He wasn’t imagining the looks.
Over the years of nerddom, Xander Harris had gotten used to snickers and contemptuous glances. Such things only upset amateur nerds. A pro like him learned to deal with casual booby traps, from the impromptu outstretched foot, to carefully planned surprises left in lockers. A pro nerd laughed in the face of such small scale attacks as snickers and contemptuous glances.
Only these small scale attacks weren’t aimed at him. They were aimed at his girlfriend, Cordelia Chase.
Granted, as Xander Harris’ girlfriend, Cordelia got her share of snickers, but no one had dared too direct an attack on the former queen of Sunnydale High. These snickers and glances seemed bolder than usual. Also he wasn’t getting nearly as much of the brunt of them. If anything, there was actually a little sympathy in the contemptuous gazes, when they landed on him.
Only one gaze had no sympathy in it at all. Larry’s. He wasn’t snickering, he was scowling. He was also headed straight for Xander.
Xander tried not to cringe in the face of that scowl. Years of past encounters with Larry crossing his path was enough to make him cringe, if not turn around and run. He reminded himself that he knew Larry’s secret, now. Larry wouldn’t dare beat him up in public, not with Xander holding that over his head. In fact, Larry had been kind of friendly the last time they spoke.
The expression on his face now was anything, but friendly.
Cordelia was much braver than Xander. She held her head up high and stared Larry down, as she was still queen of the school. As far as Cordelia was concerned, she was. Dating a geek did not mean she’d abdicated.
Larry didn’t seem to notice this gesture of superiority. He looked straight at Xander. “Can we talk, man?”
Uh, oh. Xander tried not to gulp. Well, at least Larry was asking, instead of slamming him against the lockers. “Sure,” he said, as he strolled away to an empty space a little distance from said lockers. Here, Cordelia could see them, if Larry tried anything. Maybe even discourage him with an imperious yell.
Larry didn’t shove Xander against the lockers, or anything else. He looked Xander straight in the eye and asked, “What are you doing, Harris?”
“Doing?” Xander said, feeling stupid. “Um, I think I was walking down a high school corridor with my girlfriend.”
“Exactly, man!” Larry growled. “Why are you continuing the whole farce that Cordelia Chase is your girlfriend? Especially when she’s like us?”
“Huh?” Xander asked. As far as he knew, Cordelia was nothing like him. Except for a certain, snarky, pitiless sense of humor. For that matter, he wasn’t sure what he had in common with Larry, either. Unless…
Larry thought he was gay. Surely, he didn’t mean…?!
“I understand worrying about your reputation,” Larry said. “I especially understand Cordelia worrying.” His frown grew. “Harris, she’s got someone else she’d rather be with. Don’t you get it?”
“Huh?” Xander repeated, feeling more stupid than ever.
“If you really care about Cordelia, you should let her be with that person,” Larry continued. “Don’t cling to her for show! Believe me, it’s not worth it!”
“Eh?” Xander was having trouble remembering how to speak. Helplessly, he flapped his arms a few times.
Some of the people down the hall, who remembered Willow’s performance this morning, shared bored smirks. You’ve seen one flapping nerd, you’ve seen them all.
“There’s no point in pretending anymore, Harris,” Larry said, in a low voice. “Everyone knows about Cordelia and Buffy.”
“Wait a minute!” Xander said, finding his voice, again. “You think there’s something going on with Cordelia and Buffy?” His voice was extremely squeaky. “You’ve got it wrong! It was me who had something going with Buffy! A big, one-sided thing, but it was me!”
Cordelia and Buffy?! The very idea was ridiculous (even if it was a little hot).
Was it truly ridiculous, though? Xander stopped and thought about it.
Willow had once accused Xander of fighting with Cordelia far more than was natural.
Wasn’t the same thing true of Cordelia and Buffy?
Down the hall, Cordelia stood, impatiently waiting for Xander and Larry to finish whatever stupid guy business they were up to.
Cordelia made no secret of the fact she thought men were lesser beings. Of course she also made no secret of when she thought they were hot, like she had with Angel. Not that Xander could blame her. On the hotness scale, Angel wasn’t just off the scale. He was also doing things to that scale, which Xander really wished his imagination wouldn’t suggest.
Wait a minute, imagination! Get Angel away from that scale! Xander wasn’t gay! Not a bit!
Concentrate on Cordelia. Leggy and brunette, she could be anyone’s object of desire.
If Xander had been Buffy, he’d certainly be interested in exploring certain, ahem, possibilities.
No, what was he thinking? Buffy loved Angel. Why would she be with Cordelia, when she could press herself against that tight, muscled torso of deadness, only Buffy wasn’t doing that anymore. She’d promised.
And what was Xander doing, fantasizing about tight, muscled torsos of deadness?! Surely, he didn’t want to press himself up against Deadboy?! No, he most certainly did not! Quit thinking about what it would be like, leaning against that bare torso, rubbing against it…Xander groaned out loud. He turned and banged his head against the wall.
“Look, man, I know this is hard,” Larry said. He’d completely forgotten Larry. Larry was giving him a far more sympathetic look. “Just think about it.”
Larry turned and walked away.
“Yeah, just think about it,” a familiar, unwelome, drawling British accent whispered in his ear. Xander nearly jumped out of his skin.
Spike was leaning against a nearby locker. Wearing leather pants and shirtless.
“Come on,” Spike said, giving Xander a heated look, which was definitely intended for a more mature audience. “Surely I’m just as buff and attractive as the King of Poofs.”
Xander let out what might very well have been a squeak before he stumbled.