Title: what we make together (a family is)
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Rating: PG, gen
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the world is not.
Summary: Xander held on to his sister's contact information for about a year before he actually sent her an email: the story of a rediscovered relationship in ten drabbles. 10 x 200 words.
Spoilers: Starts post-S3/pre-canon for B:tVS/CSI; continues post-S7 and through about Season 4, with intermittent spoilers.
Notes: For jerseyfabulous, who asked for more in the "No Barrel of Monkeys" 'verse, where Xander discovers he was born a Sidle.
Xander held on to his sister's contact information for about a year before he actually sent her an email.
It was just- easier that way. He didn't want to mention her to his parents; god only knew what Tony and Jessica Harris would do if they realized he had a blood sibling nine years his senior with her own apartment and income. Dump him on her doorstep, probably. Or bug her for money, or- well, there were a lot of possibilities, and few of them were pleasant. Much better to wait until he was legally free, both of his adoptive parents' custody and Sunnydale High.
Everyone else was going to college, but Xander already knew that wasn't going to be his path. He could always stop off to see Sara Sidle at the beginning of his planned road trip; and if it turned out she didn't like him... well. It wouldn't be like he'd taken a drive up to San Francisco just to see her. He could just drive on, writing her off as one stop among many. And if it did work out...
Well. He wasn't sure what would happen next. But he knew he wanted to find out.
Uncle Rory's car made it almost to his sister's place before the engine fell out. Like, literally ten minutes' walk from her door. It was a good thing he hadn't headed for L.A. first like he'd told everyone else he was doing. He shouldered his backpack, took a deep breath, and mentally crossed his fingers that Sara was as interested in seeing him as her email suggested.
It took her a minute to respond to the doorbell, just long enough for him to remember that she worked the night shift and cringe in apprehension. She didn't look upset, though, when the door cracked open; just a little bleary. And kind of- stunned.
She was a couple inches shorter than he was, he noticed; her hair a little straighter; her eyes maybe a little darker. But- yeah, he looked a lot more like her than he did either of the Harrises.
"Alex...?" she said, hesitantly.
"It's, uh. I go by Xander? But... yeah. Sara?" he babbled. "Um. Sorry, I kinda forgot about the time..."
She smiled, and the welcome in it soothed a tension in him that he hadn't been aware he was carrying. "No. No, it's fine. Come on in."
Xander's sister was smart. And not just smart, brilliant; she had books and forensic journals all over the place. Like a Willow, only into bugs and fingerprint powder instead of magic and computers.
There wasn't much else in her apartment, though; no comics, no game systems, just a police scanner. It was like she just slept there; like her life revolved around her job.
Xander could get that; the last couple years he'd spent a lot more time Scoobying than home or at school. But he couldn't talk about that unless he wanted her to think he was crazy.
Which left... kind of a narrow range of conversational topics.
"I just can't get over how much you've grown," she said, after an awkward silence. "I knew you'd be eighteen now; but my clearest memories are of sticking Band-Aids on your chubby little knees, or... well, someone had to potty train you." She quirked a rueful smile.
"I could have gone my whole life without hearing that," he groaned.
He didn't stop her, though, when she snorted and launched into another story. It reminded him of Mrs. Summers teasing Buffy; like someone cared about him.
That feeling made the blushes worthwhile.
"So what are the Harrises like?" Sara asked, eventually, wearing a half-wistful expression.
Xander looked away. It hadn't occurred to him that she might have hoped he'd got a better childhood out of it all; that part of their long separation might be down to trying to give him a better chance. What could he say that wouldn't sound like whining, or hurt her?
"Uh," he said. "Yeah, about them."
The silence lengthened awhile; then she sighed. "Ah." And that was the end of that.
He'd kind of wanted to learn more about the Sidles, but not if it was going to drag up hurt for both of them. Maybe on some other visit. For now, he'd be glad just to get to know her.
They were more alike in personality than in interests, he soon discovered; and he doubted they'd ever be bosom buddies. But- he liked Sara. And he thought she liked him, even if she didn't really know what to do with him.
Xander crashed on her couch long enough to get his car fixed, and left feeling like a piece of his life he'd been missing without ever knowing it had finally clicked back into place.
It was- different, going back to Sunnydale with the knowledge that someone else out there gave a damn whether or not he was happy. It didn't make it any easier to find a job, or deal with the girlfriend he accidentally acquired, or make him feel any less like a third wheel with the girls off at college. But it did give him an anchor.
An awkward one to explain, sure: "Yeah, about that. Didn't I tell you I have an older sister? No, she lives in San Francisco. No, she's not from a spell! Willow knows, you can ask her if you don't believe me."
...But one Xander was glad to have. Someone to vent to about the little things. Somewhere to go, when he needed to get out of town for a weekend. Someone to celebrate with, who didn't come with sexy baggage or Slaying baggage or make him feel insecure in his masculinity.
He even got her to open up a little about the older CSI she was stupid for, her other adventures in dating, and some fun anecdotes about her colleagues.
It really, really sucked when her crush got promoted and lured her to Las Vegas.
Sara moved to Nevada right about the time Glory arrived in Sunnydale.
Since Xander still hadn't told her about the things that went bump, and finding out in the middle of a fight against a hellgod probably wouldn't go well for either of them, he didn't fight it too much. And she wasn't too much further away than before. They still talked; she reminded him there was a world outside Sunnydale.
And after Buffy...
Before Willow fixed the Buffybot; before Giles got the legalities worked out to keep Dawn in town no matter what; before Anya decided to take him seriously and start planning their wedding in earnest... Xander went to see his sister, just for a couple of weeks.
"Are you sure you're ready for marriage?" she asked him, after he shared the cliff notes version of his personal dramas. "Not that Anya doesn't sound great, but Xander... think about it for a minute. Make sure you're doing this for the right reasons, not just because you're grieving and looking for connection. I know we haven't really talked about our parents, but..."
Sara stopped there; but he got the point.
She was right. Anya deserved better than his ambivalence.
Sara visited Sunnydale for the first time in order to don a dress of bilious green.
Not a much better time to get the down-low on his demon fighting sideline than it would have been the year before, really. But he lucked out: apparently, Sara didn't work the graveyard shift for nothing. Her boss and off-and-on crush object had been a coroner before working forensics, and he'd made sure her team had the basics.
Frankly, she seemed more upset about meeting the Harrises than the demony mayhem that erupted when one of Anya's former victims crashed the party with phony visions and Xander told him where to shove it. He was so relieved she'd taken it in stride, when she suggested they just start over and tie the knot in Vegas he talked Anya into following her back to Sin City.
And the way his wife's eyes lit up at the sight of the casinos? He probably should have just scheduled their honeymoon there in the first place.
"Just make sure I don't run into you at a crime scene," Sara told him, half-teasingly, after dodging the bouquet.
"No promises," he laughed.
Then he hugged her. "Thanks for everything, sis."
"Oh, come on. You've got to have at least a few funny stories to share."
"Nothing like scuba divers up trees," Xander chuckled. "Though, there was this one time with this fear demon..."
It was a huge relief to finally be able to talk about Scoobying with his sister; and Sara told him more too, now that she knew he didn't mind the gruesome details. Kind of sad, finding death a more comfortable conversation topic than their family; but that was the way the cookie crumbled sometimes.
"...That sounds like something Anya might have done, back when. You ought to swap stories with her sometime; I'm hardly surprised anymore at the things people do to each other."
"I wonder if she could help with any cold cases," Sara replied, thoughtfully. "A lot of people have been jilted over the years here."
"Just so long as you don't try to arrest her for any of them," he said, suddenly recalling that yeah, his sister was a member of law enforcement. "She was a demon then; she's not now."
"Pity it's not that black and white for the rest of us," she snorted. Then she let it drop and started another story.
Xander probably should have gone to his sister, after Caleb. He definitely should have, after- after Sunnydale. But they'd never got around to talking about the deep stuff. When all was said and done, they'd only known each other a few years, and while Sara knew about the Slayage, she didn't really know what it did to you. He didn't know how to be that vulnerable in front of her.
Blood might be thicker than water, but some bonds ran still deeper.
"Sara, this is Xander. When you get this message- I just want you to know I made it out. I'm sure you've seen it on the news by now; the town's gone. I was on the last bus out. Anya- didn't make it."
His throat closed for a second, and he breathed raggedly into the phone. "I- just thought I should let you know. We're headed for Cleveland. I'll- call you again when we get settled."
By the time he hung up, his face was wet with tears.
Buffy pillowed her head on one shoulder, Dawnie on the other, and the three of them sat together grieving their losses until they found a place to stop the bus.
"Xander?" Sara blinked blearily at him as she opened her door.
It reminded him of the day they'd first met as adults, half a decade before; him waking her from sleep, her astonished expression. But it reminded him of other, uglier memories, too: the circles under her eyes, the scent of alcohol in the air, the way she winced at the sunlight.
He'd seen it in his adoptive parents; and he was willing to bet she'd seen it in their bio parents, too. Nature and nurture are a lot to overcome sometimes, even when you knew better.
"So. Tell me who I have to beat to death with a shovel," he said. "Is it that Hank guy again? Or your boss this time?"
"What- no. Is that why you're here?" She bristled at him as she opened the door. "Xander, I told you yesterday; I'm fine."
There was a bottle on the table, next to a stack of take-out cartons. "Yeah, I can see that," he said, dryly.
Her face crumpled, and he stepped inside, reaching out for a hug.
They'd been skimming the tough topics long enough. It was way past time for the full truth, and nothing but.