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Everybody Hurts

Everybody hurts
Take comfort in your friends
Everybody hurts
Don't throw your hand
Oh, no, don't throw your hand
If you feel like you're alone
No, no, no, you are not alone

~ Lyrics by REM

“You’re sure they said it was okay for me to sit in on it?” Spike asked, leading Xander up the stairs to Julia’s office.

“Marge said it shouldn’t be a problem, as long as you’re quiet and don’t bother anyone.”

“Might as well ask a pig to sprout wings and fly,” Spike muttered to himself. Xander chuckled.

“I think you can handle it,” he smiled nervously as Spike opened the door. They stepped into the waiting room, where Marge was sitting at her desk, drinking coffee and flipping through a magazine.

“Hello, boys. How are you today? Getting into much trouble?”

Spike snorted. “No, ducks, we’re innocent as girl scouts.”

“I’ll believe that when pigs sprout wings and fly,” Marge replied with a sly look. Spike let out a bark of laughter.

“Right, then. Where’s this group thing at?”

“Down the hall, there’s a conference room. Julia’s in there with a couple of the others. You boys might as well go mingle while you wait for the session to start. And Spike, don’t you be snacking on any of those kids. I like them, and I’m a little protective.”

“Sure thing, Maggie. I wouldn’t wanna get on your bad side,” Spike said, leading Xander down the hall. Behind them, Marge snorted.

“Don’t you be calling me Maggie, son,” she yelled back at him.

Xander clutched Spike’s hand as they entered the room, nearly crushing the bones he was squeezing so hard. Spike caressed Xander’s hand with his thumb comfortingly as they stepped into the room. He could feel Xander’s pulse racing, and hated that his lover had to go through all of this to get better.

“Hello, gentlemen,” Julia smiled at them as they walked in. “There’s coffee over there on the table, and some brownies if you want a snack. We’ll wait and introduce you to the rest of the group when they get here, okay?”

“Sure, doc,” Spike said, leading Xander to the refreshments. Xander kept his eyes down, clutching Spike’s hand even harder. “Hear that, pet? Doc’s got chocolate here for you. Don’t need coffee, though, you’ll be bouncing off the walls all night. I’m gonna want some sleep eventually.” Spike kept up the inane chatter, trying to soothe Xander with the sound of his voice, as he poured himself some coffee and snatched up three of the brownies for Xander. Spike led the young man to a chair, sitting him down and handing him one of the brownies without letting go of the warm, clenched hand.

Xander inhaled the first brownie, searching for the comfort that chocolate usually gave him. The sweetness of it was his ultimate comfort food. The second one he ate more slowly, savoring the taste, and the third was stashed in Spike’s pocket for later. Spike moved his chair closer to Xander’s, putting an arm around him as he glanced at the other occupants of the room.

There were three others in the room besides Julia, and Spike studied them as carefully as Xander studied the tiles on the floor. Two of the others were girls, one was a boy. Spike noted with amusement that one of the girls had her hair dyed pink and spiked wildly. She had her nose, lip, and eyebrow pierced, as well as several rings in her ears, and wore thick black makeup on her face. She was dressed in black gothic wear. In fact, her boots were almost identical to his own. The other girl had long red hair, and wore a simple blue sweater and jeans. She looked like a model from a Gap commercial. She was probably perfect, Spike noted with a snort, except that he could smell small wounds on her, as though she’d been cut several times. Or cut herself. The boy was older than both of them, but Spike suspected from the slightly vacant look in his eyes that he wasn’t completely present. He wore sweats and a gentle smile as he chatted with Gap Girl. Pinkie sat by herself, alternating between glaring at the world and looking at Spike’s duster with a certain amount of admiration.

Spike looked up as two more boys entered the room. They were about the same age, but younger than Xander. One kept his eyes on the floor, while the other strode in with the confidence only shown by a high school jock. The jock wore a letterman’s jacket, with dark hair styled impeccably. The other was black, and avoided eye contact with everyone in the room. Spike noticed that everyone was staring at himself and Xander, and he glared at them, growling low in his throat.

Xander looked up at the sound, and gave Spike a slight smile, though he didn’t feel much like smiling. There were so many people in this room that he didn’t know, and he could feel their eyes on him, judging him. He didn’t want to be here anymore, and was about to tell Spike so when another young woman walked into the room.

She had short dark hair, and was by all accounts completely average. She smiled at the rest of the people in the room and took the seat beside Xander, giving him an encouraging, welcoming smile. He smiled weakly back at her before pressing himself a little closer to Spike’s side. Julia cleared her throat.

“Well, it looks as though we’re all here now. I’d like to introduce some newcomers to our group. This is Xander and his boyfriend, Spike.” She pointed them out in turn. Spike did his best to look completely bored while not loosening his grip around Xander’s shoulders. “I guess the best way to go about this is for each of the rest of you to introduce yourselves to our new guests, and tell them a little bit about yourselves.”

The girl beside Xander smiled at the two men. “I’m Rachel. I guess, if you’re here, you know what the group is for, so I guess I’ll tell you a little of my story. After I got married to my husband, I started having horrible mood swings. I started seeing Julia, and learned I was bipolar. Eventually, through therapy, we learned that my father raped me when I was younger, though I never remembered any of the incidents.” Xander smiled gently at the girl, feeling a connection in the fact that neither of them had remembered the sexual abuse they’d endured. He wondered if it was that way for all of them. “I’ve been coming to this group session for a year. Julia says I can stop any time I want, but I like knowing I’m not alone here, you know?” Xander nodded almost imperceptibly, and Spike rubbed his arm reassuringly. The jock spoke up next.

“I’m Pat. I’m eighteen, and my dad started raping me when I was eight. I moved out when I was seventeen, and my girlfriend convinced me to come see Julia when I told her what I’d gone through.”

“I’m Andrea,” said the redheaded walking Gap advertisement, perky in just the way that annoyed Spike. “I’m nineteen, and I’m at UCLA, studying toward a degree in engineering. I…my grandfather abused me sexually for eight years, until I told my mom. Mom told me he used to rape her, too, so now he’s in jail, and I came here.” Spike noticed she didn’t mention the cuts that he could smell on her arms, and wondered if the rest of the group knew about it.

“Jason,” said the black kid. “I’m seventeen, I…you know, my stepmom used to, like, come into my room at night, and not to tuck me in.” He blushed slightly, and looked back at the floor.

“I’m Mike,” said the boy who had been in the room when Spike and Xander got there. He smiled broadly, his slightly vacant eyes lighting up. “Jim used to hit me and do bad things to me,” he said conspiratorally. “But then Mom found out, and Jim went to jail, and now I get to come here every week and talk to my friends.” Mikey smiled at the group. Andrea gave him a pitying smile, Jason nodded in acknowledgment, Patrick smiled, and Rachel stood up to give Mike a kiss on the cheek with a huge smile on her face. He beamed back at her. The group turned to the girl with the pink hair, who’d spend the entire time sprawled in her chair, looking more bored than Spike usually did at four in the afternoon.

“Penny?” Julia finally prompted. The girl rolled her eyes.

“I’m Penny, I’m sixteen, my uncle used to molest me, now he doesn’t because I had his ass thrown in jail.” She rolled her eyes again.

Spike squeezed Xander’s hand again. The boy’s heart was thudding in his chest a mile a minute, as all eyes turned to him again.

“Xander? Would you like to tell the group something about yourself?” Julia asked gently.

“I…” Xander faltered. Spike leaned over and whispered into his ear.

“It’s okay, pet. I’m here with you. You can tell them. Won’t hurt you. Promise.”

Xander took a deep breath, and thought what to say. Hi, I’m Xander, I found out two weeks ago that my father’s raped me since I was 11, and this is my vampire boyfriend, Spike? That definitely wouldn’t do. Xander took another deep breath.

“Hi. I’m…I’m Xander. I, uh, found out a couple of weeks ago that my dad used to…he used to…r-rape me. It started when I was…I was eleven. I never…never remembered it. Spike and I came here to live with our friend so I could get some help. I started seeing Julia a couple of days ago. I guess…I guess that’s it.” His eyes went back to the floor as his face reddened. Spike squeezed his shoulder lovingly.

“Good job, pet.”

“And Spike?” Julia asked with a small smile.

“’M sorry?” Spike looked up, blue eyes widening in surprise and discomfort.

“Would you like to tell us about yourself?” Julia said. Xander glanced at Spike and grinned nervously.

“I’m Spike, I’m here to support this one,” Spike replied, gesturing to Xander. “And that’s all you bloody need to know about me.” Spike reached into his duster and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. Rachel immediately reached across and snatched it. He growled at her.

“Mike’s allergic, and it’s a nonsmoking building,” Rachel said with a sweet smile.

“Bloody hell,” Spike growled.

“You’re welcome to step outside, Spike, and have your cigarette there, if you’re uncomfortable,” Julia grinned. Xander’s eyes shot up to Spike’s, panic evident in them. Spike sighed and smiled gently at his lover.

“Nah. Can do fine till we’re done,” he said to Julia. Xander visibly relaxed, and Spike sent him another reassuring smile.

Rachel leaned over and spoke into Xander’s ear while Andrea was speaking to the group about something her mother had said to her about the abuse they’d both undergone. “I know you’re nervous, this being your first time and all, but we’re not a scary group. We’ll help you ease in, promise. We all got hurt here, Xander. Everybody hurts. We’re just trying to help each other.”

Xander smiled meekly at her, his eyes drifting back to the floor shortly thereafter. He thought about what she’d said for a while. Everybody hurts.

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