Title: The Floor Beneath Our Feet (Trying to Be Perfect) 1/3

Author: wolfelements

Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Twilight Xover

Pairing: Xander Harris/Jacob Black

Rating: PG-13

hc_bingo Card Prompt: wild card (child abuse, physical/emotional)

Summary: And that was how Xander Harris became friends with a coven of vampires. The worst part was that his life was about to get weirder.

Warnings/Notes: Child abuse, but none of it sexual. Takes place in a scrambled up high school setting of Buffy and a totally generic Twilight 'verse, so just go with it. I'm writing this just to get it the hell out of my head. God, what the hell, Twilight? Seriously? I am so ashamed. But Xander wanted to play, so I'm giving in to his demands. And this is far too long for my own liking. Title derived from iThe Truth/i by Kris Allen.

It took Xander a moment to fully awaken, his mind shifting through recent memories to explain what he was doing in a bed different than his own. And then the heavy weight of his cast caught his attention and he remembered. This was his home now.

Downstairs he could hear his Uncle Rory moving around, possibly even making breakfast. Which was a bit of a shock to Xander's already sensitive system. There were no loud words of aggression, no distant drone of the television, and no sudden silence of his mother trying to pretend the world away. He'd only been here for three days and it wasn't enough to get him to adjust to the idea of a stable morning filled with scrambled eggs and a welcoming smile.

Xander pushed himself off the bed and onto his feet, ignoring the wave of dizziness that swept through him at the movement. Apparently, he was still suffering a lasting impression of the concussion he had been given just a week ago. His wrist itched, but he knew better than to try and find something to scratch it with. He had experience with accidentally breaking pencils inside a cast.

He rubbed at his face and hair, before standing. He took longer to get ready than usual, no thanks to the frustrating activity of fighting to cover his cast with a bag so he could take a quick shower. Finally, he was downstairs where his Uncle Rory was waiting for him.

Rory watched him with an unreadable expression. It was one that closely resembled the mask that graced his father's features for weeks after a recent…Xander cut his thoughts off and sat down before the plate of food. He couldn't meet his uncle's eyes, but that didn't stop the man from speaking. "I talked to Charlie's girl last night."

Xander's mind raced through the few people he'd met since being forced to move to Forks, Washington with Rory, before they landed on the girl next door who had seemed overly obsessed with some guy she was dating. Xander distinctly remembered meeting her years ago when he had visited his uncle as a child, long before his aunt had died and his father had further isolated the family from relatives.

Rory stared at him from the end of the hospital bed, mouth tilted downward. "And to think, I showed up to ensure you learned to drive and I ended up saving your butt instead. Remind me why I haven't spent more time kicking my brother's ass?"

"She's willing to give you a ride to school," Rory continued, pulling Xander away from his memories.

"I'm going to stick out like a sore thumb, aren't I?" he asked.

"Well…probably," his uncle replied. "Bella won't mind. It'll take the attention off of her, though why people still look at her like she's a shiny new toy when she's been here for months is beyond me." Rory shrugged and sent Xander a half-smile. "Welcome to small town life."

"And I thought Sunnydale was bad."

Rory chuckled, but sobered at the expression on Xander's face. "Look, I know this is hard for you. Moving isn't easy on anyone and with what happened…for what it's worth, if I had known it was that bad I would have got you out of there a lot sooner."

"Yeah. Thanks," he said, nodding. He knew Rory was just trying to make him feel better. Up until about a year ago, his uncle had been just as much of a friend of drinking as his father was. Unlike Xander's father, though, one DUI and drunken wreck too many had taught Rory his lesson.

"You're going to be okay here, Xander," Rory said softly. Xander had a feeling he had more to say, but a knock on the door interrupted the conversation. Rory let out a breath and forced yet another smile. "That would probably be Bella. Your backpack is by the door."

Fifteen minutes later, Xander found himself climbing out of Bella's monstrous truck and into the school parking lot. Their ride had been spent in uneasy silence after Bella had asked about the broken wrist and fading bruising along his neck and jaw line. Xander just hoped the rest of the teenagers of Forks weren't as likely to poke at topics that should be ignored like Bella Swan.

They had barely made it a foot away from the truck when a very pale guy with ridiculous hair appeared next to Bella's side. Bella smiled up at the guy with an expression that reminded Xander of Buffy and Angel, only much worse. "Edward, I'd like you to meet my new neighbor. This is Xander Harris. He just moved here from Sunnydale, California. Xander, this is my boyfriend, Edward Cullen."

"Hey," Xander greeted, momentarily struggling with his backpack. The weight of the bag was pressing against one of the bruises on his shoulder, but he couldn't seem to find a more comfortable position for it.

"It's nice to meet you," Edward replied.

Xander glanced over his shoulder to find a small group of strangers tagging along behind them. While they didn't exactly resemble Edward, Xander could tell they were somewhat related from the Cordelia-type clothing and nearly white skin. He turned his gaze back toward Edward, who was watching him with a pensive look on his face. Xander shifted his bag again and cleared his throat. "Uh, Bella? I'm going to head to the office. Thanks for the ride."

The people of Forks, Washington were in desperate need of entertainment. He had thought that Sunnydale was bad when Buffy had shown up, but Forks totally beat that one as far as making the new guy feel like a black sheep. He wasn't sure what was creepier, the fact that people kept staring at him or that a total stranger had stopped him in the hall to ask if they could sign his cast.

He somehow managed to make it to lunch without having to see Bella and Edward, though he did share one class with a girl that turned out to be Edward's sister, Alice.

When he got to the cafeteria he was immediately grabbed by Alice and pulled toward her family's table. Bella sent him a small wave as they approached, looking amused at Alice's determination for him to join them. She gently forced him into a chair between her and a large looking guy that was too busy fawning over the blonde version of Cordelia to notice him sitting down.

"You're going to join us from now on," Alice informed him, before rolling her eyes. "Unless you have a problem with sitting with us weirdos."

"I'm getting sick and tired of your weird little friends, Alexander," his father's voice boomed as Xander felt himself being grabbed from behind. "You spend more time with those freaks than you do at home!"

Xander forced a smile. "I have no problem with the endangered species known as the weirdo. I approve of it, in fact." Across the table he could see Edward turn to stare at him, his mouth pulled into a slight frown. Xander quickly looked down at his food and picked up his fork. He poked at the brown mush found there. "And here I was hoping the cafeteria food outside of Sunnydale wouldn't include mystery meat. It must be a universal truth."

"It does look disgusting," Alice agreed, her nose scrunching up in a way that reminded Xander of Willow.

He felt a rush of homesickness before he noticed that aside from Bella and him none of the others were actually eating. "Okay, do I need to worry about the food here, or are you guys giving it up for Lent?"

"Please," the regal looking blonde sniffed disdainfully, "like I would touch that food with a ten foot pole."

"Rosalie—" Edward started.

"No, no," Xander interrupted, sending her a sincere smile. "I wouldn't expect someone of your stature to eat it, but the rest of us hardly measure up to you, so…"

Rosalie looked like she wasn't sure if she was offended or flattered. He hid a smirk. Dealing with Cordelia on a daily basis had taught him the finer points of blending veiled insults and selective comments. He heard Edward make a slight noise of disbelief, but ignored it.

That was the first of many lunches with the Cullen family. They seemed amused with his ability to talk without actually saying anything. Xander found he didn't mind their company, though watching the freak romance of Bella and Edward was something he could have done without. Still, they didn't pester him about things that he didn't want to talk about. Never once did they ask why he had moved to Forks or how he had broken his wrist.

In fact, the only acknowledgment he received was when Alice started drawing delicate flowers and silhouettes of birds on the cast's surface during lunch.

After about a week, though, Xander was starting to feel his Sunnydale radar pick up as he watched the family interact. At first he assumed that they all had delicate stomachs and probably ate the moment they got home, but there were times when the school's food really wasn't that bad. Besides, if they hated cafeteria food so much why didn't they just bring their own?

And then there was the cold skin, which he frequently felt every time Alice touched him. She was the only one that did so and it was like she knew that he found comfort in her gentle and clearly feminine physical affection. At first he'd been nervous about it, especially with Jasper sitting right there looking like he had a never-ending migraine, but all it took was a vague smile from the other man to put Xander at ease. He was used to Buffy and Willow. Alice was the closest thing he could get to them at the moment.

There was also the hard press of Alice's body against his when she hugged him goodbye after school, a secretive smile on her face like she knew something he didn't. In those moments she felt like stone or frozen muscle stuck mid-coil.

All of this slowly built in Xander's mind, occasionally popping up only to be pushed back down. He had other things to worry about, after all. He had a school to adjust to and friends to contact every night. He also had distant calls from social workers keeping him and Rory updated on what was happening with his parents and the abuse charges his uncle had filed. He didn't like to think about it and usually he managed to avoid those thoughts, but occasionally he couldn't help but fret.

He was sitting at the lunch table during one of those moments, ignoring the food on his plate as well as the conversation around him. He could see Edward glancing over at him occasionally with the strained expression he had developed every time Xander got lost in his own thoughts.

"They're giving your uncle custody, so you don't have to worry," Alice suddenly said, staring at Xander intently. "It'll be official next week."

The table fell into silence. And all Xander could think about was the fact that Alice sometimes reminded him of Drusilla, if Drusilla hadn't been tortured and turned into a vampire.

"Oh my god," Xander breathed, sitting back. They were all looking at him funny, like they couldn't quite figure out what was going on. Everyone except Edward and Alice, that is. As they all stared, everything clicked into place and he couldn't believe his own thoughts. There was no way he was sitting at a table full of vampires.

He stood quickly and stumbled toward the doorway, desperately needing to regain his sanity. He was to the door when a hand grabbed his arm, almost hard enough to bruise. He looked up to see Edward's angry eyes seconds before Edward was dragging him out of the cafeteria and around the building. His mind had enough time to laugh over the fact that the sun never appeared in Forks just before he was shoved against the brick of the school.

Pain shot through him as his back first connected with the oak desk and then the wall. He wondered, distantly, if there would be a dent in the plaster. He slid to the ground, head swimming, as the dark shadow loomed over him. A hard grip took hold of his arm, as though to hold him steady, just as pain erupted across his jaw as a fist connected. "You'll never learn, boy."

"Xander, stop!" Edward's voice cut through his mind and he blinked up at Edward, catching Edward's look of anger and disgust. Edward's face suddenly cleared, returning to a smooth mask though it did nothing to hide the emotions in his voice. "I'm not mad at you, I'm mad at…I'm not going to hurt you."

"Could have fooled me," he snapped, jerking his arm out of Edward's hold. He would have felt triumphant if he didn't have the distinct feeling that Edward had let him get free. "What do you want?"

"I…" Edward sighed and looked away. "We're not what you think. Not really."

"Oh, and I guess you can read my thoughts, huh?" Xander scoffed, before he noticed Edward wince. "Shit, you can read my thoughts."

There was a pause, before Edward nodded.

"You can read my thoughts and Alice can see the future," he said. He threw his hands up, nearly hitting Edward in the forehead with his cast. "Didn't I leave Sunnydale to avoid this shit?"

"I thought you left because of…" Edward trailed off, clearly realizing that he was stepping on dangerous territory with that topic.

"Just, please tell me there aren't anymore surprises?" he begged. He could handle vampires. He was from Sunnydale, after all, but there was only so much he could tolerate in one sitting. "No more powers? Bella isn't secretly a witch, is she? Oh God, please tell me Rosalie can't read minds, too."

Edward chuckled. "No, though Jasper is an empathic. Aside from that, there really aren't any other secrets we're hiding."

"So. Vampires, huh?" He frowned. "Shouldn't you be hiding in a crypt somewhere? And why are you hanging out with humans? If you're about to tell me you all have souls then…well, I'm going to have words with Angel, because I knew his woe-is-me, I'm the only vampire with a soul thing was just bullshit."

"Like I said before, we're not what you think," Edward told him. "We're a different kind of vampire. I'm not sure how to explain it. Carlisle was always better at vampire folklore than me."

"Well, a part of me wants to find a sharp piece of wood right about now, but seeing how you're torturing yourself with high school? I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt here."

There was a happy sound and Xander saw a blur of movement out of the corner of his eye a second before Alice had him pulled into a tight, nearly bone crushing hug. "I knew you'd accept us! You have to come over for dinner! Esme wants to cook for you."

And that was how Xander Harris became friends with a coven of vampires. The worst part was that his life was about to get weirder.

"Look, Giles, all that I'm saying is that I…" Xander trailed off, sighing. He threw himself onto his bed, holding the phone to his ear. "I kind of believe them."

"Vampires are fully capable of lying, Xander," Giles informed him. There was shuffling in the background, along with a female voice growing near. "Buffy, I'm speaking with Xander—" Another voice joined Buffy's. "Honestly, you can speak to him in a moment, I'm trying to—" The voices got higher pitched. "Fine, fine. Xander?"

"Yeah?" he asked, laughing.

"Is it alright if I put you on speaker?"

"Sure thing, G-Man." There was a click and the noises in the background got louder. "Hey, girls."

"Xander!" Willow squealed. He felt himself grin. Even though they talked nearly every night, Willow always managed to act like it had been years since they last spoke. "How are you? How was your day? Is that Bella girl still being gross with her boyfriend?"

"Slow down, Wills," Buffy interrupted. "What were you two talking about, anyway?"

"Funny you should ask…" Xander trailed off nervously.

"It appears," Giles said, "that Xander has come across vampires in Forks, Washington."

"What?" Buffy demanded. "Did you stake them? Oh my god, Giles! Does this mean I get to take a road trip?"

Xander could practically imagine Giles cleaning his glasses right about then. He chuckled. "Guys, actually, that's the thing…I'm pretty sure they're vampires, but at the same time they don't act like real vampires. I hate to say it, but they kind of act like, well, Angel. Only not as broody and less annoying. Although, Edward is kind of…"

"Wait, your neighbor is dating a vampire?" Willow asked.

"Vampires are vampires, Xander, unless they have souls," Buffy said. "And Angel's the only vampire with a soul."

"Yeah, right," he muttered, and then jumped ahead before Buffy could take offense, "They go to school, Buffy. How many vampires do you know that have not only the attention span but the dedication to go to high school? And they actually do their homework. Alice is the top student in half of my classes and don't get me started on Jasper's history scores."

"As I was saying before the girls showed up," Giles said, "Vampires have been known to go to great lengths to fulfill a plan."

"Exactly," Buffy interjected. "I'll take a weekend to come visit you and take care of your vampire problem. Easy-peasy!"

"That being said," Giles continued as though Buffy hadn't said a word, "there is the possibility that they are a different breed of vampire."

"That's what Edward said," Xander admitted. "He couldn't explain it, but he claimed they weren't the type of vampire I was thinking about. But, seriously, Giles, what other types of vampires are there and why haven't we run into them before?"

"It's not exactly classified properly by the Watcher's Council, to be honest," Giles admitted. "Some Watchers claim that the lumen vampire is actually a different demon altogether and yet others say they don't exist. If they do exist then it's a possibility that the vampires that you've encountered in Forks are indeed lumen vampires. Lumen meaning light in the Latin, of course. The more common vampire that Buffy fights is considered, by those that believe in the two variants, as shadow vampires."

"What's the difference?" Buffy asked.

"Lumen are less demonic," Giles said. "They aren't harmed by holy objects and are much stronger. There is some talk on whether they still have their souls, but there is so little known about them we can't be sure. Their society is very safe guarded. In fact, I'm shocked they told you at all, Xander."

"I kind of figured it out myself," he replied. "Edward…he's got some form of telepathy, so he knew that I had realized it. I guess they didn't see the point in trying to correct me."

"Well, that's honest," Willow offered.

"So, no road trip?" Buffy asked, her tone indicating that she was pouting.

"No, as long as Xander takes precautions around them, everything should be fine," Giles said.

"Uh, yeah, about that," he replied, "apparently their mother…or what counts as their mother wants to cook for me. She has this thing about it and Bella thinks the perfect cure is for her to have to feed a teenage boy. Seeing how the only human she gets to cook for is Bella, who looks like the type to starve herself in order to make herself look prettier, I can get why she's so gung-ho about me coming over."

There was a moment of silence over the phone, before Willow giggled. "Seriously?"

"Yeah, seriously," he laughed. "These vampires are freaks, let me tell you."

"I think it's time to bring out the holy water handshake," Buffy announced. "If holy water doesn't hurt these lumos-"

"Lumen," Giles corrected.

"Exactly," Buffy huffed. "If it doesn't hurt them then a holy water soaked handshake should tell you if that's what they are. Right?"

"It's not like Xander can just try to stake them and see if that works," Willow commented.

"Add in the fact that I kind of don't want to have to," Xander said. "I hate to say it, seeing how I'm usually all anti-vampire, but I like a couple of them. Sure, Edward is…well, words don't describe the creepy feeling I get from him, but Alice is pretty awesome. And I kind of want to talk Emmett into getting into a fight with Angel, just so I can watch Angel get his ass kicked."

"Hey!" Buffy protested.

Xander groaned and leaned back in his chair. He fought the urge to undo the top button of his jeans just to relieve some of the pressure. He turned toward the female vampire sitting across from him and smiled. "You, Mrs. Cullen, have just accomplished the impossible."

"Xander, I told you," she said, "please call me Esme."

"Sorry, Esme," he corrected, before reaching for his drink. "I never thought I'd meet someone who could manage to make a teenage boy admit to being full, but you have succeeded."

"You certainly have a healthy appetite," Carlisle commented with a small smile.

"You're just a trashcan, Alexander," his father said in disgust. "We spend way too much money feeding you and all you do is eat, eat, eat. Are you even listening to me!" A hard smack echoed through the room and Xander felt tears well up at the pain that suddenly flared across his face. "A worthless trashcan."

"Uh, yeah," Xander replied, swallowing. He glanced around the table, noting the sudden worried glances as the vampires present noticed the increase in his heartbeat, and sighed as a rush of calm ran over him. He shot Jasper a look of thanks. "I really appreciate you cooking for me, Esme. I hope it wasn't too much trouble."

"Of course not," Esme said, "I would do the same for any of my children's friends."

"Not that we made the habit of making human friends before you two came along," Rosalie huffed.

"Thank you for gracing me with such a rare gift, Rosalie," Xander replied, grinning when she glared. Inwardly, he thanked her for the distraction almost as much as he thanked Jasper for his emotional control. He didn't know why memories of his father appeared at moments like these, when he wasn't anywhere near in danger, but he was thankful that he was around people that didn't make a point to ask him if he was okay. Clearing his throat, Xander reached for his plate. "I should take this to the kitchen."

"Oh, let us get that!" Alice piped up, shooting him a sly grin. "You know, Edward and Bella are still out in the backyard. You should join them."

"I really don't want to interrupt one of their moments," he admitted. Edward and Bella really were Forks' version of the Buffy and Angel affair, only less homicidal and more teenage angst ridden. Xander didn't have the patience for it.

"Trust me," she said.

"I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume you saw me going out there," Xander stated. Both Emmett and Jasper chuckled, no doubt thinking of the many times they were subjected to Alice's visionary whim. He lifted his hands in defeat. "Alright, I'm going."

"Hey, come back in if Edward starts quoting Shakespeare," Emmett called, "and I'll kick your ass on the Xbox."

He sent the man a wave of agreement, before shaking his head in wonder. He was suddenly stuck in a town where vampires not only went to high school, but also played video games. This place was like the antithesis of Sunnydale.

He made it to the back door before he heard the sound of Bella talking. He couldn't make out the words, but it was clear that she was not in a good mood. Great. Did he really want to get involved in a lover's spat like this? He took a few steps closer, not bothered by the fact that he was eavesdropping. Odds were that Edward already knew he was there, anyway.

"I don't see why I can't go visit him," Bella was saying, her tone clearly indicating an incoming pout. "He won't hurt me, Edward, and he's one my best friends. You know what those are, right, friends?"

"Bella," Edward interrupted with a sigh, "I just don't like you going there alone. What if something happens? It's dangerous around them."

"I've known Jacob for most of my life," Bella protested.

"Well, I don't know him and I don't trust him," Edward replied.

Xander rolled his eyes and walked the last few feet that led him off the back porch and into the backyard. Bella looked up as he approached, a scowl fighting to appear on her face. He ignored her, giving his full attention to Edward, who was grimacing. "You really are bad with women."

Bella snorted.

"The first rule of womenfolk is to not try and control them," Xander said. "You'd think living with Rosalie and Alice would have taught you that by now."

"Look, this doesn't involve you," Edward started.

"Nah, it really doesn't, but I can see where this control issue of yours is going," he replied. His mind momentarily flashed with images of his father and mother, of her crying late at night because his father's control was slowly killing her.

Edward looked away, a pained expression crossing his face. "It's not like that, Xander. I would never hurt Bella. I'm not like your—"

"You might want to shut up there, vampire boy," Xander interrupted. He turned to Bella, who was watching them with a frown. "So, where is it he's so paranoid about you visiting?"

"La Push," he said.


She giggled. "La Push, it's the Quileute reservation that my friend Jacob lives at. Edward and Jacob don't really get along."

"Yeah, so I gathered." Xander clapped his hands together and grinned. "Well, I've never been on a reservation before. How about I go with you? That way vampire boy won't get his knickers in a twist because I'll be there watching out for you and I get to be introduced to a culture shock. It'll be good times for everyone."

Bella beamed. "Really? That would be wonderful!"

"I don't think—" Edward began with a frown.

"No, sometimes you really don't," Xander said with a shake of his head. "I think you spend so much time in other people's heads that you forget its okay to live in your own. Calm down. I'm used to fighting vampires and demons on a nightly basis. I think I can watch over your girlfriend for a day. How tough can a regular guy named Jacob be?"

"Wait…did you say demons?" Bella asked.

"Oh, huh, I kind of forgot to tell you guys about that part, didn't I?" he replied.

He stared at the vampires sitting around the room, fighting down the desire to giggle at their expressions. How was it an entire group of supernatural creatures were so ignorant when it came to the dark side of the world? They had known about the shadow vampires, witches, and even shape shifters, but the idea of demons just threw them for a loop.

"That's why you had holy water on your hand when you arrived, isn't it?" Jasper asked, his normally vague voice sounding amused.

"Guilty as charged," he grinned.

"How is it we've never seen any of these creatures you claim exist?" Edward asked. "I know you're telling the truth, I can see some of your memories, but it seems unlikely that we haven't come across them before."

While Xander wanted nothing more than to tell Edward to shut up, because really the guy could be very annoying when he tried, Xander knew it was better to approach the conversation with some delicacy. Giles had instilled at least a small amount of diplomacy into him. Though, he would never let Giles know that.

"Look, vampires don't mix well with the happy humans," he said, unable to hide his smirk. "And while you guys aren't technically human, you act more human than most real ones do. Most demons avoid the types of humans you portray."

"And what kind of human is that?" Rosalie asked stiffly, obviously on the verge of being offended.

"Pristine and perfect," Xander told her. "You'd give them all indigestion."

"How do you know about this at your age?" Carlisle asked. "I doubt it's something they'd teach in school, even one placed on—what was it you called it? The mouth of hell?"

"After school study group," Xander instantly said. He could see Edward frowning, but knew that he had kept his thoughts about Buffy clouded and vague enough to keep the vampire from knowing anything. It was probably why he was starting to look so damn constipated. Xander grinned when Edward shot him a dirty look. "Anyway, that's all the information you get. I'm not at liberty to speak of anything else. If I do, crabby guys from England will come take away my demon hunter membership card."

"Demon hunter!" Esme gasped, looking at him with obvious worry. "You don't go out and hunt these things, do you? It's one thing to study and accidentally come across one, but to hunt them? You're just a boy!"

It was at that moment that Xander decided Esme was the one of the most awesome moms ever, even if she was a vampire. Though, it was still difficult to beat out Joyce Summers. Xander figured if Esme spent another year in his presence the two women would be able to come out even in that department. Until then, Joyce held the ultimate mother trophy.

The day Xander was supposed to go with Bella to La Push also happened to be the day that he would hear about the court decision regarding his parents, which would later lay heavily on the final decision of what sort of discipline his father would receive for putting his only child in the hospital. Xander couldn't even begin to understand California's legal system, especially when it came to children, so he spent most of his time ignoring the entire thing.

That was a bad move on his part, because Xander couldn't help but obsess over it deep down in his subconscious.

For the most part, Xander hadn't let his occasional flashbacks bother him. He had always figured it was his mind's way of dealing with things. He hadn't remembered every moment of abuse that he had suffered from since childhood, so it made sense to him that small things in day to day life would remind him of the past, because those memories had to go somewhere. He had spent the last couple of years worrying too much about making it home alive than he had the dangers hidden in his own home, something he now regretted.

For the majority of the day Xander moved around the school much like a zombie, refusing to think or be anxious. If he could get through the day then he'd be able to go home and hear the good news that Alice claimed would be waiting for him.

He had been heading for the cafeteria for lunch when it happened. He had glanced over his shoulder, spotting who he thought was Jasper, before he turned the corner without really looking at where he was going. His body impacted with something hard and solid, which he distantly recognized as Emmett's chest, before he rebounded off of the larger figure and his back impacted with the wall. Pain lanced across his shoulder blades and shot down his arm to his wrist, which still remained in the cast.

He blinked, one moment seeing a sea of students and faces, and the next seeing nothing but memories that matched the pain in his body and mind.

"It's always the same with you, Alexander," the voice hissed. The smell of alcohol hit his face long before his back impacted with the wall. "You walk around this house like you own it! After all the fucking money we spend on you, how do you repay us? By spending all of your time with those sluts from school."

A stinging sensation hit Xander's cheek and his head snapped to the side from the force of the blow. He tasted blood in his mouth. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean—"

"Didn't mean to what?" his father growled, grabbing Xander's collar and lifting him upward, only to slam him back against the wall again.

There was pain and confusion. Xander couldn't even remember what he had done wrong; all he knew was that for once his father wasn't stopping after the first couple of hits. He became dizzy and could feel the slow slide of blood trickle from his forehead. He tried to fight back, he tried to protest, but all that escaped him was a scream as the bones in his wrist snapped.

And then hands clamped down hard on his throat. His breathing became labored and he kicked out weakly, nails clawing at the hands, but nothing helped. Soon, he couldn't breathe at all.

"Xander," a soft voice said as cold fingers lightly touched his cheek.

"Shit, is he okay?" another voice demanded, loud and booming.

"He's feeling calmer," the first voice replied. Xander's eyes fluttered before opening fully. He looked up to see Jasper crouched in front of him, face forming a stiff expression as though he were in pain as fingers slowly withdrew from Xander's face. "Xander, how are you?"

"Fine," he croaked, allowing Emmett to reach out and help him to his feet. "What happened?"

"Man, you freaked," Emmett informed him. Jasper shot the larger vampire a look, which Emmett shrugged off. "Well, he did."

"Maybe we should take you to the nurse's office," Jasper said.

"Oh no, that's okay," he said quickly. The last thing he needed was authorities getting involved. He had no desire to visit a psychiatrist. "I just need food. Lots and lots of food."

"If you're certain…" Jasper replied, a flash of worry briefly appearing on his face.

"What is taking you two so long?" Rosalie demanded, appearing at their side. She glanced at Xander, mouth twitching down into a slight frown, before she turned her attention fully onto Emmett. "I don't like waiting."

"Sorry, babe," Emmett replied. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and tugged her gently in the direction of the cafeteria. She glanced back at them once, eyes narrowed in thought, but otherwise didn't protest Emmett guiding her away.

Xander let out a long breath, closing his eyes and leaning back against the wall. He flexed the fingers on his broken arm, taking in the vague hint of pain but thankful that was all there was to it. Soon and he'd no longer have a cast. Opening his eyes, he was shocked to see that Jasper was still with him. The vampire's face was blank as usual; a mask that probably hid more emotions than a human was capable of dealing with.

"How do you handle it?" he asked, keeping his voice low as students passed by them. Jasper tilted his head in question. "All the things you must feel…I probably don't feel a quarter of what you do and I sometimes think I'm going insane. Hell, I think my episode a minute ago shows I am going insane."

"It's difficult," Jasper admitted. "I often have problems separating my own emotions from others. Being around humans makes it harder. You feel so much in such a small amount of time."

"You'd think that would make being a vegetarian vampire easier," he commented, "if you can feel what your victim is going through." Jasper looked up at him, but said nothing. "Bella said you have problems with it sometimes."

"Feeling what you feel…" Jasper shook his head. "It makes it harder to keep myself from killing you."

"Why? Then you'd feel my pain and fear."

Jasper let out a sound that might have been a laugh, but Xander couldn't be sure. "The fear of death is nothing like what I just felt coming from you. To kill you would be to relieve you of that. That's why I have a hard time not feeding off humans, Xander. I can feel everything they feel and it's only in their death that I get any peace. Sometimes, I want nothing more than to relieve a person of the life that makes them feel the way they do. Most especially you."

"I'm fine," he said, looking away.

"Someday you will be," Jasper offered.

He climbed into Bella's massive truck, pulling the door shut with a clang. For a moment, he nearly started bouncing, but somehow he managed to reign it all in. He could feel her eyes on him and wasn't sure what he should say. He knew Bella's father knew the basics of what had happened to him, but he had tried to keep as few details from Bella as possible. Xander didn't want her pity and he hated the fact that the Cullens knew about his father as it was.

"You seem happy," she commented with a wry smile as she started the truck.

"Oh, yeah," he replied, clearing his throat. "I, uh, found out that I get to stay with my Uncle Rory until I'm eighteen. I'll miss my friends and Sunnydale, of course, but staying here is good. I'm just excited about it. New place and all. I'd hate to have to move again. It's so tedious. All that boxing and, uh, boxing. Not to mention adjusting to a new school. I just now got used to this one. Who wants to be the new kids twice in one year? Not that I'd be new in Sunnydale, since I've lived there my whole life, but you know what I mean, right?"

"Uh, sure?" she offered, looking confused. "That's…some really nice babble you have there, Xander."

"It's a gift," he said, inwardly cheering at his ability to deflect. He hadn't really had to use that method with his Uncle Rory just yet, so it was nice to know he wasn't getting rusty. "So, tell me about this Jacob boy that has Immaculate Edward's panties bunched up in the wrong places."

"Xander!" Bella exclaimed. "Don't say stuff like that about Edward."

"Oh, come on, Bella," he said, laughing, "if you can't make fun of your own boyfriend, then what good is it having him around?"

"There are plenty of good reasons to have him around," Bella replied with a distinctly dreamy expression. Xander had a feeling he was going to be sick if she continued down this road. After a few minutes of silence, Bella blinked and blushed. "Um, anyway, the whole reservation kind of has this territory issue with the Cullens. Edward and Jacob just don't get along. It doesn't help that Jacob kind of has a thing for me."

Xander fought back the urge to roll his eyes. It was clear to him that Bella had no problem with them fighting over her, she probably enjoyed it. Maybe, now that he thought about it, Bella was just as bad as Edward when it came to creating a potentially abusive relationship.

"But he's my friend, so it's only fair that I get to see him," she insisted. "So, thanks for coming with me."

"Hey, no problem," he said, waving a hand. "It's not like I had anything better to do, except homework. Trust me, even watching a guy completely disregard you being in a relationship and proceeding to flirt with you is more entertaining than writing a five page report on the rise and fall of…umm…well, I can't exactly remember what historic figure I picked."

She shot him an amused glance before returning her attention back to the road. He turned his gaze toward the passing trees, wondering if he'd ever get used to so much greenery. There was another long moment of silence, before Bella cleared her throat nervously. "I don't want to read too much into things and I've probably got it all wrong, but…Edward kind of told me that you might not be comfortable around aggressive men, I guess."

"He did, did he?" he asked, clenching his jaw. It was official; he was going to have a nice little chat with Edward Cullen about respecting people's privacy.

"I'm sorry," Bella whispered. "I shouldn't have said anything."

"No, Bella," Xander sighed, "it's okay. I'm fine around most people. I occasionally have problems, but it's not really something I can predict. Alright?"

"Yeah," she nodded. "I just wanted to give you heads up that, well, Jacob and some of the other guys in La Push are pretty…large. Seriously, Jacob kind of shot up into this big guy overnight. And they occasionally have anger issues. Not so much Jacob, but…well, Edward said I should mention it."

"Edward needs to pull his head out of other people's business," he informed her as they drove onto a dirt road. "Besides, Edward doesn't have the best judgment when it comes to this Jacob person's character, now does he?"

"Well, not really," Bella admitted.

"Let's just not talk about this anymore," he said firmly. The last thing he needed was to be put in a bad mood right before meeting some friend of hers.

They pulled up toward a comfortable looking house. There was a man sitting in what looked to be a wheelchair on the front porch. Xander opened the door and slid out of the truck and followed Bella toward the house, glancing around curiously. He didn't know why he expected the place to look different just because it was on a reservation, but he found himself oddly disappointed in the fact that it looked a lot like Rory's place, only without the broken screen door.

Willow would kill him if she knew about his assumptions.

"Hello, Bella," the man greeted with a tense smile. Xander got the immediate impression there was some bad blood there. He figured the problem probably started with Ed and ended with Ward.

"Hi," she replied, giving a small hand wave. "Uh, this is my neighbor Xander Harris. Xander, this is Jacob's dad, Billy Black."

"Nice to meet you," Xander said with a bright grin, reaching out to shake his hand.

"You're what's his name's nephew, right? The taxidermist?" Billy asked.

"Yeah, that's Rory," he replied, chuckling.

"It's nice of him to take you in," Billy commented. He gave Xander a smile that was much more genuine than the one provided to Bella. "Not that I have a place to say. Rory and I don't talk much. He's not a big baseball or fishing fan and out here there really isn't much else to do."

"Is Jacob here?" Bella cut in.

"Yeah, he's in the garage working on the Rabbit," Billy said. "It was nice meeting you, Xander."

"Same to you," he replied as Bella grabbed his arm and started pulling him around the house.

"I don't know why he has to look at me like I've committed some horrible crime," Bella muttered as they approached the open garage.

Inside Xander could hear the clank of tools hitting metal. He hovered behind Bella as they entered, suddenly nervous. Normally he had no problem with meeting new people, but he hated being thrust into social conflicts. The heated adversity between Jacob and the Cullens was evident enough without him having a front row seat. Hopefully, Jacob would discreetly refrain from labeling Xander as a Cullen-lover.

"Bells!" a deep voice yelled seconds before a massive boy appeared around the hood of the Volkswagen Rabbit. Yeah, okay, suddenly Xander could understand why Bella had been worried, because this guy would send anyone afraid of men running in the opposite direction. Not only was he just tall and muscular, but he radiated some kind of energy that demanded attention. Though, that could have been the grin that literally lit up his face like some kind of beacon or the fact that he was shirtless.

Why the hell was Bella with pasty, uptight Edward when she had a guy that burst with sunshine as an option?

"Hey, Jake," Bella beamed, practically throwing herself into Jacob's arms.

"So, where's your bodyguard?" Jacob teased, looking up and over Bella's head at Xander.

That's when it happened. Xander wasn't entirely sure what happened exactly, but Jacob's face practically froze when his eyes landed on Xander, who was still standing partially outside of the building. Jacob let go of Bella and took a step forward, his gaze unblinking, like there was some kind of string pulling him toward Xander.

Xander wondered if this was how Principal Flutie felt right before the hyena pack devoured him. A sudden fear rushed through him, though he didn't understand why he felt skittish. Gulping, Xander stumbled back and was forced to catch his balance on the edge of the doorway with his cast-covered hand. Jacob's eyes darted to the white cast and the larger boy sucked in a sharp breath.

"Bella," Jacob finally said, taking hold of her hand, "we need to talk."

"What's going on?" Bella demanded as Jacob pulled her out of the garage.

Xander flinched as Jacob passed, hanging his head to keep them from seeing his reaction. He watched out of the corner of his eye as Jacob led her around the corner. Her voice faded until he couldn't make out the actual words. He could hear a murmur or two, but was otherwise left alone. A rush of air escaped him. What the hell had that been about? Did he have something crawling out of his nose? Was his face offensive?

He turned on his heel and took a few steps out into the lawn, shoving his hands into his pockets. He fought with fitting his cast into the pocket for a moment, before cursing and letting that hand dangle. He suddenly missed his friends in Sunnydale more than anything. Things were crazy on the Hellmouth, but at the same time? They were simple. Vampires were bad, unless you were Angel, and he didn't have to worry about the humans because he had his girls and Giles. They were all that mattered.

"You did what?" Bella's voice cut through his thoughts and he winced at the high pitch her tone had taken. Curious, he stepped closer to the back of the garage, ears straining to hear.

"I can't exactly control it, Bella!" Jacob's voice snapped, sounding more like a growl than anything.

"But—how—he's a guy!" Bella exclaimed.

"I noticed. It doesn't make sense, but trust me, it happened." There was a long moment where Xander couldn't understand what they were saying, before Jacob spoke up again. "What happened to his arm?"

"I don't…" Bella let out an annoyed sound. "I can't tell you. I'm not even supposed to know. Xander will be pissed if he knew that Edward told me the details."

There was another growl, followed by a bang that caused Xander to jump in shock.


"I can't believe he's been near those leeches. I'll find out what happened, Bella, whether you tell me or not."

"Does it really matter?" Bella asked, her voice so low Xander could barely make it out. "Maybe he broke it on accident."

"From your reaction, I doubt it. Bella, it matters because he's my imprint. If someone hurt him…" Jacob trailed off. Xander took another step closer. What the hell was an imprint? "Whatever, just…keep him away from the Cullens."

"They're his friends!" Bella protested. "They go to school together."

"They're bloodsuckers and I don't want him near them!" Jacob yelled. "And tell that damn leech of yours to stay out of his head!"

Okay, that was it. Xander could take people talking about him. He could even handle being called things he didn't know the definition of, but he did not like people trying to control what he did on a day to day basis. He refused to allow himself the reminder that he had planned on yelling at Edward for getting in his head himself. The point was that he didn't need to be protected.

He'd survived his father; he could handle a few vegetarian vampires.

That in mind, Xander stormed around the small building until he spotted the two of them. Jacob was towering over Bella with an angry expression, his hands clenched into fists. Xander took barely a second to notice the huge dent in the garage wall before he grabbed Bella and pushed her behind him. He looked up at Jacob, a frown etched into his face. His heart beat frantically in his chest as he realized that if Jacob was angry enough then there was nothing Xander could do to defend himself.

That didn't stop him from placing himself in harm's way, though.

"What's going on here?" he demanded, amazed at how steady his voice was.

For a second, Jacob's anger was palpable. Xander could feel something vibrate through the air, which more than triggered every Hellmouth instinct he had. And then Jacob seemed to actually see past his anger to the expression on Xander's face, because the larger boy deflated like a popped balloon. Jacob took a step back, head lowered as though he were trying to look harmless.

Xander drew in a deep breath. "Okay, I'm not sure what I just stepped into, but I don't like where your conversation was going. Forgive me, but I got the distinct impression that you were talking about me."

"It's…well, uh," Jacob stammered. He winced. "So, this conversation is really not starting out well. I don't think right now is a good time to go into it."

"Well, maybe I think it is," Xander replied.

"I can't just tell you. There are things about me and the Cullens that you don't know," Jacob said. "I have to talk to a couple of people first and then maybe…we can get together? Just you and I? I'll explain everything, I promise."

"You're doing really well at making this sound serious," he offered. He glanced back at Bella and sighed. He understood secrets, especially ones that weren't his to tell. He'd learned enough about that with Buffy as a best friend. He had a feeling that one of the things Jacob didn't think he knew was that the Cullens family were vampires. Xander wasn't about to correct him of that fact, not until he knew more about the situation. "Yeah, alright, I could maybe be okay with that."

"Can we hang out like normal people now?" Bella asked, peering over his shoulder at her friend.