Well there’s gotta be somebody
Gets what it is you do
Knows about the business
Somebody who can see through
~ Lyrics by Chantal Kreviazuk
“It’ll be fine, Xan. If this one’s as much of a crackpot as the last one, we’ll just go through the book again. Call every bloody shrink in L.A. until we find one you like, okay, luv?” Spike said with a reassuring touch to Xander’s hand. Xander nodded, and with a heavy sigh, Spike opened the door to the empty waiting room. Well, empty except for the very round woman sitting at the desk. Xander guessed her to be in her mid-fifties. She was playing solitaire with a deck of cards.
“Xander?” she asked, looking up without smiling. “I’m Marge. Want me to let Julia know you’re here?”
“Um…Julia?” Xander asked, a little confused.
“Julia. Dr. Chambers. She makes everyone call her Julia, though. Don’t ask me why, the woman’s got some sort of girl-next-door nonsense in her head.” Her face was set in grim lines, and she spoke with a very slight Russian lilt, muted from probably spending most of her life living in California.
“Right. Yeah, I’m, uh, I’m ready when she is,” Xander said with a small smile to Marge. Seeing the almost-but-not-quite-broken look in his eyes, she graced him with a gentle smile, and it softened her face considerably.
She stood and fairly waddled over to the oak door behind her, rapping the wood with her knuckles and slipping in without waiting for an answer. She closed the door behind her. A few moments later, she came out, followed by a younger woman. She was probably nearing forty, with her blonde hair in a soft, messy bun. She was thin, toned, and tall. Her face was round and soft, despite the lines that ran beside her eyes and mouth, evidencing a life spent in equal measures of mirth and pain.
“You must be Xander,” she said with a gentle smile, offering her hand to the sable-haired man. He shook it nervously, then she turned to Spike. “And you are…?”
“Spike,” he replied with a smirk.
“I’m Julia. Xander, if you’d like to step into my office, we can start right away,” she said, stepping aside to allow Xander to enter first. Xander gave her a nod, glanced at Spike, who smiled encouragingly, then stepped into the office.
It was much warmer than Nasser’s office had been, with plush, light-colored furniture and a large window. There were a few landscape paintings on the walls, and flowers in vases on the desk and bookshelf. Two lone degrees hung on the wall, beside some portraits of Julia and what looked like her family.
She sat down on a comfortable looking arm chair, and gestured for him to sit in a matching one. He sat on the cream fabric and pulled the cranberry pillow into his lap, hugging it to his chest.
“So, Xander, why don’t you tell me why you’re here, for starters. Just so I know what we’re working with, and then I’m going to want you to tell me about yourself. Okay?”
“Sure, I guess. The, uh, the reason I’m here is because I…uh. You know, this never gets easy to say,” he stopped himself with a rueful chuckle. “Right. I, uh…my dad…when I was growing up, he used to rape me. I never, uh, never really remembered it until about a week ago. Almost two weeks, actually. Anyway, I started to remember everything, and it’s been kinda hard, so Spike thought I should come see someone. And don’t go telling me that I’m sublimating some homophobia and making it up in my head because I have a boyfriend, because that’s what the last guy did, and that’s not it, because I remember it all in Technicolor and no one in the world would make up the kind of things I remember if they were worried about having a boyfriend when everyone else thought it was wrong.” Xander took a deep breath, staving off the rest of his babble.
“Sorry. It’s, uh, it’s been a while since I got a good babble in.”
“Okay, then. So your father sexually abused you. That must be incredibly difficult to have to deal with. Do you still have contact with your father?”
“Well, I did, up until I remembered what…what happened. I mean, we were never close…but no, in the past couple of weeks I’ve avoided him.”
“He’s still alive then?” Julia said with some shock.
“Well…yeah. I mean, I’m not going to kill my father,” Xander said disbelievingly.
“Of course not. I just would have thought that Spike would have…”
“I’m sorry?” Xander said, his blood beginning to run cold.
“Well…I’m not saying I have a problem with him being a vampire, as long as he doesn’t eat Marge or any of my other clients, but most master vampires, when their loved one is hurt, tend to do…violent things.”
Xander stared, his jaw dropped in shock. “H…how did you…?” he finally managed to force out.
“Marge has a…a skill. She’s empathic. She told me about Spike when she came in.”
“Like I said, as long as he doesn’t hurt her or any clients, then he’s welcome to come along and bother Marge while you’re in session.”
“Oh.” Xander shook off some of the shock. He was from Sunnydale, after all. Stranger things had happened, usually to him. “You, uh, you won’t have to worry about Spike hurting anyone. He’s got this, this chip in his head. He can’t hurt any living thing without a zap in his head. Not for a few years now.”
“Yeah. He, uh, got nabbed by this secret military organization in Sunnydale, where we’re from. The put it in his head, and now he’s harmless as a kitten. But don’t tell him I said that,” Xander explained with a fond smile.
“So Spike is defenseless against humans, then?”
“Does it bother you that Spike can’t protect you sometimes?”
“A little, I guess. But I can hold my own. I grew up in Sunnydale.”
“Yeah. Hey, why do you know so much about this stuff?”
“My grandfather was British. He was part of this group in England that dealt with that sort of thing. I’ve done my best to keep up with it.”
“Your grandfather was a Watcher?” Xander asked with a smile.
“Yes. You know of them?”
“Please! My best friends are a witch and the Slayer!”
“Really?” Julia leaned forward in her chair.
“Yeah, and I know two former Watchers.”
“You have a fairly diverse group of friends, don’t you, Xander?”
“Yeah. I’m certainly not lacking for protection, anyway. I mean, let’s go through the list. Two witches, a Slayer, two watchers, two vampires, a bitch of an ex-girlfriend who recently became part demon, and a street thug. I don’t think anything can touch me nowadays.”
“That is a lot of protection. Do you depend on them a lot?”
“Yeah, I guess. I mean, I can hold my own in a fight, but most of the time I just help out with research and stuff. Or get doughnuts.”
“So you feel like you aren’t contributing as much as you should?”
“A little, I guess, but there really isn’t that much more for me to contribute. I used to have a real inferiority complex. Like I was useless in the group. Until Spike and I started dating, that is. He’s helped me a lot with that.”
“I’m glad. So, now we’ve got an overview of you, your life, and why you’re here. Would you like to set up some times for further appointments?”
“I think I’d like that. You’re a lot better than the guy I saw yesterday. Tobias Nasser?”
Julia rolled her eyes. “That moron. I swear, he’s got a stick so far up his ass all that comes out of his mouth is bullshit.” Xander laughed.
“Yeah, it was bullshit, all right.”
Julia smiled at him. “I would like to set you up with one private session a week, and one group session.” Xander’s face fell, and his eyes widened in fear. “Now, before you panic, it’s a very small group of people around your age who have been through similar ordeals. There are only five other people in the group, and you aren’t required to speak unless you’re comfortable doing so. I just think you would benefit by hearing the stories of others who are dealing with the same things you’re dealing with. And, maybe when you’re comfortable, they can benefit by hearing from you.”
“I don’t know if I…”
“Well, I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you go home, talk it over with Spike, and call me in the morning, tell me what you’ve decided?”
“O-okay. I can talk it over with Spike.”
“Great. Let’s go set you up for a private session.” She opened the door, and an amused smile lit up her face as she took in the scene in the waiting room. Xander let out a bark of laughter as he saw it as well.
Spike and Marge were sitting across from one another, playing poker. Marge had a self-satisfied smile on her face, and Spike was looking frustrated. “Bloody hell,” he muttered as she set her cards down, displaying her royal flush. He threw his cards down, glancing up at Xander.
“Bloody hell!” Spike growled more forcefully. “I thought for sure I was going to get you that time. What are you, psychic?”
Xander laughed harder.
“You are!! Maggie, you cheeky bint!” Spike growled with an amused gleam in his eye.
“Don’t you be calling me Maggie, boy. You may be older than me, but you’re not too old to take over my knee,” she warned with a glare.
Xander laughed more. Spike grinned at the sight of his boy in laughter. He didn’t seen it often enough these days. He’d missed it more than he ever thought he would. He stood and moved to Xander’s side. “Good session, pet?” he asked gently.
“Yeah. Julia’s grandfather was a Watcher!”
Spike raised an eyebrow in the doctor’s direction. “That so, doc?”
Julia nodded, then turned to Marge. “Marge, would you set up a weekly appointment with Xander, starting with next week?”
“Sure thing, Julia.” Marge turned to face Xander, pencil in hand. “How’re Mondays for you?”
“I guess, sure.”
“Great. We have a block open from nine until ten p.m.”
“We’ll take that,” Spike piped up. “And next week, I’m going to kick your bloody arse at poker,” he said, glaring at Marge. Marge just chuckled at him.
Xander handed over Angel’s credit card, and Marge created an account for his sessions. Xander and Spike turned to walk out the door.
“Xander? Think about the other thing we talked about, okay?” Julia said as they were leaving.
“Okay, yeah,” Xander replied.
“Nice woman, that Marge,” Spike said when they were in the car. “Reminds me of my grandmum. Back before I ate her, I mean.”
“Thanks, luv,” Spike said as he kissed Xander’s forehead.
Back to Mercy
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