Title: The Long Haul

Author: Becka
Pairing: Eventual Spike/Xander.

Warnings: Angst, Brutality, Dark, Disturbed, Language, Xander-torture.

Disclaimer: Buffy, the Vampire Slayer does not belong to Becka; characters are used without permission for a non-profit purpose. No infringement is intended.

Notes: Takes place at the end of the final season.


Xander's not in it for the long haul. The short haul left him minus an eye and out a girlfriend, so he really doesn't want to contemplate what the long haul might do to his precarious hold on a little thing he calls "sanity."

Thing is, no one seems to be giving Xander much of a chance to back out.

It's not like he volunteers for the shit they send his way. It's not like he's got a sign on his back that says, "Handyman for Abuse." It's not like he fucking _cares_ anymore.

But there's Buffy out of the corner of his eye, mouthing for him to give her a hand with the new Slayers. And there's Willow, with that little pout that he used to find endearing, begging for some advice on the Kennedy-bitch. And Faith! God, didn't see that one coming from a mile a way, with a beer in her hand, actually asking for advice from him – him! – on what to do about their finances.

It's not a choice. He didn't make the choice.

And the long haul is looking to be more of a reality every goddamn day.

He could leave. Maybe.

It's a possibility that's got some merit, at any rate. If he just picked up his shit – maybe – and caught a ride out of town, he could start over somewhere else. Elsewhere. Maybe.

He wouldn't even have to _tell_ anyone. But then, they'd look for him.

He could fake his own death.

That was plausible. Just a "Hey, G-man, I'm goin' out for a walk. Yeah, yeah, I got my stake on me. What's the worst that could happen?"

He could go to a bar. Find a dark-haired, dark-eyed, construction-does-a-body-good traveler from out of town. Get the kid drunk enough to pass out. Maybe slip a little morphine into his beer, that way when he cut the kid's eye out, there wouldn't be any screaming. Doll the kid up in his favorite jeans and the most obnoxious flannel shirt that he owned, and knock out all of his teeth.

The teeth part was an afterthought. And considering that Sunnydale had gone up in flames, it was probably just paranoia. Nobody _had_ his dental records, did they?

So, yeah, innocent bystander substitute. Maybe go after that vampire nest that's been giving the gals some problems. Yeah, could work. Go after the nest with his double in tow, burn the place down, and hey! Charred but just barely recognizable Xander corpse.

And _then_ he could leave. No ties. No obligations. No fucking long haul.

He has money. Anya's genius with finances had insured he'd never need to work another day in his life. Her intuition had landed him stock in some of the fastest growing industries. He had his fingers in every new-money pie out there.

Yeah, he could do it.

No ties. No bestest buds turned worst enemies with spurts of "being there when really needed." No childhood friends biting the dust. No heart-to-heart shit. No freaky supernatural occurrences. No _vampires_.

Maybe he could go to college. He could pick some big university in some faraway city where no one knew him and it didn't matter if he got a "D" on his paper because he'd know he'd done his best. He could get a degree. He could grow up and put away his childhood nightmares and forget about the things that went bump in the night.

No obligations to anyone but himself.

He's driving himself crazy with this. "Giles," he calls out, snatching a stake from the kitchen table, "I'm goin' out for a walk."

Just to clear his head. A walk in the cold, crisp, _clean_ air to clear his head so that he can go back and pretend he's doing something with his life. Some fresh air to clear his head. Yeah, that's all he needs. A breather.

"Are you quite sure you want to go alone?" the British voice calls back.

"Yeah," Xander says as he slips through the door. "I'm armed. What's the worst that could happen?"

His hand comes up to cover his mouth. Shit, shit, shit, he thinks. Didn't just say that.

Innocent coincidence, that's all it is. And if he repeats it enough to himself, he starts to believe it.

His feet take over and he wanders without purpose. Probably not healthy, considering that mindless wandering occasionally lands one in graveyards, which in turns leads to staking fledges, which might even lead to getting turned _into_ said fledge. But Xander's mind is wandering in the great abyss, and it's so small compared to the rest of the universe that it's quite lost.

Maybe "M.I.A." would be the better term.

Jesus, he thinks. It's not my fault. I didn't ask for this.

But looking back, he had to try to fit in, didn't he? And in the beginning, it was great. He was part of the elite. He was privileged to stand beside the Slayer and kick butt. Well, get his butt kicked and run screaming like a girl, but hey! This is his own head, and denial is a beautiful place.

Besides, after seven years of getting his ass handed to him, he's improved a bit. Has a shot when it comes to ass kicking. Has an even greater tolerance for pain. Even he's not so thick that he can hang with the Slayer for so long and not pick up a few new tricks for his bag.

Take the new Slayer-babies for example. They've got the strength, but he can kick their butts around the block, because he's got the style. Ha! That's a laugh. Xand-man's got style. Finesse. Feng shui.

But it's the truth, and that's part of the reason they want to keep him around. He's never going to be able to pull off the Matrix shit, but he can hold his own. And when he can't, he's got the tolerance, the stamina, and the stupidity to survive whatever anyone might throw at him.

He's leading himself in circles, he thinks. Because in the beginning, he did enjoy it. He _liked_ having the dirt on every big'n'bad that came to town. He _liked_ being part of the circle that took them down.

Jesus, he liked being accepted. Was that so wrong?

And because he was always there, somehow Giles, Buffy, and Willow seemed to think he would always _be_ there. But they didn't know what he did for them – saving Buffy's life when the Master came to town, stopping the school from going ka-boom when Jack and the Zombies wanted to bake a cake, just to name a few.

The long haul is so fucked, because he's got a hyena cackling in his head and a soldier barking out orders. The long haul is no longer cool, because he's got scars from every Ugly he did the tango with. The long haul is killing him, because his girlfriends have wanted him for three reasons – a late night snack, a spell gone wrong, or wild animal sex.

The sex part he can deal with, even if it left him feeling like a two-cent hooker. The sex part is fine, because that's what normal, horn-ball teenagers do.

But when his love prospects want to bite his head off during the act, Xander feels he has the right to protest.

He knows he's not normal. He knows he's not healthy. But sometimes he wonders if he could have been normal in another world. If he could have been an innocent bystander if not for the whole slay-first-question-later thing.

It's in his fucking _blood_ now. Seven years of training has it so far ingrained in him that when he hears a loud noise, he drops to the floor and reaches for the nearest weapon. A plane passes overhead and he's got flashbacks of the sonic boom that made his school go bye-bye. The last person that sneaked up on him was in the hospital for a month with a broken leg, two fractured ribs, and a punctured lung.

He's dangerous now. He's a fucking menace to society. He can't function in the real world anymore because he's choking on war-mentality, and it's a bitter taste.

It seemed so innocent seven years ago. They were the good guys. They soundly thrashed and alternately banished the bad guys.

But now, there's nothing _left_ for him. He's removed himself so far from the rest of society that the only people he can have any semblance of normal conversation with at bars are the military kind. He can't chat up pretty girls, because they're not Anya. He can't kid around with the guys because his humor's been reduced to one-liners involving smelly demon guts.

Killing and recreation are no longer mutually exclusive.

And it's just so fucked. Everything's _fucked_ because death is in his blood and he doesn't know how to live anymore. And every day in that house, training Slayers, giving love-advice to witches, researching and patrolling – Jesus, it's fucking killing the little spark he thinks of as his soul.

He wants out. He wants out so bad.

But the long haul is always looming.

His feet stop walking and he looks up. His destination surprises him, but not as much as it should have. Seedy little bar, right on the outskirts of town, and he represses the urge to vomit.

He should walk away. He should turn on his heel and skip back to the house and lend his ear to Willow while she babbles about Kennedy. He shouldn't be here.

"Fuck, man," a voice behind him says. "You goin' in or not?"

He turns and his heart skips a beat.

Dark hair. Dark eyes. Maybe an inch shorter than he is.

And fuck, he shouldn't be thinking about it, but he already is. It's in his blood.

"Sorry," his mouth says, curving up into an easy smile. "Long day."

"S'cool," the guy replies.

"Lemme' buy you a drink," Xander's mouth offers. "Least I can do."

The guy laughs. "Sounds like a plan."

Xander wonders if the guy has a girlfriend.

"What's your poison?" Xander's mouth asks.

"Tequila," the guy says.

Xander wonders if the guy's mother is still alive. Xander wonders if his mother will miss him.

"C'mon," Xander's mouth replies as he jerks his thumb towards the door. "I'll buy you a couple of shots. Make up for my earlier stupidity."

"Sounds good, but you really don't have to," the guy replies.

Xander wonders when everything went so wrong.

"I insist. Think of it as my apology." Xander's mouth is a cocky little bastard. And Xander is finding out just how much he hates himself.

But none of that matters as they make their way to the bar.

Because Xander knows that he doesn't have the choice anymore. There's no turning back.

Xander's in it, now.

He's in it for the long haul.