Title: No Barrel of Monkeys
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not.
Summary: Xander was pretty sure he could handle whatever legacy his family of origin had gifted him with, even if it wasn't exactly what he'd dreamed of. 1200 words.
Spoilers: Post-"Becoming, Part II" for Buffy; pre-Season 1 for CSI, but with spoilers through Season 5 for character background elements.
Warnings: Brief mention of (canon) child abuse
Notes: For cinnamon_kat, who requested "B:tVS/CSI, Xander finds his real family before graduation"; and for the August Fic-a-Day Challenge, Day 3. I thought I'd go for a family-less-opted-for with this one.
Xander slid onto the bench opposite Willow, fairly vibrating with impatience. "So, what did you find out?" he asked, steepling his fingers on the picnic table between them.
The wince that crossed Willow's face as he spoke squashed his fledgling hopes before they'd even begun to gain any altitude. "Xander--" she began, cautiously.
"I know, I know, I got adopted out of foster care as a toddler, whatever situation put me there in the first place can't have been pretty," he babbled, recounting the situation as much to brace himself as to clear the air for Willow's sake.
"It's bad," Willow confirmed, scrunching up her freckled nose.
No, bad was what he was living with already; life with the Harrises was no barrel of monkeys. That was why, when he'd overheard his dad talking about 'bad genes' and how Xander was 'no real son of mine', he'd begun digging around in his own past, half just looking for proof that he wasn't actually the product of Tony and Jessica Harris's toxic marriage and half hopeful that he'd find a better family at the end of the rainbow. Maybe one that had lost him due to tragedy, not human cruelty. Well, one for two was still better than nothing; he was pretty sure he could handle whatever legacy his family of origin had gifted him with, even if it wasn't exactly what he'd dreamed of.
"Hit me with it," he said.
Willow took a deep breath. "Okay. You were the youngest of three children, born to Sean and Laura Sidle in Tamales Bay, California."
"Three children? Wow," Xander blurted. "Sorry, didn't mean to interrupt. Just-- didn't expect that. Brothers or sisters?"
"One of each," Willow said, worrying at the piece of paper she'd brought with her with fidgety fingertips. "Sean Junior was eighteen when you and your sister went into foster care; Sara was twelve, and you were about three. He kind of disappeared off the radar after that-- I think he moved out of state, and I haven't found those records yet. She's still around, though; she got a Masters from U.C. Berkeley a couple of years ago, and she's currently working for the crime lab at the San Francisco PD."
"Not seeing the bad there," Xander said, turning the idea over in his mind. He had a sister, aged twenty-six or so, who tracked down bad guys for a living, like a girl Sherlock Holmes. Cool. He'd bet she was already much better at it than any of the jokers that called themselves police officers in Sunnydale; it would be pretty hard to be worse than they were, at any rate. Did she look at all like him, he wondered. Did she crack awkward jokes and made an idiot out of herself over people she had a crush on and worry that one day she was going to turn out just like their parents?
But he was getting ahead of himself; he hadn't heard yet what their actual birth parents were like. Maybe they weren't as bad as Willow was implying-- he'd never quite told her the full story about the parents he already had, after all, so she didn't have an accurate frame of reference.
She hesitated, then blurted out the rest: "The thing is-- Xander, your mother was committed. Like, to a psychiatric hospital-- for stabbing your father to death."
Or maybe they were, he thought, stunned. "Why?" he asked, then shook his head. "No, no, don't tell me. He was cheating on her, or he was an alcoholic, or he was abusive, or all of the above."
Willow winced again, and he knew he had his answer.
"So much for the long lost prince theory," he groaned, putting his head down on the table.
God only knew why Jessica had never snapped and done the same. Out of the frying pan and into the fire; that was him. Xander could only hope his sister's journey had been a little easier. Although she probably remembered it all first-hand, and that had to suck; he'd been too young to retain any conscious memories. He'd heard people sometimes remembered things from earlier on than that, but his recall started, thankfully, somewhere around the age of five. He didn't remember a time when he hadn't had his Willow-shaped friend-- and now he didn't want to.
"I'm so sorry, Xander," she said. "Do you want your sister's contact information? I have her email address, if you want to talk to her."
He'd been amazed to find out Sara existed; but would she feel the same way, given where they came from? No-- she already knew he existed, didn't she? And she was older; so why had she never tried to contact him?
He sat up, frowning thoughtfully at Willow. "I don't know. I mean, if she's never tried to track me down.... What would you do?" he asked.
"Maybe-- maybe she didn't know what happened to you?" she suggested. "I mean, you were sent to different homes, and you were adopted while she was still a minor; maybe they didn't tell her where you went?"
Xander thought about that some more, staring down at the table. "Maybe," he said. He tried to picture what it would be like, if he were a couple of years younger, having a family member taken away from him-- and then shorted out that train of thought as he remembered exactly what it had felt like to lose Jesse, best friend of ten years, when he'd been fifteen. Okay. Okay, so even if he wasn't at all sure that he wanted to open that particular bag of worms, maybe he should at least do it for her sake; to let her know he was still around.
And-- and maybe-- maybe he could talk to her about-- things. Things Willow wouldn't understand. If Sara liked him, that is; if she still wanted a little brother. Maybe.
"No, yeah, I'll take it," he said. "I have no idea what I'll say to her, but-- I don't think I can just forget about her, now that I know."
Willow bit her lip, then pushed the wrinkled piece of paper she'd written everything down on across the table. "I think you're doing the right thing," she said. "I know I would want to know, if it was me."
Xander took it, staring down at the scrawled words that just might rearrange his life. "Thanks, Willow," he said. "Just-- don't tell anyone else yet, okay?"
"Pinkie swear," she confirmed, drawing an X over the pocket of her overalls.
That was his Will. And always would be, he thought with a lift of spirits, as he picked up the paper. Even if this thing with his birth sister fell through, he'd still have his We Hate Cordelia Club co-founding, yellow crayon friend.
"So, you want to get some lunch before we hit up the G-Man to find out what's the what for tonight?" he asked, folding the paper into his pocket.
"Sounds like a plan," she replied, smiling tremulously.
"Perfect. How's a milkshake and fries sound?" he asked, slinging an arm around her shoulders as they walked out of the park.