Xander closed one eye and leaned in closer to the clear patch wiped on the fogged bathroom mirror.
"You were right." Anya's voice floated in from the bedroom. "It is much easier to be friends with Willow. It takes a lot of energy to always be mad at someone."
"Good." Xander opened his eye and watched as his pupil shrank, then pulsed slightly. He smiled, then closed his other eye.
"Yes, Willow and I get along much better now that we've learned to understand each
other. We talk about women things. I don't have other friends to talk about women things with. She taught me how to use a tampon."
Xander's eye snapped open. His pupil pulsed. He glanced over at the trash can, as though he'd see a used tampon smirking up at him from it. He shuddered slightly.
"They didn't have tampons when I was human before. Oh, I knew what tampons were, of course, but they really can be quite complicated to use."
In his mind, Xander watched as Willow propped a leg up on a toilet, using technical terms like "vector" while she opened a box of tampax.
"When I was human before, the women had to leave the village when we menstruated. It was nice, like a ritual, but all we really wanted was to be pregnant, becausethen we wouldn’t have to leave. We chewed bark for cramps. But now they have tampons and pills so you don’t have to chew bark or be pregnant. It's very exciting."
"That's nice," Xander's throat closed slightly on the words, making them squeak. He cleared his throat. "What else do you two talk about?"
"Oh, many things." He heard Anya shift on the bed. “Her life is very interesting. Did you know her old drama class is doing a special performance this week? Willow's not performing, of course, but she invited us."
Xander squeezed a layer of blue paste onto his toothbrush. It was nice to know that Willow had enjoyed her drama class. She'd been very nervous about it. "What play is it?"
"It's modern. I think it will be good for Willow. She may be a lesbian and a witch, but she has some very old fashioned ideas about some things." She shifted again; the mattress creaked. "It's called 'The Vagina Monologues'."
Xander's eyes dilated. His hand clenched on his toothbrush as the muscles in his cheeks spasmed. His American-male red blood whispered in his brain. 'Run.' it said. 'Run now, while you can. No good will come of this.'
"Are you almost done, honey? I want to have sex tonight, as I'm certain I'll be wearing a tampon tomorrow."
'Okay,' his blood whispered, 'sex now. Run later.'
"Almost," he said, sticking a wash cloth under the running water from the tap. First, he had to clean the toothpaste off the mirror.
"Willow." Xander leaned over the research table, checking the counter quickly to see if Anya was listening. She was counting money, which meant he had a good fifteen minutes and a dance of capitalistic superiority before she would start paying attention to anything else.
Willow leaned toward him, a look of faux conspiracy on her face, along with a small smile. "Xander."
"Willow," he said again, staring her in the eye. "Why?"
The conspiring look turned into one of confused innocence. "Why what?"
Xander put a ticket on the table. The ticket Anya had given him that day, telling him to keep it safe. "Why that?"
Willow looked at it, smirking. "You need it to get into the theater."
"Why do we have to go to the theater?" Xander was not about to say the name of the play they were going to go see. Words like 'vagina' had to be saved up, used only for special occasions. They held too much power for everyday use.
"Because that’s where the play is?"
Xander closed his eyes. "Why are we going to the play?"
Willow put one of her hands on his. "It's a good play, Xander, and an important one. I think it would be good for Anya to see it."
"No it's not!" He winced at the volume of his words, then lowered his voice to a hiss. "Anya knows *plenty* about her girl-parts, Willow."
"She didn't know how to use a tampon!" Willow was switching into 'smart mode', which meant she was going to try to teach him something. "She may have been a vengeance demon, but she has some *very* old fashioned ideas about some things. And the ticket sales go to support UC Sunnydale's women’s center. It's for a good cause."
"So, apparently, was me getting syphilis last year."
"That's not the same, Xander. This play is really an eye opener. Did you know that medieval churches were structured based on a woman's anatomy? Or that, as we speak, teenaged girls are being mutilated in some parts of the world, just because they're *girls*? Or that the clitoris has *twice* the number of nerve endings as the penis? Xander, are you listening to me?"
He suspected that his eyes had glazed over, the way they used to when she tutored him in math. Of course, it could just be the mentioning of the word 'clitoris'. He blinked.
"Okay," He took a deep breath. "But why do I have to go?"
Willow's resolve face started to form. Xander winced.
"You don't think you could benefit from learning about women's bodies? About how they feel about them? About how their genitals work and what they want?"
"Willow, I know about that stuff. I took health in high school. Remember Jesse fainting over the breast exam video? Or 'Am I Normal'? Remember?"
Willow's cheeks colored with blush number three, "I can't believe what a dork I was in highschool" pink. Willow: the girl who could blush in fourteen different shades of red. "That's not what I meant, Xander!"
Xander was losing. He could feel it. Time for the trump card. He was going to have to use the v-word. "You think I don't appreciate the vagina?"
Blush number three deepened into blush number eleven, "Oh god, Xander's talking about sex" red. "Xander,"
"I appreciate the vagina. The lips, the clitoris, the whole vulva package. I appreciate the feel of it, the smell of it, the *taste* of it. I like to touch it. Feel it react to me. Lick it. I. Love. The *vagina*!"
The sound of a distinctly British cough caused his own skin to flare "I got caught talking about sex" magenta. He turned slightly, plastering a smile across his face. Giles stood not ten feet away, cleaning his glasses. Anya wore a pleased smile that probably didn't have much to do with the handfuls of money she had pressed to her breasts. He suspected, tampon or no, he would be having sex tonight. At the very least the oral kind.
"I like your penis, too," she offered. Willow broke into giggles. Giles let out a long, weary sigh.
"Right." Xander straightened. "Um, look at the time!" He pointed to a spot on the wall which was distinct in its lack of clock-having. "It's late! Very late! Lunch break over, those houses won't build themselves," Smile in place firmly enough to be painful, Xander headed for the door. He titled a non-existent hat. "Ladies. Um, Gent."
He was nearly out the door when Willow stood. "Xander!"
He turned. She held his ticket high in the air. "You're going to need this tomorrow!"
The next day came. Xander and Anya met Willow and Tara outside UC Sunnydale's studio theater. Buffy arrived late, looking flushed and professing to be ready for "lots of womanly empowerment." Xander wore khakis and a polo, in what he hoped was a non-threatening, "I care and empathize with women and their issues" manner. From the looks he was getting from a pair of militant looking co-eds, he wasn't pulling it off.
They took their seats, Willow and Anya sandwiching him with Buffy and Tara on the outside edges of their group, successfully blocking any of Xander's escape routes. The lights dimmed, and three women Xander vaguely recognized from various visits to the dorms took seats on black stools under spot lights. They opened the binders on the music stands in front of them in unison. All three wore black skirts and white blouses. The one in the center looked up, seemingly straight at Xander, who felt himself shrink in his seat. She scanned over the audience, her expression stern, confident.
"I bet you’re worried." Her voice boomed out, her microphone making it seem like her words were coming at him from every direction.
Xander nodded slightly. You don’t know the half of it, lady.
"I was worried. That's why I began this piece. I was worried," there was a pause, a pregnant one, though Xander thought it would probably be in his best interest if he didn't share that pun with his friends, "about vaginas."
And the play began. The three women traded off, at times taking whole monologues for themselves, at times finishing each other's statements. Some of the monologues made him laugh, though it was a painful, uncomfortable humor. He knew he was blushing perpetually. Some of the monologues even brought him close to tears, though whether it was the description, graphic in its poetry, of violence against women, or the crushing grip Anya had on his hand, he couldn't tell.
He never quite got comfortable, though he slowly started to relax as the play went on. Over all, it wasn't bad. He still wasn't certain why the girls all seemed to think that he *needed* to experience this play and hear its message, and he knew he would probably never get the image of a screaming vagina with shark teeth out of his head, but it wasn't quite as horrific as he thought it would be.
There were even other men in the audience, scattered lightly about mostly on the edges, like garnish. None of them looked any more comfortable than he was.
He was nearing the point of letting himself believe that this wasn't all going to be one big, hellish mistake, when Anya, who had been growing more and more agitated as the play went on, suddenly jerked and stood up. Her face was flushed with indignation.
"I am *not* my vagina!"
The women on stage froze, mid-page turn. Xander sank lower in his seat. People all over the theater turned to stare at Anya, who crossed her arms angrily over her chest. Willow grabbed Xander’s hand.
Xander winced. "Ahn,"
"This is ridiculous." Anya turned to face him, still standing. "I thought this was going to be good, and thoughtful, but it's just a bunch of horse-dung!" She turned back to the women on stage. "I am not my vagina. That's like saying a man is just a penis with legs!"
A woman sitting in front of them, her hair pulled back into a bun so tightly that it stretched her eyebrows, twisted around in her seat. "Would you shut up?"
"No!" Anya's hands went to her hips. "I *have* a vagina. It's even somewhat important to me, in that it can bring me pleasure and many orgasms. But it is not the entire focus of my life."
Willow rolled her eyes. "Could have fooled me,"
"Ahn, honey, please--"
"Stop shushing me! You're always shushing me!" Anya grabbed his arm, yanking him to his feet. Xander found himself unable to meet anyone's eyes. "Tell them, Xander. Tell them I'm not my vagina."
Xander prayed. He prayed for Anya to calm down, sit down, and let them finish the play. He prayed for the woman in the front row, whose fleshy cheeks folded over her face, making it almost look like a vagina itself, to turn out to be a really, really evil demon and require slaying. He prayed for the hellmouth to spontaneously open up beneath him and suck him into a thousand years of torturous labor. None of his prayers were answered.
"Well?" Someone behind him, a man by the sound of it, spoke up. "Is she her vagina, or what?"
Anya stared at him. The women on stage stared at him. The Painful-bun Woman and the Vagina-faced Demon stared at him. Willow looked at just about anything but him. Buffy seemed to have fallen asleep. Tara caught his eyes and shrugged slightly. Xander sighed.
"Um, she's . . . not her vagina."
"Thank you!" Anya plopped back into her seat. Xander slowly dropped down beside her. The audience continued to stare. Anya fixed her gaze on the actors. "You can continue your play now."
"No!" Painful-bun woman lurched to her feet, her finger aimed at Anya's nose. "No, you don't get it! We as women need to be reminded of our vaginas! We need to embrace them as expressions of ourselves, and learn not to be ashamed of them!" She leaned forward, her voice hissing in accusation. "You're ashamed of your vagina!"
"I am not!" Anya grabbed Bun Woman's finger. "And if you think I have to become my vagina to show that I'm not ashamed of it then you're insane."
"I'm insane?" Bun Woman gestured across the audience. "You think I'm insane? You're the one who's standing up in the middle of the play and *denying* your vagina!"
"I’'m not denying anything! Well, except for my vagina being the totality of my existence, which I am denying, because it's not! It's an organ. A part of my body, which also includes legs, arms, stomach, hair, eyes, and breasts, to name a few things."
"You are!" Bun Woman seemed to bounce up and down, her voice taking on a tone of glee as she continued to brandish her finger in Anya's face. "You're ashamed of your vagina! You deny your vagina! Vagina hater!"
"My vagina is fine! I like my vagina, it's smooth, and almost perfectly formed, and not stretched out of shape by many penetrations because I do special, toning excercizes! My vagina doesn't talk, it doesn't wear clothes--well, okay, it does, but those are only panties and that's because humans have this thing about covering up genitals--and tampons are wonderful things! If I were to listen to everything this play is telling me, I'd just be one big vagina sitting on a big bed of moss, hating men and gynecologists, even though they're the ones who help keep my vagina healthy and happy."
"Hear, hear!" Whatshisface behind them, who was most likely a gynecological wacko, called out his two cents.
Bun Woman threw a punch. She put the entire weight of her body (no small amount, the woman had to be about two-hundred pounds) behind her fist and over-balanced against the back of her seat. Her punch went wide, missing Anya completely, and slamming instead into Xander's cheek bone.
Xander slumped sideways into Willow, his face stinging, as the audience went nuts.
"It would have been fine if there hadn't been a clortha demon in the front row. They feed off of anger, you know."
"That was the one with the. . . ." Xander gestured vaguely around his mouth with his free hand. His other hand pressed an ice pack to his eye. They lay next to each other in bed, where Anya had insisted they go the instant they left the theater.
"Yes. You can always tell a clortha demon by their skin folds. They like sexual anger the best. I'm really not surprised that the police had to come and break up the fight."
Xander grunted softly in agreement. His thought process was limited to pretty much 'my face hurts'. Anya rolled over and curled up around him.
"You like my vagina, right?"
"You don't think it's shameful, or dirty?"
"No." Xander peered at her around the ice pack. "Neither do you."
"Of course not." Anya rested her cheek on his shoulder. "It's hard though, you know? Vaginas do get a lot of bad press, since they bleed and ache and smell funny. It's hard sometimes not to be ashamed of your vagina."
"Yours doesn't smell funny."
"That's sweet." Anya smiled up at him. "But it does. It smells kind of like fish sometimes. And when it bleeds it smells a little like cinnamon. Mostly it just smells like vagina, though."
"I like the way it smells."
Anya frowned. "You do?"
"Really." Xander gingerly removed the ice pack from his face and set it down on the night stand. Anya sat up, away from him, looking confused. Xander lowered himself down onto the bed, pushing her back slightly with his body. He hooked his fingers into her waist band and pulled her clothes down her legs as he slid slowly down her torso. When his face was level with her pubic hair, he pushed her legs open.
Her vagina, slightly red and swollen from her period, dilated slightly, then pulsed. The long, white string of her tampon tangled into the trimmed curls of brown hair, and Xander was careful not to disturb it. He leaned in closer, taking a deep breath. It smelled like vagina. Which was just fine with him.
"What does it look like?"
Xander let his eyes travel up her body until they met hers. "You've never looked at it?"
She shook her head.
"It's beautiful." He let his eyes travel over the folds of her labia. "It's soft, and pink, and smooth, like . . . um. . . ."
Anya watched him expectantly, a look of admiration on her face. He blinked at her.
"Okay, so I'm not a poet. I don't know what it looks like. It looks like a vagina."
"Oh." Anya's face fell slightly. "It's not a perfect shell? Or, or a heart? Or a flower?"
Xander shook his head. "But it's not really supposed to be." He tilted his head to one side, then leaned down and pushed his tongue against her skin, searching out her clit. She shivered. "It's supposed to be, well, a vagina."
Anya nodded, once, decisively. "Good then." Xander shifted, lifting his head up past her hips. Her hand landed on the top of his head, halting his progress. "You weren’t supposed to *stop*."
Xander grinned. "Right. Sorry."
He ducked back down and put his lips against hers, letting his fingers brush along her thigh.
"Yesssss," she hissed as he licked at her again. "It's really much better now that Willow and I are friends."