Title: Zeppo No Longer

Author: VladtheImpish

Rating: Nothing worse than the show, although I am a little more free with the expletives.

Summary: Xander Harris realises that the only person that can change everyone's opinion of him is himself.

Spoilers: Season four, kinda. Most things happen but not necessarily in the right order, or with the same people.

A/N: The Xander Harris that appears is more serious than a lot of people would like. I felt that the only way for him to be seen as the person he truly is requires him to remove the walls that he has placed around himself, the largest being his constant use of humour. His humour will remain but it will be toned down somewhat.

Zeppo No Longer

Prologue

Xander looked at the leather bound journal in his hands and once again wondered what possessed him to buy it, shuddering at his poor choice of words. He'd been possessed too many times to be flippant about it, even with himself. He then looked around the bare walls of his bedroom and remembered exactly why he had bought it.

Picking up a pen, Xander opened the journal and began to write before he could change his mind.

'Where should I begin? I never saw the need to have a journal before, so I'm not sure on the etiquette involved. God, if anyone saw that I used the word etiquette, let alone correctly, they'd have Giles check me for extra occupants in a heartbeat.

Where was I? Oh, yes. My name is Xander Harris and I've lived my entire life in Sunnydale, California. Today I'm leaving and I don't know when, or even if, I'll be back.

Up until three years ago, I only had two real friends, Willow and Jesse. God, that makes me sound like some sort of loner. I was friendly with a lot of people, but I'd only ever considered Willow and Jesse to be my friends. We did everything together, I once described us as the modern day equivalent of the Three Musketeers, and we had a bond that we all believed could never be broken.

Then all that changed when one Buffy Anne Summers arrived in town and my world was turned on its head.

From the moment I saw her I was in love, literally head over heels in fact. My first words to her were 'Can I have you?', and those words have repeated in my head every time I have seen her since then. I never say it out loud as I know the answer would be 'No', just as it was when I asked her out, but it doesn't stop me from wanting to, and imagining what it would be like for her to say yes.

In the past three years since Buffy arrived, my life has changed a lot; I find out that Vampires, Werewolves and every other thing that goes bump in the night are all real, apart from leprechauns so Giles told me. I find out that I have been living in a demon hotspot all of my life, affectionately called a Hellmouth. I also find out that Buffy has been chosen by, well I guess it was God, to kick demon ass and chew bubblegum, although I think she chose to do the latter. In every generation a Slayer is born, chosen to fight the darkness and Buffy was it.

Less than a week after we met Buffy, our trio became a duo. Jesse had been killed and turned by a vampire called Darla, and I was the one that staked him, which ranks as one of the most painful experiences of my life. I know that it wasn't actually Jesse, it was a demon with his face, but it didn't, and doesn't, make me feel any better.

That first week was also the first time I saved Buffy's life and received no thanks for it; I have done so many times since then, but rarely if ever have I received even a nod in thanks. It's not like I did it for the recognition, but that doesn't mean I like being taken for granted, and it doesn't take two seconds to say 'thanks'.

Almost every woman that has been interested in me since I met Buffy has either turned out to be a demon, tried to kill me, or in most cases both. I have faced more life threatening situations than any one person should in a lifetime, especially for someone who isn't even legally allowed to drink alcohol. But none of that accounts for why I'm leaving.

Even though it wasn't our job, Willow and I helped Buffy and Giles, her Watcher who helps her develop her fighting skills, with fighting the good fight. We helped, not because we had to, but because we wanted to. Over time Willow started to take an interest in magic, and has slowly but surely grown in experience and power. I've also dabbled with magic, but the results were anything but promising.

Another thing that started to change over the years was how the others in our little band perceived me. They slowly started to believe that I was nothing more than a burden to the group, and that I would end up getting hurt, or worse, get others hurt. They even went so far as to tell me to stop helping with patrols.

I don't see that Buffy has any reason to be pushing me away, saying that I'm getting in the way and she's just trying to protect me. If she only knew what I've done, she wouldn't be able to use that as an excuse.

She knows that I saved her life after she first faced the Master, who was a vampire that wanted to rule the world. She doesn't know that I had to force Angel, the vampire with a soul who said he loved her, into showing me the way to the Master's lair.

She doesn't know that I stopped Angelus, who Angel becomes without a soul, from killing her when she was lying in a hospital bed.

She doesn't know that I stopped a gang of zombies from blowing up the high school while she and the others were fighting the sisterhood of Jhe.

Buffy and the others don't know because I haven't told them, partly because I don't like talking about what I suppose would be called good deeds, and partly because I know that they'd only rip me a new asshole if they found out. They wouldn't care that I got out of it safely, only that I got into it in the first place. If I do something wrong they berate me, and if I do something right… they berate me anyway for being in there in the first place.

Of course, that isn't the only reason why I haven't told them, although it does rank pretty high. I need to know that they want to have me around because of what they do know about me, instead of having to lay out everything I've done for them. I still love Buffy despite everything, and every time she pushes me away 'for my own good' my heart shatters.

That's another reason why I need to leave. If I stay, I know I'll either tell her exactly how I feel about her, and then what little relationship we have left will go, or I'll eventually hate her for never returning my feelings and I love her too much to allow that to happen.

If I'm not here, I'll have a better chance of getting over her, whilst being able to maintain some semblance of a relationship with her. I sound pathetic I know, but I don't have a lot going for me in my life, so I want to keep whatever I do have for as long as possible.

There is of course another reason why I need to get away from Sunnydale and it has to do with Willow. We were caught kissing by Oz, who is Willow's boyfriend, and Cordelia who, at the time, was my girlfriend. I have no idea why it started, let alone why we repeated it, and when we finally decided to stop for the sake of our current relationships, we were found out. That was partly Spike's fault, having kidnapped us and all, and I will be having… words with the bleach blonde vampire when I have the chance, but that doesn't change the fact we were caught with our fingers in the proverbial cookie jar.

I tried to fix things with Cordelia, but she wanted nothing to do with me and I can't blame her for that either. I'm not even sure why I tried to patch things up with her to be perfectly honest; I knew that it would never go anywhere all the time I had feelings for Buffy, but the selfish part of me didn't want to be alone and she had been my best shot. It wasn't that I didn't care for her, because I did, but she was never first in my heart.

When we were caught, Willow had to stop being around me to try and fix things with Oz and I don't blame her for that. What did annoy me was that everyone blamed me for what happened. I didn't force Willow to kiss me the first time, or any time after that for that matter. What we did was wrong, I freely admit that, but it was something we did wrong, both of us equally. It seems, however, that everyone has forgotten that it takes two to tango, and Willow is almost being treated as a victim in all this.

Anyway, Willow and Oz are back to talking to each other and Oz is finding it easier to be around me, but I don't even know that we could be classified as friends anymore, and my relationship with Willow is held together by a thread.

If I stay and nothing changes I will die inside.

I can't stay in a place where the two most important people in my life don't want me around. I've told them that I am going on a journey of self-discovery and that I'm planning on driving to all fifty states. They just say to have fun. They don't even bother trying to tell me that Hawaii is an island. What does that tell you?

They are the only people who could make me stay and they just don't care enough to try. I just need to find somewhere I am needed.'

Xander read over what he had wrote and actually felt a little better that he had put his thoughts into words. He had bottled up a lot of this up over the years, not having anyone around that he could talk with about things, and he didn't know just how tense he had been about things until now. Writing in a journal wasn't the same as talking to someone, but for now it would have to do.

Putting the journal in his pack, Xander checked his room to make sure he had everything he wanted to take with him, and then made his way to his car.


Xander looked around his room and once again looked down at the journal he had in his hands. It had been a while since he'd even looked at it, a long while in fact, and had actually only entered one entry into it. For some reason he felt the urge to write in it again, and as he thought about it, it made a twisted sort of sense.

'It's been four months since I left Sunnydale. I know I should have updated this more frequently, but as I said at the beginning I'm new to this whole journal-keeping thing.

I spent the first couple of months driving from state to state, either staying in dingy motels or in the back of my car, getting work wherever I could. At night I would patrol, not because I had some destiny to fulfil or a past to atone for, but to make sure that anyone who was unlucky enough to be chosen as a vamps meal got to see another sunrise.

I've actually gotten rather good; on a couple of occasions I've had to take on three vamps at the same time and gotten through it well enough to go to work the next day. I think that knowing Buffy and the others won't arrive has helped me a lot. I have always had good survival instincts, but knowing that those instincts are all that I have has forced me to get better.

My Lone Ranger bit went on until I got to the town of Oxnard, where the engine of my car decided to spread itself along the highway. I didn't have enough cash to pay for the car to get fixed, so I got a job at a male strip club as a barman. I pretty much kept myself to myself; working during the day and patrolling at night, when I wasn't working a double shift anyway.

After a month I could afford to get my car fixed, but even when my car was finished, I decided to stay. There was quite a large vamp population when I got there, and I decided to try to bring that down. This was a place I could make a difference. I wanted to make a difference.

And I did make a difference. It wasn't long before I heard that vamps were leaving town so they didn't become dust in the wind. There were even rumours floating around that the Slayer had decided to visit Oxnard with a mission to kill every vampire in residence.

I knew that things had been blown out of proportion, and that the vamps simply weren't used to having someone around who fought back, but I liked the fact that I was making the town safer again.

The trouble was, as much as I was making a difference, I still had a void inside that I wasn't able to fill.

I was starting to settle down and think of my motel room as home, when my boss had a stripper call in sick and I had to fill in for them. I got up there, did my thing, collected my tips and went home. When I got to my room, I decided I was going to quit and go back to Sunnydale.

It wasn't because of what I did, as I would have just refused. I decided to leave because I didn't care that I did it. I got away to stop feeling unwanted, and ended up not feeling anything at all.

I realised then that the void I had inside would only be filled by my real home, Sunnydale.

I realised that I had run away from my problems when I should have tried harder to fix them. What was worse was that I was acting like the rest of my family, and I had always promised myself I would never turn out like them.

Even if I never get things back to where they were before or even if things get worse than, I know that I have to try.

Tomorrow, as soon as I gave in my notice, I was making my way back home.'

Xander put his journal into his bag and, after taking one last look around the motel room that had become to feel like home, got up and went to his car.

"Sunnydale, here I come."