Her eyes were roaming around the room, taking everything in. Xander shifted his weight from foot to foot and pulled at a loose thread on his sleeve. His bedroom felt smaller somehow, even though she took up almost no space. His Justice League poster, which Buffy was examining, looked dorky and immature. The water damaged part of the ceiling that his dad had repaired with drywall compound and then forgotten to sand or paint seemed obvious, like lights over a strip club.
“Not exactly the Playboy mansion, but at least there’s a bed.” Instantly his head was filled with images of Buffy in one of those slinky bikinis, sliding into a hot tub while he lounged in a robe. Maybe she’d be topless.
“I like it. It feels safe.” Buffy picked up his Flash action figure and turned it over in her hands.
“Yep, that’s exactly what I’m going for. It just reels the ladies in.”
Buffy raised a skeptical eyebrow at him, her lips quirking up into a smile as she replaced the Flash. “Okay. I’m ready. Show it to me.”
He stopped trying to kick a couple of candy wrappers under his bed. “Of course, madame.” He did a small bow, his most winning smile plastered on his face. “I present to you: my closet.”
Xander gestured to the two sliding doors, partially open because of the clothes bulging out on either end. He suddenly realized that he was about to show Buffy the inside of his closet with all the horrible sweaters cousin Carol had knitted, his old baseball cards, his underwear and other potentially embarrassing things thrown inside. He should have thought beyond ‘Buffy will be in my room.’ A look of horror must have crossed his face because she started laughing.
It wasn’t full-blown laughter - more soft giggles – but Xander was happy to hear it. God, he was happy anytime she smiled. The whole Angel turning evil thing had hardened her. It was like she’d filed herself down to something sharper, less breakable. She was all-business-Buffy now, except she wasn’t because she was here, helping him. Helping him dress for a date with Cordelia, of all people. And she hadn’t teased him about it - - much.
Xander held up his hands. “Hold on a second. Let me do a bit of recon.” Buffy grinned at him and flopped down on his bed, folding her hands under her head and staring at the ceiling. He frantically stuffed boxers and random dirty clothes into the laundry basket.
He took a moment to revel in the fact that Buffy – Buffy! – was on his bed. Okay, it meant nothing to her and he was in the closet, a train of thought he really didn’t want to follow, but it was something. If only it meant something to her.
One final check had Xander shoving a stack of comics into the far corner. “It’s all yours.”
Buffy bounced up, clapping her hands together with frightening glee. Xander stepped out her way as she hurried past and began flicking through the hanging clothes, frowning or nodding at a particular item from time to time.
Realizing this would take a while, Xander reached around her and grabbed a couple of comics. He settled on his bed to re-read the latest Wonder Womans, as clothes began to pile slowly around him. Xander hadn’t thought he owned that many black items.
By the time he was on his second comic, Buffy was beside the bed “hmming” over the options. Occasionally she’d hold a couple up to Xander’s shoulder. Secretly pleased at the attention, he kept his eyes down, trying to read the same page he’d been on for the last five minutes.
Out of the corner of his eye, Xander watched Buffy tuck a strand of hair behind her ear as she stared at an outfit she’d laid out on the bed. He was startled to see dark circles under her eyes and an uncharacteristic sag to her shoulders.
“This is definitely the outfit. Even Cordelia won’t be able to find fault with it.” Buffy smiled at him, her whole body visibly perking up as she gestured to her selection. “Try it on.”
Xander grabbed the clothes, glancing around nervously. He wasn’t sure he could handle changing in front of Buffy. Fantasize about her, sure, but actually take off his clothes in front of her? Not so much.
“I’ll just be, uh...” Xander stammered, and Buffy glanced around from shoving the clothes back in the closet. “Bathroom.”
When he returned, feeling all suave in the outfit, Buffy was leafing through his comic book, clearly not reading it.
“Look at you! Very George Clooney.” Buffy jumped up and cocked her head as she looked at Xander. He tried to squelch the happiness that overwhelmed him at her compliment.
“Harris. Xander Harris, at your service.” Xander stepped in front of the mirror to survey the effect. “Wow! I kind of look like Angel.”
In the reflection Buffy’s face crumpled, just for a second. She pressed her lips together and turned around, running her hand over his bedspread, as if straightening it.
He felt like the biggest jerk, ever. Xander mentally kicked himself for opening his mouth and letting words come out. Sometimes he just shouldn’t talk.
“Buffy, I’m sorry.” He wrapped an arm around her, so he was lightly pressing against her back with his arm along her clavicle. He wrapped his other arm around her stomach and gently rested his chin on her shoulder. She sighed, relaxing into him and they stood there for a few moments.
He could stand there forever, her warmth against him. Buffy shifted and he loosened his grip and stepped back.
“It’s not your fault,” she whispered.
“It’s not your fault either.” Xander squeezed one of her shoulders briefly and gave her what was, he hoped, a reassuring smile.
Buffy smiled back, but it seemed forced. She reached out and straightened his collar. “I should go. Have fun tonight. Don’t break too many hearts.”
“Buffy?” She stopped, her hand on the door handle. Xander fumbled for exactly the right thing to say, but he just wasn’t that kind of smooth-talking guy. “Thanks.”
He turned back to the mirror to admire Xander 2.0, practicing a couple of smiles in a sad imitation of Joey Tribbiani, before shaking his head and letting the smiles drop. He tried to imagine Buffy on his arm, smiling up at him, but after the reality it felt hollow.
The necklace he’d bought for Cordelia was sitting on the dresser. He looked at it for a second before putting it in his pocket. Buffy may not want him but Cordelia did and that was - - well, that was something.
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