Gender Theory 4

"Are you alright?" Cordelia asked.

Is she talking to me?

"I'm—I'm fine," Xander replied, averting his eyes. The Cordelia Chase sitting in the booth in front of him wasn't the same girl he dated then betrayed, but Xander couldn't stop the tear of guilt that he always felt when he saw her these last few months.

He gave Harmony her drink then slipped into the booth next to her, even though he was far from convinced sitting across from his very ex-girlfriend was a smart idea. He unscrewed the bottle of water and took a long swallow to increase to odds of his foot staying out of his mouth.

"Great, because I can manage sympathetic for only so long, I have problems too, you know," Cordelia said flipping her hair with her hand. "We need to talk about me now."

Harmony's knee bumped Xander's leg and he looked at her.

"I told you so," she said under her breath. Xander managed to hide his smile behind his water bottle before Cordelia saw it. His smile vanished once he realized he shared a moment Harmony.

Twenty minutes later, Xander wondered if it was wrong of him to hope vampires attacked the Bronze. He was okay listening to Cordelia talk the first ten minutes because he missed hearing her voice, even if she talked about trivial things, but there was only so much even a guy/girl like him needed to know about womens' fashion. Listening to her go on and on about what a great kisser Devon is wasn't easy listening either.

While contemplating rather or not having his throat torn out by a vampire would be less painful than to continue listening to Cordelia ramble on about the half dozen pumps she ordered from Paris Xander caught sight of Angel. The vampire stood near one of the beams holding up the Bronze's balcony level, his eyes surveying the crowd. He was waiting for Buffy to show up, as usual.

"Oh, thank God!" Xander exclaimed.

"Oh, thank God, what?" Cordelia asked. She didn't sound pleased Xander interrupted her lament about not going to Paris to buy new shoes personally.

"Oh, uh, I see, uh, somebody I need to say hi to," Xander said, then silently added, assuming he even knows me in this whacked-out universe. He got up and rushed away from the booth before Cordelia or Harmony could ask him questions he didn't want to answer.

Xander shouldered his way through the dance floor once again, this time gathering a thin film of sweat on his face as he went—the booty shakers had worked up a lot of ambient heat on the dance floor. Angel noticed Xander's approach moments before Xander reached him. Hallelujah! That's not a friendly expression! Xander thought when he saw the frown Angel aimed at him. It was the kind of look you give somebody you know and dislike intensely. If Angel had negative feelings towards Antonia it probably wouldn't help Xander get the answers he desperately needed, but at the same time he didn't think he could handle it if him and Angel were friends in this reality.

"Ms. Harris," Angel said when Xander was close enough to hear him over the dance music.

Xander blinked. Has Angel always been that tall? Xander did not like having to look that far up to look Angel in the eye. Of course, I have to be a really short girl.

"Have you seen Buffy and Willow around?" Xander asked. Angel looked surprised, suspicious, and then annoyed by Xander's question. Not an impossible feat, considering that forehead, Xander thought unkindly. Briefly, Xander wondered what kind of animosity there was between Antonia and Angel that Angel didn't give him the blank expression he always gave him back in the non-crazy universe.

"No." Well, Angel giving monosyllable answers remained unchanged and annoying, at least.

"I need to talk to them, but I guess I'll settle for you," Xander said.

Antonia's voice made Xander sound super bitchy, almost Cordelia-like, so he wasn't shocked when Angel said, "Not interested," then walked away.

Before Angel could get far, Xander scrambled to block his escape. "Whoa there, big guy!" Expecting Angel to barrel right through him, Xander braced himself, but Angel stopped and lowered another frown at him instead. Grateful not to have been knock to the floor Xander said, "I'm—well—um—sorry? Listen, I do need to ask about what happened that night. You know, with Ethan Rayne?"

Angel recoiled slightly and his voice shook when he said, "Ethan?"

"I mean, did all of us, you know—um—Buffy, Willow, Giles, you, and me go to the caves to get the box?" Xander had to be sure the same events happened to Antonia in this Bizzaro world, otherwise his poured into a girl's body by a chaos wizard problem was going to sound nuts, even to the Scoobs.

"Yes, we did." Angel replied giving Xander a measuring look. "You don't remember? Did you hit your head?"

"Uh—yeah, maybe. It's kind of fuzzy, you know," Xander said, forcing a smile onto his face. Angel's eyes narrowed. Xander swore silently; his smile of assurance didn't work on Antonia's face.

"The doctor didn't say anything about you having a head injury," Angel said.

Xander blinked, then decided to shut up before he dug the hole he was in deeper. He shrugged and hoped Angel let it go at that. He tried to smile reassuringly again and probably wasn't any more successful than the first time.

"Anyway," Xander said, "did Ethan do something to Ant—to me that you saw?"

Angel's expression changed from suspicion to anxious instantly. He looked at the floor for a second then looked back up at Xander. "Yeah, he was leaning over you when I came back after getting Giles outside. Did—did you see anything after he attacked you?"

You mean after he turned me into a girl? Did you hear me screaming in abject horror, Vampire-Boy? Dumb ass. "Not much."

Angel's posture became more relaxed, less 'I got a stick up my butt' and more 'Thank Lucifer'. Xander noted Angel's behavior, but now that he had enough evidence to take to the gang when he finally caught up with them Xander didn't care what Angel's problems were. Xander was wondering if he could talk Harmony into driving him to Sunnydale High when Angel's voice broke into his thoughts.

"If you care, Willow recovered," Angel said.

That caught Xander's attention and his eyes shot up to Angel's. Oh, God! I forgot about the feedback thing that got Willow! Sure, he was turned into a chick and had whatever with some guy, but did that excuse forgetting his best friend got fried? No, it did not!

Xander grabbed the lapels of Angel's coat and pulled him down so suddenly Angel was pulled off balance. "Where is she? The hospital?"

"Um," was all Angel managed to get out before he was yank out of Xander's grasp.

"What the hell are you doing to my girl, dude?" LaShon asked Angel whom he had shoved against a wall, his forearm jammed under Angel's chin. A few kids on the dance floor stopped gyrating to watch the hullabaloo. "I asked you a question, asshole!"

LaShon had changed clothes sometime after he left Antonia's house. He was wore a green hoodie, blue and white plaid cargo shorts, and blue flip-flops. It was pure yuppie trash wear; LaShon would have been right at home with the college douche bags at UC Sunnydale.

Ew, I had sex with him, Xander thought with disgust.

Xander almost walked away and left LaShon to his impending dismemberment until he remembered LaShon had a truck.

"LaShon, I need to get out of here. Will you give me a lift?" LaShon pretended not to hear and continued cutting off the air supply to the vampire who didn't breathe.

Is the dumb bastard ignoring me?

Xander curled his hands into fists and narrowed his eyes at LaShon's back. Xander wanted to kick "his boyfriend" in the shin then run away. Now that he was a girl he could probably even get away with sucker-punching LaShon in the back of the head. Girls gets away with that kind of stuff all the… Wait a minute.

Xander moved up beside LaShon and slid his arm around LaShon's waist, making sure to rub his hand over LaShon's flat stomach. Xander ignored the flutter he felt in his own stomach and rose up to his tiptoes and brought his mouth up to LaShon's ear. Then he crooned in the softest, most captivating voice he could manage.

"Please, I really need to leave." For added effect Xander slid his hand upwards until his fingers stroked LaShon's over-developed pectorals. Um, wow. These are some tone pecs right here.

Xander wasn't sure he could modulate Antonia's voice any better than he could fake a smile with her face, but his efforts seemed to work. He felt the tension in LaShon's muscles relax to their normal hardness. Xander lost count how many times Cordy used that 'get your boyfriend horny' voice on him to get her way. Cordelia could work her feminine wiles like nobody's business.

Huh. I used feminine wiles. Hey, I got wiles! I'm wily! Xander hid the satisfied smile that sprung to his face by pressing his lips against LaShon's hard, square jaw.

"Yeah, okay," LaShon finally replied before pulling away from Angel. Angel had remained passive through the whole ordeal and he looked completely disinterested as Xander led LaShon away, like nothing had happened.

What do you know, there's an Angel somewhere in existence not hell bent on making my life more difficult.

"I thought you were going to get some rest?" LaShon asked after they settled into the truck.

"How could I resist a night out with the girls," Xander said, careful to keep the edge sarcasm out of his voice. He was still pissed about LaShon ignoring him back at the Bronze. "Anyway, I need you to take me to the school."

LaShon started the engine then looked at Xander. "I don't think that's such a hot idea."

Yeah, because I care what you think, Xander thought, but out loud he said, "I'm doing better, really."

LaShon looked at Xander and studied him. After a few moments he faced forward then the truck motored out of the parking space. "Who was that guy back there?" LaShon asked when they rolled onto the street.

"That was Angel."

"First I heard of him."

"Probably because I don't think about or talk about Angel if I don't have to," Xander said as he impatiently tapped his index finger against his knee, his eyes on the road in front of them.

"Why were you grabbing him?"

Xander looked over at LaShon. "What's with all the questions, huh?"

"Nothing. But if he was bothering you maybe I'll go back and kick his ass."

Xander smiled knowingly. "Yeah, right, he'd tear you a new one. Two or four new ones," he said.

"I was punking his ass," LaShon boasted.

Xander shrugged noncommittally then concentrated on the road again.

They drove on in silence; when LaShon spoke again they were a few minutes away from the school. "Seriously, why have I never heard of Angel?" LaShon's tone was deceptively light.

"Consider yourself lucky."

"Notice how you're not answering the question?" LaShon said.

"God, do you want his phone number? He usually goes for teenage girls so don't get your hopes up," Xander said.

LaShon pulled over to the then cut the engine. He'd parked them more than twenty feet from the nearest streetlight. They were sitting ducks.

"What are you doing?" Xander asked.

"This is about Gwen, isn't it?"

"Gwen? Gwen who?"

"One of the things I love about you is you don't play games, so don't start now."

"I don't know what the hell you're talking about!" Xander said trading glances with the side view and the rear view mirror, convinced every shadow he saw was a demon creeping up on the truck.

"Right. I crawl over broken glass to get back with you and you don't remember why? I doubt it!"

O-h-h-h-h-h-h. Xander understood what LaShon's problem was now. Xander walked a mile or two in those moccasins. LaShon, however, appeared to have accomplished what Xander couldn't.

"You cheated on—me. With Gwen," Xander said.

LaShon looked away and sighed. "Yeah. Yes. So is Angel payback?" LaShon turned around and stared hopefully into Xander's eyes.

Xander could see the insecurity written on LaShon's face. Xander could see he needed to be reassured, to know Antonia wasn't trying to hurt him. And Xander tried not to laugh in his face, he really did, but the idea of hooking up with Angel sent Xander into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. Thank god he wore a seat belt otherwise he'd have slid into a hysterical heap under the dashboard. LaShon turned away and restarted the truck. He slammed his foot down on the gas and they powered away from the curb so fast the back of Xander's head slammed against the headrest.

When they pulled up to the school Xander stumbled out of the truck, randomly erupting into giggles and wiping away tears. He took a few deep breaths and managed to stop laughing before he turned and looked at LaShon who was still behind the wheel, staring forward while the engine idled. His eyes smoldered with anger and hurt.

"I—I'm—I'm—s-sorry, um," Xander stuttered between gasps for breath. "It's j-just, ha, thinking I have something going with Angel is—jeeze. Ha! Why not accuse me of humping Jack the Ripper." Xander paused and a chill ran up his spine. Now that I think about it the timing would be right—

LaShon shot a glare at Xander. "Okay, you're not messing around with Angel," he said, "but you've been distant with me for months. We don't talk the way we used to. Not that I'd blame you if you need more time, but you said we were okay." LaShon shrugged. "What am I supposed to think?"

Xander fought the urge to roll his eyes. The guy has sex with the girlfriend he cheated on and still he whines. "Yeah, well, don't worry, I just have a lot on my mind. You'll get your old girlfriend back," Xander said, barely keeping the contempt out of his voice. Barely.

"Gonna to tell me why you had me bring you here?"

"Class project," Xander answered right away. He had that lie ready before they left the Bronze.

"I can hang. Watch you work that sexy brain of yours."

"That's sweet, but I think you'll distract me," Xander said. Last thing Xander needed was a spoiled dickhead hanging around while he tried to convince the gang to help him.

LaShon cracked a grin and looked entirely too pleased with himself. "Call me when you're finished. I'll give you a ride home."


When LaShon's truck pulled away from the school Xander watched it until it disappeared from sight, then made his way to the Library's rear entrance. Giles often left it unlocked for Angel. When Xander reached the door he took a deep breath then went inside.

As he wound his way between tall rows of bookshelves, Xander started working on what he'd say to the gang when he finally faced them. He knew he'd have to be careful or else things could go Slay-tastic against him real, real fast. Xander made out Giles' calm, British voice as he neared the Library's open area, but his words were undecipherable from so far back in the stacks. Then Xander heard Buffy and just hearing her voice filled him with a confidence he had not felt since he woke up in the hospital. But it was when Willow's voice reached his ears that Xander wanted to rush out of the stacks.

Uncertainty slowed his steps, though. Xander knew those people in the open area weren't his friends, not really, and he wasn't looking forward to the looks of doubt they'd give him after he explained his situation. He was barely holding it together as it was, if they ended up not believing him Xander didn't doubt for a minute he would lose his mind.

"Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope!" Xander whispered then marched around the last bookshelf and came face to face with alien versions of his friends.

After the crowd on dance floor engulfed Antonia and her boyfriend, Angel reached for his throat and let his body gasp for breath. A young couple that had watched the confrontation asked if he was all right. Angel nodded, unable to speak, then headed to the Men's Restroom.

Angel stood in front of a mirror and studied his reflection as he struggled to catch his breath. Even after spending hours looking into the mirror back at the mansion, Angel still experienced shock at being able to see his reflection after so many centuries. Angel had seen drawings and paintings of his visage, but a mirror could display stark intricacies they could not.

His skin was several shades redder; a bruise was forming under his chin and on his neck. He was sweating, too. Either it was too dark in the Bronze for Antonia to notice or she didn't care enough to study him very closely (Angel leaned toward the latter). Either way, Angel was glad the girl's knack for noticing details was on the fritz.

Angel discovered his new condition the morning after the battle in the caves. He sat up on his bed and yawned. He hadn't yawned in hundreds of years. Then Angel felt his heart beating. Angel remembered Ethan Rayne's words and his newly animated heart began to beat faster.

There had to be a monkey's paw—nothing good would come of Rayne's magic, Angel knew that, but he didn't care. Whatever price he had to pay for this gift, he'd pay. Angel settled his hand on his chest—his skin was warm—feeling his newly animated heart thud swiftly behind his ribs. He was human. Or so he thought.