Timothy Harris’ House,
I was doing something I had sworn I would never would... in a good cause, and to honor family tradition.
I was getting drunk.
Ever since I realized that alcohol was the major cause of the problems my family has, I swore to myself that I would never become a drunk. Alcohol caused the demons buried in the psyche of my family to come forth and wreak more havoc than some of the real demons we faced.
My Uncle Rory, who had clipped a kid on a bicycle while driving drunk. The kid wasn't seriously injured, but Rory lost his license and did three months in jail.
My mother, watching TV in a stupor one minute, then flying off the handle for some unknown reason the next.
My father, who hit my mother for her mood swings, and hit me for not being the football player son he had wanted.
Earlier this year I said to hell with it. When dad was walking toward me with that murderous glint in his eye, the one that usually preceded an overhand right, I literally beat him to the punch. While mom was whimpering over his unconscious body, I walked upstairs, packed a few essentials in a bag, and walked out the front door.
Uncle Tim knew about my families' problems, which is why he never had much to do with them. He was in the Army until five years ago, and he would spend holidays with his unit, with other soldiers who couldn't go home. When he was home on leave, I'd visit him at his place and not say anything to my parents.
Tim had told me that whenever I had to get out of my house, I was free to come over to his. That night, seeing me standing on the doorstep with my bag on my shoulder, he wordlessly stepped aside and let me in.
The next morning, Tim and I made a deal. He needed someone to watch over his house while he was out of town or busy, and I needed a place to stay. I would do yard work and keep the house neat, while he would give me a room and some money to buy food and stuff.
When Tim and I went over to my family's house to pick up the rest of my stuff, my father was at work and my mother was lying on the couch nursing a hangover. She stared balefully at us when we walked out the door with a couple boxes full of my stuff, but she didn’t say a word.
I never said anything to Buffy and the others. Whenever we did something together, I would go to the library or the Bronze and meet them there. I gave them a phone number to a pager Tim had given me and told them that it was more reliable for messages.
I lived this way up until now, a week before Graduation. A week after Tim's death in the factory.
Which brings me to my current state. My broken promise.
Tim had not been much of a drinker himself, but he had the requisite bottles of booze in his den. Taking the bottle of John Jameson and a glass I sat down at the dinning room table, looking out the big picture window toward the setting sun.
I had also brought out some Coke and ice to use if the Irish whiskey was too strong, but after the first couple of sips the medicine taste of the liquor faded, leaving only the liquid heat as it went down my throat.
Once the sun had finally set, I didn’t want to turn on the overhead lights, so I lit a candle from the fireplace mantel and placed it on the table before me. Then I continued to drink, reaching a strange plateau of emotion by the time I was halfway through the bottle. That is when the door bell rang.
I should not have been surprised at who was standing on the doorstep, but I was anyway. After the blowup in the library the day before, and the secrets that had been revealed there, I was fully expecting that the rest of the gang would stay away from me. If anyone was going to come to talk to me, I would have thought it would be Rupert Giles. Instead, when I swung the heavy wooden door open, I saw Buffy Summers on the porch before me.
I waited for a moment to see what the blonde Slayer would say, but she stood there with a set expression on her face. Almost half a minute passed before I finally broke the silence.
“If you’re here to keep screaming at me, Buffy, I’m busy right now. Say what you have to and get going.” I was proud of the fact that the alcohol was not slurring my words, but that did not have anything to do with the cold tone of my voice either.
Buffy snorted softly. “I pretty much said everything I wanted to back at the library, Xander. I just wanted to ask you a couple of things.”
Stepping back, I waited until Buffy walked on through the doorway before I closed and locked the door. Walking toward the dinning room I asked a question without turning to look at Buffy. “How did you know that I was here?”
“I didn’t. I went to your house first and your mom said that you didn‘t live there anymore. I called Willow and she didn’t even know that you had moved out. Then I remembered about your uncle’s house and it took me a little while to find it.” Buffy stopped just before entering the dinning room and her eyes got a little wider. “Xander, have you been drinking?”
“Yep. I’m upholding a Harris family tradition. You can join me if you like.”
Walking into the room, I took my weapon from my waistband under my untucked shirt, placed it on the table and sat down. I waited for Buffy to take a seat as well, but she was staring at the object I had just put on the table.
“Xander,” Buffy asked in a tense voice, “Why do you have a gun out?”
I looked over at the cocked and locked Colt Government Model .45 automatic pistol laying on the table next to the bottle of Jameson. Looking from the pistol to Buffy and noticing that Buffy was on edge, I smiled up at her. “You don’t think I going to do something stupid, do you?”
Seeing the stricken look on Buffy’s face, I chuckled and motioned for her to sit down. Once she gingerly slid into the seat, I took the second glass I had on the table and filled it half way before passing it over to her. Buffy looked at the glass and then back at me before taking a sip. Making a face at the taste, Buffy put the glass back on the table before staring at me again. “Is it loaded?”
“It wouldn’t be much good if it wasn’t.” Seeing the thoughts crossing her face, I took a drink from my glass and put it back on the table. “With all the things we’ve seen and done, Buff, do you really think I would kill myself?”
“I thought I knew you pretty well, Xander, but things change. Sometimes you like a different person.” Buffy was avoiding the question.
“Well, one of the few things I’ve learned in all this time of fighting evil is if there is a Hell, I don’t want to go to it. Suicide is the express elevator to getting there.” Seeing Buffy’s face tighten at the reference to Hell, I held up my hand. “We said all we had to on that, Buffy, we don’t want to start that up again.”
Picking up the pistol I ejected the magazine and then racked the slide, the gleaming hollow point round falling to the table with a clatter. I loaded the round into the mag and inserted it back into the pistol after dropping the hammer, leaving the chamber clear. “There Buff, safe as it’s going to get for now.” I placed the pistol back on the table. “If you’re going to be answering the door after dark in this town, you need to have something close by.”
Buffy seemed to accept my explanation. Taking glass in hand and eyeing it for a moment, she took another sip and winced before looking back at me. “Why are you drinking, Xander?”
“This is what is known as an Irish Wake. After you bury your dead the friends and family get together and get rip roaring drunk or morosely drunk, your choice. The real wake is being held at First Asterisk, but I can’t drink there. And after what happened at the library this morning, I thought I was better off alone.”
“You should have called someone, Xander. You shouldn’t be alone at a time like this.” Buffy had her hand on her glass, but made no move to drink from it.
I snorted at her statement. “I saw the looks on everyone’s faces back at the library, Buff, no one would want to be with me right now. Even Oz was shocked. What am I going to say, ‘Hey, come over to my dead uncle’s house and get loaded with me. Free booze!’” Sipping from the whiskey glass, I looked across the rim at Buffy. “I don’t have any other friends here besides you guys, and now that’s gone.”
Buffy shifted uncomfortably in her chair. “We’re still your friends, Xander. It’s just after what you did with Angel...”
I shook my head. “You had to go and attack me and scream it out in front of everyone else. Now it’s even money as to who the gang thinks is the biggest bastard in this town, me or Angelus.”
Buffy narrowed her eyes at me. “What you said back at the school, that you were trying to save us all, is that the whole truth?”
“You want the whole truth? You’re not going to like it.” I watched her nod, her face expressionless. “You were right, I was jealous of Angel. And I was right, if I had told you that Willow was going to try the spell again you would have held back and Angelus would have killed you. In this case my feelings and circumstances combined.”
Buffy’s mouth tightened. “Because of you, I sent Angel to Hell.”
I drink the last of the whiskey in the glass before answering. “Because of me, we still have a world to stand on. You were fighting full out and you didn’t stop Angelus from pulling the sword from Acathla. You can honestly tell me you could have stopped him if you had been stalling for time hoping for the spell to work?”
Buffy and I stared at each other for an endless moment, eyes locked on each other, before Buffy finally looked down at the table.
“If it makes you feel any better, Angel said that he understood what you did. That he’s not holding it against you.” Buffy’s eyes were now fixed on her whiskey glass, which was now at a quarter full.
“Well, then he’s a better person than me, ‘cuz if our positions were reversed, I’d rip his guts out.” I refilled my glass from the bottle and put it back down. “Is that the question you wanted to ask me?”
“No, it’s not.” Buffy looked up at me from her glass. “Why did you come after me?”
“What are you talking about?” I thought knew what she meant, but I wanted to be sure.
“Why did you do the blood rite? Giles told me that anyone without serious magic experience doing the rite could have died - *should* have died.” Buffy was staring at me across the table.
“We’ve lost too many people - Faith, Tim, the other deputies in the ambushes. I didn’t want to lose anyone else.” I drank from my glass trying to cover the expression on my face, but it didn’t work.
“Bull, Xander. You have this crazed idea that you have to save us all, and you keep throwing yourself in the line of fire doing it. How many time have you almost gotten killed trying to save someone.?”
“Trying? Trying??? I’ve saved everyone in our group at least once. Some I’ve saved more than once.” I looked pointedly at Buffy, who flinched under my glare. “You don’t have a monopoly on the people-saving here in Sunnydale.”
“But you don’t have any powers! You don’t have strength or speed or magic!” Both of our glasses were now forgotten on the table as our voices rose. “You’re just a normal guy, Xander! You’re just a...” Buffy’s voice faltered as I stared angrily at her.
“Zeppo? Is that the word you ever looking for?” Buffy fell silent as I brought up the hated name. She knew what it meant to me - she had seen the memory of Cordelia mocking me with that name. She had also seen me saving the school and the gang from the bomb in the boiler room when they had excluded me from fighting the female demons trying to open the Hellmouth.
“You’re a normal guy, Xander. I just don’t want to see you get hurt. ” Buffy’s voice trailed off as she looked down at the table.
“It’s a little late for that, Buffy. We live on the Hellmouth. There’s always a chance of getting hurt.”
“How many times have you almost died, Xander? I don’t think I know how many times you’ve put it on the line for us. This isn’t your job, or duty, Xander, it’s mine. I’m the one girl...”
“...In all the world who has the power to fight the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness, blah blah blah.” I completed Buffy’s sentence. “You really did buy into all that Watcher crap, didn’t you? If you hear it enough, even you’re going to believe it. Never mind that the Watcher’s Council has cut you off and left you on your own on a active Hellmouth.
“I’m just a guy, but ever since I found out about vampires I can’t turn away from it. Yeah I know I can die, yeah most people treat me like crap because they don’t know what we do, and yeah you guys treat me like the retarded cousin that has to be protected from the big bad world, but there’s only one way I was going to leave this mess. Feet first.”
“Feet first? I don’t get it.” Buffy looked confused at my last statement.
“When they carry me out in a body bag. Feet first.” I explained, seeing comprehension cross Buffy’s face. “I’m eighteen years old, Buff. I could have enlisted in the Army at seventeen and now be fighting in some dark corner of the world, and would you be saying that it is not my place to fight? We make choices, and I’ve made mine here. This whole year, I’ve tried to convince you of it, but I can’t get through to you. Well, I’m done trying to convince you. If what happened when I did the blood rite doesn’t do it, I don’t know what else will.”
Buffy was staring at her whiskey glass when I finished my little speech. After a bit she looked up at me, and I was surprised to see that there were tears in her eyes.
“I... I didn’t just see what has happened in your life when you did the blood rite, Xander. I... I felt it too. I could feel all the emotions you were feeling when all that happened. All the pain, all the fear. But you kept on fighting, you kept saving us.” Buffy looked down again. “I don’t know how you do it, when I feel that way at least I know I have my Slayer abilities to fall back on. But you don’t. How do you do it?”
I took a swallow of whiskey before answering, not wanting to seem arrogant, but trying to be honest. “Tim once said that being brave isn’t the absence of fear, that it was being able to do what had to be done in spite of it. So having your insides turn to Jell-O or having your knees shake is normal. It’s the guys that can push through that and get the job done that are heroes. I’m not calling myself a hero here, because I was being selfish. I did it because I was afraid to face what would happen if I didn’t do anything.”
Buffy looked at me again. “What were you afraid of?”
“People being hurt. Having to face myself in the mirror knowing that because I did nothing someone was dead. I know that we can’t save everyone, but I have to try anyway. I‘ll be damned if I don‘t, and I don‘t mean figuratively. It already happened to me once and I didn‘t want it to happen again.”
“What do you mean, happen to you again?” Buffy had her glass in hand, but made no move to drink.
“Jesse. I have nightmares about him at the Bronze, trying to talk me into becoming a vampire, and you know what was scary?” Buffy’s eyes were locked on mine. “It sounded good, you know, being powerful, living forever. And you know what the really bad part was? I didn’t really stake him. I had my stake up against his chest, listening to him talk, when someone pushed into me from behind and the stake went in. I saw the face of my friend since I was five turn to dust in front of me and blow away.”
Draining the glass in front of me, I picked up the bottle and refilled Buffy’s glass, then topped off my own. I set the empty bottle aside, trying not to look at the sympathy on Buffy’s face.
“Then there was you. A beautiful blonde haired girl fighting the vampires and the demons and I thought to myself, ‘If she can do it, so can I. I can fight the monsters, keep more friends from becoming bloodsuckers, from becoming dust.’ I didn’t have a lot of friends, you know, but I wouldn’t want Amy or Jonathan or Cordelia to become monsters wearing their faces. It gave me something to do, something to aspire to. ‘Xander Harris, Vampire Hunter.’ It sounded better than ‘Burger Flipper’ or ‘Gas Jockey’ anyway.” I raised the glass to my lips and nearly spilled it before I drank. The whiskey was finally catching up with me.
“So we save some people, and I feel good about it, but then you get more experience as a Slayer, and Willow gets witchy and Oz get wolfy, and Faith joins us, so now you guys don’t see me as a helper, you see a guy that need protecting. Never mind that I do pretty good on my own, thank you very much. I’m just the guy to carry books and buy donuts. Well, no sir, Xander Harris is going to keep fighting, because I see what happens when we don’t. People die, they turn up with funny little holes in their necks, or with great big chunks missing. So what I do is all in the shadows now, because you guys yell at me when I fight. I pick off the stragglers, the bad guys coming up behind you, and you just ignore me now, but I know that I’m saving you guys, so I don’t care. Then everything goes wrong, the fluke with Willow, losing Cordy, Faith going bad, the ambushes, the Ascension. We still don’t know how we are going to stop the Mayor, do we?” Buffy shook her head, the sympathy on her face now replaced with sorrow.
Looking at the glass in front of me, I hold it in front of me for a moment before drinking from it, leaving it empty. Putting the glass down, I run my hands over my forearms, feeling goose bumps under my shirtsleeves. “You know what’s the most wrong with vampires? How cold they are. It‘s just not natural. I don’t like the cold, never did. That’s why I dress weird, always trying to keep warm.” I giggled a little, startling Buffy. “That and the fact that my parents really did get my clothes from Goodwill.”
Buffy looked at me for a moment, obviously thinking something over before coming to a decision. Standing up, she walked over to the phone on the side table and dialed a number. I was starting to feel drowsy, so I only caught the first part of the conversation Buffy had on the phone.
“Hi, it’s Buffy... You said that you owed Xander a big favor... I’m calling that favor in now...”
The next thing I know, I’m being shaken awake. Opening my eyes slightly I thought I saw two people. Blinking my blurry eyes, I saw Buffy and Cordelia standing in front of me. I blink a couple of more times to make sure I’m not seeing things, since fashion-plate Cordelia Chase was wearing only a Sunnydale High sweatshirt and faded jeans, her hair in a casual ponytail.
“You sure he’s not going to try something, Summers? Because if he does, I’m going to break his hands and shove them up his...” Cordy’s little discourse was interrupted by Buffy.
“He’s not going to try anything, Cordelia, he drank most of that bottle over there. I just think someone should stay with him, and I have to go on patrol. Willow can’t do it. That leaves you.”
“If it wasn’t for that favor I owed him, I’d tell you to get lost. This is going to make us even?”
“Yeah. Look, I’m going to give you Xander’s gun, make sure he doesn’t get his hands on it until morning or sobriety, whichever comes last. You know how to handle a handgun, right?”
“I learned how to shoot at the country club, no problem. You going to carry him upstairs or you going to leave him there tonight?”
“I’ll carry him up. Can’t have you risk breaking a nail.”
Shaking myself awake, I flinch at the overhead light that had been turned on. Squinting against the light, I groan. “What are you doing here, Cordy?”
“You need a nurse maid tonight, and I drew the short straw.”
“Did you bring the outfit to go with it? I thought you mentioned that you had one once.” Looking up through the bright light, I could see that Cordelia had a faint blush on her face while Buffy was trying not to smile.
“Stand up, geek boy. Time to go to bed.”
“Really? How come you didn’t say stuff like this when we were together?” Seeing the blush deepen on Cordelia’s face and hearing the short sound of laughter from Buffy, I stood up from my chair and wavered for a moment before Buffy put her hand on my arm, steadying me.
“Grab the gun, I’ll walk him up.” With Buffy guiding me, I walked up the stairs to my bedroom. Once there, Buffy helped me take off my shirt, shoes and pants, leaving me shivering in my boxers and t-shirt while Cordelia stood with my pistol in her hand, watching me with some amusement.
“As much as I want to have two sexy women undress me, I’m cold.” I sat down heavily on the bed. Clumsily pulling down the covers, I got under them before looking up at the two women. “Still cold.”
Buffy opened the closet and pulled out another blanket that she covered me with. Smoothing the covers, Buffy said, “We have some more things to talk about. I’ll call tomorrow.” Turning, she walked out of the room, Cordelia following her.
A couple minutes later, Cordelia walked back into the room and seemed surprised that I was still awake. I asked drowsily, “What are you still doing here, Cordy? Buffy should have walked you home.”
Cordelia dropped a small gym bag on the floor before walking up to the bed and looking down at me. “I told you, I’m the nurse maid. At least until you’re sober again. What are you doing still awake?”
“Can’t sleep when I’m cold.” I shivered under the covers, they had not warmed up yet. “Can you get me another blanket?”
Cordelia looked in the closet then back at me. Biting her lip for a moment, she said, “I’ll go look in another room.” Taking the magazine from the Colt, she put them in one of the dresser drawers before picking up her bag and leaving.
A couple minutes of shivering later, my eyes widened slightly as I watched Cordelia came back in wearing only a tank top and boxer shorts, carrying a blanket in her hands. Spreading the blanket on top of me, Cordelia surprised me further by pulling down the covers and getting into bed with me.
I sputtered for a moment, “Cordy, what are you doing...?
Shoving my shoulder, Cordelia rolled me over on one side and spooned up behind me, her warm soft body pressed against mine as she wrapped her arm around me. “Keeping you warm, dork. Don’t make any funny moves, or I’ll shove that forty-five up your nose.”
Feeling her body heat start to warm me up as her scent drifted over me, I gradually relaxed, the shivering slowing and finally stopping. I started to drift off.
“Thank you Cordy,” I murmured as I started to fall asleep.
“You’re welcome, Xander.”
Feeling warm for the first time in days, I slept.
Feed Greydon Creed Visit Greydon Creed Return to Writercon Archive Main