Stuck in the middle
by Te
April 2003

Disclaimers: If they were mine, there'd be rescue! Dramatic

Spoilers: Dirty Girls.

Summary: Xander burns.

Ratings Note: R.

Author's Note: I had to get this out of me.

Acknowledgments: Owes very very much to the Spike.

Feedback: If you want.


Clowns to the left of me...

Xander has Reservoir Dogs in his head. What's more, he
strongly suspects that he has a lot of morphine in him.
Only morphine could make it seem like a rational idea that
the pain he's feeling right now comes, in fact, from a
small yet elegantly arranged campfire set just above his



He knows there's something wrong there. After all, he's
reasonably sure the eye is open, and yet there's nothing
there but black. The occasional red haze of pain. The
endless horrible scratch of


gauze. Xander understands bandages. He knows how they
work. They stick to the wounds just enough to hurt, and
nowhere near enough to keep the edges from chafing...
did his eyes get hurt? He's pretty sure that's bad, because
eyes are made up of very sensitive bits that can be
damaged and they never never never --

The sound shocks him into something like awareness, like
being awake and alone in a vast chilly fog, the way he's
always thought England must be at night. Only it's not
dark. Only he's really very warm. Someone

(Willow, she's sitting right there, she's never going to
leave you, the least you can do is SEE her)

has covered him in thin, useless hospital blankets until he
might as well be covered in a real blanket. And bandages
keep you warm, at least when they're all over your


face and head and swaddling his poor head like a baby.
Xander is an adult. He distinctly remembers looking at
his life and figuring that out. He doesn't (have) need
anyone to tuck him in and there's no one who could
fuck up his world more than he himself can. Ergo, he was
and is an adult. That's how it works when you stand tall
and cash your paychecks and know how to do things.

(You're missing)

His other eye is free of bandages. An adult would open it.

(the one who sees)

look around at the world that's left, the entirety of things
that are whole and solid and

(screaming the girls are are are)

make a decision. Be all tough and sure like

(why did Buffy leave me?)

an adult would. There's a circle in there, round like eyes are
round, except that he only has one, because the other one
was sponged off his cheek by the doctors the horrified
doctors with bloody hands and wide wide --


(You know you're supposed to cope, right? I mean, it's all
well and good for me to wig like a teenager, but *you're*
supposed to)

"Someone has to take care of business," he says, and realizes
that he's really very thirsty.

Someone -- Willow -- squeezes his hand and makes a soft
distressed sound in that way she has before looking really
earnest. Xander knows that he should talk to her, but as an
adult, as a command-decision making adult, he was going
to have to make a command decision and put a stop to all
of that communication business.

See, it's harsh, but as someone well on his way to being
blind he was allowed -- no, duty bound -- to lie here and
be just as useless

(did they get out? All of them? Are you sure?)

as he could be.

Because that's the way it works.

He wishes he didn't hurt so bad, honest he does, but that's
*also* the way it works.

"Xander, are you awake? Can you... I'm here, Xander, I'm
right here, okay?"

Xander keeps his dry, dry mouth shut tight tight tight.

And burns.