TITLE: The Beauty of Morning Light (8/?)

AUTHOR: Wicked Raygun

E-MAIL: wicked_raygun@yahoo.com

SUMMARY: With his grief still eating away at him, Xander must find it in his heart to help someone.

RATING: PG-13

SPOILERS: Up to season five's The Gift.

DISCLAIMOR: I refuse to believe this is necessary. Does anyone here actually believe I own this stuff in any way? Well… To the folks who do own a piece of the Buffster and/or her friends and enemies, I mean you no harm. I'm simply borrowing your toys to put on a little puppet show. I promise to bring them all back in near-mint condition. Even Spike.

FEEDBACK: Everyone needs a little love. It makes the world go round and writers post faster.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: It's that time again, kids! Feedback Roll Call Time! Jamiearn, DeBrabant aka Danii, Gee, Xanderluv, Eojt, Bolo, Inscriffany, Amelia, Britt, Kristen, Onion Girl, Chocoholic, StarGoddess Vicky, Calen Hawk, Dora, aka Jane McCartney, Zekkers, Drake Roberts, Mutant, Skelron,, Banquo, Varthan, VegaKeep, Scott Timms, Franger, Fulgour, Ozmandayus, Tim Creecy, Bill Haden, RobClark, Lakrids, Donnie Darko, who set aside three hours to read this puppy beginning to end, John, aka Grey Wizard, Sherif Al-Mayarati, Shadow Quark, Mims, Michael, aka Mutant, Jonathan, aka White Werewolf, Jai L, Furious George, Wayne "Keep the Faith" Wieland, aka Eckles, Tommy Chen, C-man, Julio C, Igor the Great and Mary Jane.

I tried to track down everyone I could, but it's very likely I missed a few people, especially, if they've only ever posted me a review over at the BX Fanfic Archive. Tracking down reviews there is a royal pain in the ass. So, if I've missed you, please send me a quick e-mail and I'll be sure to include you.

One last thank you goes to the Beta Goddess, Lori Bush. Wonderful woman. Don't know what I'd do without her.

For those in the audience who would like to know more about this woman, her stories can be found here:

http://www.fanfiction.net/profile.php?userid=17172

and here:

http://tedjoxertimandmore.homestead.com/

Also, for those who are interested in some of my other work, it can be found here:

http://www.fanfiction.net/profile.php?userid=79383

Now, onto the show.



*************************
Pain, Panic and Paranoia
*************************



"Oh, you have got to be kidding me," Xander said with no small amount of annoyance evident in his voice.


Susanna had to admit to herself that Xander's non-reaction wasn't what she had expected, but, with the type of unpredictable existence that she had been living lately, it wasn't the kind of thing to affect her deeply either. So other then a slight tone of impatience in her voice, she didn't show any emotion. "Follow your friend's example, and put your hands in the air."


Xander noted the practiced ease with which she said that. He also noted that her hand didn't shake, so she was apparently comfortable with the Beretta she held. The safety was off, also, so she knew how to use the weapon beyond whatever she had seen on TV. She had been doing this for a long time, he reasoned.


And what a disturbing realization that was, when he actually considered the sight of a woman holding an instrument of death in one hand and a gift of life in the other. This was a terrified and desperate woman.


"You should have something smaller," he said calmly and without moving his arms up.


For a moment, she actually seemed amused. "Oh, don't tell me your one of those hunting nuts who thinks they're special because they read a couple issues of 'Guns and Ammo.' Put your hands in the air," she said with clenched teeth.


"Well, actually, I dislike guns with a fiery passion that I just don't think I could fully express to you in words. I'm just offering a helpful observation. I mean, after all…"


At that moment Xander felt Giles' hand on his shoulder. "Xander," he said exasperated, "please do listen to the young woman holding the firearm."


Xander turned partly to him, but kept Susanna within the frame of his peripheral vision. "Giles, she's doing this all wrong, and, unless I'm mistaken, she's going to have to do this again soon. The very least I can do is offer her a few pointers so that she won't get herself and her baby…" He turned slightly towards Susanna and, without stopping in the flow of his sentence, said, "Melissa, right?" Then, without waiting for an answer, he turned back to Giles. "Like I was saying, so that she won't get herself and her baby, Melissa, killed." Then turning to fully face Susanna and look her in the eye, he finished with, "I mean, look at her. She's obviously going to keep running, and she obviously has no idea what it is she's really up against."


The passion in his eyes as he casually dismissed her act disturbed her in ways that she thought she had long been desensitized to by the constant bombardment of tragedy and misery in her life.


Now Xander noticed her fingers trembling. "Do you?" he asked, actually directing his statements to her for the first time since he started his rant.


"You don't know anything about me." Her voice was steady despite her trembling.


"You're right. I don't. And I don't care either."


"Then why are you trying to help me?!?" she almost screamed.


"Because Melissa, the innocent child you hold in your arms, deserves better then to grow up on the run, never making friends, never having a home, constantly in fear that some bogeyman is going to jump out from the shadows and rip her throat out."


She didn't want to listen to this. After all she had been through, the violence, the fear, the hate, she just couldn't begin to fathom that he would want to help her. The world, as she knew it, simply wasn't that kind. This man was trying to fool her. There was simply no other explanation.


Besides, he was wrong; she knew what she was dealing with: unstoppable monsters. Monsters that were strong. Monsters that were fast. Monsters that could take an entire clip of bullets and still get back up. The only thing one could do was run… Run as far and as fast as one could.


This man couldn't help her. No one could.


Noticing the conflict in her eyes, and realizing that what he had said had left her speechless for the time being, he moved a step closer.


Susanna was conflicted, but she wasn't stupid. Her trembling stopped immediately as she saw him move towards her, her strong persona taking control of her actions, that part of herself that enabled her to do anything to protect her daughter.


Even kill.


"Move any closer and I will kill you."


The words escaped from her mouth cold and lifeless, and they touched a place of fear in Giles, who had been watching this strange exchange with something between morbid fascination and outright fear for Xander's life. But what truly tipped the scale to fear's favor was watching how Xander not only wasn't visually affected by her very convincing threat but that he kept moving forward.


Giles prayed that Xander knew what he was doing.


"Didn't you hear me, Asshole? I said, I'd kill you." Now, anger peppered the steely resolve in her voice.


To placate her a little Xander, finally, moved his hands into the air, but he still moved toward her. One step at a time, closer and closer. Each movement an act of defiance against Susanna's tough exterior.


"I don't think you're going to kill me, Susanna," he said slowly.


"Don't think I can? Huh?!?" Her words suddenly sounded insane. It was a brief moment and only lasted long enough to give Xander and Giles a glimpse of this woman's instability, but then her voice quieted down again. "Well, guess again. I'm a mother. It's my right and responsibility to protect my child at any cost."


"Oh, I think you can kill me… and would, if you thought I was a real threat. But I think you know that my friends can help you."


Susanna took a step backward, her inherent animalistic instinct to flee gripping her consciousness in a desperate attempt to not listen to the lies coming from this man's mouth. And they were lies she told herself.


They had to be.


Or were they?


"Y-You don't know what's after me… They'll kill you. A-And I-I can't let that happen. Too many people are… are already dead. Y-You want to help me? Then give me the keys to your car and any money you have and d-don't call the police."


Xander kept eye contact, spoke softly, and made no sudden, threatening movements save for his carefully placing one foot forward at a time.


"I won't do that. The money won't last and eventually you'll be alone again. But here, I- We can help you. My friends are powerful people who know exactly what it is that's after you."


One step closer.


"We've dealt with them before."


And another.


This was too much for Susanna. Her hand went slack and she began shaking with the first throes of a crying fit. It was all just too damn much. Years of living her life being like this just began to catch up with her. And the burden was stifling.


Xander hurriedly closed the last of the distance between them and reached for the weapon. As his fingers touched the Beretta, Susanna, terrified and startled by the sudden contact, screamed and pulled the trigger.


And then, for Xander, there was only pain.



~~~~~~Flashback~~~~~~



"Are you sure this is necessary, Jerry?" Anna's trepidation was quite visible in the way she held the Beretta. Her arms were fully extended and shaking. While her left hand gripped over her right like a clamp, the knuckles on either hand white and lacking for blood. The distance and placement of each of her legs was awkward.


A hard breeze could have knocked her over, and, despite the seriousness of the situation, Jerry couldn't help but grin a little and pray that his Anna would always remain that innocent.


And then he remembered how much innocence she had lost already.


"Yes, Anna. You need to learn how to use a gun."


She turned to him. "But you already know."


"Yes. Yes, I do. But the police are still looking for Greg and I can't be with you twenty four hours a day. And…" He looked down for a moment. "And you need to learn to protect your baby," he finished somberly.


Anna loved this man enough to know when he was uncomfortable. She placed one hand on his shoulder, smiled at him lovingly, and said with no hesitation, "Our baby."


He looked up into her eyes and smiled himself. He nodded slowly to show he understood. Then, after clearing his throat to cover the sob that was lodged there and threatening to escape, he moved Anna into position to fire the gun.


"Okay… Ready, Anna?"


"Ready."


"Now, slowly squeeze the trigger and…"



~~~~~~End*Flashback~~~~~~



The pain had been sudden and unexpected, making it all the more unbearable.


Xander yelled and stumbled backward, but was at least able to stop himself from falling. He looked into Susanna's eyes and spoke, with his teeth clenched. "Let… go… of the… gun!"


Despite being in a near state of shock, she complied. Then Xander felt Giles behind him.


"Dear, Lord! Are you all right?!?"


"Yeah… Yeah, I'm… fine," he managed through gritted teeth. "My thumb's definitely seen better days… though!" His last comment escaped from his mouth as more of a yelp of pain then a word.


"You're damn lucky you know that!" Giles chastised.


"Funny. I don't feel all that… lucky."


"I mean it, Xander. If you hadn't lodged your thumb in there and stopped the hammer you could have been killed, man!"


"Yeah… that was my thought, too!" Xander did his best to hold back an unmanly tear that was starting to edge away from his eye. "Jesus! Troll breaks my hand, fine. But hurt my thumb, and ow!"


Xander made his way to a chair and sat down. He then eased back the hammer, removed his thumb, eased the hammer back into place, hit the clasp to drop the loaded clip, and pulled back the slide to empty the bullet in the chamber.


He stared at the various pieces of the weapon for a moment, before he looked back up to Susanna, and said, "Lady, you have got to be the most difficult person I have EVER tried to help."


She stood there, her emotions simply having destroyed any semblance of control that she had. If she could comprehend what had just happened, she certainly didn't show it.


Giles stared at her for a moment before deciding that Xander should be his immediate concern, since he doubted that Susanna would be hurting anyone any time soon.


"Is your finger broken?"


Xander pressed his thumb into his hand feeling a jolting sore, but nothing outstanding. He then further tested it by bending it. His sigh of relief was genuine and involuntary as he realized that although the thumb would swell and ache, it hadn't broken.


"No, it's fine. Well, fine if you count shooting pain coming from my finger as fine. I won't exactly be challenging Tara to another thumb wrestling match anytime soon, but at least it's not broken." He winced visibly and inwardly groaned as he realized that he wouldn't be able to take out any of his frustrations on the punching bag either.


As if he needed another support taken away from him.


Xander's eyes looked up ready to cast accusing glares on Susanna, but that emotion quickly died down once he saw her. She looked… dead. Xander really couldn't describe it as anything else. She just stood there, overwhelmed, holding her child and looking ready to collapse into a heap on the floor, a mere puddle of a woman.


He spoke trying to knock her out of her catatonia, "Susanna? Susanna, listen it's okay. My friend and I aren't mad."


Apparently that did the trick, because she looked over to him, giving him her full attention for the first time, and said, "You should be. I-I almost killed you."


"And yet funnily enough you didn't," he joked, in serious need to lighten the mood. Given the general luck he'd been having all night, it wasn't a large surprise that his attempt failed. Not a laugh, a snicker, or even a mild grin. In fact, she didn't say anything and looked almost as catatonic as before.


Starting to grow a little worried for the welfare of the child in her arms, Xander asked her to sit down. Strangely enough, she complied without a word of disagreement. After that, Xander proceeded in making a formal introduction of Giles and Susanna to each other, something which had been interrupted by the evening's attempted felony.


Throughout the exchange, Xander's hands started shaking. He didn't make too much of it at first other then noting it as being a slight irritant. He decided to ignore it for the time being.


"Do you understand what it is that's after you, Susanna?"


She looked to Xander, still feeling shy about what she had attempted to do. She slowly shook her head. "They're not human. That's all I know."


Xander nodded.


"Well you're right about that. Now, what I'm going to tell you is going to sound pretty… Well, stupid, but trust me it's real. First off, I'm assuming you used to know that guy I pulled off of you…" It was meant as much as a question as a statement. Susanna nodded. "Well, your friend…"


"He's not my friend," she said sternly.


"Okay… Uh, that guy… He's been turned into a vampire."


Susanna blinked several times and looked to both Xander and Giles in turn. She then absentmindedly bounced Melissa on her lap, and said seriously, "Well, I guess that would explain why I've never seen them in the day."


Both Xander and Giles were stunned into silence at her casual acceptance of Vampires, but before either could say anything Melissa started wailing.


Susanna just looked kind of sheepish at the two open-mouthed men before her and asked, "Uh, I don't suppose you have a bathroom or something where I could, uh…"


"Yes!" Giles said nervously. "Yes, of course. Uh, uh, right, right this way. I'll show you, r-right away."


Susanna couldn't help but grin at his reaction. She then followed him into the back area she had seen him entering from earlier.


That left Xander alone. Alone and shaking. He looked down at his hands and they were trembling viciously now. As he was examining them, a drop of moisture fell onto one and it was at that time that he realized that he was sweating, something he thought rather shocking given he couldn't remember ever feeling colder in his life. A chilled shudder from his spine signaled to him that it was in fact his entire body that was shaking.


Immediately he stood up, only the movement was too sudden and his chair fell onto the floor. But he didn't care. He made his way towards the entrance of the basement, his shakes making him stumble all the way. He just needed to be somewhere safe, somewhere calm, and something in the back of his mind remembered the peace of the basement.


He just had to get there. He needed to get there. His mind couldn't process anything else anymore. Higher thinking was not something he was capable of.


Xander fell more than walked down the steps, eventually crashing his hip painfully into the banister at the bottom. He moved his shaking hands to rub his arms, hoping to bring warmth to himself, but they offered little relief. Violently, he pushed back the sweat from his brow and rubbed it into his hair. He was so cold.


An image of Anya's hair slicked back with blood flashed in his mind's eye.


Xander cried out as he threw himself into the wall, his legs feeling weaker and weaker. Unconsciously his right hand had been banging against the wall pathetically, until the briefest moment of clarity allowed him to see it. The fingers on his hand curled, as if gripping something.


Immediately, his mind projected over-laid images of the revolver there. He shook as his fingers began to squeeze the trigger.


This was wrong. This was so wrong.


His legs failed him little by little until he had slid down the wall, becoming this pathetic, hunching mass of shivering, sweating flesh.


Some of his sweat made its way into his mouth. The salty tang triggered a different type of memory and he could taste it again.


Anya's blood on her lips as he kissed her goodbye.


Why was this happening to him? He made a mental plea with God to stop this… whatever it was.


God.


The words escaped from his lips unbidden. "God, you let me make this shot and you can have anything you want from me."


His trigger finger clenched.


He could hear the shot. Dear God, he could hear the shot.


This was not real. This didn't exist.


Mentally, he collapsed and his body wasn't far behind. His every muscle just gave out and went limp; his hand fell to the floor. There was nothing but tears, sweat, fear, and pain.


So much pain. Too much pain.



******To*Be*Continued******



Well, folks, what do you think? Thought about making this longer, but I decided to just split it instead. Chapter Nine will come out… Well, soon I hope. Thanks so much for sticking with me, throughout this adventure. I know I've been promising action, but… Well, I'll get to it eventually, I'm sure.


Ray


--I don't know. At first it's just a place, then you start to make memories, and ... then you're like, that's where Spike slept, and there, that's where Anya and I drowned the separvo demon. Oh! and, and right there, that's where I got my heart all ripped out. I really hate this place.--

Nicholas Brendan as Xander, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer "The Replacement"


--Face it, we all get off on power. Even if we only have a little of it. You think the clerk at the DMV doesn't enjoy looking at that snaking line and thinking, "I gotta be here eight hours? Well then, you gotta be here eight hours."--

Dennis Miller on Dennis Miller Live