between Xander's Timberlands, and smirked. Pissing off Harris was the nearest he could get to actual sadism these days, and he intended to make the most of it.
In the living room, unheard by either of them, Dawn finished the last word of an incantation and threw several of Willow’s carefully gathered herbs, together with one of her badges containing a pressed leaf of cowbane, into the fire. The herbs flared up, and the badge blackened and melted. The cowbane was consumed in a little flash, as ...
... Xander ran his hand ran up Spike's calf, above his knee.
"Whoa!" Spike jumped back with vampiric speed. "What the hell was that, Harris?" He stood blinking just below the porch step, discomforted. "Keep your sweaty adolescent hands off my leg!"
Xander leant back and smiled at him, lazily. "Oh go on, you know you liked it." He got up, and sauntered over to where Spike was standing, put his hand on Spike's thigh, and squeezed.
Spike opened and shut his mouth a few times, trying to find the words. "I did not like it," he said. "And if I was looking for a bit of back door action I would not choose a beefy, hormonal, ice cream boy to put it up me. Got it?"
Xander took another step forward, coming to a stop inches from Spike's vampire face. His hands reached out for Spike's hips.
"No!" yelled Spike, jumping back another foot. "No groping. You do not grope the leg of the vampire. Got that?" His forehead went bumpy, and he jumped again. "Dammit!"
"Ooh!" said Xander, "Does that happen when you get hot?"
"I'm going to nut you in minute," said Spike, speaking each word very distinctly. "even if it does give me a headache for a week."
"Sounds great," murmured Xander, his eyes roaming over Spike's muscled torso.
Spike rolled his yellow eyes, exasperated. "It means I'm going to smash my bumpy forehead into your big ugly conk, you dozy Yank. I'll nut you, with my nut." He pointed to his corrugated forehead.
"Awww," said Xander, "don't be like that, Spikey. I can make the earth move for you. You just have to bend over ..." He rubbed a suggestive hand over his crotch.
Spike leapt back another foot, then he pointed dramatically. "Oh, oh, I know what this is," he said, "you're trying to freak me out, aren't you? Well, I've got news for you Harris. It takes more than a greasy haired poofter trying to get inside his skintights to get a rise from William The Bloody." He paused, “and when I say ‘a rise’ I do not mean anything cock-related, so stop smirking.”
Xander winked. "Whatever you say, sweetheart. I'll come back for another sniff later, m'kay? See if you're more in the mood." And after another quick hitch of his tackle inside his baggy jeans, he turned and sauntered away into the kitchen.
Spike watched him go, his forehead slowly uncrinkling. He stood for a long silent moment in the dark garden. "Well, bloody hell," he said at last. "Harris just won that freakout contest. Harris. I think I may be at my lowest ebb of self respect ever."
Spike walked into the kitchen determined to turn the tables on grope boy. It wouldn’t do to have Harris think he’d got the upper hand for more than a few seconds. Uh uh. No way. Xander was going down, and he, Spike, was the man to do it.
Tara was in the kitchen sipping camomile tea and reading a herbary, a little frown of concentration on her face.
Spike sat down beside her, and she cast him a little sideways glance, then kept reading. He drummed his fingers on the table, then paused, looking casually around at the shiny saucepans hanging from their rack, at the denuded spice rack, and at the food mixer sitting in state on the counter top, next to a heap of assorted herbs. He drummed his fingers again.
Tara sighed, and put down her book. “Did you want something, Spike?”
He shook his head. “Nope. I’m fine.” There was another pause. “Just thought I might get your input on something.”
Tara raised an unenthusiastic eyebrow.
“I wondered,” said Spike, “how your ex-demon friend Anya would feel if she knew her boyfriend was running around the place trying to get some bloke to stand still long enough for him to put his todger up where the sun don’t shine. What do you think?”
“I think,” said Tara coldly, “that if you’re trying to make trouble between Xander and Anya, by pretending he’s gay - if I understand you correctly - then you’re even more pathetic than Xander says you are.” And with that, she slammed her book shut, and walked out of the room.
Spike drummed his fingers on the table again. “Hmmm,” he said, “maybe I should have worked up to it a bit more." He paused, thinking. Could he have been more subtle? Then he shook the question off impatiently, and concentrated on the important bit of the exchange. "And Harris says I’m pathetic, does he? I'm going to get him for that.”
He strolled out into the living room, where Dawn was busy scanning further pages of assorted spell books, an expression of such intense innocence on her face, that if Spike had been less preoccupied, he would have spotted it in an instant. As it was ...
“Bit!” he called. “Do you reckon Xander is an arse bandit?”
Dawn looked up. “Is that something to do with slot machines?”
Spike waved a hand. “Never mind.” He moved swiftly on. The important person to get to was Anya, and he knew exactly where she was.
A swift walk in the twilight brought him to the door of the Magic Box, where the voices of two strong women locked in disagreement was clearly audible. Spike brightened. He liked a good argument, especially if there was a chance of a catfight at the end of it. He sauntered through the shop door and let it slam behind him, setting the bell jangling madly. Willow and Anya didn't look up.
“Xander is sensitive,” said Willow. “You just don’t understand him. What with being a demon and all.”
"Ex-demon," said Anya sharply. "As you perfectly well know. And of course I know Xander is sensitive. He's just amazingly dense too, at times."
Willow gasped in outrage. "Xander is not dense!"
"Got to disagree with you there, love." Spike leant against the counter and smiled his best provocative smile. Willow and Anya each cast him a brief disdainful look and then returned to their argument, ignoring him. Spike straightened up, annoyed.
"For example," he said sharply, overriding their quarrelling voices with sheer volume, "he propositioned me not twenty minutes ago, right on Buffy's back porch. Disgustin', it was. Now how dense of him was that? 'Cos first of all, I'm not an arse bandit, and second of all even if I was, I'd just have shagged him and then told Anya here all about it, and stood back and watched her rip his entrails out and make a barbecue. See? Dense."
The shop door jingled again, and Xander strolled in. A very happy Xander, full of the joys of spring. He came up to the counter and kissed first Anya, then Willow, and finally, he patted Spike's shoulder in a companionable fashion.
"Hello, hello, ladies and loathsome creature of the night!" he said expansively. He grinned at Anya and Willow. "I thought of you both toiling away here in retail hell, and I thought of a cure. Donuts! He produced a Krispy Kreme box from behind his back, and placed it on the counter. "I'm afraid they don't have a blood donut for you to sink your fangs into, Spike, but you can have the strawberry jelly one instead, and pretend. It's really red and really sticky, even if it isn't really blood." He patted Spike on the back again, and winked at him. "And who is dense?" he added. "In my dead old pal Spike's opinion, that is."
"You, Xander," Anya pointed at Spike. "And he says you proposed homosexual sex with him fifteen minutes ago, on Buffy's porch. Why did you do that?"
"What happened on my porch?" It was Buffy, escorting Tara and Dawn, all three of them loaded down with magic books.
"Oh great!" cried Willow, "Stage One of GASP accomplished! I'm going to need my red stickers next. And my sparkly pen." She dug furiously in the counter draw. "Oh, and obviously Xander didn't have sex with Spike on Buffy's porch," she added, her voice slightly muffled as she bent down to search through the draw. "Come on, Anya, Spike is just being evil and lying about us to each other, like he did before. The weasely rat."
Spike shifted, discomfited. He had not been expecting Buffy to be present for this conversation.
"Actually, I did offer him a slice of the Xander sausage," said Xander cheerfully, sinking his teeth into a chocolate coated donut. He smacked his lips together. "Mmmmm! This is great." He waved the rest of the donut at Spike. "After all, say what you like about Spike being an evil undead mass murderer - and I often do - he has great cheekbones, and real tight little buns."
Anya pouted. "I have great cheekbones too, Xander darling, and tight buns."
Xander leaned over the counter and kissed her, leaving a dusting of chocolate and sugar on her cheek. "You sure do," he said, "but you weren't there, sweetheart. Spike was the only heifer in the field."
Tara gave a great start, and began to hunt frenziedly through the pile of books she had put on the counter. She took up the small volume of good wish spells, and held it up where Dawn could see it. Dawn blushed. Tara pointed silently to the backroom, and Dawn shuffled in that direction. No one else noticed. They were too enthralled by Xander.
Tara dragged Dawn into the little back room. "Did you do what I think you did?" she hissed.
Dawn hung her head. "I just wanted to make Xander get on a bit better with Spike. He hates him so much!"
Tara sighed, exasperated. She pulled the book out of her pocket. "Which spell did you use?"
Dawn took the book and flicked through the pages, and finally pointed. Tara read the spell, and then she snorted, and grinned, and tried to make her face straight again. "And you thought a spell to be used on a reluctant bull to get him to cover a whole herd of cows would make them get on better, did you?"
Dawn gasped. "Oh. My. God. I thought it was the friendly one you talked about, to stop the bulls goring people. I saw 'bull' and 'field' ...."
Tara tapped her wrist with the book. "I guess you need some more Latin lessons." She looked at the spell again. "Releasing it is pretty simple fortunately." She looked around the storeroom for supplies. "If it works Xander will just nod off for a second, and then he'll be fine." She looked at the spell, and then at Dawn, and shook her head, "Poor Xander. Why is it always him?"
"Xander!" said Anya, "Are you telling me that you put little Xander inside Spike? If so, I think it's very selfish of you to do it when I wasn't there to watch."
"No!" shouted Spike, casting an anxious glance at Buffy, who stood with her arms folded, looking grim. "Don't you bloody listen? Like I said, Harris tried his luck, and I turned him down. For I love another," he said with maximum emphasis, gazing at Buffy again. Her expression hardened.
Xander shook his head, and turned to grin at Spike. "No, turned out he wasn't quite ready yet, even though he came over and shoved his leg between mine, which you gotta admit was flirtatious. He wasn't ready, so his thighs weren't spready." Xander giggled. "I made a rhyme!"
"Wow!" said Willow, pausing a moment in her search for her red stickers. Her voice was awed. "Xander's boarded the sarcasm boat and he's sailing away down the river."
Anya scowled at her. "It's just a simple sugar high. I understand Xander, unlike some people. He's had too many donuts and he needs to rest." She came out from behind the counter and took Xander's arm.
Spike was provoked into yelling.
"I'm telling you all, he's a sneaking, double-crossing, grabby handed, bum sniffing, bloody woofter!"
The three women stared at him, their faces stony. He threw his hands up into the air, clutched a lock of bleached blond hair in a despairing hand, groaned, and then stalked out of the shop into the night.
They turned to look tenderly at Xander, who was sitting on the counter, still giggling.
"How dumb does Spike think we are?" asked Willow, patting Xander's back.
"I'm just glad darling Xander didn't let Spike upset him," said Anya, patting his arm.
"Tell me if he bothers you again," said Buffy, finding a knee to pat, "I'll punch him a few times for you."
Xander looked at them all blissfully. "You're my girls," he said. "And I love you all!" And then he passed out, and fell off the counter.
Spike was dreaming. His hips were moving rhythmically, pressing his flesh into the welcoming body below, his tongue licking a salty trail across a smooth white shoulder. As he thrust, his lover’s breathing became more urgent, and they rocked savagely together. Spike thrust again, and they both came at once, with a mutual scream. Spike opened his eyes, and stared down - into Buffy’s upturned face.
He jerked awake, and sat up, his sheet steepled over his erection. “Well, thank Christ and the Devil for that!” he said, his voice echoing in the darkness. “If it had been Harris I think I’d have had to top myself.”
At the same moment, in a bedroom far across town, a sweaty, tousled and aroused Xander Harris leapt out of bed, and began an agitated pacing. He looked down at the oblivious sleeping Anya, and then flashed back to the bleach blond star of his recent dream. “This is bad,” he said, wringing his hands, “very, very bad!”