Title: I Can Do This Myself

Disclaimer: I don't own Buffy or its characters

Warning: Slash, established relationship, others later on.

Summary: Tired of always being the one needing protection, Xander goes off on a journey to fix this, starting a chain of events that eventually leads to the destruction of everything he holds dear.

AN: I really should be working on one of my other stories, but oh well. I write what I'm inspired to write and that's not always what I should be writing. And this is all happening in some vague Season 5 time, but Riley and Anya don't exist.


Chapter #1: The Last Straw


Willow tried to open the jar of Beelzethul toenail clippings and couldn't. "Xander?" she said, holding the jar up to him, "Could you?"

Xander smiled. Finally something he could do. But then he grabbed the jar and tried to twist the top off and it wouldn't budge. Xander frowned, looked at it, and then tried to go at it from a different angle. Still nothing.

Oh come on. He would not be beaten by a measly jar. Not after the week he'd just had.

Determined, Xander tried yet again. And again. Then again. The stupid thing wouldn't budge.

"Oh for--Here. Give me that," Buffy said irritably, grabbing the jar from him impatiently. In under a second she had the stupid thing open and was handing it to Willow. Xander, not for the first time, suddenly felt useless and pathetic. God, Buffy could emasculate someone without even trying.

"I would've gotten it eventually," Xander grumbled sullenly and wandered off into the corner to have a little sulk. No matter what Spike said, he was not pouting.

It was just that this sort of thing was happening a lot recently. He'd try to do something and one of the others would always come along to "help him out". He was not disabled here people! Why couldn't they see that, though nice in its own way because it meant they cared, the help was neither wanted nor welcome. Even Spike, his boyfriend, the one person Xander thought would get it, was doing it. Just once he'd like to be the one to open his own damn jars, move his own damn furniture, and kill his own damn demon. Just once and he could die happy.

But no! They wouldn't even let him go out at night without somebody there to protect him. It was not only emasculating and embarrassing, but it was annoying as hell as well. Just once he wanted to be able to go to the liquor store down the street when he damn well pleased without Spike throwing an absolute fit when he returned. It was ridiculous. What kind of image was he giving these people that made them think he needed their protection so damn much?

Spike was even teaching him how to fight, which was cool and also meant that he actually was capable of defending himself. But did they see that? No. All they saw was human and thus breakable. Well Giles was human too and you didn't see them sending out the guards for him. Maybe it was because Xander was younger? But that didn't make sense because younger people were better at defending themselves. Maybe it was because Xander wasn't as smart? But what good were smarts when you didn't know how to use a sword? Not that Giles had any problems using a sword. Oh, fuck it, Xander didn't know. Maybe it was just something messed up in their heads.

They hadn't used to be this bad, but they had steadily grown worse and worse as they'd grown older. The climax had been Senior year of high school and then they had seemed to back off, but now it seemed to be coming back again. And Xander had an idea as to why too. It was his relationship with Spike. They thought he was insane to have shacked up with the vampire. It didn't matter how many times Spike had proved himself to them since he and Xander had gotten together, they just would not get over his past evilness. This made them pay more attention to him and more attention always meant more worry. Thus the over protectiveness.

And Spike was doing it too because he was still getting used to being with a human. All of his previous experience with humans had only taught him how easily breakable and weak they were compared to vampires. And at the beginning it had been almost cute when Spike had been watching the news and suddenly decided Xander was going to come down with the flu currently doing a number on the Irish, but after three months it was just getting annoying. In Spike's mind, every little thing that could happen to a human was obviously going to happen to Xander sometime in the next two weeks if Spike wasn't with him at every waking moment. Xander had thought he could eventually convince the vampire otherwise, but so far he'd had no luck. Spike was still convinced Xander was going to die every time he walked out the door. If it wasn't demons it was his construction job. And if it wasn't his job then it would be those crazy drivers. It made for a rather long good-bye every morning when he was going to work. He'd been late a couple of times.

And it had been slow, but he had been steadily growing angrier and angrier. He didn't like it but he was starting to resent them all. Why couldn't they just leave him alone? But he was trying to push that anger and resentment away. It wasn't their fault. They were just concerned. It was nice to have such concerned, well-meaning friends, wasn't it? But no. He couldn't quite get over his anger enough not to feel it and it was a slow burn in his chest, always simmering just at the surface, waiting to break free at the worst possible moment. He was afraid of what would happen when it finally broke loose. He hated being angry. He always said such mean things, things he could never take back.

Thinking of this over in his corner, Xander crossed his arms over his chest and sighed irritably, looking down at the ground. He needed to find a way to make them all realize that he could take care of himself well enough that they didn't need to worry so much, but what could he do?

"Alright," Buffy was saying and Xander looked up again. Apparently they had gotten everything settled and organized while he had been lost in thought. "So me and Giles will distract him while you and Tara set up your spell. When you're ready you'll shout and we'll get out of the way, is that right?"

Xander hadn't heard his name in there so he spoke up. "Wait. What about me? What do I do?"

Buffy hesitated, sharing a look with Giles and Willow that made it clear Xander was not going to like what she had to say next. "Well . . . We actually think it would be best if you sat this one out, Xan," Buffy tried to say gently, turning back to him, "This Fartooey—

"Phartuei," Giles corrected.

"Yeah, whatever," Buffy said, waving Giles off and returning her attention to her friend, "This Farty-thing sounds pretty dangerous. You could get hurt."

"So could you," Xander pointed out.

"Yeah, but I'm the Slayer," Buffy told him, "This is my job. You're just a human."

Xander didn't like the way she had said that and frowned, brows drawing down as his eyes narrowed. "And so I'm not worthy of fighting next to your gloriousness?" That sounded a little snider then Xander had meant to sound, but it got his message across. He was not happy. This was the third night in a row they had done this.

"Xander . . ." Willow said reproachfully, "You know it's not like that."

And Xander still couldn't be mean to Willow so he looked down at his feet with another frown

"This is for your own good, Xan," Buffy said and he didn't look up. "Do you think you could get Spike to walk you home?" Spike was clearly not good enough as a boyfriend, but plenty good as a bodyguard. Xander didn't get these people at all.

And Xander shrugged one shoulder, not really wanting to talk to her right now. He probably could, but that didn't really mean he wanted to. This could be his chance to prove himself. Of course it could also be his chance at another Spike freak-out, an hour-long lecture from Giles, and a pair of big, sad Willow-eyes.

Xander finally sighed heavily, accepting defeat. "Yeah. I'll call him."

"Good. And remember. Scooby meeting tomorrow night."

"Yeah, yeah. I remember."

It was the next day and Xander walked into the Magic Box to find everyone already there. He'd left Spike back at home, but the vampire had said he would meet up with him later.

"So how'd things go with the Farty-one?" Xander asked, plopping down on the couch next to Dawn. He gave her a brief smile, which she returned before turning back to the interesting pictures in her book. From what Xander could see, he wasn't sure Dawn was old enough to be looking at those kinds of pictures. Xander wasn't sure he was old enough to be looking at those kinds of pictures.

"That's Phartuei," Giles corrected mildly, looking through his own book. "And things went quite well."

"Yeah?" Xander said, turning to the older man. "So he's stomped?"

"If that means dead then yes."

"Cool." Xander nodded and leaned back in his seat. "Then what's on the agenda for tonight? Anymore demons to kill?"

Willow looked up from her spot behind the computer and smiled at him. "Yeah. We actually found one that looks like it might be living in the sewers. It ate old Mr. Rathus."

Xander looked at her, somewhat shocked by this news. "The video store guy?"

She nodded. "Uh-huh."

"Man," Xander said, now frowning to himself, "and I'd liked that guy too."

"Then I'm sure you won't mind researching the demon responsible," Giles said, looking up from his book long enough to push one of the books piled on the table closer to Xander. "I believe this one will do for you. Look for anything with five-inch claws and a liking of small, damp places."

"Yeah, yeah," Xander grumbled, but reached out to take the large book. Opening it he was surprised to find that it was full of brightly colored pictures. The pictures were large, taking up nearly the whole of each page, and very little words were used and then they were only used to describe where each demon lived. Unsure whether he should be happy that he wouldn't need to work as hard or angry that Giles had felt the need to make things easier for him, Xander frowned. Taking a moment he finally decided to be happy and settled back with his picture book to look for the correct demon.

A long while passed until finally it was Dawn that found the correct demon. It was a Natuckil, a demon that lived in the filth of humans and survived on human organs. The picture was disgusting, the demon covered in slime and other things Xander didn't want to even think about. Below the picture was a short description of the demon's strengths and weaknesses. Apparently basil was fatal to them and Willow went off to find some of the named herb on the shelves.

"Alright!" Xander said, rubbing his hands together when they were all ready. "So we're ready to go?"

"Ah . . ." Again, Buffy, Wilow, and Giles shared a look and Xander had a feeling where this was going to go. And it was the fourth night in a row this time! All of Xander's anger from last night came rushing back at him.

"No," Xander said seriously. "You are not leaving me behind again."

"Dawn's not going either!" Buffy tried to say. Seated on the couch, Dawn smiled and waved at him. She didn't mind not being included on this one. They were going into the sewers and there was no way they could get Dawn down there willingly.

Xander didn't care. "So? She never comes. What's one more night to her? I'm supposed to actually be a part of this."

"Xander . . ." Willow tried, but Xander cut her off before she could say anything.

"No! I'm sick of this! Every night it's the same thing." Xander put a hand to his cheek and said in a mocking falsetto, "Oh Xander's so weak. He needs protection. God knows he might fall over and scrape his knee," he finished, voice gradually getting lower and more serious as he ended his statement with a glare. Tara was trying to slip off unnoticed into a corner to hide and he allowed her the escape.

"It's not like that!" Buffy said.

"Then what's it like?" Xander snapped.

"It's . . ." Buffy started then faltered, clearly unsure of how to continue. "We just don't want you to get hurt," she finally said, "You're not like us. You're normal."

And that was the problem, wasn't it? He was normal. Well maybe he didn't want to be "normal" anymore. Xander scowled. "Then maybe that needs to be fixed."

Buffy and Willow looked confused, but Giles clearly understood and looked concerned. "You're not serious."

"Oh I'm very serious," Xander said with that same scowl, "Obviously if I want to get any respect around here I need to change."

"Xander," Giles said, some sympathy making its way into his expression. "There is nothing wrong with you. And there is nothing you can do to change."

"Yeah?" Xander challenged. "Then just watch me." And Xander turned and strode through the door, out into the night.

He would find a way to become not normal if it was the last thing he ever did.