"So, I catch up to her just as the sun rises and she transforms back into a girl, the werewolf hunters only seconds behind me," Xander said, as the group relaxed on the sofas in front of the fireplace and reconnected.
"So what did you do?" Willow asked.
"I stripped down, made her put on the red cloak, while I put on a shower cap," Xander replied with a grin.
"What?" the girls chorused.
"I told her to play along and when they burst into the clearing I acted embarrassed and claimed we were playing a game of little red riding hood," Xander replied.
"And that worked?" Buffy asked in disbelief.
"One of them demanded to know what the howling noise had been," Xander said with a smirk.
"And?" Willow asked, leaning forward in her seat.
Xander stood up and bashfully looked away. "I'm a bit of a screamer," he admitted shyly.
Willow burst out laughing first as the others just stared in disbelief.
"You are good," Buffy admitted.
Xander dropped back on the couch. "I've had to chase off several hunters that way, but word got around and now they all avoid that area, thinking it's just me playing kinky sex games."
"I can't believe that worked," Dawn said.
"Werewolf hunters are a pretty tight knit group," Xander explained, "so a few independent 'accidents' and none of them listen to any rumors about werewolves in Wyoming State Park anymore, 'knowing' the truth."
"You win, that was way weirder than the way we set up a werewolf reserve," Buffy admitted. "All we did was make up stories about re-introducing wolves to an area."
"The research to make the stories realistic was fun," Willow offered.
"Anyone special in your life?" Buffy asked.
"Me," Dawn said, pulling his arm around her.
"I mean before you showed up," Buffy said, rolling her eyes.
"You mean have I found a girl crazy enough to put up with, not only my bizarre lifestyle, but a sentient hellgate, and the occasional servicing of the Slayer line?" Xander asked bluntly.
"Servicing," Kennedy said, "good word."
"If it was just sex it would be easier," Xander replied.
"It'd be like dating a gigolo," Buffy teased.
"I wi-" Xander stopped mid word. "I would find simply providing sex easy. In the last six months, in addition to the usual, I have had to teach a Slayer how to drive stick shift, defang a cobra, treat a yeast infection, and fix a bake off."
"I'm not sure which story I want to hear first," Dawn said.
"How did sex lead to all that?" Buffy asked.
Xander shook his head. "Sex is easy, it's straightforward, two hours or more of cuddling on top of it, and punch and pie afterwards and you know you're done."
"Punch and pie?" Buffy mouthed to Willow who shrugged.
"Giving advice and helping with problems is a completely different kettle of fish," Xander said. "Did I give the right advice? Did I solve the right problem? I do my best, but really I'm just winging it."
Dawn gave him a hug and he smiled. "Just do your best, no one can ask for more, and don't be afraid to ask for help yourself. You're not alone."
"Sounds like good advice," Buffy told Xander.
"Yeah, it is," Xander agreed with a grin.
"Which you gave Dawn," Willow guessed.
"Got it in one," Dawn agreed.
"I know I tend to worry," Xander admitted, "but you know how I am, all Slayers deserve a little help now and then, no matter what kind they need."
"I'm hardly going to argue with that," Buffy said, "but I would remind you it's not all on you and no one expects you to be perfect."
"I know," Xander said, some of the tension in him visibly fading as Dawn snuggled into his side.
"So what do you do for fun here?" Willow asked.
"Besides Solstice," Kennedy added.
"Body surfing with Solstice on the flood of blood on the fourth floor," Xander said, grinning as he saw Kennedy shiver. "I also do some reading, watch old movies, play video games, and… I explore the paths."
"Isn't that insanely dangerous?" Buffy asked.
"Beyond insanely dangerous," Xander replied, "at least to start. If you survive, you get a feel for things and it gets a bit safer."
"Have you become an adrenaline junkie?" Willow asked.
"No, the better I know the paths, the safer this is and the happier Solstice is," Xander explained.
"Which makes being here safer," Dawn realized.
"Exactly," Xander agreed. "Now, we've all got caught up on my life, what's new in everyone else's?"
"I split myself in two so I could finally seduce the man I loved and my sister tried to cockblock me as always," Dawn replied.
Buffy rolled her eyes. "Blame the universe, I didn't know you were going to be here."
"It's got to be a curse," Dawn decided.
"I wouldn't put it past Anya to have cast a curse to keep Xander from sleeping with any of us," Willow offered.
"Doubt there is even a trace of it left after all this time," Xander said with a shrug, not even putting up a token protest at the idea as he knew Anya would have done it had she thought of it.
"What does that mean?" Dawn asked. "In terms of the curse," she added.
"It means whatever spell she may or may not have cast, it's gone now," Willow replied.
"Now it's just my natural charm and grace that is working against me," Xander joked.
"Is that why so many young and attractive women keep sleeping with you?" Dawn asked.
Xander paused to think about it. "I still don't get why some insist on me," he admitted.
"Handsome older man who knows what he's doing and a bit of a father figure," Willow suggested.
"And look at that change of subject," Xander said brightly. "Buffy, what's been going on with your love life?"
Everyone but Buffy burst out laughing.
"That bad?" Xander asked.
"No…" Buffy trailed off, blushing.
"Andrew!" Dawn crowed.
"I did not date Andrew!" Buffy snapped out. "…exactly."
"I expected some demon or a re-animated serial killer," Xander admitted, "but Andrew?"
"Demon or serial killer?" Buffy asked in disbelief.
"Going by your dating history," Xander replied.
"Actually, that pretty well described her last couple of dates," Kennedy agreed, "but back to Andrew."
"It was all online," Willow said, "so they never caught on."
"Not to mention they were both pretending to be the opposite sex," Dawn added.
"How the hell did that happen?" Xander asked, as Kennedy muffled her laughter with a cushion.
"The supernatural community is kinda small, so running into someone else I know online isn't that surprising, " Buffy said.
"And why were you pretending to be a guy?" Xander asked.
"I figured less guys would hit on me," Buffy explained. "Go online as a girl and you get an endless stream of dick pics."
"I wonder how many of them are photoshopped or stolen and claimed as their own," Willow said.
"What?" Xander asked.
"Girls use make up, the right lighting, and clothes to get all their pictures right, so I'm sure guys do something similar," Willow said.
"I've never sent one, so I couldn't tell you, but I'm pretty sure they just use their phone and don't put a lot of effort into it," Xander said. "Well, unless the world is stranger than I think."
"I've seen photoshopped junk and blush being used in ways that would surprise you," Willow assured him.
"So how did being male online suit you?" Xander asked, going with the safer topic.
"A lot more hostile and unfriendly," Buffy admitted. "Of course threats of death and dismemberment from pimply faced twits is preferable to seeing their junk, so I came out ahead."
"And that lead to you dating what you thought was a girl?" Xander asked.
"I was pretending to be a guy and I get a fair number of girls hitting on me," Buffy admitted, blushing. "I tried to respond like I thought a guy would…"
"Like guys have responded to you or like you wanted guys to respond?" Xander asked.
"Neither," Buffy said, "I… acted like a stereotype at first. Later… when I got to know some people online, I acted like I would have liked a guy to respond, which got a lot of girls talking to me for a little while, but then they lost interest for some reason. In the end I decided to just be myself… but with a penis."
"Andrew pretends to be a girl online because he likes the attention," Dawn offered. "I talked to him about it."
"So the two ended up seeing each other online," Willow said, "and everything was going well until they decided to meet in person."
"Both of you were lying about who you were so you couldn't have blamed each other without being a hypocrite," Xander said.
"Tell him that!" Buffy exclaimed.
"Andrew took it hard," Dawn said with a sigh.
"He won't even talk to me," Buffy complained.
"To Buffy or to…" Xander trailed off.
"I've only tried in person," Buffy admitted, not catching the question in Xander's tone.
"Andrew is skittish at the best of times," Xander said, "I would suggest approaching him online and keeping it there until you've charmed his socks off."
"I've charmed his pants off online," Buffy admitted, blushing as she realized what she'd said.
"Cybersex aside," Xander said seriously, "if he was willing to meet you in person and risk rejection, I'd say you got a pretty good shot at him."
"Really?" Buffy asked hopefully.
"Isn't her not being a guy going to be a problem?" Kennedy asked.
Dawn shook her head. "Andrew is pretty… open. He needs someone who is strong, that he can look up to, but won't take him for granted. It's why he had a crush on Xander."
"You and Andrew, seriously?" Kennedy asked Buffy.
"He'd listen to me talk about my day without complaint and sent me little notes when I was feeling down. Half the time I didn't even realize I was down until I got a message that wiped it all away," Buffy admitted.
"As long as you don't mind being the dominant one…" Willow shook her head. "I think you'll do fine."
"How have you been?" Xander asked Willow, changing to subject to let Buffy recover.
"Pretty good," Willow replied with a smile, "the only bumps in the road have been my missing best friend who I have neglected and my girlfriend-"
"I claim first night," Kennedy said, interrupting Willow and surprising Buffy and Dawn.
"-has a thing for you that she needs to get out of her system," Willow finished.
Typing by: Abyssal Angel