5. She finally stopped thinking of herself as “he”.
Things kept on keeping on. Blind female assassin; the office building blown up, Cordelia on the psych ward with endless screaming visions till Angel brought back the scroll that would cure her (and cut off greasy-lawyer-boy’s hand in the process, YES!); weeks of gradual recuperation, and finding a new place to set up operations, and dealing with Kate Lockley’s increasingly irrational obsession with Angel’s basic fangy nature. (Kate had grit, and Xander actually liked her quite a bit, but right now the woman needed help.) Then summer, and a brief, welcome slacking in supernatural activity, so they could all just relax and recharge for awhile.
Okay, that last was hard for Angel. He needed to be fighting something, wasn’t good at all with the concept of downtime. Tough luck, bucko. Get with the program.
Wesley went deeper into his research, trying to further clarify the shanshu prophecy (which Cordelia kept calling “that Shoeshine thingy”), and he and Xander continued weapons training as much for physical therapy as honing of professional skills. Cordelia began pulling Wesley along on the club outings that she still wouldn’t let Xander escape. And, on those occasions — since they seemed to be roughly equivalent in chestiness — she insisted Xander ditch the man-shirts and wear some of her own tops and blouses. (Even a camisole once … and, if Xander actually kind of liked the feel of the smooth fabric, well, that didn’t really have to be said out loud.)
It even got to be fun. Wesley’s dry humor, which had been so brittle and prickly when he first arrived in Sunnydale, had mellowed into a natural part of the group interaction. He and Xander both saw something faintly ridiculous in the club scene and the antics of its denizens, and it got to where they could share this awareness of absurdity with no more than a sardonic glance while continuing to take pleasure in being out with Cordelia. Even if it wasn’t really their deal, it was something the three of them could do together outside of vocational demon-killing, and in its own way it became a routine they enjoyed sharing.
Except for the dancing. Cordelia loved it, Xander wasn’t interested, and Wesley … well, the first time they saw him attempt it, Xander mentally relinquished his crown as King of Cretins. It really was that appalling. Even worse, it didn’t seem that Wesley could just shrug it off and move on to something else (as Xander had eventually done with the skateboard, on recognizing that he simply had no aptitude for that). Wesley was self-conscious about his deficiency there, saw it as a lack in himself, and let it affect him to an extent that Xander couldn’t really understand.
One night he couldn’t take it anymore. “You know your problem?” he challenged Wesley. “You’re thinking of a performance. It works better if you look at it like teamwork.”
“Sound concept,” Wesley observed drily. “But then comes the matter of putting it into practice.”
“All right, come on.” Xander grabbed Wesley’s arm, dragged him out onto the floor. “You know your Bavarian fighting adze? Imagine you’re holding it. Better yet, one in each hand. Okay?” Wesley nodded, warily, and Xander said, “And I’m using the short staff here. Got it? So, light sparring. Move with me, and keep with the rhythm of the music.” And Xander smoothly, unhurriedly feinted at Wesley’s face with the ‘staff’, and Wesley just as smoothly used an imaginary adze to catch the invisible weapon and sweep it out of line, then he launched a leisurely counterstrike and Xander slid to one side to evade it, and they kept going like that, adapting things they’d been doing together for months now. It was a bit awkward at first: not the movements with visualized weapons, but easing them into something that could mimic the appearance of dance. Still, this was built on familiar ground, and in the first twenty seconds Wesley had already achieved a thousand-percent improvement in his form. They kept it up till the song ended, and when they went back to the table, Cordelia welcomed them with a broad smile.
“Better,” she said, beaming. “Much better.” She raised an eyebrow. “Only, next time? use knives. Get closer to each other.” And they all laughed, and ordered more drinks, and that was one of their better evenings.
After that, Wesley occasionally essayed a dance with Cordelia, and she occasionally allowed it. Mostly, however, it remained him and Xander. It was a shared joke, and at the same time something Xander could use to continue building Wesley’s confidence, and — weirdly — it seemed to help their formal weapons practice as well.
Then one night Xander came back from a trip to the ladies’ room with Cordelia (which had turned out to be much less odd and mysterious than Xander had long suspected; women just talked, was all, and the women’s restrooms were nearly always better than the men’s rooms he remembered), and found Wesley sharing a laugh with a sleek Latina in a beaded dress. He nodded to them, smiling, as the two of them rejoined him, but the other woman said quickly to Xander, “It’s okay, he was just saying something funny about the band. I wasn’t trying to move in on your boyfriend, honest.”
And Cordelia guffawed at that, while Xander incredulously mouthed Boyfriend??! … but sudden alarm grew in Wesley’s eyes as he looked at Xander, and then he looked jerkily away, and Xander felt his stomach lurch as he realized that something had just happened, and he had felt it, too.
The moment was gone almost as quickly as it had been revealed, and the three of them finished out the evening without it betraying itself again. Xander was silent on the way back to the apartment with Cordelia, though, and sat up alone after she had gone to bed. Trying to come to grips with something he hadnt even suspected till now.
Wesley was interested in him. Interested, or at least aware in a way that hadn’t been there before. And … Wesley wasn’t looking too bad to Xander, for that matter.
Wesley? Wesley? It was mind-blowing … but, even more incredible than the notion of Wesley?!, was the fact that Xander was thinking about it at all.
Changes. You didn’t just cope with Change, you had to deal with the fact that changes kept on coming, never stopped.
Xander looked at … at her hands, and smoothed them down over her hips, and stood there feeling all the things that had been there for a long time but were real and immediate now in a way that they hadn’t been before. She had thought she was handling this, really believed that, but the truth was that she’d been fighting it the whole time.
Well, that was done. Time to face reality, buster: you ain’t the man you used to be, and trying to pretend otherwise hasn’t been doing you any good.
Xander was a girl.
Xander was a girl.
And, all of a sudden, that looked like something that could be really, really interesting.
And there you are. Don’t hesitate to offer commentary.