In the tiny, cramped dressing room of a drag club somewhere in LA, Spike lit a cigarette.
"So what does this Anya bint think of your little peccadillo? Does she know you're queer?" Spike asked, taking a languorous drag on the cigarette. Though not wearing the platinum blonde Marilyn Monroe wig, he still wore the red sequinned gown from that night's performance . . . with heavy workmen's boots.
Xander sat on the vanity, the glare from the bulbs around the mirror glinting off his dangly earrings. He wore a powder blue gingham dress, rather reminiscent of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, made all the more ridiculous by his bulging muscles. Next to him on the dresser was a small stuffed animal, a white dog with the name badge 'Toto'. He scratched it absently behind the ears.
We're not in Kansas now, Spike mused silently. And we don't go home 'til we get that frigging Shirley Bassey (circa 1976) dress back.
His protege looked uncomfortable, turning away dramatically. "I'm not. . ." he stumbled over the word, "queer. Okay?"
"Oh, yes, because dressing up in women's clothing and lip synching to Gloria bloody Gaynor is completely the preserve of red-blooded heterosexual men. Look, pet, give us a shout when you stop paddling in that great Egyptian river."
Xander pushed off from the dresser. "This is just a way for me to explore my creative, feminine side. It's not that I'm gay. I *told* Larry that back in high school."
Spike raised an eyebrow. Got to his feet. Approached the boy, hips swaying, even in those boots. Xander looked at him quizzically.
"Oh yeah?" Without a further word, Spike leaned forward and planted a smacker right on Xander's lips. The boy stiffened instantly, in more ways than one. Breaking off the kiss, Spike glanced downwards at the gingham clad prick poking into his thigh. "You were saying?"
Deciding to give the clueless chit a break -- for now at least, he *was* sadistically evil, after all -- Spike meandered out into the hallway, planning to grab a few gin and bitter lemon from the bar. However, he stopped when a poster caught his eye. A cheaply Xeroxed A4 poster heralding the 'Man! I Feel Like A Woman' Drag Beauty Pageant at Caritas, sponsored by Fe-Male Cosmetics. Next week. The top prize was an all-expenses trip to San Francisco.
Not much of a bloody prize when you live in LA, Spike thought. Still, I might show those wannabe runts a thing or two . . .
Hoisting his gown, Spike about-turned and marched back to the dressing room, gin and bitter lemon be damned. This was going to require a clear head.
He barged through the door. Xander was in a state of undress and the bulky young man squealed and covered his pecs with both hands. "Haven't you heard of knocking?"
Spike tsked. "Change of plan, luv. We're not going clubbing tonight. We've got a new routine to devise." His eyes gleamed with unnatural brightness.
The following week, Spike and Xander -- or Magenta and Fifi La Plume as they were known en drag -- ensconced themselves at a table at the back of Caritas. They'd been rehearsing day and night for the past week, perfecting their routine. Well, 'perfect' being a relative term, because Xander still had about as much rhythm as the glorified bricklayer he was. Not so much Village People as village idiot.
Just as well the competition was small-time. Spike didn't recognise any of them. Things were so different nowadays. Nobody gave a damn about the art of female impersonation any more. He was surrounded by second-rate amateurs or has-beens. He remembered the good old days in New York in the '70s. The 1970s that is. You couldn't turn a street corner without running into one of the greats.
He was distracted from his nostalgia by the arrival on stage of that kaleidoscope of garish attire that was The Host. Bloody hell, murdering another Diana Ross classic.
"I'm coming out, I want the world to know," The Host screeched as a chorus line of dancing 'girls' high-kicked behind him in a swath of ostrich feathers -- as if a live one had been slaughtered on stage.
Thankfully the little green berk desisted eventually. "Hello, ladies, gentlemen, and lower beings! Welcome to the 'Man! I Feel Like A Woman' Drag Beauty Pageant. Let me take a moment to thank our sponsors, Fe-Male Cosmetics," The Host paused as one of the chorus line yanked down a curtain in the backdrop, revealing a huge placard with 'Fe-Male Cosmetics' in bold, glittering letters. "For the heavy duty woman in all of us."
There was polite applause and Spike knocked back his vodka martini in one gulp, signalling a waiter with one evening glove-clad hand.
Xander was snoring slightly, so exhausted was the poor little bugger. Spike nudged him sharply in the ribs and the boy blinked back to life. "Drink your coffee, Fifi. I'm not having you nod off half-way through our routine."
The Host was *still* yapping. "So sit back and enjoy these beautiful and talented girls. And without further ado, you impatient bunch, I give your our first contestants, Angelica and Wendy, miming their little hearts out to 'I Know Him So Well.'"
Spike sat up abruptly. Those bitches. He watched with narrowed eyes, as the two drag queens sashayed onto the stage to raucous catcalls and whistles. Damn it, Angel still looked fabulous. Bitch. The tall, dark vampire wore a floor-length black sequinned number while his partner shimmered in a blue silk gown.
The competition might be stiffer than he first thought.
The music started up and Angelica and Wendy gave an elegant, almost flawless performance.
"And in the end I know he needs a little bit more than before/ Security, he need his fantasy and freedom/ I know him so well."
As soon as Angel left the stage, Spike and Xander left their table and headed backstage. They spotted The Host lurking beside the curtain watching the next act.
"Keep him busy will you?" Spike whispered.
"I dunno, give a blow job. Just keep him occupied."
Not waiting for Xander's response, Spike sidled past The Host and barged into Angel's dressing room. Three startled sets of eyes looked at him. Angel, sans wig, was having his make-up retouched by Cordelia while Wesley squirmed with the underwear stuck up his butt crack.
"Spike," Angel said, his expression blank, and blinked.
"I'll get straight to the point, nancy boy. A little green tweeting bird told me that you know the whereabouts of a certain item that belongs to me."
Cordelia looked Spike up and down, one hand resting imperiously on her hip. "If it's your good taste, you lost that a long time ago." She bobbed slightly from side to side, as if she was on one of those godawful squawk shows.
Spike sucked in his cheeks, ignoring the jumped up ex-cheerleader. "Shirley Bassey dress. Las Vegas, 1976."
"I bought that legitimately from The Host," Angel said flatly after a long moment.
"I *knew* it. That little bastard. Where is it?"
Wesley smiled smugly. "He doesn't have it. It was stolen."
Spike growled, losing patience. "By whom?"
"Wolfram and Hart." Wesley retrieved a pair of glasses from between his cleavage and put them on. "They believe they can harness the mystical power of the dress and use it for their own nefarious purposes."
At this, Spike could only laugh. "Mystical power?" He laughed some more, then stopped abruptly, aware that his mascara might run. "Shirley Bassey is *not* God!"
Three pairs of eyes stared at him again unwaveringly.
Just then Xander appeared at the doorway. "It's us! We're on!"
Those three pairs of eyes swivelled towards the newcomer. "Xander?!"
The revelation that Shirley Bassey was God and Xander's sudden 'outing' meant that they weren't on their best form. The little poof staggered about the stage, forgetting the steps and the words to the song. His eyes were rooted on his ex-girlfriend, watching from the sidelines with her arms crossed. He hadn't had the chance to talk to her, to explain, to ask her not to tell everyone back home. Because Cordelia spread gossip faster than Judy Garland took to alcohol.
For his part, Spike was performing in a daze. He was too busy calculating how he was going to get his hands on that dress. He'd heard about those lawyers. Made him look like a Girl Scout in comparison in the evil stakes. It was definitely going to have to be an inside job.
"We're sold on vanity/ But that's so see through/ Take your body to the floor/ Your disco needs you/ From Soho to Singapore/ From the mainland to the shore/ So let's dance through all of this/ War is over for a bit/ You're a slave to the rhythm/ Do your part."
In the corner of Spike's eye, there was a flurry of movement, followed by a heavy thud.
Xander tripped and landed face-first on the floor, a great big rip up the side of his dress. Not exactly the big finish they'd planned. Pulling off his dishevelled wig, Xander stood on unsteady feet and stared, eyes like dishplates, as the audience howled with laughter, Then he fled from the stage, heaving great manly sobs.
"Oh, fuck it," Spike muttered, and strode after the clumsy twerp.
To be continued . . .