Oh, it’s such a drag
What a chore
All your wounds are full of salt
Everything’s a stress
And what’s more, well it’s all somebody’s fault
Get get get get get over it!
~ Lyrics by OK GO
“Hey, Xan!” Cordelia said, much too cheerfully. “We’re ordering Chinese. What do you want?”
“I…I dunno,” Xander said, eyes casting to the floor under her unwavering gaze.
“How about some shrimp? Chicken balls? Chow mein? Wonton soup?” Gunn asked, the same note of cheer in his own voice.
“Really, we needn’t stuff him. I don’t believe Xander needs that much food, despite his rather large appetite,” Wesley admonished his lover.
“Xander eats this much for a snack. He hasn’t eaten yet today, dear. We can’t starve the guy,” Gunn replied, his voice straining to keep completely cheery.
“I don’t think even Xander could pack away as much food as you’re suggesting, darling.” Wesley’s voice was losing it’s patience, as Xander could see on his face.
“You know what? I’m actually not that hungry,” Xander said before rushing back up the stairs. Spike sighed and followed the young man upstairs, while Gunn and Wesley glared at one another.
Xander waited six days until his next private session with Julia, and a full 7 days before his next group therapy session. He thought he might explode before he could get to either, if things around the hotel remained as they were.
Spike nearly avoided him altogether. Xander knew Spike hadn’t known he’d been caught jerking off, but since the incident, Spike had been acting very strange. He wouldn’t come too close to Xander. Xander felt worse as this behavior continued, because he had come to the conclusion that Spike’s hand was a better lover than he could ever be. After all, Spike had jerked off, and now couldn’t bring himself to even touch Xander, it seemed.
Cordelia, Wesley, Gunn and Angel were another story. They doted on him to the point where Xander would take to hiding out from them. They became pests, constantly asking how he was, if he wanted anything, if they could do anything for him. Xander wanted to scream, but he just couldn’t, because he knew they had the best of intentions. He wondered if they knew Spike was leaving him, and that was contributing to their over-attentive behavior.
Finally, he went to see Julia. Spike drove him, as usual, and they went up the stairs together. They didn’t speak in the waiting room, though Spike carried an idle conversation with Marge. Julia finally opened her office door and smiled at the two men sitting in the waiting room.
“Come on in, Xander, please.”
Xander stood and walked into the room, leaving Spike in the waiting room, staring after him with puzzlement. Marge raised an eyebrow in curiosity, but Spike didn’t notice.
“Hello, Xander, how are you?” Julia asked.
“I’m not sure,” Xander replied with a shrug.
“Well, how have you been since the last time I saw you? How did you feel after the group session?”
“Well, actually, after the session, I felt great. I mean, I’m not alone in this anymore, and that feels good. To know that someone else has been through this and gotten through it, you know?”
“Yes. That’s why I recommended the group to you,” Julia replied with a smile.
“But then, later…” Xander sighed. “This is kind of embarrassing. I think Spike’s going to leave me,” Xander said, sniffling. He’d been thinking it all week, but to say it out loud nearly did him in.
Julia’s face showed her own surprise at the words. “That’s one of the last things I expected to hear,” she admitted. “What brought you to this conclusion?”
“Well, the night after group, we went home, and we kissed. Like, a real kiss. The first real kiss we’ve had since this whole mess started. And he left the room. Later, I caught him…he was jerking off. I mean, I know he did it before all this, but I’d never…he’s so beautiful,” Xander breathed, remembering the smooth lines and pale skin of his love’s body. “I could never…measure up, not to him. And he hasn’t touched me since. He’ll barely look at me. I don’t think he knows I saw him, though.”
“So, because Spike’s behavior has changed since you kissed, you think he’s leaving you?”
“Have you asked him?”
“Of course not! How could I ask him? I don’t…if I ask, he’ll say yes, and he’ll leave. If I can put it off for longer…that’s what I want.”
Julia nodded. “I see. Well, Xander, I suggest you ask Spike. There could be many explanations for his behavior. He could feel guilty about kissing you. He could feel you’re not ready for a sexual relationship yet, and maybe he’s forcing himself to keep his hands to himself, for lack of a better term. He could feel guilty about masturbating at all. He could suspect you know he was masturbating, and be embarrassed about it.”
“Spike wouldn’t get embarrassed if he knew I’d seen him. He’d ask if I enjoyed the show, but he wouldn’t be embarrassed.”
“No, not normally. But Spike’s going through as many changes as you are right now. He doesn’t want to set you back in your recovery, and he’s hyperaware of you because of that. I really feel that you should ask him. Tell him how you’re feeling about it. Now, is anything else bothering you?”
Xander nodded. “All my friends at the hotel…Angel, Cordy, Wes and Gunn. Ever since I got back from that first group session, they’ve been treating me like an invalid or something. They’re constantly checking up on me and asking what they can do for me. They stop talking when I come around, and focus everything on me. Even when they’re working out the details of a case. I mean, I’d like to help, you know? I have done some demon hunting in my day, and I don’t want to stop. But they won’t let me help.”
“I see. Have you asked them about it?”
“Once again, no. I don’t know how to say, ‘thanks for caring, but screw off, you’re annoying,’” Xander replied, rolling his eyes.
“How about ‘thanks for caring, but screw off because you’re annoying’?” Julia replied with a gentle smile.
“I can’t say that!” Xander replied, slightly shocked. “They’re my friends! They’re just trying to help! I mean, they just don’t see that I don’t need that kind of help. I want them to be there for me and everything, but I need my own space, too. I’ve been doing better, and I need my space in order to…and this is what I should be saying to them, isn’t it?” Xander finished.
Julia nodded. “Word for word, actually. Isn’t it amazing how much you can learn when you just talk?”
“Yeah.” Julia continued to talk, but Xander was thinking about what he would say to his friends when they got back to the hotel, and wondering how he would ask Spike what had been going on in the past week.
When they arrived back at the hotel, Xander asked Cordelia to gather the rest of the gang into the kitchen, because he had something to say. Cordelia rushed to comply, which wigged him out. This week, Cordelia had been doting, and he had never seen that side of her before now. It was creepy.
Soon, everyone was gathered in the kitchen.
“Is everything okay, Xander?” Angel asked immediately, pulling out a chair for Xander.
“You know you can tell us anything,” Cordelia said before Xander could speak.
“Really, Cordelia, let Xander speak. He’s called us all in here for a reason,” Wesley snapped, turning on Cordelia.
“Yo, man, don’t take it out on Cordy, she’s trying to help,” Gunn told his lover, his eyebrows furrowing.
“Shut up!” Xander suddenly shouted, patience gone. His outburst caused all eyes in the room to turn to him widely. “God! You guys have been yelling at each other all week and acting like I’m a goddamned newborn baby! I don’t need you coddling me! Yeah, I’m going through some stuff, and it’s hard, but the last thing I need is you guys pushing me every which way, and pissing each other off! Just back the hell off, okay?!” Xander turned on his heel and stormed up the stairs, slamming the door to his room loudly.
The group in the kitchen just stared at each other. Spike knew he should go up and see what was bothering Xander, but he didn’t know how to ask without being yelled at again. He didn’t want to be yelled at. He wanted to help. Which would apparently cause Xander to yell. A low whine issued from his throat in confusion.
“I’m going to go talk to him,” Cordelia finally said, headed for the stairs.
“Are you sure that’s wise? I believe he doesn’t want us doting on him so much, if we’re to take his, uh, outburst to heart,” Wesley replied.
“I’m not doting,” Cordelia replied sweetly before going up the stairs.
She knocked on Xander’s bedroom before entering. He was pacing the room, fuming. He knew he shouldn’t have yelled. He’d said everything he had planned on not saying, and forgotten everything he and Julia had decided he should say. But he was so angry. He didn’t know how else to react but to lash out.
“You listen to me, Xander Harris,” Cordelia started, closing the door behind her. “I know that you’ve been through a lot. I know that we may be annoying you with the way we’re always looking out for you, and yeah, maybe we go a little overboard. But we’re your friends, and we love you, and we’re only trying to help, so get over it!” she snapped at him, eyes flashing angrily.
“I know,” Xander sighed. “I didn’t mean to get so mad. I had this whole speech planned where I was going to tell you guys nicely that I needed some space and to do things for myself, but I just snapped. I’m sorry.”
Cordelia looked a little taken aback. “Oh. Well. Good, then.”
Xander smiled gently, and she smiled back.
Back to Mercy
Next Chapter - "The Sky Is Broken"