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Living Dangerously

by Andraste

Andrew Wells is a man on a quest.

It's not so much a quest with monsters and dungeons and magic items, suitable for roleplaying. It's more ... an inner journey. Eastern. Zen. He's cultivating the art of patience, here, leaning against the kitchen counter flipping through his comic (only the latest issue of 'Uncanny', nothing too valuable to risk) and waiting for the timer to buzz. Like Luke's trip to Dagobah, only with different utensils.

The funnel cake project has been temporarily abandoned after an accident with the deep fryer - so not Andrew's fault - that ended with Buffy confiscating any appliances that could be classified as deadly weapons. This pretty much leaves him with spoons and blunt knives, but muffins don't require heavy gear. He's lucky that Buffy hasn't seen as many inventively violent movies as Andrew has, or she'd probably just throw him out of the kitchen entirely. For somebody who once decapitated a vampire with a nailfile (at least according to legend) she's surprisingly blind to the possibilities.

His aunt taught him that anyone can do muffins, and after some practice he can whip up a batch in even less time than it takes him to beat Dawn at 'Tekken'. That doesn't mean it's easy, though, as he was trying to tell Buffy while they were out shopping for food and more kinds of feminine hygiene product than Andrew knew existed. A muffin is only as good as its ingredients, and you're never going to achieve the same results with frozen blueberries that you'd get with fresh. When Andrew explained this, Buffy rolled her eyes and asked him if he had to be a complete and total geek about everything, but she still humoured him. He considers this a victory. Even if nobody else notices the variations, they'll enjoy the results more.

Andrew sometimes wonders how he ended up spending this much time in the room with all the hot things. He's always had a phobia about being burnt, which he puts down to seeing 'Temple of Doom' at a vulnerable age. Now that he's a reformed supervillain who's managed to make the Ultimate Evil mad with him, though, fear of muffin preparation seems kind of lame even by his standards. He's found more important things to be scared of.

Kitchen time is also time to think where he won't be interrupted every nanosecond. Andrew hated being alone when it was his constant state of being, but he's not used to this many people and this little privacy. He once thought a house full of attractive women would be really cool, too, but in his head it was more about the lingerie and pillow fights, and less about people barging in on him in the bathroom.

He's been living in a perpetual slumber party - although of course the Trio never used the words 'slumber party' to describe hanging out at the lair - for what feels like forever, but the atmosphere here is that of an alternate reality. There's the same gladiatorial combat for control of the remote (although Andrew's chances of winning have fallen to absolute zero), the same neglect of basic nutrition, the same arguments about who spilled something sticky on his 'Promethea' HC. But there's nobody to present a serious challenge to his mastery of the games console, nobody who enjoys dissecting the nuances of 'Enterprise' as much as he does, and nothing is like it was this time last year.

The smell is all wrong. It's not like he was in love with the way Jonathan always left his laundry on the floor, or how Warren never turned on the fan before firing up the blowtorch, or the haze created by large quantities of takeout nuked in a tiny space. But the combination was somehow ... homely. He can't talk about this with anyone, but back then Andrew thought he'd found his evolutionary niche. Late at night - when Warren was fiddling with his next shrink ray or whatever, and Jonathan had dozed off in front of the widescreen TV - he would sit in the lair pretending to read, just listening to the little sounds they made. At times like that he'd feel in total harmony with the cosmos. Part of something bigger than himself.

Even after everything that happened, he misses it. Misses Warren and Jonathan both. Sometimes when he wakes up after one of the nightmares he doesn't share with anyone anymore, he gets pissed with them for being dead and leaving him here with all these girls and a crappy dialup connection.

Before he can get too depressed (or start planning his campaign to get DSL installed) the buzzer goes off. Andrew dons his trusty oven mitts and reaches inside for what looks like a good batch. Once he's turned them out onto the rack, he waits impatiently for them to get cool enough to sample. As always, temptation defeats caution before five minutes are up and the first bite burns his tongue - if he keeps doing this, Andrew will have no tastebuds left at all.

Still, there's a good reason to take that chance. Once the scent of baking starts to waft through the house, the ravening hordes will descend and soon after that there will be no muffins for the muffin master. Sometimes he likes this kind of summoning better than the old kind - what with the expensive magic stuff and disgusting fluids - but sometimes he thinks that the demons were more appreciative. It was also way easier to remember their names.

The early arrivals today are a random blonde and brunette, who pay no attention to him as they make for the goodies, conversation in progress.

"... and she was totally making out with Willow in the living room. Again! It's so gross! Why can't they get a room? Um," the blonde says, glancing at Andrew, "I mean, no offence." She juggles her prize from hand to hand and bites into it happily.

"Yeah. Not that there's anything wrong with that," adds the brunette. "Are these fresh blueberries, or frozen?"

It takes Andrew a whole twenty seconds to figure out why they think he'd be offended by them being offended, and if he didn't have a mouth full of muffin he'd correct them. Just because he's standing here in an apron doesn't mean he's some kind of ... of course he still looks at girls ... whatever he felt for Warren, it was because he was Warren and not ...

... the way he insisted on sharing a bed with Jonathan in Mexico even when they could afford better. The mysterious interest in carpentry he's developed since meeting Alexander Harris. The way he's been slashing Spike and Principal Wood in his head on a nightly basis. Not to mention how he uses up an hour of his TV allocation on 'Smallville' every week even though people always complain.

Just possibly the way he lost count of how many times he'd seen 'The Wizard of Oz' before his tenth birthday should have been a clue.

That makes it officially official: Andrew Wells is the most oblivious dork on the face of the entire planet. He deserves some kind of award, or medal, or a parade in his honour, or ... The girls - who, like everyone else who isn't him clearly worked out that he's ... that way, whatever way it is ... several eons ago - are still eating their muffins as if nothing has happened. Nothing has happened.

Nobody cares.

Normally that's a depressing thought, but now it's ... not so bad. Certainly not surprising. The house is full of Slayers-to-be, the world is maybe going to end, and they could all be dead by suppertime. Besides, Andrew has always known that the only person who usually takes an interest in who he wants to have sex with is, well, him.

He remembers to swallow, and tries to work out when this stopped being scary. When Warren draping an arm over him stopped making him uncomfortable and started to be exciting. When he started checking Spike out instead of looking away in case he liked what he saw. When he admitted that Krycek was pretty hot, too. It's not an epiphany like the one he had in the school basement, just a shift in perspective. Like pressing the zoom button or changing the camera angle.

Huh.

This technically makes him a member of an oppressed minority. Along with Willow, Kennedy, that dead guy who used to be on the football team, Apollo, the Midnighter and that British dude who played Gandalf and Magneto. He hasn't seen a lot of evidence of a world that hates and fears their kind since he graduated, though, and the assholes who used to beat him up and call him a fag probably didn't even know that he's actually ...

Even if he does have it tattooed on his forehead in block letters, who cares? His best friend and his ... whatever Warren was ... are dead. Andrew will be dead soon. He probably deserves it. Those things dwarf any lingering panic over his ... orientation.

Besides, he could probably interrupt Buffy's next big speech by coming out and they'd all just tell him to shut up as usual.

Not that he's going to do anything like that. Whatever everyone might assume, Andrew has a lot of thoughts that don't immediately come pouring out of his mouth, and he doesn't need to share this one. At least not before he has a speech of his own all worked out.

It's not like he's going to be making out with Xander where he might squick someone anytime soon, outside of his rich and varied fantasy life.

As if Xander is a demon summoned by thought alone (... and has that possibility ever occurred to anyone? That the reason Xander attracts so many demons is that he's secretly the son of one, abandoned on a doorstep to be raised by humans? ...) he appears in the doorway.

"Cool. Thought I smelled muffins."

He grabs two and stuffs one of them into his mouth in a single fluid motion. Andrew likes watching Xander eat like that, as if he's some kind of human anaconda. He wonders just how much the guy can fit in his mouth ... and that's a bad thought. No, not a bad thought. A perfectly OK and potentially empowering thought. Just inappropriate right now.

"These," Xander says after managing to swallow, "kick serious ass. Maybe you should graduate to brownies?"

Andrew isn't sure how Xander managed to taste anything eating at that speed, but flushes at the compliment anyway. "I, uh, think I found the magic formula. The key is not to stir them too hard."

"Well, any time you want to experiment, I'm your willing guinea pig."

Andrew's choking noises are covered by Dawn's timely arrival, and then there's Willow and Kennedy, more interchangeable proto-Slayers, Anya, and Buffy, who acknowledges that the fresh fruit was a good investment. Within twenty minutes all the food is gone and Andrew is left alone with the dishes and his rewritten thought processes.

Dawn promised to reserve the TV and Playstation later so he can beat her at something new. Buffy is beginning to tolerate his presence. Xander thinks that his muffins kick ass.

None of them are going to freak out because he likes guys.

It's not a bad place to wait for what happens next.


If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Andraste

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