Woman of Steel, Man of Kleenex

Summary: Xander gets his heart's desire. . .only to find that there are some drawbacks that he never considered. . .

Disclaimer: These characters remain the copyrighted property of their owners/creators. . .I'm just steering them down the road not traveled.

Rating: PG-13, for sexually suggestive dialogue.

Time Frame: Fourth season (generic, but probably first half ).

Archiving: Please do, but e-mail me at eilandesq@aol.com because I'm interested in where stuff I write ends up, and I'll want to see what else you've got there.

Author's note: The title, of course, is a nod to Larry Niven's famous written speculation on the sex life of Superman ("Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex"), which I strongly suggest you find and read for its sheer entertainment value. I also credit the writers of "Star Trek: DS9" (for the amusing painfulness of the early days of the Worf/Jadzia Dax romance) and a post or two on the alt.BTVS newsgroup that suggested that Buffy and Angel were at least able to go at it without crippling each other. Enjoy!

WOMAN OF STEEL, MAN OF KLEENEX

Xander Harris was in serious pain. He busied himself by thinking of various distracting topics. *OK, baseball. . .those Yankees had quite a year, didn't they?. . ."Armageddon" or "Deep Impact"? Tea' Leoni vs. Liv Tyler. . .tough choice. . .Buffy. . .naked Buffy. . .OUCH! OUCH! OUCH!*

Xander was rescued by the return of Dr. Jensen, who nodded to him and placed an X-Ray on the light panel before curtly reporting, "All right, Mr. Harris. . .we found four fractured ribs and a hairline fracture in your right humerus. Also, you are suffering from two separate minor concussions. . .not to mention the other things that we didn't need an X-Ray to spot." He looked pointedly at Xander, who nonchalantly pretended to ignore the massive bruising across his arms and torso. Jensen wasn't about to give up, though, and commented archly: "Mr. Harris, if I saw a woman with these injuries, I would have called the cops by now. Are you sure there isn't something you want to tell me?"

Xander glared at the doctor, only mildly inconvenienced by the shooting pains going through his body as he replied, "Look, Doc, I told you I got mugged. . .why don't you believe me?"

Jensen glared at Xander and snapped back, "Maybe it's because some of these injuries are starting to heal way more than they would if they had just been inflicted. . .what, do you think I'm stupid? Someone has been beating the crap out of you, and I want it to stop. Come on, are you protecting a guy? This is 1999, you know, I won't freak out if you got stuck with an abusive boyfriend!"

Xander felt a surge of amusement, then sadness as he remembered the death of Larry. * What is it about me that makes everyone assume I'm gay. . .oh well. * He looked at Jensen and responded, "Look, I don't know how to put this any clearer. . .I'm not a domestic abuse victim. . .I got mugged! I appreciate your concern, but you're way off base."

Dr. Jensen glared at him, and replied "Fine. . .but take this literature anyway. . .in case your "memory" improves." He handed Xander a stack of pamphlets, and he accepted with an annoyed sigh. Dr. Jensen opened the door and called out, "Mr. Osborne! Please take this patient's blood pressure and temperature. . .he's going to be leaving us, and I need a baseline in case the idiot comes back with more of these injuries." The doctor turned back to Xander and commented, "I'll be back in a little while, Mr. Harris," before leaving. Xander glared at the door for a moment before thinking * Osborne. . .oh no, it couldn't be *

Oz walked into the room, wearing the uniform of a hospital worker, only to stop and stare at his girlfriend's best friend. He paused, then asked, "Uh, Xander. . .what are you doing here. . .and what did Dr. Jensen mean by that comment? We were on patrol last night with Buffy, and you looked fine."

Xander thought a long moment, then attempted a misdirection. "Oz!. . .how you doing, bud. . .what are you doing here, mi amigo?"

Oz thought a moment, then replied, "Work-study. . .it's not just a good idea-it's the law. And you didn't answer my question, Xander."

Xander sighed and glared at the werewolf band guy before replying, "Oz, if I tell you this, you have to swear that no one else on the planet hears this. . .especially not Willow-she'd freak out. Understand?" Oz nodded, and Xander continued, "Uh. . .remember when Buffy got involved with that jerk near the beginning of your school year and he dumped her?" Oz nodded again, and Xander continued, "Buffy was really hurt by that whole thing. . .first guy she goes with after Angel, and he's a world class jerk. . .not good. She came to me soon after that with a plan. 'Look Xander,' she whispered, 'I can't deal with any more of these jerks that only see me as the score of the month. . .I know you care about me. . .why don't we just go for it?' At this point, I was in gibberish mode, but we went somewhere private and. . .it happened, and it was better than I could have possibly imagined."

Oz nodded and replied, "Well. . .congratulations, I guess. . .but what does that have to do with. . ." Oz's eyes widened for a moment as he had a sudden thought, and he looked over at Xander with compassion as he commented laconically, "Oh."

Xander nodded emphatically in reply and commented, "She was fantastic. . .but she has no clue what a normal guy goes through when she's in action. . .I could hear one of those ribs breaking last night, you know. She asked me what it was, and I told her that mice obviously were in a conspiracy to screw up our sex lives. She laughed out loud and went back to the task of causing me serious pain. . .among other things."

Oz looked at Xander with a puzzled expression, and asked, "Uh. . .you had that time with Faith, right? Why did you get away with that without massive body damage?" Xander replied, "Faith was a bit more experienced than Buffy. . .my guess is that there are more than a few of her ex-boyfriends wandering South Boston with permanent damage that happened before she got the hang of it." He frowned and commented, "I'm also wondering whether Whatizname took off not just because he's a jerk, but because she scared him. . .oh well, his loss, my pai-er, gain."

Oz looked at Xander and shook his head. "This can't go on, Xander. A few more incidents like this, and the doc will report it to the cops, and you'll have to answer some seriously unfriendly questions."

Xander frowned and replied, "I know, but how can I tell her? She'll feel as guilty as hell if she finds out that she banged me up this badly. . .I can't do that to her, and I can't just break up with her. . .that would hurt her even worse. Of course, if it goes on like this, my life expectancy will be about the same as a fruit fly. . .I'm just screwed."

Oz smiled and replied, "Maybe not. . .how about trying this?" Oz spent about a minute explaining, and Xander grinned and commented, "Not a bad plan there, Oz man. . .when did you get so devious?" Oz chuckled and replied, "Hey, being a werewolf, not to mention hanging out with you guys, you learn to keep a few secrets." He took Xander's temperature and blood pressure, then left the room, indicating that Xander should wait. He amused himself by humming and looking at the charts on the wall for about ten minutes until the door opened again: it was Buffy.

She gasped when she saw the extent of his bruising, and again when she saw the X-ray still sitting on the viewer. She turned to him and whispered, "Xander. . .what happened to you?"

The door opened again, and Dr. Jensen re-entered. "Should I tell her, Mr. Harris?" he asked snidely. Ignoring the doctor's tone, Xander nodded, and Jensen stated bluntly, "He says he was mugged, but the nature of his injuries suggests to me that he is a domestic violence victim. . .I'm quite tempted to call the police and see what they think about Mr. Harris being abused by his significant other."

Buffy laughed out loud at this, puzzling the doctor. He was about to harshly rebuke her when she saw his expression and apologized, "I'm sorry, doctor, I know you meant well, and that topic isn't to be taken lightly. . .but I'm Xander's girlfriend. . .do you think I beat him up?"

Dr. Jensen saw the open amusement in Buffy's eyes and looked her over, seeing a tiny woman who would only weigh 100 lbs. if she were soaking wet. Embarrassed, he responded, "My guess is. . .no. I'm sorry for my mistaken assumptions, Mr. Harris, though the tests did show some already partially healed injuries characteristic in such cases." Buffy turned and looked at Xander with concern, and he shook his head minutely as the doctor fitted Xander with a flexible bandage for his ribs, a sling for his arm, and wrote him a prescription for painkillers. He then recommended a few days bed rest, nodded to Buffy, and left.

Buffy turned to Xander and asked, "You got mugged?" Xander smiled and replied, "Euphemism, Buffy. I ran into a vampire on the way back to my place, and it got some good shots in, that's all. He got careless, and I staked him, after which I went into my house, passed out, and woke up in a world of pain. I managed to drive over here, and here I am."

Buffy sighed with relief as Xander dressed and left the room with her. While Xander waited for his prescription to be filled at the campus pharmacy, Buffy turned to him and asked, "Hey. . .what did he mean about partially healed injuries?. . .I don't remember you being hurt before."

Xander smiled. * I love it when a plan comes together. * He replied, "Oh, just a few bruises I got during another. . .ah. . .extra-curricular activity that I've been involved in lately." He leaned down and kissed her. "You might remember, since you were most definitely there."

Buffy blushed deeply as she realized what Xander was referring to. She winced and replied, "Yeah, I guess I do. God, Xander, why didn't you tell me?"

Xander smiled again and replied, "I didn't want to hurt your feelings, Buffy. Besides, what's a bruise or two compared with. . .well, you know." He looked at her with affection and whispered, "Hell, we've faced the end of the world. . .I think I can take a ding or two."

Buffy smiled and nestled up next to him as she whispered back, "Now I know why you wanted the lights off last night. . .but we'll just have to be more careful. . .can't have you getting mangled doing the wacky. . .if you wanted that, you would have kept dating Faith. . .or maybe Anya." She grinned wickedly and commented, "I guess we'll have to do the whole trial and error thing. . .think you can handle it?"

Xander looked at her gravely, then nodded. "I think I can deal." * I owe Oz one for thinking a way out of this problem for me. * If they kept going, he'd probably still get banged up now and again, but it was worth it. As they left the pharmacy, holding hands and laughing, a last thought went through Xander's head:

* I wonder if Lois Lane has these problems. *



As always, comments are welcomed and desired