This chapter is based a month and a half after the events in "You're Welcome"

Chapter Fifteen – Broken

Buffy the vampire Slayer was a mess. Her hair looked like two armies of enraged squirrels had fought a massive nuclear war in it and her throat hurt. Yes, she couldn't think of a decent simile for the second complaint.

Hangovers tend to do that to you.

Now Buffy wasn't normally one to drink in excess (she would usually leave that to Faith) but, on the rare occasions when she did, she didn't hold back.

THUMP! THUMP! THUMP!

Dawn's footsteps rocked the very Earth. "Dawn," she croaked, "Stop walking."

"How are we feeling this morning?" asked Dawn, cheerfully skipping into the room, the vibrations tearing into the Slayer's brain.

"Like I'm going to kill you when I get out of here," she mumbled.

"How can you be like this on such a beautiful day?" she asked innocently, throwing open the curtains. Buffy shrank back from the light, like a vampire.

"Don't do this Dawn - ARRGGGHH," she begged, the bright, burning light stinging her eyes.

"You're fault," her little sister responded, "What on Earth possessed you to drink all that?"

"I don't know," she responded, "It seemed like such a good idea at the time."

Wood and Faith had dragged her and Giles out into town the previous night saying that they had been inside for too long and that the change of pace would do them some good.

"If you look at anything hard enough," she continued while looking for some aspirin, "You'll find that everything is Faith's fault."

"You're logic astounds me," said Dawn, sarcastically bowing, "What more can you teach me, O great and mighty master?"

"If you get me some water," she begged, "I'll be your slave for a month."

~o~O~o~

"She was incredible. She died saving my life."

"That's my girl. Always doing the stupid thing."

"Cordelia is dead"

The shards now stained red with his blood dig into his hand. He can't feel it. He can't feel anything. He is numb with shock, with pain, with despair.

This is Alexander Harris. Some might call him cocky, others would say he's handsome; the less charitable would refer to him as a problem child while others would call him courageous. He is all of these things and none of these things. These things are just part of his mask, the mask he has worn since he was a little boy crying in the basement wondering why his father wasn't like other parents. The word that describes the real Alexander Harris is much more simple and tragic than any of the others.

Broken.

Such a small word, only six letter and yet that is the best word – the only word that can accurately describe him.

How could he not be? He killed his best friend at only sixteen old, endured the horrors only a father can inflict, he watched everyone around him soar to impossible heights while he descended into his parents' basement and he let his fear destroy his only single chance to be happy. Then, after spending an entire year trying to make up for that terrible mistake, the love of his life was struck down and the worst part was that he wasn't there.

And now he has learned that a cherished friend from a more innocent time is also dead.

He is broken.

And it's a miracle that it took this long.

~o~O~o~

It was the screaming that woke her. Harmony's eyes instantly opened, her vampire physiology priming her to kill but she soon realised that she was not in any immediate physical danger.

Xander was screaming and thrashing in his sleep. Sometimes he screamed out the names of people he used to know, sometimes he begged his father not to hurt him but most of the time it was just the sound unintelligible pain. She quickly grabbed him by the shoulders.

"Xander," she called out urgently, "Wake up, wake up." He stopped screaming. Though his eyes were still squeezed tightly shut she could tell he was awake by the difference in his breathing. Slowly, his eyelids slid open, revealing one red eye and one gaping socket. It was hard to tell which one looked worse. She didn't say anything, she just pulled him into her, resting his head on her shoulder.

He clung tightly to her like a drowning man might cling to a life line. As they rocked back and forward he had a moment of perfect clarity. He knew she didn't have a soul, he knew she was evil, he knew she could never love him, he knew that at best, what they had was only a temporary thing but in that moment he decided that he simply didn't care. He'd take the illusion of love over reality any day.

After all, reality had yet to make a better offer.

~o~O~o~

Fred was silent as she applied fresh bandages to the cuts in Xander's hand. He had been stabbed through the hand by a vampire four days before. He was silent as he watched her work. Suddenly she stopped and gently turned his hand over so that his palm was facing downwards. His knuckles were covered with ( ) shaped abrasions. Bite marks, some looked quite old. And they were not the bites of a vampire.

"How long have you had trouble sleeping?" she asked.

"Forever," he answered nonchalantly.

"But it's been worse recently," she pressed, now continuing to apply the bandage.

"Okay," he answered, his voice brittle, "Sure, it's been worse for a few months. What of it?"

"I've been watching you for the past month and a half," she said, "And, all things considered, you've been doing great here but I'm concerned about your private life."

"Why do you care?" he asked. She looked him in the eye.

"That's unfair," she said seriously, "I like to we're friends and I care about my friends." He said nothing in response. "Look," she continued, "It's obvious it is connected with Cordy, I get that, but can I ask why?" He looked up in surprise.

"What do you mean by 'why'?" he demanded, "She was a friend and she died."

"Yes she was a friend," she agreed, putting a slight emphasis on the 'was'. "But you hadn't seen her in years, your only contact was through the phone and the occasional e-mail, I think that there is more going on."

"I needed a win," he said emotionlessly, "I wanted to beat death, I wanted it to… stop. I've lost a lot of people over the past few years, hell, I even staked what used to be my best friend and I am so tired of losing. So, when I heard she was in a coma, my first thought was "here we go again, there goes another one." So can you imagine my surprise when she woke up just seconds after I left her room? I thought that maybe, just maybe after all those deaths, the universe was gonna throw me this one. Not only that, I really screwed her over when we were in Sunnydale, just like I screwed things up with Anya and… well everyone else in my life. I still haven't contacted them. I thought I might be able to make up for a past mistake."

"In a romantic sense?" she asked.

"Of course not," he said, "High school romances aren't meant to last. I just thought that I had it in me to be a better friend and person." He looked down at his hands. "I sh-shouldn't feel like this. I mean Angel was the one who liked her that way and look at him. He's hurting but he deals with it on top of the usual pile of angst he carries around."

"He has had centuries of practice," she pointed out. He chuckled darkly at that.

"He sure does," he said.

"You know," she began carefully, "Depression is real thing. It's nothing to be ashamed –" That was all she got out before he interrupted her.

"I don't think we have anything else to say to each other, Doctor," he said harshly before getting up and making a beeline for the exit.

"You do know I just want to help, right?" she asked him. He paused for a moment.

"Yeah, I know," he said, "I just don't think even you can help."

I hope you all enjoyed this chapter. Stay tuned, coming next time is "Smile Time – Part One" and I'm really excited about this one. Also, since all of you have expressed a desire for Xander and the Scoobies to reunite, I will make some alterations and they will be making an appearance immediately after the Smile Time story arc.

Please review and see you next time.