Warnings: Abuse, Angst, AU, Brutality, Child-abuse, Dark, Disturbed, Drug-use, Language, Self-injury, Xander-torture, Yoai/Slash.
Disclaimer: Neither Angel nor Buffy, the Vampire Slayer belong to Becka; characters are used without permission for a non-profit purpose. No infringement is intended.
I want to say that I didn't see it coming, but I promised myself that I would never lie again.
The truth is, I saw it coming. I saw it coming from a mile away.
It wasn't a sudden change or anything. It wasn't like the warning signs weren't there. I'm Sunnydale-born-and-raised; my ears are fine-tuned for that sort of shit.
I guess it's confusing. Fuck, I can look back and see that everything was so messed up and stupid, easy. I don't need a fucking therapist to tell me that.
Hindsight's perfect, you know. I know where this started. I can pinpoint it to the exact fucking _second_. I can draw you up a timeline with names and events, and I'll tell you right now, it's a fucking _spiral_.
Maybe that's inspiration, the little muse I never knew I had. Because it's my life we're talking about here, and that spiral goes in one direction - straight down.
You can follow it all the way. You can find it at the bottom of every bottle. You can see it with the flick of a fingernail against a needle. You can choke on it when the gun's shoved halfway down your throat and some homophobic sadist tells you to suck it nice and slow.
I'm a poster-child for childhood trauma, and it's followed me since my mother shoved me headfirst into this hellhole. Ask my dad. He'll tell you I'm the biggest accident of his pathetic life.
Then again, we live on the Hellmouth. Accidents happen.
But you can be sure he regrets drinking the abortion money. You can fucking bet on it.
I guess I started out normal enough. Middle-class family with a mother that baked the world's worst meatloaf and a father who got his jollies off in front of a television when Monday Night Football was on. Me? I was the kid who was afraid of the dark, and my mother looked under my bed for monsters every night just to shut me up.
Dark hair, dark eyes, and a smile that was always short a tooth. I guess I should be grateful my dad caught onto the child-abuse laws and stopped hitting me in the face. See, it's okay if you beat your kid with a belt, just so long as no one sees the welts.
I got yelled at a lot, for stupid shit mostly. Kids have this habit of knocking stuff over or dropping the beers they're supposed to fetch from the fridge until they develop a little thing called hand-eye coordination. I'd be willing to bet that if my dad hadn't killed my brain cells by bashing my head against the wall so much, I'd have developed them a lot sooner.
Still, it's a great excuse for teachers. Sorry, Ms. Paterson, I'm just clumsy, I guess.
I don't really know why I covered it up. I could have told them I was being abused, could have proved it with the scars on my back, the cigarette burns on my arms, the bruises on my stomach. I could have showed them the imprints on my arms and throat from beefy fingers that always seemed to squeeze the life out of me. I could have even repeated some of the names my father called me - you know, the ones little kids aren't supposed to learn until they're old enough to watch R-rated movies.
I could have. But I never did.
I just smiled at my teachers and told them I got cold really easy when they asked about the long-sleeve shirts in the middle of August.
I started learning how to cover his tracks when I was about six or seven. Why? I don't know. I guess I was scared. Maybe I thought if the world found out what a useless fuck-up I was, they'd side with my dad.
It's not like I really remember too much from back then. It's a blessing, if you think about it. I can't tell you about the first time he hit me because it's not something that sticks out. I remember the worst times, but those in-between backhands? The one-two sting of his belt? It's not like they were anything special. My only reminders are my scars, and I got rid of every mirror in my apartment ages ago.
Time passed. I got older. I filled out, put on some muscle. But I could never bring myself to hit him. I could never cross that line from fuck-up to victim. By the time I was fourteen, I knew I deserved everything he could give me and so much more. Fourteen is where I'll mark the beginning of my timeline. September 18th, 1995 - that was my fourteenth birthday, and two things happened.
The first was the discovery of something I like to call oblivion.
And the second was that I found out the monsters under my bed were real.
See, as I got older, my body wasn't the only thing that filled out. My mind... well, let's just say that did a little expanding of its own. When my father beat me, sure I was frightened. But I was angry, too. I was full-up with hatred, with rage, with a torrent of dark emotion that swirled around my head. And overriding everything else was the knowledge that I deserved it.
That confused me at first. I didn't deserve it, did I? I knew I was worthless, but no one deserves to have the snot kicked out of them for something they can't control. But my father felt I deserved it, and that's what I felt too.
Everyone else calls it empathy. Me? I call it shitty luck.
I learned, bit by bit, about my "gifts." I learned that I could sense emotions, pretty strongly, and that I could occasionally push them a little. Hell, I never studied for a math class in my life. I just pushed a bit of sympathy onto Mr. Johnson and let nature take its course.
Every birthday, it got stronger. Empathy is a powerful thing. And on the Hellmouth, it's painful as well. I'll get into that a little later. My other abilities developed along the way. Telekinesis, which was great when I needed to provide a bit of a distraction for my dad. When the beatings were too much, I'd ring the doorbell, and by the time he finished scouring the neighborhood for the "little punks who were trying to pull a fast one on him," he'd have totally forgotten about the boy bleeding to death in his basement. Of course, it was also pretty helpful when I was trying to keep my blood _in_ my body on the way to the hospital.
The pyrokinesis wigged me out a bit. When I get mad, and I mean fucking red-hot pissed, things have a tendency to spontaneously combust. After that developed, I started getting real damned good at controlling my temper. That hasn't changed much. I still hold it all in, but every once in a while, I need to let it loose, and when I do, it's like the fires of hell come to earth. It took the firefighters three days to subdue my most recent temper tantrum.
Clairvoyance is a pain in the ass. I've had six years to try and understand it, but I'm still clueless. It hits me every once in a blue moon, a barrage of images that I can't put together. Totally useless until _after_ whatever my prophecy's about has happened. It's only by looking back that I can see where it all comes together.
And my last "gift" is the worst of them all. Psychometry, that's what they call it in the books I've studied. To touch an object and have it tell you all about its last owner. But when someone touches me, God, it's more than I can fucking bare. It's like every single event that shaped their life is trapped behind a floodgate, and when they touch me, it opens up and drowns me. I know what torture is. And it's because of my psychometry that I can endure any torture without a cry.
I'd dealt with my father since, well, forever. I learned to endure pain. But sometimes the feelings of the whole fucking _town_ would just overwhelm me, and sometimes it was more than I could take, y'know? Someone would brush against me in the hallway, and I had to fight against falling to my knees and screaming.
It was only by chance that I stumbled across a little drug I fondly call oblivion.
Everyone else calls it heroin.
September 18th, 12:30 p.m., math class. My teacher's hand accidentally brushed against my own when he was returning an assignment. Forcing the bile down, I hoarsely whispered that I wasn't feeling well and asked to be excused.
Five minutes later my head was buried in the toilet as I brought breakfast up for a second look.
A voice behind me slurred, "Shit, man, you okay?"
I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand and turned. The boy was a little bit older than I was, and his bright, blue eyes were bloodshot and glazed.
"Shit," he repeated stupidly, giving me a cursory glance, "You look like you could use a hit." He squatted on the floor and unzipped his bag, pulling out all the standard paraphernalia: a belt, a spoon, a few sterilized needles.
Contrary to popular belief, I wasn't a complete idiot. I knew what he was offering.
Or maybe I was as much of an idiot as everyone said because I welcomed him with open arms.
Both of us crammed into one of the stalls, and he dropped one of the pills onto the spoon and used a lighter to liquefy it. A cotton ball was employed to soak it up, and a needle to extract it. I can still remember the flick of his fingernails against the needle, and the tiny little squirt that came out the tip. I can still remember him showing me how to tighten the belt around my arm, where to inject myself. I can still remember the tiny pinch as the needle pierced my skin.
And, God help me, I can still remember how fucking fantastic it felt.
The kid's name was Jesse. In those five minutes, he became the first and best friend I'd ever had.
We stumbled out of school and spent the rest of the day lying next to each other in the cemetery, too high to even move. I don't think I can even begin to explain how fucking _beautiful_ it was. As the drug worked its way through my system, the feelings that constantly haunted me faded into black nothingness. I touched Jesse's hand, and there was _nothing_ there. No feelings, no thoughts, no motley kaleidoscope of imagery.
I felt nothing. Even my own thoughts paled in the buffer of my oblivion.
We lay there until nightfall. I think we might have shot up again, but I'll be honest. I was too lost in not feeling to remember much else besides that. We might have talked, or we might have just lain there. Hell, we could have fucked like rabbits, and I wouldn't remember it.
What I _do_ remember was a vampire sinking his teeth into my neck.
Heroin's sort of funny like that. One minute I was laying there, lost in the joy that for a fleeting moment I could pretend I was normal, and the next minute there was this _pain_ that I'd never felt before. I could deal with it, but it snapped me out of my happy little reverie.
It dawned on me that I was up-close and personal to one of the monsters under my bed, and then the vampire pushed me away and spat in disgust, "Fuckin'_junkie_."
Mark that on the timeline as the first time anyone called me a junkie.
Be warned though - it was far from the last.
So there I was, sprawled out next to this kid I'd just met, confronted with a nasty that went bump in the night. My neck was bleeding, I think, and Jesse had this horrified look on his face, and the vampire was sneering at us. There was this sort of bizarre quiet that came over the cemetery. Guess someone was taking "silent as the grave" a bit literal.
And then I opened my mouth and the first thing that came out was, "You want some?"
The vampire blinked stupidly, staring at me like I'd lost my mind. Maybe I had, but I was too high to care.
Then he laughed. "Fuckin' riot, you are. You do know what I am, right?"
"Vampire?" I hazarded.
"And you want to shoot up with me?" The disbelief in his voice was tinged with a touch of curiosity. I knew, in that moment, that I would save or damn myself with my next words.
"Well," I drawled, "S'not like it'd kill you, right?"
He laughed again, and I got the impression that I'd amused him. "Fuckin' junkie," he muttered. Then he picked up the belt from the grass and tightened it like a noose around his arm. That seemed to snap Jesse out of his stupor, and he quickly prepared a needle as the vampire sat down on the grass next to us.
"Wot's your name, junkie?" he said, hissing a little as my new-found friend injected him. Jesse had prepared two more needles and I silently thanked him as the vampire offered me the belt.
Slipping it around my arm, I replied, "Xander. You?"
"Spike," he said shortly.
I reached up a hand and absently wiped the blood from my neck. I felt the sting of the needle in my other arm, and I closed my eyes and let everything drift away.
Sitting in the cemetery, shooting up with a vampire, trying to block the voices in my head, I knew.
I knew then and there that I was damned.
I just didn't care.
It's kind of funny, I guess, but that's how the next year of my life passed by. I went to school because I had no choice, and in the breaks between class, Jesse and I would sneak off to the bathrooms or the boiler room and lose ourselves. The heroin made it all right because we didn't have a group or a clique or whatever. We were the freaks, the odd ones out. Cordelia Chase's little posse would whisper and point whenever we passed them in the halls, but they wouldn't look us in the eyes.
There was another group, too. Buffy Summers had just moved to town and befriended Willow Rosenberg. It wouldn't have mattered to me, but Jesse _adored_ Willow, and had been trying to get up the courage to even talk to her. The one time he did manage to stutter out a "hello," Buffy swiftly intervened and snipped, "She's got better things to do than talk to you, burnout."
I couldn't care less how she treated me, but Jesse was a good guy. I fucking hated her after that.
Anyway, after school we'd slip off to the cemetery and Spike would roll around just as the sun faded from the sky. Sometimes he'd shoot up with us, but most of the time, he taught us. Or rather, he taught me.
I guess I was his pet project or something.
It was a week or two after we'd first met, and he'd said, "Fuckin' pathetic, you are. Loungin' in a bloody cemetery without a care. Suppose I 'afta fix that." And he did. He whipped me into shape faster than I thought possible, but it was nothing like the movies. In the movies, the fights are beautifully choreographed, like a fucking ballet or something. The moves Spike showed me were cheap, dirty, and effective as hell.
Jesse would sit on the sides, watching, as Spike taught me how to fight.
Looking back, I can see he was teaching me how to kill, but I don't care. Other than Jesse, those memories are probably the only good thing that came out of Sunnydale.
I remember this one time he got really frustrated with how I failed to put all my weight behind my punches. I think I snipped something about how he wasn't explaining it very well, and he turned around and fucking clocked me, all his vampiric strength behind that single hit.
I hit my knees. It hurt like hell, and a couple of flecks a light danced in front of my eyes. There was a buzzing in my ears, but slowly I started to hear someone calling my name.
"Aw, fuck, Xan, look at me. C'mon, please..." Spike's voice said, and gentle fingers touched my face.
"You broke my jaw," I tried to say, but it came out sounding more like, "Yuh buh muhha."
"Shit, shit, shit," Jesse muttered.
"Sorry 'bout that, pet. Need to get you to the 'ospital. Look, when they ask you wot 'appened-"
"Thuh wuh," I said.
Apparently Spike understood me because he blinked and asked, "Why not?"
"Cuh thuh nehhu huh buhuh."
Now, I know that people say vampires are pale, and I also know that there's no blood running through their veins, but in that moment, it looked like all the color had drained out of Spike's face.
Jesse glanced at Spike and asked, "What'd he say?"
And maybe my ears were still ringing, because it sounded like there was something stuck in Spike's throat when he replied, "He said they won't ask what 'appened, 'cause they never 'ave before."
They took me to the hospital, and the doctors patched me up without question. Spike never asked me what I meant, and I never tried to explain myself, but he knew. He never hit me again, either. He started bringing fledgling vampires with him occasionally, and demonstrated on them instead.
He brought other demons, too. Said he'd found them along the way, and taught me how to kill them.
It was fucked up, but it made me feel better.
On the nights that he shot up with us, he'd start talking. He'd tell us about the places he'd been, the things he'd seen. He'd recite bad poetry and rattle off ten ways to kill a Benslaxy demon in the same breath. There were times he'd speak in other languages that I didn't understand, or say things that I just didn't get, but during the day I'd research them. Half of his gift was teaching me. The other half was making me curious enough to learn.
My parents were under the impression that I was an idiot. My teachers seemed to think that I didn't like learning. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The problem I had with them was that I wasn't interested in what they were teaching.
So under Spike's guidance, I learned Latin, Gaelic, and a couple of other odd languages. He showed me how to hot-wire just about any vehicle I could get my hands on. He insisted that I be able to recognize mostly every demon in existence, know how to bargain with them, and if that didn't work, how to kill them. Jesse and I made our first fake IDs under his watchful eye, and while he said it was impossible for us to pass for twenty-one, we could at least pretend we were eighteen if we wanted to buy cigarettes.
In the same regard, he took us to get our first tattoos. I wanted something that covered my whole back, but I knew it was impossible because of all the scar tissue. So Jesse got his on his left shoulder and I got mine on the right - a railroad spike and a needle full of blood crossed over each other.
Spike and Jesse were like my family. Psychotic, drugged-up, fucked-up, yes, but they cared about me more than anyone else, and I love them for it. Two junkies and a vampire - sounds like the start of a really bad joke. But I never told them about my gifts. I guess I cared about them too much and the fear of rejection was still there.
I had a year with them - one screwy, messed up, perfect year. I used to be so afraid that someone would take them away because Spike and Jesse were too good to be true.
And then, someone did.