Xander Harris sat in the back of the classroom half listening to what Mr. Hodge was saying about some war way back when. He hadn’t gotten much sleep last night. Perks of the job. He kept telling Joe to stop the customers at midnight, but the guy never listened to him.
Xander cut him some slack though considering Joe was like the only family he had, however twisted that may have been. Xander didn’t like to remember his parents. They were evil people that sold him to Joe at the tender age of fourteen to become some sort of gigolo for vampires so they could move to Florida without any kids to tie them down.
Xander didn’t blame Joe. If it wasn’t for him taking him in, albeit at a price, Xander most likely would be living on the streets or probably dead what with Sunnydale’s reputation. Xander didn’t dilute himself into believing his parents would have taken him with them.
So, no, Joe wasn’t to blame for his life. Joe had been a friend of his parents before he took Xander in and had always treated him as sort of a son. Joe’s own son was all the way in New York with his mother and Joe was, ordered by court, never to see him again. He used Xander as his surrogate son.
Poor Joe didn’t even know what he was getting himself into, when Xander really let himself think about it. His parents had lied to Joe, him being a new guy in town and starting up his vampire business on the Hellmouth, and played the part of two people who wanted to start off in the same business. Little did Joe know that ‘Judy and Arthur Smith’ were swindling him into keeping their wayward son ‘Alan’.
It took Xander’s parents a few years to make Joe love Xander as his own and then one day they just asked Joe to keep him, for a fair price, and use him as one of his vampire meals. Joe, being the nice guy that he was and having a certain liking to Xander even though he didn’t even know his real name accepted the offer and Xander’s parents were off to Daytona.
Joe had lain off Xander for a little while, saying that Xander could just stay with him and not have to get bit or anything of that sort. As time went on though, Joe’s bosses had told Joe that they didn’t pay money so Xander could sit around on his ass and take up air.
So Joe, without any choice of his own, had come and asked Xander if that was okay with him. Xander, being grateful that Joe had kept him this long, accepted his new duty and became just a person to feed off of first. Joe didn’t want to violate Xander like he did some of his people. Xander had only just turned fifteen when Joe had asked him to start working and it just didn’t seem right.
Joe kept his bosses off his ass about putting Xander to really work until Xander was sixteen. Then Xander had no choice but to partake in some of the more unsavory activities that some of the workers took part in.
Imagine loosing it to some vamp chick who’d want nothing more then to drain you dry after she was done with you a few months after your sixteenth birthday. Xander took it like a man though. That was until Joe had told him some of the male vamps were coveting his ass. Xander freaked out big time when Joe told him about this and had had a fit about it until Joe told him that if he didn’t do it he would be killed.
Xander remembered the look of pleading in Joe’s eyes when he told Xander that piece of information. Seeing the total heartbreak on Joe’s face at the thought of Xander dying, he accepted. Joe set him up with a very gentle male vampire named Greg that took his time with Xander knowing that Xander was cringing inwardly at the thought of what was going to happen to him. After that Greg became a regular and sometimes paid for an hour of service only to drink a little bit of Xander’s blood.
Xander was grateful for that, but knew that not all the vamps would be as nice as Greg was. No, some would be very bad as Xander experienced one time with a mean looking vampire that thought he owned the place. Xander still cringed at the memory of being almost raped by the surly vampire. He had just grabbed Xander by the neck, drank his blood, and proceeded to try and pound into Xander dry.
Joe had heard Xander’s cries for help and broke inside to the room to see the vampire looming over him. Joe beat the shit out of the vamp before he got away. He informed Greg about what happened and Greg, feeling a bit of over-protective of Xander as well, got his gang of vampires to go after the guy. No one had heard from the vamp ever again.
Joe set up rules for all his employees and customers after that specifically saying that if the vamps tried to push their way into to the males dry then they’d be in serious trouble. The vamps, knowing that Joe had serious connections and hearing about what happened to the other guy, never did that to any of the guys or Xander again. They were also a bit cautious towards Xander, more so now then they had been before.
So it wasn’t like Xander’s life was completely miserable. Some times he enjoyed it a lot. Every once in awhile Joe would give him a free night and let Xander sit with him while Xander did whatever homework or work he had to do. He still got to go to school when some of the other employees had to stay inside all day.
Xander had Friday and Saturday nights all to himself and a better room then some of the people living in the hotel. Everyone knew that Joe put his favorites on the first floor with the first ten rooms. The lobby had ten rooms that were used for visiting vamps and then the rooms started. He had friends in the little community of the hotel and the outside world was nice too although his old friends weren’t exactly close with him anymore.
Xander glanced over at Willow Rosenburg, one of his old friends that he had known since he was in preschool. She was busy taking down notes and looking studious. He missed talking to her and being around her, but how could he explain to her his life. She’d never understand and want to get him out of there. Sure Xander entertained the thought of getting away from his life, but where would he go.
He had no place in the world worth going to and besides that he had a contract binding him to stay at the hotel until he was eighteen. Not to mention the fact that he’d have to leave Joe and everyone behind. No, he wasn’t exactly sure he could leave the only person that ever treated him like a son behind. Even if he did miss having friends his age.
The bell rang and Xander stood up and grabbed his backpack. He grabbed his homework and stood in the line to turn it in. One thing that his life without friends his age gave him was the time to do homework. Sure it probably wouldn’t get him anywhere considering he didn’t have the money for college, but knowing that he was smarter then he had previously let on was a nice feeling.
He had been the goofy guy that everyone turned to for a joke at a high-tension situation and he had gladly taken the role. Without his friends he didn’t have to be that. He could be nerdy, loner, loser guy, which was a step up from goofy, slacker, loser guy.
Xander handed his paper to Mr. Hodge. The teacher looked up at him and gave him a warm smile.
“Mister Harris your grades have definitely improved since you first started high school. I forgot to congratulate you on your high score on the test last week.” Mr. Hodge said the smile never once leaving his face. Xander gave him a small smile that he hoped didn’t look forced and said, “Thanks Mr. Hodge.”
“Your guidance counselor would like to speak with you.” Mr. Hodge said handing Xander a piece of blue paper.
Xander knew what that meant. It was time to update his file for verification of guardianship. That usually took place right before Student/Teacher conferences. Xander gave Mr. Hodge another smile, took the paper, and walked out of the door only to run into Buffy Summers and Jesse Fredrickson.
“Hey Xand.” Jesse said trying to keep the glee of seeing his old friend out of his voice.
“Hey Jess.” Xander said again with that fake smile he had grown accustom to.
It wasn’t as if he hated Jesse or Willow for that matter. He knew they would be as supportive as they could be if not shocked and outraged. They’d try their hardest to understand and accept him and possibly get him out of his current situation through bribery.
It was Buffy Summers that made him twitchy. She was the Slayer. He knew this from overhearing a conversation she was having with the librarian- apparently her Watcher- and freaked. You didn’t live in a place where vampires went in and out of and not know what the Slayer was.
Xander immediately told Joe and Joe had told him to keep his distance from her if at all possible. That meant giving up his friends who were now gung-ho about killing vampires as well. If he were to be seen killing a vampire then he’d be killed by Joe’s bosses in an instant. Killing vampires didn’t bode well for business.
“So what’s new man?” Jesse asked truly interested in what Xander has doing with his life.
Being surrounded by girls all the time was not a fun thing. The only other guys in the little group of demon hunters were a stuffy old librarian and one souled brooding vampire. He had always wondered what had happened to Xander being part of the gang. Xander hadn’t exactly been best friend guy ever since his parents left leaving him with his Uncle Joe and that left Jesse wondering if maybe his Uncle Joe was worse then his parents.
“Nothing much.” Xander answered not wanting to spend another minute near Buffy Summers. He wasn’t sure if the Slayer had enhanced sense like vampires and he didn’t want to find out. Vampires could always smell another vampire on people and most didn’t mind.
“That’s a drag. So want to come out to the Bronze tonight? Some really cool band is supposed to be playing.” Jesse asked.
“Um… toady’s Thursday so I don’t think I can. Got stuff to do you know?” Xander said. “
Wow your Uncle Joe sure does keep you on a short leash.” Buffy commented.
Xander gave her his best nervous smile and then said, “Well he’s just old fashioned like that. Doesn’t let me go out on school nights.”
“Damn that’s too bad. What about tomorrow? Friday’s not a school night.” Jesse asked.
“I’ll ask and see what he says.” Xander said.
“Great just show up and we’ll be there. That’s where we spend most of our time nowadays.” Jesse said.
“Yeah the Bronze has its moments. Look I better go. Meeting with the guidance counselor.” Xander said holding up the blue piece of paper.
“Oh okay. See ya.” Jesse said.
“Yeah bye.” Xander said walking away. Just as he was walking away Willow walked out of the classroom.
“Was that Xander?” She asked Jesse.
“Yeah, he’s going to try and make it to the Bronze tomorrow.” Jesse said.
“Oh that’s good. It’s been awhile since he hung out with us.” Willow said.
“Is it me or does he seem a little jumpy around me.” Buffy said.
“Oh I’m sure he’s not. Xander’s just wasn’t been himself for awhile.” Willow said.
“Yeah ever since he moved in with his Uncle Joe.” Jesse said bitterly.
Willow scowled at him. “Jesse his Uncle seems like a good person. Better then his Uncle Rory that’s for sure and definitely better then his dad.” She said.
“Yeah but he’s been all twitchy since then.” Jesse said.
“Really ‘cause when I first met him he seemed pretty normal. I don’t know maybe it’s just me, but after he found out I was the Slayer by accident he seems to be avoiding us.” Buffy said in a hushed voice.
“Oh I’m sure that’s not it Buffy. Maybe he just can’t adjust to his parents just leaving out of nowhere to Florida.” Willow said.
“Yeah that does seem a little messed up. You said he was better off though.” Buffy said.
“He is, but you know when your parents leave like that it has to be hard.” Willow said.
“Yeah that’s probably it.” Buffy said.
“So we’re definitely Bronzing it tonight.”
“Mister Harris you’re grades have made and exceptional turnaround since the first time you came to high school. Have you been thinking about college?” Mrs. Patterson asked.
This was not what Xander expected. He was only brought into the guidance counselor’s office to update his records. He had been brought in once to discuss his four-year plan, but never college.
“Um… not really. There’s no money for college.” Xander said honestly.
“You know with your grades and a few extra curricular activities you could get a scholarship.” Mrs. Patterson said.
“Yeah I know, but there’s just no time after school for the extra curriculars.” Xander said.
“I’m sure if you pushed some things around you could find some time.” Mrs. Patterson said. “No really I kind of have a full schedule after school.”
“You don’t have a job. Is there something you aren’t telling me?” Mrs. Patterson asked as politely as someone who was trying to pry into your life could.
“No I just have things I have to do after school. I help my Uncle Joe out with stuff in the hotel.” Xander said remembering back to his conversation with Joe should anyone ever ask about his home life.
“Well you can file that under community services hours you know.”
“Look I just don’t want to go to college. I don’t know what I’m going to do with the rest of my life, but I don’t think college is it.” Xander said.
“But you have so much potential, Alexander. It’s a shame to let go to waste.” Mrs. Patterson said.
Xander let out a small sigh. “I’ve gotten the potential speech from my teachers that ask if I’m considering college. The answer will remain the same. I’m not going to college.”
“Is there any particular reason why not. Something not because of your home life, but because of something you feel about college.”
“I just don’t want to go. Why go for another four years of school.” Xander said.
“Then why try so hard? If you’re not planning on going to college why do you keep your grades up so high? Why not just let them drop.” Mrs. Patterson asked.
Xander gave her a curious look. “Are you saying that you want me to get bad grades?” Xander asked with an incredulous tone in his voice.
“Of course not. It’s just you have perfect grades and score well on your tests. Is that all for nothing?” Mrs. Patterson asked.
“I do that because I can. I want to graduate.” Xander said.
“You’d graduate even with a C average. Why do you strive for an A average?” Mrs. Patterson said.
“Because I want to. Listen you aren’t going to get me to change my mind.”
Mrs. Patterson let out an exaggerated sigh and then said, “Alright. Here are the papers you have to fill out for guardianship verification. You know the drill.” Xander took the papers from her and put them in his backpack.
He stood up and walked over to the door.
“Please think about college. It would better your future.” Mrs. Patterson said as he walked out of the door.
It was lunchtime and Xander, not having any lunch, headed to the library to return the books he checked out and see what was there. He had only run into Willow and Jesse there a few times since he had stopped talking to them and it was awkward to say the least.
They usually weren’t there during lunch so Xander knew he would most likely not run into them during that time. He walked through the doors and into the library. He placed his books on the counter and looked around to see if the librarian, Giles, was there. He saw the older British man sitting in his office drinking what looked like tea.
Xander decided not to bother him and walked up to the bookshelves and check out the books. He put his backpack down on the big desk in the library and went on his search for a good book.
He usually finished up his homework during study hall and had time before ‘work’ started to read or do something enjoyable. He was getting into the Steven King books which were very scary and a different scary from vampires. He was thinking that it was time for a change and looked over at the John Grisham books. Murder mysteries always excited him and interested him.
“Hello is someone there.” Giles asked after seeing the books and the backpack.
“Sorry to disturb you, Giles. Just looking for a book.” Xander said walking over to the balcony.
“Oh hello Mister Harris. Nice to see you again. Did you like the books I recommended?” Giles asked.
“Yeah they were a little difficult to read. I’m not one for Shakespearean type books, but after going through it again I like the meaning.” Xander said.
“Yes, the book I gave you was a little advanced, but it does have a good meaning like you said. What are you interested into today?” Giles asked.
“Just some good old mystery.” Xander said.
“Off your Stephen King phase then.”
“Sort of. Just I saw ‘The Firm’ on TV a couple nights ago and really liked it. Thought the book might be interesting.” Xander said.
“Well I hope you find what you’re looking for.” Giles said as Xander walked back to the bookshelves.
“Giles don’t I need to patrol tonight because I think I deserve a night off and Willow and Jesse want to go to the Bronze and it’d be pretty cool if I could go. Jesse said that there was supposed to be some really cool band playing and that’d be nice to see them. You know without all the vampires, and demons and possible apocalypses.” Buffy said taking a seat near the desk.
“Buffy! You don’t just walk into a library and start spouting of about your…personal matters. People could be in here.” Giles said.
“Right Giles that’s a good one. What geek would be in the school library during lunch?” Buffy said with a snort.
“Um, Giles do you have any Charles Dickens?” Xander said ignoring Buffy’s remark.
“I don’t know. Did you check the D’s.” Giles said taking off his glass and began to clean them.
“Yeah, but you know how sometimes you accidentally don’t put them back.” Xander said noticing Buffy visibly trying to scrunch down and hide herself.
“Oh right let me check that for you.” Giles said walking over to where the books that weren’t done being put back yet were. He shifted through them and found two Charles Dickens books.
“I have ‘Oliver Twist’ and ‘Great Expectations’.” Giles said.
“Already read ‘em. I guess that’s it then.” Xander said walking down the stairs and to the counter.
“Great choices, Mister Harris.” Giles commented as he checked out the books for Xander.
“Yeah I think so.” Xander said grabbing the books when he was done with them.
“See you in a few weeks.” Xander said as he grabbed his backpack and walked out the door. Giles gave Buffy his best authoritative glare and Buffy shifted down lower.
“What it’s not like he doesn’t know about me being the Slayer. He’s all wiggy about it.” Buffy whined.
“Still I would think a little… how do you put it, re-con, would be in order. Don’t you think?” Giles said.
“Fine, but if he throws holy water on me and ruins my new outfit I’m going to be pissed.” Buffy said getting up from her seat in a hurry.
“Hey Xander wait up.” Buffy screamed when she was out of the doors. Xander stopped and turned around. He stood there, annoyance radiating off him in a strong wave, which was obvious by his twitching jaw, crossed arms, and tapping foot.
“Yes.” He said in a heated voice when Buffy finally reached him.
“Look I just wanted to say that I’m sorry about the geek comment. It’s just nobody usually comes into the library.” Buffy said.
“It’s fine. You didn’t know I was there. No snot outta my nose.” Xander said indifferently.
“Do you really have a serious problem with me?” Buffy asked with a little annoyance herself.
“What would make you say that?” Xander said in a tone that Buffy wasn’t sure if he was being sarcastic or not.
“I don’t know the fact that you deserted your friends after I came into the picture. You’ve been nothing but twitchy ever since you found out my secret. Does it freak you out that much that you’d forget your friends?” Buffy said.
“Look the whole vampire thing doesn’t freak me out. This has nothing to do with you and everything to do with me. So just lay off.” Xander said snidely.
“Then why are you being such an ass about it?” Buffy asked.
“Because I can be.” Xander said.
“That’s really sad.”
“Way of the world babe.” Xander said as he started to walk away.
“Hey are you sure you’re okay. I mean your outlook on the world seems a little…”
“Rash and cold. Hey that’s life. Deal with it.” Xander said not bothering to look at the fuming and confused blonde behind him.