Title: The Birth of a Clown

Summary: Jesse's dead and it's all Xander's fault.

Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy or its characters

AN: I might make this a multi-part fic later on, showing the steady decline of Xander's life, but right now this is just to help me get a better hold on Xander's character.


-

As the aging Mrs. Sullivan stepped into the classroom around 8:15 a.m. that Monday morning, Xander turned to the seat on his right to share some joking comment and found Jesse dead.

Dead. As in completely gone, never to return, dead.

Somehow that fact hadn't quite registered yet. Too busy with all the fear and major freakage over the vampires-are-real thing, probably.

Back in the school library, with the new librarian and that pretty blonde girl telling him that his best guy-friend was now gone even though the body still existed, Xander could only be disappointed, could only feel like he had failed his friend in some huge way. He kicked something, muttered an angry curse, but the concept of vampirism had been too foreign for him to comprehend the full meaning. Too plain weird and confusing and 'this can not be happening' even when he had clearly seen it happen.

Back at the Bronze, death-gripping a stake and blinking in shock as a seriously deformed and insulting Jesse suddenly disappeared, Xander had only been afraid and confused because actual real-life vampires were running around killing people, apparently about to kill everyone in some weird vampire holiday, and everything was just crazy. Jesse's dust settled, Xander paused for a second, and then he moved on. The moment had just been a moment because there was already too much going on, too much distraction. Everyone was screaming and running and Xander had been caught up in the fear and adrenaline, unable to think too far past 'What the hell?' and 'I'm going to die' and 'What do I do next here?"

Even back at home, taking a hot shower and watching as the dirt and dust from his hair and skin disappeared down the drain, Xander could only feel numb. Too much fear and adrenaline after a life-time of relative peace and safety, he'd been working hard at fitting vampires and demons and magic into his safe and sane vision of the world. With such the large amount of new, amazing, and unbelievable, things he'd just learned, the night had still held a sort of dream-like quality. He'd entered the TV and was now a bit character in one of those action-horror-fantasy movies.

But back in school, no Jesse meeting him on the front steps, no Jesse meeting him at his locker, no Jesse walking with him to class, no Jesse sitting slumped over in the next seat during History class, and everything was becoming real in ways it hadn't before.

That pretty new girl was actually talking to him; that librarian did actually know his name, Xander was actually going into a library willingly, those shelves were actually full of books on real-life demons, and Xander had actually killed Jesse the night before.

Staring helplessly at Jesse's empty seat, Xander forgot how to breathe for a second, forgot how to think. He swallowed hard and let reality pound him into the ground.

Jesse was gone.

Gone, never coming back, no longer in existence; he didn't even have a corpse to remember him by, and it was all Xander's fault.

"Mr. Harris," Mrs. Sullivan called, disdain and annoyance in that old lady voice of hers, "Are you paying attention?"

"Wha?" Xander asked, brain bouncing back into his skull, and he could finally tear his eyes away from the chair, "Oh, um . . . yeah. Of course."

Turning his attention back to the front of the room, Xander saw the cheap florescent lighting, the tiled flooring, the generally peaceful if bored and fidgety fellow students in the room, and he remembered dim lighting and pulsing music heard under screams.

He swallowed, feeling a bit off-center. "With you all the way."


-

Later, ushing his way through the school hallways, he stubbornly tried to ignore that these were the same people who had crowded him the night before, familiar faces that had flashed by his position at the back of the club where inhumanely strong hands had held him against a wall, struggling to breathe.

The thought came that it was one of these people who had pushed Jesse forward and onto the stake; one of these people who had caused the weight of Jesse's body, pressed closely against his, to lift and disappear. One of these cowards who would suffer through something as huge and violent and terrible as the Harvest and willingly forget; who would continue to live their pretty little lives, comfortable and safe and ignorant after doing nothing to deserve it.

For a few seconds he hated the entire school.

Pushing past a group of gossiping freshmen with more force than necessary, almost shoving them into one another, he ignored the loud protest and continued on.

But the anger just as quickly passed when he remembered that it was him who had been holding the stake, and not someone else. Him who had been looking into Jesse's eyes as he died, who had seen the shock and almost hurt on Jesse's face before he disappeared, and him who had then run off to help others, thoughtlessly destroyed what little remained of his friend while showering, and then actually forgotten the whole thing.

Finally making it to the Biology lab, he slid into his seat next to Willow, hating how small and lost she looked, and gave Buffy, seated at the next lab station over, a little wave of acknowledgment.

"And how are you all doing this fine morning?" Xander asked, somehow managing both a smile and some fake enthusiasm as he got out his stuff, "Everyone ready for some . . . uh . . ." trailing off as he realized just how much of a clue he didn't have about that day's topic, he looked down at his textbook, then over at the other lab stations for some type of hint, and got nothing. Turning to the girls somewhat sheepishly, "Umm . . . what are we doing today?"

Willow's 'silly Xander' expression as she turned to explain made everything just so much easier, lifted some of the weight, and Xander loosened a bit, began breathing properly. And looking over at Buffy to find a smile on her face, Xander figured things would be alright.

Jesse was dead, Xander was a murderer, and nothing would ever be the same again, but somehow that all seemed pretty okay, almost kind of manageable, when he could still make people smile.


End?