Disclaimers: If they belonged to us, we would grin rather goofily.
Spoilers: None, really.
Summary: Xander does some thinking.
Ratings Note: Hard R.
Acknowledgments: To our beloved Dawn Sharon.
Feedback: Slavered over greedily here.
Daddy793: God, what will Xander give him? How do you shop for
the sadomasochistic chaos lord of a warlock who has everything?
debitchan: <giggling> I don't know. I just know that Xander has
been changed forever.
Daddy793: God yes. And maybe he needs to muse on that. On the
trips to the beach he can't have, on the way it's suddenly gotten -- and
he doesn't want to jinx it, but it's true -- easier to hold his own against
the demons that still regularly try to eat him.
Not that he's suddenly Super Xander or anything, it's just...
it's just that there was so much power there to call on, and it's all his own.
Like, maybe he'd been pulling his punches all along.
And the *freedom* of letting them go!
It's weird, though. Like maybe it shouldn't be this way, that association
with Ethan could somehow make it easier to be the reasonably anti-evil
person Xander's always been. But then something always happens. Light
shines on water in a somehow *sharp* way, or his cock will go for a
semi-random awakening, or his chest.
The scars there, just one now. Four looping runes making one, with the
original plain crossed lines gone. He's had to break up with Anya, which
is... not the happiest thing he's ever done, but he can't show them. He
can't, they /not ready/ wouldn't understand, ask too many questions,
and before Xander lets himself drown in the tangle of
maybe-they-shoulds and no-it's-mines he shakes it off.
Because in the end, it's just all *right*. All right for him, in this
because it isn't *Ethan's* scar, it's *his* scar. He earned it, he
deserved it for everything... oh, everything...
Even if he sometimes wakes up burning, even if he can't jerk-off
sometimes without holding his breath.
Even if he tries to tease at the place where the memories live for
that *other*. The Nothing. Like picking at a scab that Should Not Be
Moved. What would happen if he fell again? And there was no Ethan to
bring him back? But he kept picking at it anyway. Not, as he previously
suspected, because he wanted to die, but because he wanted it *back*.
Something to fill in the empty hours of the latest empty job, counting
the number of weeks, months, before he'd have enough money to saved to
move out, at last. Though home is getting... better.
His Dad, for some reason -- and oh, he won't be coy here: His Dad,
because he had witnessed some tiny part of what Xander was doing with
Ethan, was avoiding him as much as his Mom always had.
And it's quiet up there. They turn the music down.
They drink their quieter booze.
They leave Xander alone and it makes him grin but he has to be careful
because... because the grin is somehow not his same old grin. Or at least,
they don't think so. His friends, who he loves, and does his best to
protect, see that grin and look at him oddly. Makes him wonder if Ethan
had ever really looked harmless, and wonder just what he's becoming,
But whatever he's becoming, he'll still be Xander, right? Isn't that
the message of years? To be trapped in your *self* forever, no matter
where you go, no matter who you fuck?
So... maybe this is just part of some Xanderpath decided long before
was ever sexually confused that's just been waiting for him all these
years. And oh, yeah, he wants Ethan badly. It's only been a week, but...
Xander *wants*. Wants that next time, and whatever comes with it.
Wants to be trapped in Ethan's magic, wants to give Ethan his own, until
he takes it or kills Xander or both.
Which is pretty funny in itself, just picturing himself beating Ethan
with bouquets of flowers and forcefeeding him chocolate and *hugging*
him no matter *how* he screamed. Funny, and also *not*, because hey,
who would've ever thought Xander would meet someone who made him
look like Mental Health Boy when it came to things like... affection.
Xander wishes for a better word, because that one is... It seems as
weak as Ethan would like to believe the concept is and Xander knows
that's just... wrong.
And all this is not really what he thinks about. All this is mostly
result of too much just sitting around and waiting, of being jammed
into a damp little cranny of a sewer under the Witches of Eastwick's
house waiting for Buffy and Giles to bust through and open the grate to
let them in. Or maybe just of being underground with a gun in his hand
and Riley Finn too close and smelling too clean pressed right back
against his chest. Making him want to rub.
Which is funny and sick at the same time because, you know what?
fucking *hates* Riley Finn. Hates him and wants to, jesus, *feed* him
to Ethan. Serve him up, trussed and crying and this is wrong. Bad.
Wrong. And Riley's neck is close enough to lick and what would happen
This is where he's starting to wonder about the cracks and how close
he is to breaking out of his old soft skin and....
Bang. Crash. Bang. and Buffy and Giles are there just as
a little bloodier than expected and as soon as the grate is up there
are things jumping down -- ugly, orange-wearing ghoul people who really
need dental hygiene assistance but Ye Olde Initiative Surplus guns
work like a charm.
Zap! and Pow! and Ka-Zoot! and orange guys dancing and exploding like
paintballs. And Xander can feel the heavy sigh of magic in the air
overhead. Tara and Willow are up there at opposite corners of the
corniced roof doing the skyclad under the moon thing and yes, he'd still
pay money for just a peek though maybe not for the same reasons he
might have used before.
And then the ground shakes once, deep and grinding and everybody stops
fighting for a second and looks up. Waiting. The gathering power stirs
around them like electricity, like the wind before a storm and then it
hits and Xander feels a yank on his insides that drops him to his knees
with a yelp.
Earns him a sharp glance from Giles because no one else has moved and
then there is a rumble like thunder both above and below and the grinding
shake of earth and what feels like all of Upper West Maple Heights
comes crashing down around them in clouds of thick black choking dust.
But really all it *is* is dust, the old witches coven gone and a brand
empty lot now behind the wrought iron gates with hey! inground swimming
pool already dug! If you don't mind sewage and ghoul guts. And the
lingering cloud of witch dust they they are all gingerly slapping out of
their clothes and hair and ears and... he's definitely tingling from it.
Or from the residual power, maybe. He's been pretty sensitive to magic
A warm, dry hand cups Xander's arm just above the elbow.
"Hang on a bit," says Giles.
Not that he was going anywhere in particular but the hand itself, the
proprietary cast of it -- it really makes Xander mad. He pulls away
before he can really decide whether that's a good thing or not. Knows by
the (yet another) sharp look that it was not and that makes him angry
too. Like they are wordlessly fighting about something.
And there's only one thing to be fighting about. And he knows
a whole lot that he doesn't know, whole entire tomes of things he
doesn't know about Ethan and Giles and back in the day. Only he knows
enough to connect the scars Ethan doesn't show with all that fun and
games. And probably there's another side to it that's reasonable and
sane. Giles' side and he really doesn't give a fuck. And all this as he
sits down on a rock next to old lickable Riley Finn.
Whom Buffy comes to cuddle, poor baby has a scratchums. And Willow
comes down in her fuzzy orange and purple plaid flannel robe and Tara
in something pink and fake satiny and worn and flowing as wind. And
Giles himself coming in so they are in a tight little knot. Giles
produces a small metal pot complete with stinky herbs and says:
"Ju-just in case there are any residual nasties." Nods to Tara who
lights something despite the breeze and sets the stinkies to burning
The smell is even more nauseating than magical herby stuff usually is.
Xander tries to not breathe it, tries breathing just through his mouth
but the smoke just gets right on in there and he can't help tasting it
at the back of his throat.
Gagging and it's bad. Something is very very bad. The smell,
currents of cold and hot, the sound of their voices, chanting, humming --
it cuts into his head like white hot wires. Too hot to even feel anything
besides sick. Dizzy sick and he needs them to stop. Is falling sideways
against Riley's solid shoulder.
Caught. Held. Held up while his head clears and he can hear
exclaiming going on and then another sharp tug on his insides -- and really,
how much decency does it take to leave a guy's insides alone -- and he
tries to tell them to cut it out, but it's Giles' voice that says the words
"But *Giles*, he's..."
"Leave *off*, Willow. That's enough."
"Don't *do* that Giles. You're not..."
"Enough." And the sound of that is so cold and final that Xander
least bit surprised that silence follows. And whispers. The shuffle of
feet on grass. A lot of whispered argument that Giles cuts short again
with that tone that Xander identifies as Ripper. And footsteps walking
away, footsteps coming near again. Xander can't figure out if he's gone
blind or not.
"You want me to keep holding him, Mr. Giles?"
"No, thank you Riley. Just put him down and go with the others."
And Riley apparently does as he's told and then it just gets quiet.
Something moves close to his face and suddenly the world is back,
overbright flare of moonlight resolving into Giles, rigidly still and staring
down at him.
"When did he do this to you, Xander?
Which is damned funny. God, there are a lot of funny things in his life
these days. "When did he do what?"
And Giles suddenly dropping to a crouch and Xander just leans back
against the remains of the wall, jerks at the feel of a warm finger running
under the silver chain on his ankle and the silence just lingers. Aging
silence, right there and Giles' hand hovering, palm to the air just before
Xander's chest. Which feels... odd.
Different kind of odd than usual and
"Take off your shirt."
About a hundred different comebacks to that one, and yeah, maybe half
them would maybe come out drawled, purred instead of just spoken. Xander
decided to remain silent and obey, slipping out of his rumpled button
down and peeling off his t-shirt and his chest feels... cool.
Giles gasps, then and Xander tosses the shirt aside and oh, hey. Blood.
Not hurtful, just kind of there. Warm and slick and human over the
roughness of his scars and Xander suddenly realizes that he's been
playing with it. Rubbing the blood all over, tracing his runes and looks
up to find Giles staring.
"I'll kill him." Moving to stand but Xander grabs his arm before he can.
"Oh no, you won't." And yeah, that's his voice, all right. The other
one. Just for Ethan.
And there's the Ripper, mouth in a cruel twist and narrowed eyes looking
at his hand like odds were pretty much even if Xander was going to get
it back unbroken unless he lets go right now.
He tightened his grip and repeated, "No. You won't."
"Do you know what he did to you, Xander?"
"Nothing I didn't..." And Xander laughs, because, hey. How to finish
sentence? "Nothing I didn't deserve."
And that brings Giles back. Giles who looks at him now with horror
pity and lays a hand over Xander's, gently pries the fingers away from
his arm, but doesn't let him go.
"This gives him power over you *forever*, Xander!"
"And what makes you think he isn't wearing my mark, too?" Even
cool, totally at odds with the sickly smug satisfaction he gets when
Giles turns pale in the moonlight.
Who slowly, carefully asks, "And what exactly do you mean by that?"
"That, Giles, is none of your business. And neither is this."
pulls his hand free and stands, a little unsteadily but he's on his feet,
looking down at Giles who looks totally... well, shattered is the only
word for it.
"When... how long has this... have you..."
And suddenly Xander gets it. It's not so much about him.
Giles', no, *Ripper's* Ethan.
Xander's Ethan now, so he says, still coolly, "Again, nothing to do
That gets him a flash of the Ripper, looking very uncomfortable in Giles'
face, rage and pity and worry in his eyes and-- "You have no clue what
you're dealing with here, Xander, no idea of the danger you're in. You
need to let me help you."
And, Jesus. It's too much. All the years when he would have
anything for this, would have *crawled* to have Giles look at him like
this and suddenly he gets Ethan, too. Sees maybe a little of what it
was he'd so carelessly played with before and rubs the rune again.
Finally says, "I'm thinking it's too late for that."
And Giles' face just... *falls*. Like suddenly he really is this guy
almost thirty years older than Xander. Because there's nothing like
carrying around the weight of the world on your shoulders to put the
years on. Heh. Staying young the evil sorcerer way.
Xander reaches down to help Giles' up and Giles holds on.
"We don't have to be enemies."
But we will, won't we? Biting his tongue before he can say it out loud
and starts walking, bloody shirt balled up in his hand, but Giles doesn't
let him get away.
"Has it occurred to you that Ethan could easily be doing this just to
get to me through you? Just to hurt me?"
And yeah, yeah it *has*, Giles and you're a first class *fucker* to
it up and "is it working?" Can almost *feel* Giles stiffening behind him
and oh, fuck, did he really just say *that*? Throws the rest over his
shoulder: "And either way, Giles, he doesn't belong to you anymore."
Starts walking again and this time Giles doesn't stop him.
Back to Buffy.