I haven't written very many dark fics before, and this is the only one I've ever published (I usually don't finish them or, when I do, find them TOO Dark to survive and they end up discarded in the recycle bin). This one isn't too harsh, I don't think. I'm not quite happy with it, because I wanted to either make it shorter or A LOT longer (as in, not a short narrative and more of an epic), but attempts to do either just end up trashing it even more...so I had to compromise for this. Also, I apologize for the title... I was at a loss.

Constructive criticism is very much appreciated, and reviews, period, are lifeblood.

Warnings: swearing (2 f-bombs), non graphic violence, emotional abuse, non-descriptive remarks of past child abuse, and sadness and feelings of pity for our favorite smart-mouthed carpenter.

FYI: no distinct telling of timing, but earliest during-college. Chip is inexplicably absent or not effective on Xanman...I've seen loads of explanations for either case, so I'm sure you can use your imagination as to why.

I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or any of the characters therein.


In the end, it had been easy. After all, the boy had been partially broken before he'd even gotten there. At first, he thought it was just growing up on the Hellmouth that had done it...it cracked almost everyone at least a little. But as he'd become a larger part of his life, he'd started asking him questions; constantly asking him questions. He knew how to pick out the awkward and painful bits from casual comments, and then he'd focus on them, relentlessly heckling him for details upon details until he knew every painful part of his life. And that was when he found out just how sweet of a find he had, how he was solid just enough to hold on and broken just enough for a a few more nudges, a few more cracks, to make him finally shatter. And he knew he'd make him shatter, alright. The question was simply a matter of time.

The first steps were altogether too simple. The boy lived a harsh life, hidden from the others by his immature rantings and goofy smiles. All he had to do was pick at the wounds he already had.

His whole family was dysfunctional, and both parents were alcoholics. His father, Tony, emotionally abused his wife and physically abused him. Had sent him to the hospital a couple times, the old bastard had, but the abuse was less frequent and less intense now that his son was physically capable of holding his own; not that the boy did, ever, but most bullies were incredible cowards, when push came to shove.

He'd only ever had two friends outside of the Scooby gang. Oliver had disappeared at age eight, presumably kidnapped, although Spike figured he'd probably been eaten rather than stolen. And then there was Jesse who had been turned and staked by the boy's own hand at around the same time Buffy had arrived. Willow had been friends with both boys as well, but she seemed to have forgotten, so he felt the burden of carrying their loss, and felt unable to express his despair on the matters.

To say he was insecure was an understatement. He had no powers, no secret strengths, so as the only pure human among the Scoobies, the idea of being useless was a constant tear at his mind. Not to mention he'd neither had the money nor the brains to get a scholarship to go to college. He was smart, that Spike was sure of, but there is a clear difference between smart and scholastic. Didn't help that he was dyslexic, a fact that only Willow knew and she often forgot.

Sometimes Spike marvelled at just how much the little idiot had told him, just how much he trusted him...if he'd known that Spike was going to keep it all in a mental inventory, manipulate his already present pains to break him down even more, would he have still told him any of it? The fact that the answer probably wasn't a clear no made Spike disgusted at the boy's naivety.

It had all been a game at first. He'd planned on gaining the boy's trust so he could then poke a few holes in him and watch him crumble. The chance of getting a leg over was just a perk. It grew into much more, eventually becoming an obsession: he had to see him break, no matter how much time it took. And if he got to shag the tempting teen all along the way, and if the boy just happened to not be that bad of company when you actually tried to know him, well then just that much easier to put the time in.

Getting close to him had been easy as well. The boy was desperate for kindness, compliment, and attention. And Spike gave it to him, at first. Eventually, he slowed the compliments in order to insert self-doubt in his mind, evaluating every pain in his life and reinforcing the boy's bad feelings about them, reinforced the guilt, the pain, and the feelings of worthlessness. He did it all without the boy noticing, either, carefully increasing in his manipulations at such a slow and steady pace that he didn't notice that the vampire was deliberately trying to weaken him, the boy was in fact grateful for his "friend" (and later "lover")'s honesty.

At the same time he was tearing away at everything else the boy cared about, he was steadily reinforcing himself as the only important factor in the boy's life. He was the only one who cared, who appreciated him, who understood. And he was was the only one who accepted him. Eventually, he upped his coersions until comments like, "You're not worth their time. No one else would ever bother with you, I'm the only one who will ever take you." weren't even questioned. He worked at him until Buffy and Willow and the others were completely eclipsed in his life, pushed to the side in favor of Spike.

When he felt the noose around the boy's throat go taut, he ceased his kindnesses as well. No longer present were his warm attitudes and sweet words and soft caresses. Instead he whispered insults, and delivered harsh anger and rough fucks. And the boy lapped it up as if he'd never had any alternatives. After all, Spike still continued doting his attention, that one never ceased. And with everyone and everything else in his life gone, all he needed anymore was attention.

It took thirteen months for it to work. In the end, the holes were enough. And at the end of thirteen months of manipulations and tricks, Spike finally got the pleasure of watching the boy shatter into nothing. Nothing but a complete shell of his former self who took a slap as gratefully as a kiss and continued to warm Spike's bed no matter the cost he was asked.

But in the end, something tasted not as sweet as he'd thought. Three months after the boy broke completely, Spike lay in his bed, wondering what had gone wrong. He'd never meant to turn the boy, or kill him for that matter; he hadn't been against either idea, but those had not been his goals. Keeping the boy past the moment he broke hadn't been in the original plans either...but he'd grown accostomed to having the boy around and it was always a good idea to keep a convenient shag, so he'd kept him. But something was just...wrong.

He watched the sleeping boy partially curled around him, absently stroking the cuts and bruises he'd added to his skin earlier that night. The fact that just a couple hours before he'd taken a knife to the teen's torso (as he cried and whimpered and begged), and then fucked him in the drying blood, and now here the boy was curled around him, content as a pup and even loving, was...beyond pathetic, in his eyes.

He had meant to break him. He had meant for him to be like this: at his command with nothing else left. And yet, Spike thought, as he flashed back to exchanges of sarcasm and insults, the pride in the boy's eyes when he brought down a vamp or demon, the sweet way he had smiled when trying to get Spike to laugh during their first months together...his victory seemed simply...hollow.

Because Xander Harris had been crushed into this pathetic wreck on his chest, and there was no return for him.

And in the end, it had just been too easy.