Title: The Hardest Thing (1/1) Author: Sandy S. Email: ssoennin@juno.com Rating: PG-13 Disclaimer: I own nothing. All belongs to Joss and UPN. Dedication: For Rachel, a sweet and caring friend who is my ever-present cheerleader! Spoilers: Season 6 Summary: Xander faces himself for the first time. It has an impact on how he treats Spike. Change is so hard.the hardest thing to do, but it always means that you grow. Xander POV. Hints of Spike/Buffy relationship.

The Hardest Thing

Know what I've discovered over the last year about myself? I'm afraid of a lot of things. I didn't want to believe what Anya, my ex- fiance turned vengeance demon, said at first, but when I was all alone in the darkness of our apartment, drinking down my.I don't even know how many beers I'd drunk at my moment of realization.

I remember my stomach turning at the thought that perhaps what Anya told to me was accurate. Her words had been a shock to my system, more of a shock than what she had done with.I'm not sure now what to call the demon from whom she sought comfort. I suppose after being with me so intimately for three years, she knew me better than anyone. Rather ironic that another person would know me better than I know myself and have the guts to tell me the truth. Anya never did have trouble with the truth. She's stronger than me in that way.

Anya was right; I do hide my insecurity behind jokes.

I always have.ever since I was young, and my mother threw a glass vodka bottle over my head at my father on Christmas day when he arrived late to my present opening. He had a hangover from the previous night after he stayed home and drank himself into oblivion while my mother and I went to church. That was my first memory.her hurtling the bottle so glass met plaster in a horrible shattering sound that I can still hear in the back of my mind.

I even recall what present I was opening.a brand new tape recorder.a small one that I could carry around in my pocket and keep handy at all times.

Glass from the bottle and the remaining liquid splattered everywhere, and I shielded my new present from the sharp flying objects that bit into my skin and the drops of alcohol that stung my eyes. The words they hurled at each other that day hurt me more than physical pain caused by a broken object.

Christmas of my fourth year was the day I began telling jokes. I recorded them on my tape recorder in hopes of making my parents laugh.

At that moment, my biggest fear became having a relationship like my parents had and continue to have.one without an ounce of love between them. They stay together out of obligation.or habit, ignorant of the way they hurt others with their behavior. I don't want to be like that.so self- absorbed that I hurt others with my actions and words.

And yet, whom I fought so hard against becoming inevitably became who I was. I'd more than proven that fact in the past year when I hurt the people I cared about the most.

Whom did I hurt?

Silly question.

Better put: whom didn't I hurt?

First and foremost, I presented Anya a sweetly wrapped package chock full of pain and heartache when I left her at the altar. In typical fashion, I took off instead of facing the crowd of well-wishers, including my own family. I tried to convince myself that I left because I didn't want to hurt Anya when in reality I caused her more grief by not dealing with my fears about becoming my parents. I should have moved hell and earth to preserve our relationship and worked through my issues.

Willow told me that I would be better off not using "should have" to describe a different potential course of action. She said that "could have" was better than "should have" because I couldn't change the past.only the future.

So, I could have moved hell and earth to make things work with Anya, but I didn't. I just gave up without a fight.

That brings me to Willow. She's been my closest friend for my entire life, and I didn't even notice how close to the brink of self-destruction she was. I thought she was doing better with the magic until Tara died. Given the experience with my parents' addiction, I ought to have noticed that she was slipping through the cracks right in front of me. True, I saved her from destroying herself and the world and fought for her as I hadn't fought for Anya but only at the last possible minute. I should have known to give her support sooner.

Okay, so I'm not doing so well with the "shoulds."

I even almost brought harm to precious Dawnie, Buffy's sister and the girl I consider to be like my younger sister. In my typical attempt to make people happier, I summoned a demon that almost whisked Dawn off to hell to be his bride. I'm surprised that no one ever brings up that what happened was my fault.

Being guilty of what I did.or didn't do.to Anya, Willow, and Dawn was easy for me to admit. I have a difficult time with the next two. To prevent myself from feeling completely overwhelmed and paralyzed, I sort of have to peek sideways at their situations.

But if Willow can do handle the truth of her actions so can I.

I suppose I'll start with Buffy.the easier of the two for my mind to process.

Buffy was raked out of Heaven because of something in which I played a role.another of Willow's ill-fated, albeit successful, spells. I can't even imagine the magnitude of what that means. To me in my little human world, the closest to Heaven that I get is the briefest, unpredictable hint at a happy moment.which I grasp at vainly like a handful of sand. To actually *be* in Heaven is unfathomable to me.

And her friends expected her to bounce back like she always had when tragedy struck her life. After all, she was the Buffy who dealt with sending her lover to hell, with her mother's sudden death, with the dark side of the world in which everyone else saw, but did not appreciate, the light. I expected her to be perfect.my ideal.the one person I strove to be like.

Turned out, she was only human like the rest of us.demon or man. And this time, she crumbled.just like I crumbled. And I couldn't help her anymore than I could have helped Willow.even though I should have tried harder.

Who is the remaining person I hurt?

Even now, I cringe to admit it.

I hurt Spike.

Spike, a member of a demon race that shouldn't be able to feel.shouldn't be worthy of walking the earth.

A vampire.

I hurt a vampire.

I have to pronounce it slowly and carefully or else my mind doesn't believe what I'm saying.

In my dark ponderings, I found that the person.soulless demon.whatever Spike was.was the one with whom I identified the most. I see myself in him mainly because he had two screwed up "parents" as a vampire.the literally insane Drusilla and the psychopathic Angelus. And because I realized that the annoyingly bold statements that Spike sometimes made about how bad he was were cover ups for insecurity.just like my jokes. And he's made some pretty big mistakes like I have.

Have I ever had a real conversation with the guy? No, I can't think of one instance when I spoke to Spike without an insult passing through my lips.

So, how can I possibly identify with him?

Well, let's just say that since everything fell apart, I've gotten more observant of the people around me. A fresh awareness of myself led to noticing things about others.although I must say.I find the awareness very difficult to accept.

Why do I find admitting that I hurt Spike.that I see myself in Spike.so hard? That would mean that the line between light and dark.good and evil.would be blurred and marred. Then, how else would I fight the forces of darkness with Buffy? Would I have to admit that Harmony and Jesse, two friends who had become vampires, had feelings and needs and hopes and dreams? I honestly don't know how Buffy slays demons each night, knowing what she does about Angel and Spike's turn around.

And don't even get me started on Clem who has to be the friendliest, most heartwarming demon I've ever met.or my sweet Anya who is now a vengeance demon again. My mind gets all muddled on the topic if I add them to the mix. More thoughts for another day on that subject. I haven't finished processing their cases, yet.

Spike is back in Sunnydale now with a brand spanking new soul. After he almost raped Buffy, he felt *guilty* and left town in search of a soul, so perhaps he would be worthy. The most significant aspect of Buffy and Spike's reunion was that she accepted him before she knew he attained a soul. When he revealed that he had a soul to her, she told me that she was touched in a way no one had ever touched her. They've been stuck to each other like glue since then, and apparently, Dawn's loving that Spike's around more.the way he was before Buffy was brought back to earth.

The hardest thing about the last year was *truly* looking at myself and not liking whom I had become.whom I was.

Funny how the human being I saved from destroying the world could help me understand what I needed to do. After she returned from England, Willow told me that the first step in making a change was admitting and accepting the truth about oneself.facing oneself.and recognizing that no one else could make the necessary changes..

That's the truest statement I've ever heard.

I'm going over to Buffy's tonight to help Dawn and Buffy move out of their house. The mortgage and bills have grown to be too much for them to afford.surprise, surprise. Anya and Spike will likely be there to offer assistance as well. I promised Dawn and Buffy.I promised myself that I would try to show Spike some respect for what good he's done. After all, how many humans.much less vampires.go out of their way to improve themselves so much to be deserving of someone's love?

Certainly, I haven't.

When things get tough, I run. Well, I'm not running anymore, no matter how scared I am to deal with things.

The first step is a talk with Spike.this time not with an ax in my hands.

The end.