Five Bastardized Virtues: Xander
Five Bastardized Virtues: Xander
December 2002/January 2003
Disclaimers: If he was mine, I'd treat him better. Or worse. You never can tell.
Spoilers: The Pack, Phases, The Wish, Beer Bad, and Buffy vs. Dracula.
Ratings Note/Warnings: R. Contains content some readers may find disturbing.
Author's Note: Big shout-out to Basingstoke, whose Smallville story "Five Things That Aren't True" has now inspired me in three different ways. Latest, of course, through Kita's challenge.
Acknowledgments: To Dawn Sharon, the Spike, Livia, and Jenn for audiencing. Much love to Jenn especially for putting up with more insanity than one person ever should have to.
Feedback keeps me thinking. firstname.lastname@example.org
It's a matter of patience. He messed up before, underestimated her. Just because he's changed doesn't mean she has.
She hasn't. She's still her same, boring, needy old self, determined... no. He has to focus. After all, Willow's same old self is still more intelligent than he is to a frightening degree.
But... he knows what Willow wants, and more than that, what she wants to hear. He's known her since they were kids.
He says, "remember Barbie-head war?"
And he knows she wasn't expecting that, because of the way she jerks her head not quite around to look at him. "I'm not talking to you."
"C'mon, Wills, I said I was sorry --"
"Funny how trying to kill me isn't so much something you get out of with an 'I'm sorry.'"
"I wasn't going to kill you." Probably.
"You grabbed me. You... Jesus, Xander, just be quiet and wait for the others to get back, will you?"
"I told you, Willow. I know something's wrong. I know you're the one to help me. The only one."
She's typing, but her back is a little too stiff. He can smell her on the air. Sweat and little girl perfume.
"The only one who's always been there for me."
"Okay, see, divide and conquer works better before you try to kill --"
"I just wanted to touch you," he blurts, and she freezes.
Not even pretending to type anymore.
He'd smile if it wouldn't ruin everything. But it's hard. Because when she looks at him... her eyes have got that wide and wet thing going on. Like some little fuzzy animal with milk teeth and a death wish.
Like she's hurting for every word he says.
But he doesn't have to laugh. He's stronger than that, not a slave to every... the thought trails off, because she's speaking again.
"... always this mean?"
"Answer me!" And she's so shrill it makes him jump, makes his ears hurt.
Hit a nerve. Hmm. Schools his voice to perfect, sweet earnestness and says, "I don't know what you mean."
"You... you're trying to play me. And you're using... it's like. I. At least before I could pretend you really didn't know any better."
Asking him to laugh, to mock, but he has an agenda here. And he's going to stick to it. "I didn't. Know any better. But Willow... I can smell you now. Sense you in so many ways --"
"God, you sound like... like a vampire!"
And maybe he's losing a little patience, but, "people wouldn't choose to become vampires if there weren't benefits." Like being able to hear the creep creep of his pack sneaking up on Willow from all sides. Like being able to know exactly where not to look, so as not to give the game away.
"How much of this is you, Xander?" Her lip is trembling. Her nose and cheeks are splashed with red. Flushing with the tears about to come. "How much of this --"
But she doesn't get to finish, because Tor has her in a head-lock. Or maybe he's trying to break her neck.
Tor really isn't very smart.
Rhonda and Kyle are better, immediately moving to the cage and setting him free. They smell like blood.
They smell well-fed and full of cheer, the way a family should.
Kyle really needs to get his hands out of Xander's pants. Eventually.
"Don't kill her," he says to Tor, earning a puzzled look that would be endearing if it didn't bode so poorly for the life of their pack.
If he concentrates, he can block all sound but the irregular and thrilling pound of Willow's heart. All scent but her terror and... outrage. He has to smile. Get close. Breathe deep.
Nothing like the pure grassfire-thunderstorm flare of Buffy, but it has its charm. Even better when he licks a long, flat stripe up the side of her throat.
Best when he can't decide what, exactly, he's hungry for.
Xander wonders if every woman looks better held up and struggling for your amusement.
He's going to have to test that theory.
Larry looks like the sun is shining on him for the first time in years, like he just walked out of a bad science fiction novel, or maybe just a prison.
Or, you know, a closet.
"I can't believe it. It was almost easy. I never felt I could tell anyone. And then you, you of all people, you bring it outta me."
Gyah. "It probably would've slipped out even if I wasn't here."
And now Larry is looking thoughtful of all things, which has to be one of the most terrifyingly wrong things in a town full of terrifying and wrong. "No, no, because knowing you went through the same thing, made it easier for me to admit it."
Oh, shit. "The same thing..." Now is so not the time for Larry-cuddle. Now is the apotheosis of being not the time for Larry to be all but pinning him to the lockers and --
"It's ironic. I mean, all those times I beat the crap out of you, it musta been because I recognized something in you that I didn't want to believe about myself."
"You're talking about sublimation, which I'm going to have to say --"
"Oh, yeah. Like that stuff where I accuse you of being exactly what I am, or something."
"I think that's projection. Larry, do you think you could --"
"Oh. Hunh. Well, I guess it'll make more sense when I take Psych 101 in college, right?" And Larry is... patting him. And smiling.
"Er... probably? Lar --"
"God, it is such a relief to be able to talk about this. I mean, how did you deal with it? But wait, you have all those girls for friends. They're probably really sympathetic."
"Larry, I think there's a misunderstanding of... of... epic proportions here."
"What? Oh. Oh." And Larry... winks. "Don't worry, Xandman. Your secret's safe with me."
"There's no secret!"
"Oh, come on, Xander. This is it! We don't have to lie anymore. Not to each other, at least. Hey, do you have a boyfriend? Or did you have one? God, I'd love a boyfriend. Someone to hold me at night, you know?" Larry gives him a demonstrative squeeze.
Xander tries really hard to remember how to blink. "Boy..."
"Yeah. You've been really stalkery with Oz lately. Did you two ever..." The hand gesture is the last thing Xander needed to see, really. "You know. I always thought he was a little... well."
"He's dating Willow!"
"That had to hurt. Losing him to your best friend and all." Larry squeezes him again.
"Hey, it's okay. These things are hard to talk about. What about that Devon guy? He's kind of a slut, but he's cute, right?"
"You don't think he's kinda girly?" There's a part of Xander's brain firmly convinced that this conversation will eventually reveal itself to be the result of pineapple soda and too many burritos. It's a very comforting part.
"Hunh. You like 'em more butch?"
"Well, I'm just saying..."
"No, I get you. There's something about beard-stubble that just --"
"Wha? Oh, not that you aren't cute."
"You... think I'm cute?"
"Well, yeah. Isn't that what the whole subliwhosit --"
"Whatever. Isn't that what it's about? And hey, that's kind of a hot word. You kind of have to make a kissy face to say it. Say it again."
"Or, you know, don't."
And really, it's amazing how quickly he's not running away from this kiss. Or it's perfectly normal, because, hey, Larry. Kissing. That's interesting. In a life where kisses come as rarely as his own -- and wow, there's probably something deeply wrong with how quickly he can start rationalizing.
Larry doesn't pull away until after Xander's lips are starting to feel numb.
"You're not a bad kisser, Harris." And that's definitely a leer.
"Er..." He can come up with speech. Really. There's gotta be something he can say here to stop the slow, inexorable lean into his space that's going on with Larry right this instant.
Or he could move. He could definitely --
Bang of the locker room door and Larry jumps back, scratching the back of his neck and blushing so hard he looks like he's about to rupture something. Xander comes perilously and humiliatingly close to sliding to the cement floor, but manages to lock his knees just in time.
Funny how cold he is without Larry's bulk right... there.
"Heh. I should probably put some clothes on," Larry whispers, and something about that kills a few more brain cells.
Because it's one thing to be kissed by the football player who has made your life a living hell for the entire course of your school years, but it's something else entirely to be kissed by the nearly naked football player who etc., sublimation, terror, and so on. "Ishouldgo."
And Larry smiles at him. A rueful smile. A gentle smile that Xander thinks will forever define Happy Gay Man to him. Or maybe 'Happy Gay Man Who Knows He Can Make You Do Humiliating Things Just By Kissing You.'
Either way, it's not a look Xander can stand up to for very long.
Or at all.
He manages to avoid running like the little bitch he apparently is, but it's a near thing.
And it takes a really, really long time to get Larry's smile out of his head.
He wakes up knowing, in the dark and close of a cheap coffin that still reeks of flowers and chemicals.
He wakes up to the feel of his organs trying to reattach themselves behind the knitting 'y' of his autopsy scar.
He wakes up because he can feel Jesse somewhere up above, and he can feel him smiling.
It's a dare, he knows it is.
How fast can Xander get out of this dead-thing trap and into the night?
And oh, the night sings.
He has to admit -- he was skeptical about the whole 'worms in the earth' thing, and the value of being able to hear them and feel them, but in the end? Jesse had been really damned convincing. And this...
This is like the first few seconds off the high dive.
This is like executing a perfect grind.
This is... a pale fist punching its way through the pine and ruining his reverie. Xander sighs and grabs hold, flinching a little at the feel of the earth and brushing it off as quickly as he can.
"Sorry, dude," says Jesse. "No one around to tell your parents to avoid the consecrated turf."
"Well... you'd think they'd be kinda suspicious about a request like that, wouldn't you?"
"Threats of grievous bodily harm work wonders, man, you'd be surprised."
"Hey, those are my parents -- oh. Wait. Watch me not care. Hunh."
Xander blinks. Breathes deep when he realizes he hasn't since... that he hasn't. The world rocks him back on his heels with the million scents of night. And dead. And undead. Whoa.
"You're zoning, Xandman. Focus."
"Aren't you hungry? I was when I woke up."
And it's like being hit with a taser, right to the groin. Only it's like that in an entirely new way, because he thinks he'd kind of like to try the taser thing. At least once. In any case... food. Blood. There's a low, flat ripping sound that he eventually realizes is the sound of his own growl.
"Yeah, I thought so," says Jesse, smirking. "I was thinking we could hit the Bronze. There's a lot -- like, a lot -- of clueless people there."
And yeah, that sounds... that sounds like a righteous idea, and idea that put the good in good, and all sorts of other nonsensical happiness. But... "Willow."
"We need Willow." And the flares of hunger in his belly, in his mouth, in his brain are making it hard to think and harder to speak, but this is imperative. "Three musketeers."
"You think we should turn Wills? Well, that's... hunh. Man, now I'm wondering what she tastes like. I'm pretty sure that's wrong."
Xander grins. Nothing like Jesse having a wig to refocus things. "Do you care?"
Jesse grins right back and punches his shoulder. "Does it look like it? C'mon, let's go do horrible things to Willow --"
"And turn her."
"Yeah, later. And then we can kill her family. Or go to the Bronze."
"Such the plan."
They walk out of the cemetery together, grinning and joking, mostly about the quality of the suit Xander's parents buried him in.
And later, while they wait for Willow to wake (again), they rip up all of her clothes and paint her and paint her with her mother's makeup until they get it right.
It's the way it should be.
"Boy smell nice."
And, you know, if you took away the whole Neanderthal quality of the statement, and the fact that there was an unconscious former librarian on the floor, and the...
Well, if you took away a whole lot, really, then you'd be left with a statement the likes of which Xander had been hoping to hear from Buffy since he was fifteen.
However, Xander's ability to ignore badness has atrophied significantly over the years, what with the act of wearing blinders of any sort in Sunnydale being tantamount to suicide, or at least a rousing game of Russian Roulette and hey, it's not just vampires and other creatures of the night who can make the act of sniffing another person highly fucking creepy.
"Boy is nice."
And there's just enough of a question there to make his heart hurt. Because... because hell. No one should ever hurt Buffy. He's willing to accept that a certain amount of pain and suffering is necessary, even useful once one enters the world of dating, but... that's for other people.
People who don't save the world every day.
Xander's pretty sure that people who save the world should get a free pass on the shitty boyfriend game.
He smiles a little ruefully. "I try to be."
Buffy beams at him. Shiny white teeth and sunny California girl tan. Though he's a little unsure of where the perm came from, the confusion is nowhere near enough to keep that smile from doing what it always does.
Knocks the breath right out of his body. God. Buffy.
Xander backs away so fast he winds up tripping over -- yes, that's definitely Giles' leg. Giles makes a pathetic 'I'm definitely still unconscious' groaning sound, which is nowhere near as sad as the sound Xander makes when Buffy takes a flying leap and lands in a truly pornographic straddle of his hips.
There aren't too many ways that statement could be more flattering, especially considering the placement of Buffy's hands, but still. Buffy.
"Uh, Buffy, don't you think we should wait until you're neither demonic-beer-poisoned nor in a state which could, by a lesser, stupider man, be called 'rebound?'"
Buffy frowns at him thunderously.
Buffy smiles. "Sex FUN."
"Yay... sex? But you know what's really fun? Celibacy. There's nothing like hey, that's my zipper... to... to. Um. Celibacy is good and good for oh my god you have more calluses than I do."
"Slaying bad on skin," Buffy says mournfully.
"You don't say? Why don't we talk about... about exfoliants. Girls like that, right? Hey, how long has it been since your mouth has been right there and I'm going to say never, definitely never, oh MAN --"
Wet sounds. Dirty sounds. Sex sounds. And sitting up just puts a pull low on his belly and that just makes what Buffy's doing feel -- oh Jesus, sucking his cock.
And Giles is on the floor.
And... well, so is he, but it's the principle of the thing, and Buffy... where the hell did Buffy learn to do that? Was it a Slayer thing?
How much of his brain was currently being sucked out his dick?
Apparently not enough for Buffy's tastes, because the next thing he knows, there are panties flying -- flying -- across the room and Buffy is doing this thing where her skirt slides up her thighs both much too slowly and much too fast and then she lifts her leg and then --
"Oh my GOD --"
"Boy FEEL nice!"
"Oh good, Buffy, JESUS --"
There's a thump that Xander eventually realizes is his head hitting the floor. This is irrelevant. Relevant is Buffy's fingernails on his chest. Relevant is Buffy's hair bouncing. Relevant is all the other... bouncy... things.
He will not touch. He's not that kind of guy. It's taking advantage.
As opposed to lying here and being thoroughly --
"Ooooh. Niiiiice hands."
Xander has never liked the word 'nice' as much as he does right now. "You think so?"
And Buffy flips them. Over. And wraps her legs around Xander's waist in a grip he's sure is bruising the life out of him. And... flexes. "Dear God in HEAVEN."
Buffy giggles and squeaks and bucks so hard she nearly throws Xander like a bigger, sweatier, shockier pair of panties. He holds on, though, and rides her through what his wonderfully abused cock informs him is one hell of an orgasm.
And now would be the time to pull out, pull his pants on, rescue Giles, and run away. Buffy's own good, morning after embarrassment, yadda yadda, oh dear LORD she's hot and those flexes are conscious now and there's no way, no way, yes way, freeway -- "Buffy!"
Xander comes to the sound of happy, blameless giggles.
Okay, now would be the time to --
"Boy go AGAIN!"
It's the least he can do.
See, the thing about world-famous and ancient villain types is that they rarely figure out that they've been beaten.
Mainly because it happens so rarely, but mostly because there's this whole pride thing that goeth before the long, long fall to perdition that the villains spend their whole lives -- or unlives, as the case may be -- making.
So Xander, buttmonkey of the Western seaboard, waits for well-meaning but horrifically amused friends to scatter and returns to the castle.
He's got a sword, and garlic, and holy water.
He already knows the castle is full of flammable things.
He's going to do it right this time. He even remembers to muffle the sounds of his steps moving through the halls, the clank of the sword --
"All that caution is useless with the pound of your --"
Xander swings as he turns, and there's a satisfying thud of metal meeting flesh before Dracula goes all misty again.
He's ready for that, though. A sword might be useless against smoke, but a plant mister full of Holy Water --
And Dracula's solid again, knocking the mister to the floor and backhanding him against a wall and dammit, this was at least supposed to take longer --
"Look at me, Xander."
"Oh, fuck you. I've seen Clash of the Titans, and, more to the point, I've done this." Xander focuses on his left toe and tries to figure out the angle to swing his sword again.
"You served me well, boy. I know you wish to do it again."
"Yeah, well, that tells me all I need to know about the state of education in Transylvania."
Hand on his chin, yanking his head up, and Xander's not sure how effective closing his eyes is, because he can feel that gaze. Like... like insects crawling all over his face, looking for just the right place to bite. He can close himself off. He can.
It's no fun for accent boy if he has to play alone. Heh.
"All right, Xander..."
And it's fucking freaky to have an old dead guy purring your name --
"... you can just listen to my voice."
And ha, he knows that trick, too. He's not going to do it. He has a lifetime full of crappy music to fill his head with, and that's just what he's going to do, music to be mindless -- no, mindful with. Even if it's just the Chicken Song.
Possibly the most annoying song ever 'composed,' but no one will ever go all Renfield to it. No one but annoying older brothers and drunken uncles will dance to it, no one will weep at the opening strains of it by the orchestra, knowing that it's the last song to be played before the end of the ball, that the woman in your arms will be old and married and sagging from childbirth by the time you return from the wars and --
He could just stab the fucker in the toe.
Except that when he jabs downward with the sword there's only the ring of metal on stone and the kind of laughter he would've felt patronized by when he was four. In his head or out of it, it doesn't matter. Breathing is something wet and cold and thick, like how he always imagined fog.
Thinking is the battle between babble and memories that aren't his and the knowing insinuation of a voice that doesn't sound nearly enough like The Count's for comfort and --
"Xander, why did you come here all alone?"
He wants to live long enough to learn how to laugh at people without one single chuckle. He doesn't think that's so much to ask. He doesn't have to think if he doesn't want to.
"What did you really think would happen?"
He wants to believe --
"... other ways to get what one wants in Sunnydale, yes?"
- that it doesn't have to end anything like this.
"I'm going to show you... so much."
It isn't fair that anyone who sounds that much like a B movie should have this much power.
But being tossed into a pit full of amorous vampire chicks?
Not necessarily the time to muse on fairness.
Dracula smiles down at him.
And breaks his sword over his knee.
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