Donut Boy 1
Xander jumped on his stool, fumbling his drink and almost spilling the entire thing across the table and onto Buffy's latest - uh - skimpy thing. Skimpy thing that Xander was pretty sure had cost more than he'd made on his entire last paycheck.
Of course, Xander's last paycheck had been for one day of work. The one single day that he'd actually been employed by the copy shop before getting fired, Buffy could have bought it at Discount Dave's and it still would have cost more than Xander had in his bank account.
Which bit. In the big, nasty Sunnydale way.
Righting his soda bottle, Xander sneaked a glance at Willow, who had moved on from "hands!" to giggling at Tara in a way that Xander was pretty sure meant they'd be getting up to more than spells, and Buffy...okay, Buffy hadn't noticed a thing because she was busy with bigger hands.
Nice Riley hands.
Xander dropped his head to the table with a groan, wishing that he'd still had his fake ID or that Riley wasn't such an upstanding citizen that he wouldn't buy a desperate under aged guy a beer.
It was enough to really make him miss the old days. The pre-Riley days. The days when Willow was still a geek and Buffy was still taking orders from Giles.
Because then, he'd at least been able to do the book guy thing. Or the stupidly but bravely jumping in front of Willow thing.
But not anymore. Not now that Riley was in the picture. Because now, Buffy knew the difference between a scared guy with a rock and a guy who actually knew how to fight.
Xander had not come out looking good in that comparison.
And now that Willow was a witch, he didn't come out looking good compared to her either.
Then, somewhere along the way, Buffy and Willow had got it into their heads that he needed to be protected because he was "just a normal guy who shouldn't be out in Sunnydale at night".
But he could still get the donuts.
And the books.
Oh yeah, sometimes coffee too: one skinny half-caf latte, a double mocha no whipped cream, and "tea, but for god's sake, not that ghastly sweet concoction in the bottle this time."
"Hey, Xander, could you go get me..."
Then, when it came time to patrol, it was all "you'd better go home, Xander. This could get rough tonight."
At least for a little while, he'd had Anya to go home with him instead of getting pounded on by the latest oogedy-boogedy to hit the Sunnydale night scene. She’d been a good excuse to let him save face too. "Oh, yeah. I'm gonna take Anya home, guys."
But then, there'd been the Spike thing. The one that went like this:
"So, you're joining the army are you? Didn't know they let your type in."
"You're what?" Anya hit Xander, scowling into her slurpee.
"First? Ow. Second, where did you get that idea? And third: Ow! I am not joining the army!"
"Good. Stopped that just in time."
"And what the hell did you mean my type?"
"Well, y'know." Spike waved a hand at him, from head to toe, and raised his eyebrows in a way that he seemed to think meant something to Xander.
"Why don't you spell it out for me, fangless?"
"Well, I suppose it does make sense. Though you are quite a Viking in the sack."
"I'm not gay!"
"Oh come on, mate. I've known plenty of decent blokes what went in for other blokes."
"Spike's right, Xander. I am very disappointed, but as a caring girlfriend, I will support you wholly in your decision to explore your sexuality." Anya turned to beam at Spike. "I have been learning to be very open minded about these things."
"Good on you."
"But I'm not gay!"
"Try that in a more manly tone next time, why don't you? Might be more convincing."
"It's all right, Xander." Anya patted his arm, and brightened. "And now you don't have to hide from your sexuality in those awful clothes anymore! I can go shopping with my gay friend and we can offer each other fashion advice!"
So since then, he'd been Anya's gay friend and been to the mall more times than he'd been there in his entire life previously, where they would shop, sip frappuccinos at the Starbucks, and talk about men.
The worst part of the whole thing was that Spike had turned out to be right, too.
About the gay thing and the other Scoobies looking down on him thing that he'd also said during that little honesty session. Not the army thing.
And since then, Xander had had a lot of nights to himself to think. Especially since Anya had realized the "unexpected, yet undeniable" sexiness that was a middle-aged ex-librarian. Xander didn't let his mind go there because ew, but at least Giles seemed pretty happy, for Giles, and it was no longer his sex life that Anya was talking about inappropriately in public.
Xander blinked, realizing that fingers were being snapped in front of his face. "Hey, Xand?"
"Huh? Oh. Yeah, Buff?"
"Have you been listening to a single word?"
"Uh. Listening? Yes. Not so much with the comprehension, but-"
"Riley and I are headed out to patrol."
Buffy gave him one of her fondly (he hoped) exasperated looks and rested her hands on her hips. "Which means that if you wanna get home under slayer protection, we've gotta go now."
Xander sighed. "You guys go ahead. I'll leave with Willow and Tara."
"Uh, actually, they all ready left." Riley was looking around the dance floor, as if he didn't especially want to be having that conversation. He probably didn't.
Xander kind of doubted there was going to be much real patrol action happening. Action, sure. But not the patrolling kind. He shrugged. "Go on. I'll make it home." He didn't even bother suggesting he could come along on patrol. Buffy's idea of letting him down gently these days felt more like being fitted for concrete boots and dropped into a river to make sure he'd go down faster and with fewer complications.
"Are you sure? It's not exactly safe out there for a guy like you."
"Look, don't take this the wrong way, Buffy, but a guy like me was getting home uneaten for sixteen years before you showed up, okay?" And why had that come out more peevish than cool and competent? He waved his hand, defeated. "Just go. I'll call a cab or something."
"Do you have a cross with you?"
"I only worry because I care, Xander."
"I'll be fine, Buff. Go."
"Come on, Buffy. You heard the man."
"Sometimes, a guy's just got to be alone with his drink." Riley glanced from Xander to his Coke. "Even if that drink is fizzy sugar water."
*A new record, ladies and gentlemen! Complete emasculation in thirty-four seconds!*
Xander let his head drop to the table as Buffy and Riley finally left for patrol. "Once. Just for once, I wish I could be the cool guy, the super strength guy. The guy able to kick major oogedy-boogedy whupass, and still be able to party at the Bronze without looking like a total goof."
Behind him, Halfrek smiled delightedly, shimmering into her demon aspect. "Done!"