Harlequin's Slash Fic

Another Day, Another Phase

Title: Another Day, Another Phase
Author: Julien
Universe: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Characters featured: Xander/‘Ewan’ (original character) and a bit of Xander/Cordelia
Category, Word count: Short story; 7230 words
Rating: R
Summary: Xander finds himself visited by an incubus… a gay incubus…
Notes: I wrote this story immediately after watching the second season episode Phases, and it’s set soon after that episode, too. Of course, then I watched the following episode Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, and realised that the resulting sequence of adventures was rather unfair to poor Xander. But I didn’t end up changing anything. Let the boy suffer!
First published: 10 August 2000 in Espresso 3

 

 

Another Day, Another Phase

 

Willow and Buffy never entered the school building until they absolutely had to, and consequently tended to spend the last few minutes before class sitting on the steps outside as other students wandered past. That morning was no exception. They were playing Anywhere But Here in order to pass the time, which these days was also no exception.

‘I’m in Florence,’ Willow said dreamily, ‘in the Piazza del Duomo, and it’s beautiful and the sky is that warm shade of blue, but I’m all alone. Then this guy rides up on a scooter, and he takes off his helmet, and it’s Oz…’ She gave a happy sigh, then triumphantly finished, ‘We ride off into the countryside and spend all day together, exploring Tuscany. Oh, and of course we eat lots of ziti.’

Buffy smiled at her. ‘Things are going well with Oz, huh?’

‘I almost forget about the ziti.’

‘That’s nice.’

‘And where are you?’

‘Oh, I wake up one morning, in my own bed, in my own house, and the last couple of weeks never happened.’

Sympathy overwhelmed Willow as Buffy’s expression became bravely wistful rather than utterly bereft – it seemed so unfair that just as Willow’s love–life was in the ascendant, Buffy’s was lower than low. Unexpected, too, given that Buffy was beyond pretty and Willow knew herself to be beyond mousy. Take their hair for example – Buffy’s was beautifully blond, and though it was straight, it wasn’t straight in the limp way that Willow’s was –

But Willow realised she was mentally digressing. ‘Uh, going for the whole It Was Just A Dream thing? I don’t blame you.’

‘It’s cheating, I know, but I’m rather into Anywhen But Now. It never happened,’ Buffy repeated, her voice roughening, ‘Drusilla and Spike are still dead, the Judge is still dismembered, and Angel is still…’

‘Angel,’ Willow concluded.

A tall slender shadow settled over the two girls, and a disaffected voice drifted down. ‘Please. Are we still talking about him? He is so not in the Scooby Gang any more.’

It was Xander, of course, and it was Xander’s usual bitching – but when the young man sank to sit beside them, Willow saw that he was looking particularly agitated, and his dark hair and eyes appeared even darker with his skin that pale.

Buffy obviously saw it, too. ‘Xander,’ she greeted him. ‘What’s up?’

‘Up?’ he edgily retorted. ‘Nothing and no one is up. In fact, no one could be said to be up at all.’

‘Wow. A mite touchy, aren’t we?’

‘Have you been drinking coffee again?’ Willow asked suspiciously. ‘You know what it does to you, Xander.’

‘Hyper?’ Buffy guessed.

‘Like the Road Runner on steroids, except that Xander talks a lot, so that’s obviously not the best simile.’

‘I thought that was a metaphor,’ Buffy mused with a frown, ‘but never mind. Believe me, I’ve been wrong about grammar before!’

The bell rang, and the three of them dragged themselves to their feet and in through the double doors with various displays of reluctance and exhaustion.

‘So what’s the story, Xander?’ Buffy asked as they wandered down the main corridor. The swarm of students around them decreased and was augmented as they passed various classrooms and lockers. ‘What’s been with you the last couple of days? Are you over–caffeinated or is it just that time of the month?’

‘I was thinking,’ Xander announced.

‘More aberrant behaviour…’ Buffy commented, and Willow almost laughed despite herself.

‘The whole wooden stake thing with vampires,’ Xander commented inconsequentially but with a great deal of nervous energy: ‘it’s weird. I mean, think about it! What if they got a splinter? Would that destroy them?’

Buffy exchanged a concerned glance with Willow, then flatly replied, ‘Dusting them requires a stake through the heart, Xander. It would have to be an incredibly well–placed splinter.’

‘Oh. Yeah. OK, I get it. I knew that.’

‘Xander, are you all right?’ Willow asked. In all the time she’d known him, she’d never seen Xander in quite this state.

‘Sure, sure. Sure thing. In desperate need of a council of war, but otherwise I’m alive and well and living on the Hellmouth.’

‘Amen,’ Buffy murmured with some irony. ‘Can it wait till lunchtime? I’ll tell Giles. Willow, you alert the other Slayerettes.’

‘Does it have to be everyone?’ Xander pleaded.

‘You ask for a council of war, my friend,’ Buffy replied; ‘you get one with the works.’ And, with an enigmatic parting glance, she strode into her remedial history class.

Xander took one look at Willow – who knew she was looking worried – and he jogged off down the corridor before she could ask anything more, throwing an apologetic wave back at her as he disappeared round the corner in the direction of his remedial math class. Willow sighed, and meandered off towards the computer lab to continue with her anything–but–remedial individual studies project.

 

Xander stood there, virtually upright, took a deep breath, and – despite the five faces arrayed around the library’s main table, all turned expectantly to him – found the courage to blurt out, ‘There’s an incubus in town.’

‘Really?’ Giles responded. ‘How fascinating – we’re certainly seeing all the classics lately. An incubus is a demon, an evil spirit in male form that manifests during the night, seeking to have sexual intercourse with women.’

‘I know what the dictionary says, Giles!’ Xander cried out. ‘I can read, you know!’

The librarian blinked in surprise at his vehemence. ‘In that case, I was merely defining the term for the others.’

‘Xander,’ Buffy said, ‘tell us what’s going on.’

‘Uh… Well, maybe Giles should do some more defining first.’ And Xander dropped into the nearest chair, endeavouring to hide his face without making it too obvious that’s what he was doing.

‘All right,’ Giles agreed, slipping off his glasses for a moment’s consideration, and then getting up to pace back and forth in his best tweedy–old–school–librarian mode. ‘A demon in female form seducing men is called a succubus, of course, but that’s largely irrelevant to our purposes. The union of a woman and an incubus was said to result in the birth of witches, demons, or deformed children…’

Glances through Xander’s fingers revealed that Willow was taking this in her stride. Amazing what a person got used to, living here in Sunnydale – she was almost as cool as Buffy the Vampire Slayer these days. Cordelia was looking a bit grossed–out, though sometimes it was difficult to know exactly what thought processes were twisting and turning their way behind that perfectly crafted face. Oz, the newest member of the gang, seemed to be veering from puzzled to protective and back again. Giles was… Well, Giles was simply having fun pontificating, and drawing on all this arcane lore of his. Or was that law, Xander wondered. Whatever. Given that the librarian was the only adult in the gang, Xander had expected a little more concern. Maybe even some moral outrage. Anything but enthusiasm!

‘…In fact,’ Giles added with a scholarly chuckle, ‘legend has it that the magician Merlin was fathered by an incubus. The word is derived from the Latin incubus meaning nightmare and incubare meaning to weigh heavily upon or to brood. Modern psychology has adopted the term to describe the sort of nightmare where –’

Xander interrupted the man before he wandered any further afield. ‘We’re not talking nightmares here. We’re talking the real thing.’

Oz sought clarity. ‘There’s an actual incubus here in Sunnydale seducing women?’

Buffy had narrowed her eyes and was staring up at Xander. ‘And you know this because…?’

‘Uh –’ Xander stood up again, put his hands on his hips, and tried to address Giles in a direct and businesslike manner. ‘Ever heard of an incubus visiting guys?’

‘As I said,’ was the impatient response, ‘that would be a succubus.’

‘Believe it or not,’ Xander snapped, ‘I was listening. I’m talking about an incubus that likes men.’

Giles blinked again. ‘A… a homosexual incubus…?’

‘Not that there’s anything wrong with that,’ Xander immediately added, cool in both up–to–the–moment hipness and demeanour. Though he ruined the effect by suddenly sinking to his seat and lamely adding, ‘Right?’

All five faces were staring at him. Giles, Oz, Willow. Buffy. Cordelia. Xander tried not to actually cower, though he couldn’t help withering a little.

It took Willow to find the words. ‘Oh, Xander. This… this thing… has visited you?’

‘No accounting for taste, right?’ Lame lame lame, Harris, he scolded himself. He should have practiced his lines for longer, if not thought up better ones.

‘Last night?’

‘Last three nights, actually.’

An uncomfortably shuffling sort of silence, in which everyone suddenly started looking elsewhere, alerted Xander to what he’d just admitted to. All right, he knew he was blushing now.

Buffy quietly quoted, ‘And the bear said, You’re not here for the hunting, are you…?’

‘What?’ Giles asked in confusion.

‘Never mind. Punch line of a joke.’

‘And the joke’s on me, right?’ Xander asked, suddenly accessing his long–held store of bitter anger. ‘I’m desperate here, guys, I’m begging for your help. This isn’t my bag, you know? I’m a man, I’m into women. So I wanna know – I’ve got to know, Giles – how do I stop it? How do I kill it or dust it or whatever? What did they used to do to get rid of incubuses?’

‘Incubi,’ the librarian automatically said.

Xander really let fly. ‘I’m getting seduced by a demon here, and you’re correcting my grammar…?!’

Giles had the grace to look chagrined for a moment. ‘I’m sorry, Xander. I’ll, er, I’ll get onto the matter right away. I’m sure there’ll be something in my books about warding them off. Perhaps Willow could search the Internet…’

‘Of course,’ Willow agreed in a tiny voice. In an even tinier voice than usual.

‘OK,’ Xander said, a little mollified. ‘That’s all right, then. Thank you.’

But if he wasn’t angry any more, that meant he had to settle down and face the others. Oz was looking pretty cool about it – surprised but cool. Willow seemed mostly concerned, which was only to be expected from the person who’d been Xander’s best friend since forever. Buffy looked like she’d smelled something odd and was having trouble identifying it. And Cordelia – with whom Xander currently had a thing, though he would hesitate to define it any further than that – Cordelia was…

Strangely enough, Cordy seemed only half disgusted. The other half appeared fascinated. Where on earth did that come from?

‘Actually, I think I know just the book,’ Giles announced, heading for the stacks. ‘Come back after your afternoon classes, Xander, and I’m sure I’ll have something for you.’

That was Xander’s cue to slink out of there. He could only hope the others would have the decency not to follow him. The last thing he needed right now was sympathy. Or curiosity. Or any more weirdness then he currently had.

‘Later,’ he said, casting a dismissive wave in the approximate direction of the table.

A few lame replies of, ‘Yeah, later,’ drifted after Xander on the interminable walk to the doors. And then he was safely in the corridor outside the library, having survived yet another in a lifetime of humiliations.

Wait a minute. He stuck his head back in through the doors to see his four friends still sitting there like utter noodles. ‘When I come back here after school to see what Giles has to say…?’ Nods all round. ‘The rest of you really don’t need to be here.’ And then he was so out of there.

 

Cordelia sighed in frustration. Xander had been avoiding her all day – and all the previous couple of days – but Cordelia knew why now, and she didn’t know whether she felt more repulsed by Xander’s story or more attracted. But seeing as she could never figure out whether she was more repulsed or more attracted by Xander himself, this did little to cool her unexpected and mostly unwanted ardour for the boy.

Actually, to tell the truth, having spent the early afternoon dwelling on the whole icksome but oddly wonderful tale of the gay incubus, Cordelia merely felt further inflamed… She believed she’d had physics and American literature classes, but that could have been a figment of her imagination. There was something just too compelling about the idea of Xander lying on his bed kissing a… a…

Ah, there he was at last. Xander, slouching down the corridor towards her, head drooping due to a lack of sleep and a desire to avoid everyone else’s gazes, as if the story of what he’d been doing was tattooed across his face. Xander with a guy, oh my!

Cordelia timed it perfectly – just as he was about to slope past, she whisked open a cupboard door, linked arms with Xander, and spun him around and into the tiny patch of private darkness, closing the door behind her. Immediately they were in each other’s arms and kissing passionately, as they’d done so many times before during the course of their… She could not and would not call it a relationship. During the course of their shameful inextricable kissing thing, which no one knew about but for Xander’s dorky friends, who had kind of become her friends, too, even though Cordelia was really worth more than that. Lord, she used to be the most popular girl in school, and no doubt her stocks were even now plummeting badly…

Eventually Xander pulled away from the kiss, though he remained deep in her arms. ‘Cordy,’ he murmured, letting his forehead rest against hers. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘What for?’

‘For being… uh, unfaithful. I know we aren’t exactly dating, but – Well, it’s not like I have a choice, you know. If I had a choice, I wouldn’t spend all night doing that with this thing, this demon. Honestly I wouldn’t.’

‘I know. It’s all right.’

‘It’s all right?’ He sounded surprised. ‘Can I turn the light on?’ he asked, tugging at the light–cord without waiting for her permission. ‘I wanna see how pretty you are. And, well, I wanna see it’s you. Kissing in the dark just reminds me of it. Kissing in a closet doesn’t help much, either, but I guess I can live with that. I can’t live with it, though… I don’t get much sleep, for a start.’

‘Him,’ she corrected, shifting back so she could gaze up at Xander. ‘Not it – him. Tell me about him. Tell me about what you do with him.’

‘What?!’

‘I have to know.’

Xander looked thoroughly confused. He was often almost handsome when confused – which was just as well, really – and this moment was proving the rule.

‘Details, Xander – I want details.’

‘Oh god, do we have to do this? I don’t even wanna think about it, let alone talk about it.’

‘Come on, Xander, you owe me.’

‘I guess.’ He sighed, defeated. ‘All right. One thing – I’ll tell you one thing. I’ll answer one question, and that’s all.’

Cordelia frowned for a moment, then quit that before she gave herself wrinkles. She thought some more. What did she most need to fill in the blanks of those repulsive attractive day–dreams? Ah! ‘What does he look like?’

‘I don’t know…’

‘Well, does he remind you of anyone?’

‘Um, well, there’s an actor,’ Xander eventually confessed. ‘He looks kind of like Ewan McGregor, only better.’

Better than Ewan McGregor?’ Cordelia repeated in awe, barely able to conceive of the concept.

A few of the day–dream blanks were painting themselves in, and – under the influence – Cordelia pressed closer to Xander and initiated a particularly excessive kiss. Xander seemed to melt into the kiss, returning what he was given a hundred times over, which only fuelled Cordelia’s fires even further, thinking of him being that way with the incubus…

It was a wonder they got to chemistry class, though Cordelia was sure the whole lesson was wasted on both of them anyway. She spent the hour gazing at this boy she was having a thing with – gazing at him, and imagining in great detail the thing he was currently having with a demon. A demon in hunky male form… Forget repulsed – Cordelia just loved it.

 

Buffy was impressed. ‘Wow. Ewan McGregor?’ She paused to consider this new information. ‘You know, that explains so much.’

They had gathered in the library for another council of war regarding the incubus, but Xander –though he was the guest of honour – hadn’t showed yet. Which gave his friends some valuable gossip time, especially as Giles was in his office, still poring over the books.

‘I wonder if he looks like grungy Ewan in Trainspotting,’ Willow speculated, ‘or pretty Ewan in The Pillow Book. Not that I’ve seen either movie,’ she hastened to add when Buffy raised her eyebrows in Willow’s direction, ‘because then my parents would have to ground me for the rest of my life. But I’ve seen photos and screen–grabs on the net, and he’s very.’

‘My vote is for the Pillow Book Ewan,’ Cordelia announced, gazing off into space.

‘You’ve given this some thought, then,’ Buffy commented. At which Cordelia, usually oblivious to the opinions of the Slayerettes, blushed.

Oz, perhaps deciding to cover for Cordy rather than see her subjected to further torment, offered his opinion: ‘If it were me – though I’m as straight as Xander – my vote would be for Val Kilmer.’

‘Really?’ asked Willow, looking puzzled. ‘Though he’s completely gorgeous, of course.’

‘Yeah, he is.’ Oz was a strange mix of cool and geeky, Buffy thought – on the cool hand he was a senior and played in a band, and on the geek hand he often looked and acted like a bit of a nerd. A cute and lovable nerd, but a nerd nevertheless. Not that Buffy herself was in any position to be judgemental. She wasn’t sure which category, if any, Oz’s main secret fell into. But she liked him for the simple reason that Willow liked him, and Oz liked Willow, and that was the way it was meant to work. Though it worked with some variations and detours and even a few rococo flourishes, apparently, for Oz was currently confiding, ‘I figure Val Kilmer is, like, the exception to the rule when it comes to a straight guy’s fantasies.’

Buffy found herself smiling, which was unusual these days. ‘Pity this thing’s gay, really. Even if he looked like slimy Ewan in Emma, I’d be happy.’

‘No, you wouldn’t,’ Xander firmly announced. ‘Cordy, that was between you and me. And, anyway, I told you all that you weren’t needed this afternoon.’

Guiltily, the four of them turned to see Xander, who was standing just inside the library entrance looking rather peeved. Pale and strung–out and peeved.

‘Sorry, Xander,’ Willow murmured.

‘We just want to help,’ Buffy explained.

‘We’re here for you, man,’ Oz declared.

Cordelia didn’t say anything. Buffy noticed that she was just staring at Xander with her eyes alight, which was kind of odd given that Cordy was Xander’s girlfriend, sort of, and Xander was currently doing the wild thing with someone – well, something else. Perhaps Cordelia’s reaction was what prompted Xander to retort, ‘You mean you’re here to perve. You’re here to indulge your cruel delight in my misfortunes.’

Fortunately Giles wandered in at that moment, book in hand. ‘Ah, Xander, there you are…’

‘Got anything for me?’

‘Well, the book I was thinking of wasn’t as helpful as I’d hoped, and I haven’t managed to track down many specific references relating to incubi –’

‘Oh, that’s just great!’ Xander cried out with massive ingratitude and sarcasm.

‘But an incubus is a demon, and it follows that any ritual we use to deal with demons can be used in this situation.’ Giles turned a serious look from Xander to Buffy to the others and back to Xander again. ‘The question is, how exactly do we want to deal with it?’

Buffy asked, ‘What do you mean?’

‘Well, do we just want to protect Xander from its advances, or do we want to destroy it?’

They all looked at each other blankly for a moment, and then one by one they all turned to Xander for his verdict – who protested, ‘You said they were evil spirits!’

‘Yes, but this particular demon causes far less evil than, say, a vampire, which rarely does anything but kill people.’

‘I’m being violated here!’ Xander wailed. ‘OK, at the time, in the throes of it, I admit it’s more like seduction – but if you look at the big picture, if you take into account what I really want and don’t want in my life, it’s more like rape!’

‘We understand,’ Buffy said as soothingly as possible. ‘We know you don’t want this.’

Willow added, ‘But I think Giles has a point. Maybe destroying it isn’t the best answer. After all, we don’t send rapists to the gas chamber.’

‘I’m wondering if I’d think differently if this was a heterosexual incubus,’ Giles mused. ‘I mean, there’s no question of deformed or demonic offspring in this case.’

‘Enough with the theorising,’ Xander complained. ‘This is real, Giles.’

‘Yes. Yes, of course. And if you want to kill it, Xander, then the time–honoured way of destroying a demon is to cut off its head.’

Xander suddenly looked suspicious. ‘Giles using simple words rather than something with lots of syllables like decapitate… What does that signify?’

‘What do you think it signifies?’

Suspicion turned to annoyance. ‘Don’t come the school counsellor at me. All right, all right. The redneck part of me would love to kill the damned thing, believe me, and I’d sing joyous songs while I swung the blade. But… Well… I guess you’re right. He doesn’t really deserve a death sentence. If I really wanted to unburden my soul here, which I don’t, I might even confess that I could like him, a bit, if he didn’t have the hots for me, or at least if he could take no for an answer. He can tell the coolest stories – I figure I’d even get an A in History if I really listened to him.’

‘All right.’ Giles looked satisfied. Hefting a little book that had obviously seen better days some centuries ago, he said, ‘One way of warding off an incubus is to practice pure and celibate thoughts.’

‘Are you nuts?’ Xander hollered, even as Buffy and Oz both snorted in amusement. ‘I’m a seventeen–year–old guy! I haven’t had a celibate thought since I hit puberty.’

‘I can attest to that,’ Willow earnestly contributed.

Buffy advised, ‘Try again, Giles.’

‘Well, this isn’t really a possession, though one of the exorcism rites might work… I think our best bet is this – Xander, do you know its name?’

‘Uh, no. We haven’t exchanged phone numbers, either.’

‘If you can ascertain its true name, then you have the power to command it to leave. I’ll give you the necessary wording. This is a Christian ritual, and requires you to invoke a sacred name or a particular angel – I wondered if you might call on Saint Sebastian, whom I believe has been adopted by homosexuals, or the archangel Raphael, whose function is to protect and heal.’

Xander was looking as if he were under siege. ‘You want me to call on Sebastian…’ he weakly echoed. ‘All right. Nothing could be more humiliating or freaky than what I’ve already gone through.’ And he took the book that Giles handed him, and silently scanned the ceremony. ‘I can do this. If he’ll tell me his name.’

‘Do you want company tonight?’ Buffy suggested. ‘Moral support?’

‘No,’ Xander immediately blurted, paling even further. ‘What if this doesn’t work? You think I want anyone to see me like that? Besides, maybe he’d be into a group thing, and I assure you he’s impossible to resist…’

They all considered this for a moment. They all looked at each other. And then they all began gathering up their books and bags in a hurry, and generally getting ready to leave, muttering various excuses about homework and parental expectations – both of which they all felt free to ignore on other nights.

‘Giles,’ Xander asked, ‘can I stay here in the library for a while? I wanna do some more reading. Just in case.’

‘Far be it from me to discourage the getting of wisdom… Of course you may.’ And Giles headed for his office, only to emerge a moment later with his briefcase. Buffy thought it was almost indecent the way these rats all wanted to desert Xander’s sinking dignity. Not that she wasn’t right there with the other rats.

On her way out, unable to resist, Buffy said, ‘I have one last question.’

‘Yes?’ Xander warily replied.

‘Does your Ewan take his clothes off a lot?’

‘I think he only wears clothes so that he can…’

‘Figures.’ And she gave him a reassuring pat on the shoulder. ‘Good luck, Xander.’

‘Yeah, thanks, Buff.’

As Buffy headed for the doors with Willow beside her, they couldn’t help but overhear Cordelia, even though she was whispering to Xander: ‘Can’t I stay? You know, just for what she said – moral support.’

‘No, Cordy,’ was Xander’s firm reply. ‘I want to be alone. I’ll die of embarrassment if I’m not alone.’

With that, Buffy and Willow found themselves in the corridor and cut off from further eavesdropping.

Willow sighed. ‘Xander always hated Cordelia, but he’d rather be with her than me.’ Though she sounded halfway resigned to that. ‘Now I bet, even though he’s still straight, he’d rather be with a Ewan incubus than me.’

Men,’ Buffy succinctly complained.

‘Yeah,’ Willow agreed. Apparently her sense of fairness reasserted itself, though, for she added, ‘But all men aren’t like that, Buffy. I mean, look at Oz; he’s OK, and he’s a man. Well, usually.’

‘You’re lucky to have him, Will.’

‘Yes, I am.’ And Willow turned back expectantly as Oz emerged through the library doors and jogged to catch up with the girls.

The three of them wandered off across school grounds, heading for their respective homes. Silent. For sometimes there was too much weirdness – and too much personal weirdness – for even a Vampire Slayer to sanely comment on.

 

Xander woke with a start, his face pressed hard into an open book. He’d obviously gone to sleep at the table in the library, and consequently had a horrible crick in his neck. Gingerly sitting up and stretching, he castigated himself for not making it home by now – he saw from the clock that it was after eleven – though he had at least warned his parents that he might be subject to another all–night study session. God, Giles would kill him if he saw that drool Xander had left on page one–ninety–six… Xander used his sleeve to blot the worst of it, then carefully rotated his head to ease his neck’s discomfort, and –

He froze.

There was a pair of thighs sitting on the wooden table just beside him, clad in black leather pants. Looking up, Xander was unsurprised to find that the thighs were attached by slim hips to a naked male torso, and above that was a friendly face with an annoyingly engaging grin. ‘Hello,’ the incubus said happily.

Xander sighed, and collapsed back in his chair. ‘How d’you know I was here?’

‘I’m drawn to you, Xander, not to your bed chamber.’

‘Well, that’s understandable, it’s not much of a bedroom, uh, chamber. Whatever. How old are you? No one says that any more.’

‘Does it matter how old I am? Only you humans measure time with such devotion.’

‘I guess not. It’s just that I don’t usually go for older men. Well, I don’t go for men, period, but that doesn’t seem to matter to you either, does it?’

The incubus demonstrated his thoughts on that issue by shifting along the table in one graceful movement so that he was directly in front of Xander, then swinging a long leg over Xander’s head so that his thighs were parted – and if Xander sat up now, he’d find his waist straddled as he reached up for a kiss…

‘Stop that!’ Xander protested just in time. The provocative thoughts faded away. ‘Haven’t you ever heard of small talk? It’s a useful method of foreplay. You could at least tell me one of your stories first.’

‘Giving you ideas is far more effective than any kind of talk.’

Xander sighed, for there was no arguing with that. He looked up at the handsome creature, and wondered if the eager smile alone might have seduced him.

‘There was a man I used to visit,’ the demon murmured, apparently willing to talk first and pounce later, ‘a clever and beautiful man who wrote plays, and he wrote one about a devil who offered him knowledge in exchange for his soul –’

‘Wait a minute! You want my soul?’

‘No, no, no,’ with that gorgeous smile growing broader. ‘He was a very inventive young man… I told him tales and he spun them into gold. A friend of his wrote about an affable familiar ghost, and I think he might have meant me. That was –’

But Xander couldn’t concentrate on any stories tonight – he needed to get the topic back to the incubus himself. The clever and undeniably beautiful incubus… ‘Have you always looked like that, or did you take on this form just for me?’

‘It feels so natural, this body…’ Which wasn’t really an answer.

Xander watched as the incubus’s attention shifted internally, and the demon stretched his body lithely, joyously. God, Xander was having a Pavlov’s dog reaction already – he had begun salivating at the mere presence of this demon, without waiting for the irresistible ideas to be planted in his head and locations lower down. He had to do something about this now before the situation went any further.

‘Ewan,’ Xander murmured to the incubus, sitting up just far enough to indicate cooperation. ‘Can I call you Ewan? Given that I don’t know your actual name. Given that’s who you look like.’

‘If you’d like…’ The incubus’s attention shifted to Xander again, with the sensuous expression that meant he was forming thoughts that would soon motivate Xander as well.

‘But it’s a silly name, isn’t it? Better than Val, but not much. Definitely better than Rumpelstiltskin, though.’

‘Call me what you will.’

‘No, tell me your name.’

‘Why?’

‘Because I’m an old–fashioned guy. I like to know who it is I’m having a passionate affair with.’

The incubus just laughed, apparently amused by his human plaything.

‘If I knew your real name,’ Xander said, trying to hide his growing desperation, ‘I could call on you, right? I was thinking about you today, and I was wanting you so badly, but I couldn’t call you to me.’

Almost. The ploy almost worked, it seemed he was almost tempted to spill the beans. But eventually the creature just smiled, and said, ‘I’ll come to you every night, Xander, I promise.’

‘Oh, that’s great, Ewan… That’s just great…’ Xander sat back as far as he could in the chair, wishing there was somewhere to run, somewhere to hide. Thoughts were beginning to slip through his guard, memories of how it had been to kiss this creature, speculations about how it might be if the incubus kissed him just as passionately in other places, crazy fantasies about where and how they might make out here in the forbidden domain of the library… Xander had just enough willpower left to gasp, ‘Ever heard about the issue of consent?’

‘But you do consent, Xander,’ the incubus murmured softly – and the satin voice alone would have been enough to unravel the human’s will. ‘You consent every time.’

‘I wouldn’t in my right mind.’

But then an image hit him directly in the gut – the incubus on the steps leading up to the stacks, on his hands and knees, bucking against the man possessing him – and it was Xander above him, on him, within him, plunging wildly, that beautiful body all his…

‘Oh yes,’ Xander moaned – and he surged to his feet, and felt those strong thighs clamping around his hips, the skin at Ewan’s waist tender under his hands, those arms encompassing his back, that mouth hotly welcoming his own. And the struggle was over for another night.

 

Giles walked into the library the next morning to find Xander apparently naked but for a blanket – one of the blankets Giles kept there for emergencies, along with wooden stakes and crucifixes. The poor boy was lying deeply asleep in a comer hidden away behind the service counter. Well, he could be left to rest for another half hour or so before the others started arriving. The librarian crept silently into his office.

‘Well, that was a mistake,’ Xander’s bleary voice greeted him from the doorway a few minutes later. ‘I’m ,sorry, Giles. I don’t think I’m ever gonna be walking in here again without blushing.’

‘Don’t be sorry. I, er, take it that the ceremony didn’t work?’

‘Wouldn’t tell me his name.’ Xander sank to the visitor’s chair, still huddled in the blanket, looking absolutely wrecked. ‘Didn’t even get started. Not on the ceremony, anyway.’

‘We’ll come up with a better strategy today, I promise.’ Giles regarded the boy for a long moment, his sense of responsibility setting off the most clamorous alarm bells. Uncomfortably enough, his sense of empathy had been activated, too. ‘I do sympathise, Xander,’ he eventually confessed. ‘It’s long been my theory that our homophobia – I’m speaking both personally and on behalf of men in general – results from the knowledge and fear that, once aroused, we are capable of desiring anything.’

Xander tilted his head in consideration. ‘I think that’s the most comprehensive insult I’ve ever been paid.’

‘Thank you.’

‘Why’s he picking on me, anyway? That’s what I wanna know.’

‘I have no idea,’ Giles flatly replied, having tried and failed to come up with theories on exactly that matter throughout the long night, hoping that it might shed some light on the desired solution.

‘Hey, enough with the insults already!’ Xander was glaring at him. ‘I have my qualities, you know!’ Then the boy, forever changeable, turned pensive. ‘God, what am I gonna do if I’m stuck with this? I wasn’t born gay, I never wanted to become gay – it’s not fair to have it thrust upon me. And it’s not like Sunnydale has a real gay community. There’s no one around to put a positive spin on the lifestyle at all, so no one has any reason to –’ And Xander ground to a halt, gaping. ‘Oh.’

‘What?’ Giles prompted, wondering if the boy was lost in thought or in madness.

It seemed the former option applied. ‘I’ve got it,’ Xander declared, his face brightening. ‘I know what to do.’

‘Well, what?’

‘No, I can’t tell you. Someone else’s secret. But it’s OK. This is gonna work.’ A shadow of doubt returned to the boy. ‘I’m almost ninety–nine percent certain this is gonna work.’

‘If there’s anything I can do to help…’ Giles caught a glimpse of his watch, and an urgent piece of advice occurred to him. ‘Time to get dressed, Xander. We’ll have company soon.’

Buffy walked in the moment after Xander was respectable again. She looked him over, and pronounced, ‘You’re looking happier, Xander. Quit doing the In and Out thing, have you?’

Which Giles considered an astoundingly crude comment, though Xander didn’t take it amiss. In fact, despite his exhaustion, Xander put on a little dance that made Buffy laugh, and inconsequentially declared, ‘What a fabulous window treatment!’ Giddily happy now, Xander eventually said, ‘No, it’s not over yet – but I’ve got a plan. Tonight it’s over.’

 

‘Xander?’ said Larry.

‘Yeah?’

‘Why did you ask me here tonight?’

Xander chuckled a little, surveying the empty school gym with some complacency from where the two of them sat on the bleachers. He and Larry had everything they needed – which basically came down to privacy and plenty of floor mats. Now it was pretty much just a matter of waiting. Well, a bit of explaining, then some waiting, and then a lot of fast talking.

‘I was kind of hoping that…’

‘That what?’ Xander prompted.

The jock seemed to almost die of self–consciousness. ‘…that, you know, since you were brave enough to, er…’

Xander cringed, as he always did when reminded of that scene in the boys’ locker room.

‘…to, er, come out to me…’

It had all been a horrible misunderstanding. Xander had leapt to the conclusion that Larry was the werewolf plaguing Sunnydale – Larry had assumed Xander was talking about and identifying with his secret homosexuality – and meanwhile Willow’s new friend Oz turned out to be the one suffering secret lycanthropy.

‘…that you might want to, er…’

‘Larry, stop.’

‘…er, to be my boyfriend. Maybe.’

‘Larry, I’m flattered, I really am.’ The new improved Larry was actually quite sweet in a muscle–bound kind of way; however, Xander could give him only one answer, and unfortunately there was no way and no time in which to give it gently. ‘But, no. No, I don’t. I really don’t.’ Xander could empathise with the disappointment on Larry’s face, he honestly could – if not, even now, with the cause of that disappointment. He started babbling in an effort to make it better. ‘You see, Larry, I’ve explored my wild side, I’ve done the bisexual dance, and I’m speculating that I’m fundamentally straight after all. I’ll tell you a secret, OK? I have a thing going with Cordelia Chase, and I’m looking to just concentrate on that for now.’

‘Oh.’

‘But there’s this… guy I’ve been seeing. I can’t see him any more. So I was thinking, why don’t I introduce you to him, and why don’t you see if you can get something going with him yourself…?’

The jock was frowning in concentration, trying to keep up with all the words.

Xander slowed down. ‘The thing is, Larry, he’s not really a regular guy.’ Before the jock could leap in with any wacky speculations, Xander blurted out, ‘He’s really more of a demon. But, as demons go, he’s mostly harmless. He’ll just arrive every night, and do the wild thing with you, and disappear again, and all you really need to worry about is getting enough sleep afterwards.’

Larry had a question. ‘But you’re giving him up, Xander? Why would you be giving him up?’

‘Yes, I am. Absolutely I am giving him up. I’ve got other things to be doing with my nights.’ Xander glanced around, but there was no sign of the incubus yet, so he put on his most sincere face. ‘Larry, if he ever hurts you, or does anything bad, then you come and tell me, OK? I don’t think he will, but I’m warning you just in case. He’s never given me any trouble – he’s pretty magical, and he tells the most amazing stories in between times, and even I think he’s gorgeous. He’s every teenager’s fantasy come true – he’s cute, he’s funny, he’s sex without strings. The sexual orientation doesn’t work for me, that’s all, but it works for you, right?’

A shy smile from Larry. ‘He sounds special.’

‘Yeah, he is. The only thing is, if he ever starts thinking about anything other than getting his rocks off, if he ever grows up, we might have trouble on our hands. But it’s trouble that me and my friends can deal with. Do you get it?’

A slow nod in reply. ‘I think so. But you really do think he’s magical?’

‘Oh yeah,’ Xander affirmed. A delicious memory slipped through his mind of that beautiful male body moving against him, almost merging with him, as if his own lost perfections had come to life and were intent on blessing him, and – Xander lifted his head. ‘He’s here. I just don’t have that kind of fantasy on my own.’

Sure enough, the incubus slid out of the distant shadows and into the moonlight cast from the windows high above them, walking with his slim hips arrogantly jutting. He was gorgeous, Xander could admit that now, and he had the most devilish smile. ‘Hello, Xander.’

And the silkiest voice… Xander shook himself ‘I brought someone to meet you, Ewan. This is Larry. He’s a cute, athletic seventeen–year–old who’s recently come to terms with his homosexuality and regained his humanity. He’s even more impressionable than me, and he won’t wake up madly conflicted every morning.’

‘Hello, Larry,’ the incubus said, voice purring.

The jock seemed even more undone by that smile than Xander had ever been. Apparently he had last–minute scruples, though. ‘You’re really giving him up, Xander? How could you give him up?’

Yes, I am. This is Ewan. He’s a gorgeous, provocative demon who’s probably old enough to know better by now, but he’s obviously put his time to good use because he really knows what to do with a guy. He’s available, he’s ineffable, he’s inexhaustible. You two are perfect for each other.’

Indeed, the two of them were gazing at each other, and the temperature around them was rising. Larry rose to his feet as if in a dream, and virtually floated down the steps to where the incubus waited.

‘Then my work here is done,’ Xander announced, brushing off his hands with a sense of satisfaction. He stood, too, and headed for the doors, quickly though he wasn’t quite undignified enough to run. He really didn’t want to wait around to see the jock and the incubus kiss for the first time.

‘Xander…?’

The silken cord of a voice wrapped round Xander’s heart and places lower down, and tugged at him. Thoughts surfaced of all that he’d enjoyed, all that he’d lose. Beautiful flickering images assailed him – a threesome with Larry, a twosome with Ewan, and then Ewan changing form to become any man Xander might want, from Val Kilmer to Luke Perry to… Oz to… Giles? Oh, that was really getting gross…

‘No,’ Xander replied, as firmly as he knew how, striving for some mental discipline. ‘The whole thing was nice, I can admit that now, but it’s not what I want. You two enjoy each other, OK?’

And he found the strength to walk out of the gym, despite knowing what was happening behind him, and what he could have if he stayed. Luckily the urges faded the further Xander walked, and within about a hundred feet the incubus’s sphere of influence seemed to die away altogether.

‘Phew,’ Xander said with a sigh, which was a complete understatement as an expression of his relief. He dusted off his hands again, and slowly turned around under the night sky. Where to? Home to bed for some much–needed sleep, or somewhere else for his next big adventure?

Xander smiled, assaulted by one of his own memories – the heat recently generated in a broom closet. If Cordy still wanted details, well, maybe he could give her one or two of the juicier ones… With a jaunt in his step, Xander made his way to Cordelia’s house.

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