Xander hated this part the most. Unpacking was always a pain, but he could usually find some guys around to help him, especially if he offered beer. And meeting a new gang of white hats was - tough, but it got easier. There were signs to look for, certain scars, battle-hardened passersby who weren't quite happy. The eyepatch was definitely a passcode in its own right. Sometimes he got lucky, and there was a Slayer in town. He could still sniff a Slayer out - they smelled sexy and dirty and broken and at the same time had an animal innocence they never lost. Slayers gathered white hats like cats gathered fleas, and there were always two or three slightly awed normals who patrolled by her side. Finding a Slayer could be the best part of a new city, but curtain-shopping was definitely the worst.
Even when he'd had both eyes, Xander had never had an eye for fabrics. He'd gotten Anya to dress him for success, back when he thought he could succeed. He didn't bother with that anymore - bright colors sickened him, so he mostly wore baggy black jeans and the darkest shirt he could find. In fact, he wasn't really sure why he bothered with the curtains, but he really didn't see why his apartment had to suffer just because he was depressed.
So here he was, trying to figure out which curtains best expressed the personality of his new room. It was a small room - not cozy, just small. His bed was pressed under the window, about five feet away from the door. The room had once been painted green, a color that even Xander could tell didn't suit it. He thumbed through some green curtains, trying to remember what Anya had said about this thing called "clashing." As he put a bolt of forest green fabric back on the shelf, the woman next to him examined some pale green stuff. He turned to look at her - a short woman, dark blonde, with two pale scars on her face. Her eyes looked - familiar. He saw those haunted eyes in the mirror every day.
She looked up, stared, then said softly, "Xander."
He gulped. "Do I -?" He choked on the sentence. He recognized her.
She waited a beat, then, "I heard about Sunnydale."
"And Willow's spell?" His heart clenched as he said her name.
"I felt it," Tara said slowly. "I can't imagine anyone with magic in their blood not feeling it. I - I can still feel it on you. Your bod-body. It has a residue of..." she searched for the word, "Slayerness."
"Sure it's not just residue from sex with Slayers?" He could have died instantly. To be talking about his sex life in front of Tara, Tara the pure, Tara the good, Tara whom he'd tried to think of as too chaste for sex, even when all the evidence suggested that she and Willow indulged regularly.
"You-" she touched his chest - "have Willow's spell all over you. I'd know it anywhere."
Xander didn't bother asking if that might be the residue of sex, too. He trusted Tara's magic the way he trusted few things in the world: the feel of wood in his hand, Giles's books, the strength of a Slayer. He nodded and closed his hand over Tara's, the handclasp guarding his heart. For awhile, words seemed superfluous, and Xander coasted on the heady feeling of knowing that he was, for once, in the right place at the right time for cosmic connectedness.
The moment passed. Tara disentangled her hand awkwardly, and Xander stared at the acres of cloth in front of him.
"I need curtains for my new place," he said. "I just moved in. It's kinda ugly, not decorated much, and I was hoping to brighten things up with some, well, you know. Some curtains. But I'm afraid given my taste in fabric, it'll do more harm than good. I could decorate a morgue, but other than that, interior decorating and all that entails - not that - I'm not -"
Tara laughed. "Let me help you," she said, and she tossed a few more rolls of cloth into her already full basket. "We can go someplace for dinner, then I'll come over afterwards and help you clean the place up."
Xander, who'd been walking towards the checkout counter, stopped and stared at her. "You're asking me on a ..."
Tara nodded. Xander thought her eyes glinted a little - with mockery? Trickery? Sorrow?
"I'll tell you about Willow," he said, feeling like it needed to be said, but Tara's face darkened.
"I know all I need to know," she said. "I felt her before I left town, you know, touched her core, and... I knew. Sometimes, you just know." She sighed. "There's nothing you could have done."
Xander sighed too, and reached for Tara's hand again. Her fingers were slim and soft, and wrapped around his hoary hand gently. The world felt a little bit lighter - like a tiny apartment with green chiffon curtains dancing around the windows.
[Sam/Daniel, curtain rod, 616 words, R, for dirty_diana]
Distractions and Discomforts
"Look at that," said Sam, her eyes glazed over. "Think about the voltage that thing has. Look at the precision of the axle. You could do a lot of damage with a power saw like that."
"We aren't here to window-shop, Sam."
"I know, I know. I just don't get to go to Home Depot very often. Oh, look!"
"It's a screwdriver."
"It's a very nice screwdriver," Sam protested.
"Most women don't get orgasmic over toolkits, Sam."
"You're in a position to know?"
Daniel considered that. "Well, strictly speaking, no - but I could be!"
Sam hit him gently. "Like hell you are. The last new female you met ended up being more interested in digesting what was inside your head - literally."
For a few minutes, Daniel was quiet as Sam examined ratchets. Then he seemed to come to himself. "Didn't you say we were here to get a new curtain rod?"
"Yeah..." Sam said, wistfully putting down a hammer that she'd been hefting. "I suppose we'd better go find them, huh?"
"Why do we need a new curtain rod in the first place?" asked Daniel, his voice getting lower on the word rod.
"We broke the last one... Saturday night, remember?"
"You kind of ripped it off the wall while I was -"
They passed the large appliance section and Daniel stumbled against a washing machine while eyeing an eight-foot high bookshelf, then hurried to catch up with Sam, who was doing some serious comparison-shopping.
"Did you find -?"
"Shh, I'm adding, Sam said, clicking her tongue against her teeth. "This one." She pulled a curtain installation set from the rack. "I really think I need a new screwdriver to install it. I mean, I really think I need..."
"Fine," said Sam, and she handed Daniel the curtain rod. She didn't move away when Daniel accepted the package, though, and her eyes danced merrily as Daniel tried to move back. She followed him, hands just inches from his. "We'll go."
Daniel tried to swat her away gently, but she refused to move. As they walked to the front of the store, Sam kept darting in front of him, just a few inches too close for comfort. He was starting to feel very... uncomfortable. He tried to think about other things, things that weren't wearing very tight jeans and leather jackets and didn't have motorcycles waiting outside. Things like lightbulbs, nuts and bolts, gizmos and gadgets. Sam grabbed a funny looking metal object from a bin beside them and tossed it from one hand to the other, grinning, and Daniel knew he was a lost cause. They needed to get out of there now.
"Will that be all?"
Daniel wasn't sure when they'd reached the checkout counter, but there they were, and he handed over his credit card wordlessly. He wasn't concerned about the price, despite all Sam's careful price checking: the Air Force took care of its own. It was a nice feeling, being taken care of.
Sam took Daniel's hand and let him out of the Home Depot almost at a run, and Daniel was grateful that he was in shape, or else he'd definitely have been breathing heavy by the time they got to the bike. Sam hopped on like she belonged there, and before scrambling on behind her, Daniel took a moment to examine her. Her legs wrapped around the bike, sensuous and comfortable at the same time. She shook her head a little before fastening her helmet, her blonde hair framing her face. She was smiling, she was beckoning to him - she was Sam. Clinging carefully to the curtain rod, he walked over to join her.