This was officially the worst week of Xander Harris's life. It started out with some simple humiliation when he crashed his skateboard in front of the hot new girl, then made a fool of himself during his introduction.

Things were looking up when they met again at the Bronze, but that was before Jessie and Willow found themselves kidnapped by, of all things, vampires. The new girl was apparently some prophesied warrior type, so thankfully she was able to rescue Willow, and made plans to help Jessie.

As bad as that was, all of it was just the set up for the worst moment of his life. Jessie had been made a vampire, and while Xander's brother-in-all-but-blood was trying to turn him to the dark side, a little jostling in the crowd ended up with a stake through his best friend's heart. The look of betrayal as Jessie turned to dust would stay with him forever.

But it was over now. The spooky new librarian had explained, a little, about what was going on, and Xander had decided to join the fight. If for no other reason than to avenge Jessie. If that had been all that had happened this week, then perhaps Xander would have been able to move forwards, fight the good fight, and step up into the role of white knight, unsung defender of the Hellmouth. Unfortunately, reality had other plans.

He arrived home to another monstrous argument between his parents. Not particularly unusual, but the timing sucked. Already in a bad mood, when the two turned on him, demanding where he'd been, Xander lashed out a little. "Just leave me alone, alright!" He shouted. "I can't deal with this shit right now."

Despite the fact that the two were just screaming at eachother themselves, Xander's father turned towards his son. "You don't talk to your mother and I like that, you little bastard. Now tell us where you've been!"

"Out, okay. I had a bad day. Now leave me alone!" Xander replied.

"Alexander Lavelle Harris!" his mother cried, "You behave yourself this instant. We work hard to keep you fed and safe, and this is how you repay us?"

"Safe?" Xander asked. "You call this shithole safe? You're both too busy getting drunk off your asses to see what's right in front of your faces. Do you have any idea what happened tonight? Any at all?"

"I don't care what happened to you and your little shit friends," Tony Harris said. "You shut up and get your ass upstairs before I whip some manners into you, boy."

"Jessie is dead, Tony. Willow almost died. I almost died. And you two are so caught up in your own shit you don't even care."

"I knew that boy would get you all into trouble," Jessica Harris said. "You should just be thankful you're still alive. If you'd only listened to me and stayed away from him..."

"Bullshit!" Xander shouted, rage filling him. "Jessie and Willow were the only good things in my life, and now Jessie is dead. I'm not gonna let you just badmouth him, you drunken whore!"

Tony Harris took a step forward and punched his son across the jaw. Xander tumbled to the floor, looking up to see his father shaking with rage. "You get out of here." Said the suddenly intimidating drunk. "You get out and you don't come back."

Xander turned to his mother, hoping for some support. Yes, they'd fought, but they were still a family, right? He already felt bad about what he'd said. "Mom, I'm sorry."

Jessica Harris's eyes were cold as ice as she looked down at him. "You're no son of mine. Ever since you were born you've been nothing but a burden. I hope you die out there, just like your stupid friend."

Something in Xander died at those words. Something shattered. And so, standing up slowly, he made to move towards his room.

"Where do you think you're going?" Tony said.

"I'm getting my stuff, what's it look like?" Xander said.

"No, you're not. We paid for all that junk, so it's ours. If you want it so bad, you can buy it at the pawn shop when we're done selling it. Now get."

Anger coursing through him, Xander dashed past his father and up the stairs, closing the door behind him and quickly shoving the dresser in front of it. Already Tony was pounding at the door and shouting insults, so he knew it wouldn't last for long.

Opening his closet and reaching for the highest shelf, Xander pulled down a shoebox and shoved it into his backpack, before grabbing the only clothes that weren't in the wash- Grandpa Harris's old suit. He'd shoved the suit into the backpack, opened the window, and was already climbing out when the dresser was finally pushed out of the way.

By the time Tony made it into his room Xander was already halfway down the street. Even still, he could hear Tony's words following him. "You better run, you little thief! If I ever catch you, you're dead, you hear me? Dead!"

He finally stopped at a small park, one where he and Jessie used to play. It was too far from Willow's home for her parents to allow her out, but there were many fond memories here. Now they were all bittersweet.

The sun had been down for quite some time, and as Xander had recently learned, it was too late to be out alone in Sunnydale. There was no way he'd make it to Willow's before something bad caught up with him. He huddled down in one of the crawling tubes spread around the park, grateful for the fact it hid him from view of the street.

Very aware of the noises he was hearing, and of his precarious position, Xander quietly took stock of himself. He was unarmed, with his only possessions being the clothes on his back, his backpack and school books, grandpa's suit, and the shoebox where he hid all his treasures.

In one day, he'd lost his best friend, his sense of safety, his home (what little shelter it provided was better than none), and his family. He couldn't make it to Willow tonight, and if he wasn't lucky he'd soon end up dead... or worse. He felt truly alone now.

Time stretched on, and while he was too frightened to sleep (especially given the occasional faint shriek or cackle he could hear in the distance) he was quickly finding himself growing bored. Quietly unzipping his backpack, Xander pulled out his treasure box, slowly sifting through the reminders of better times.

A few movie tickets, a prized comic book (an original Uncanny X-Men #3 he and Jessie had fought over at a garage sale. They'd decided on joint custody of the book, and it would have been Jessie's turn to keep it next monday), a signed publicity photo of Wonder Woman won at the last county fair, various other mementos, and finally a fake mustache.

Xander had to bite back a sob as he found the mustache, buried under a battered copy of the Hobbit. It was from their last grade-school play, when they'd put on a version of the new Addam's Family film. Willow and Jessie had played Wednesday and Lurch respectively, while Xander had been cast as Gomez Addams, across from Amy Maddison as Morticia.

Jessie had teased the two of them for weeks afterwards, given the intimate nature of their stage relationship, but it wasn't because of Amy that he'd kept the mustache. It was the joy of having his best friends as his family, for once. Of being able to cut loose and enjoy himself. Of having a "family" he could rely upon, even if it was just pretend.

New to the secrets of the Hellmouth, Xander could perhaps be excused for what he did next. He was unaware, after all, that the vengeance demon Halfrek sat on a swing just a few feet away, out of sight but not of hearing range. So when he said what he did, well, he had no inkling of the potential consequences. Even if he had, though, there is no way he, Halfrek, or even D'Hoffryn could have envisioned what the result of those words would be.

"Jessie is gone now, and it's all my fault. If only things were like they were during the play. A good family, no reason to fear anything, true love... I just wish my life could be like Gomez's."

Tired from the day, Xander didn't really notice the soft whisper of "Wish granted..." that floated across the breeze. He drifted off to sleep, exhaustion finally overtaking him.

He awoke a few hours later, around an hour before sunrise.

"Look at him, finally coming around." Sneered a voice somewhere off to his left. "What do you think he was doing, hiding in a playground?"

"I don't know," came another voice. "But I'm ready for a late night snack and some entertainment. Now that he's finally awake, maybe he'll suffice."

A strong arm reached into the tunnel and roughly pulled Xander out, leaving him sprawled upon the ground. He was greeted with a sight out of his nightmares- two Vampires, both with their fangs out and ready to eat.

"Well, little cow, aren't you going to moo?" Said the taller of the two vampires. "I do so love hearing screams before a good meal..."

Xander was doomed, he knew it. But oddly enough, he wasn't scared. His thoughts drifted back to last night, and all the things that had happened the day before. His eyes closed as he remembered the strange dream he'd been having- about the play, and his friends- his real family.

"Why ain't he screaming yet? Doesn't he know we're gonna eat him?" asked the shorter vampire, a brown haired man with an ugly pug nose... made uglier by his currently demonic visage.

Thinking on the dream, a well of courage pierced through Xander's fear. If he was going to die anyways, well... maybe he could die pretending to be like a man he'd admired, a man he'd envied.

He stood up and brushed himself off, a delighted smile upon his face. "Gentlemen!" Xander exclaimed exuberantly. "What a surprise to meet you here. Capitol, simply capitol."

"Uh- what?" said the taller vampire, his demonic face twisted with confusion.

"None of that, my good fellow. Why, I was just thinking to myself how boring this night had been, and then here you are. It's just like grandmama always told me- one never lacks for entertainment on a hellmouth."

"Entertainment?" Asked the tall vampire.

"Why yes! Two sterling young vampires such as yourself must realize exactly who it is you've assaulted. So I can only conclude that you've come here to play, and, well, I'm perfectly pleased with the idea!"

"Y-you are?" said the shorter vampire, exchanging wary glances with his companion. Things weren't going the way they were supposed to, not at all.

Xander's eyes glinted with a manic inner light as he nodded. "Of course, of course, my dear gents. The only question is, what game should we play? Knives? Rummy? Maybe a nice spot of torture or two? I know I've got a mace somewhere around here..." Xander turned from side to side, as if looking for something he'd misplaced.

The two vampires exchanged another wary glance. This was too weird. First this human knew about the hellmouth, and vampires... now he's just entirely too confident for things to proceed normally. These two particular vamps were slightly smarter than your average fledgling, and they smelt something fishy.

"Maybe we should just just get out of here," said the brown-haired vampire.

His companion nodded carefully. "After that thing with the slayer chick, I don't want any trouble. Who knows what the heck this thing is- look at his eyes. There's no way he's human."

"Not human?" Xander bluffed. "What an entertaining observation! My, and I think I've decided on a game now." As he said this, the vampires turned to flee. Gathering up his courage and moving exactly contrary to his instincts, Xander shouted to the fleeing duo "You two run... I chase! Have at ye!"

The vampires were off like a shot, as Xander ran a block or two in their direction. Finally certain they were gone, he stopped to recover his breath. "Huhh, Huhhh," he panted. "I must still be dreaming. I can't believe that worked."

His breath recovered, he stood straight. It wouldn't be long before the sun peaked over the horizon, and he could finally make his way to Willow's. Humming a cheerful tune interspersed with a few finger snaps, he headed back to the park to gather his things. Despite everything that happened yesterday, today was a good day to be alive.